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The worst guitar color of all time

Fender Jim Root Telecaster

There are some guitar finishes that look just plain bad...

...and this one is the worst, the Fender Jim Root Telecaster. This guitar at the time I write this is the ugliest guitar made because of its white finish.

Now bear in mind the white on the JR Tele isn't just any white. It's flat white, meaning it has no gloss, no sheen and has the appearance of being unfinished in the worst possible way.

The reason people hate white guitars is the same reason people hate white rental cars. It looks lifeless, dull, boring and cheap. It doesn't matter how well-made the instrument is. Stark, bright white, especially a flat white, is literally the worst possible color one could choose to put on a guitar.

History time!

The reason almost zero white vintage electric guitars exist is because they looked horrific on television. In the black-and-white days of TV, white guitars would always "wash out" when filmed, hence the reason Gibson came up with the color TV Yellow which on camera would look white but in reality was a yellow finish.

And guess what? Stark white guitars even today still look terrible when filmed with HD cameras. There is simply no way to make a bright white guitar look good.

"But the JR Tele is a tool guitar!"

So what? It's still fugly.

Back in the day, the #1 finish Fender used on their solid-body electrics was sunburst. This was chosen not only because it was cheap to apply but it also gave the guitar a woody look to it. Sunburst isn't a solid finish so you can see the nice wood grain come through and it just works.

Gibson did the same thing by offering a ton of their guitars in sunburst as well, with the difference being there was more red in the finish (hence Heritage Cherry Sunburst.)

Both companies avoided white like the plague. This isn't to say there aren't a few examples of vintage white electrics, but it was never stark white. Olympic White has some blue in it, Arctic White has yellow in it and so on.

Avoid bright white guitars, and especially avoid the Jim Root Telecaster in that finish because it's the worst.

On a final note, the JR Tele is the only electric I've ever known that actually looks worse in person compared to online photos. Yes, it's that bad.

Published 2017 Oct 14

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