50s Fender Telecaster with Bigsby Review (TL52-118BTX)

Well here we have a Telecaster with a difference, in that this particular model has a Bigsby tremolo attached, a pitch-altering device usually reserved for hollow body guitars, and not very often found on solid bodied Fenders.

The Bigsby aside from giving the instrument a unique visual appearance also contributes to the overall sound of the guitar.

This Telecaster is for the local Japanese market and known as "Crafted in Japan". The opinion of most players that I have met either in person or online, is that Fender Japan instruments, which are Crafted in Japan (CIJ) sit in the line, between the Made in Mexico (MIM) and Made in America (MIA) instruments and some even say that their quality equals or surpasses that of American made guitars.
Made in Japan (MIJ) instruments are those for intended for export and it must be said that the instruments that Fender Japan produces for their domestic market (CIJ) are usually better than those than are exported to the outside market. For example Jaguar guitars sold in the USA and Europe are usually basswood whilst domestic ones are alder.


This Telecaster sports an ash body, a one-piece maple neck with 21 vintage type frets. The familiar shape headstock has one round string retainer and vintage Kluson type machine heads.

Pickups are Texas Special Tele and these are control by the familiar Volume and Tone domed chrome control knobs, together with a three-way switch.

The centre attraction for this guitar is of course the B-5 "F" Bigsby Tremolo which dominates the visuals on the rear end of the instrument.

Fit and Finish

What can I say? As usual with Japanese instrument everything is perfect. No problems either with rattling on the bridge on with tuning that some people seem to say these guitars have.


Compared to my vintage 1969 Telecaster this guitar is darker and mellower, less sparkly, whilst nevertheless still sounding like a true Telecaster. No doubt this is influenced by the mass of the Bigsby, as the ash body and maple neck should produce quite a brighter sound. Makes this an interested Telecaster though with a different tonal palette to the usual bright ice pick bite of my other Telecaster.


A unique instrument from the land of the rising sun.

By Ernest H Slade