Local DC guitar legend Tom Principato joined with iconic guitarists Jim Weider (The Band, The Weight Band) and GE Smith (Hall and Oates, Saturday Night Live Band, Bob Dylan) for a Masters of the Telecaster performance on Saturday at City Winery DC. Backed by drummer Josh Dion (Josh Dion Band), who provided much of the vocals, and bassist Lincoln Schleifer, the trio of guitarists took turns in a storyteller format, introducing songs, featuring solos, and discussing how the Telecaster made its mark on their careers.
The Fender Telecaster, developed by Leo Fender in early 1950s, was the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. Its development was important in the evolution of rock and roll, blues, funk, and country music. Its solid construction allowed guitarists play loudly as a lead instrument, with long sustain notes if desired. Jim mentioned that he and GE each have an original 1952 issue of the Telecaster, the core guitar of their respective collections, to which Tom responded, “I have a birth certificate from 1952.”
GE introduced a song which featured his 1949 lap steel guitar whose solid body construction, he explained, was Fenders’ influence to create the Telecaster. In discussing the lap steel guitar, he held both up to the audience and said, “This… eventually gave us this.”
Jim created the Masters of the Telecaster concert series five years ago in New York. It was originally conceived as a one-time event to pay tribute Roy Buchanan, to another DC guitar legend whom Jim considers to be the best Telecaster guitarist ever. He recently told the Washington Post, “Roy added a whole new level to the instrument; he got a sound like no one else. He could play one note and you knew it was him. He didn’t need effects; he’d just crank his amp to 10 and just use the volume control on the guitar. He was using feedback before anyone else. He influenced Robbie [Robertson], Jeff Beck, and all of us on this tour. It wasn’t just his speed and technique that separated him from everyone else; it was his incredible touch and feel, so deep and soulful.”
That first Masters show was such a success, Jim turned it into a formal touring series along with GE and a rotation of other Fender guitarists. Saturday’s City Winery show was the first Masters series appearance in Buchanan’s home-town.
Roy Buchanan was an early influence on the DC club circuit to Tom Principato, whose Powerhouse Records recently released Telemaster Live in ’75, a collection of songs from two Roy Buchanan shows at Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom in 1975. Listen to Telemaster Live in ’75 on Spotify:
Check out some images of the Masters of the Telecaster performance at City Winery on June 30, 2018. All photos copyrighted and courtesy of Ari Strauss.