Brent Mason is one of the quintessential electric guitarists of all time, with his tasty guitar parts, solos and stylistic bending technique heard on thousands of recordings. This year, the Nashville ace partnered with Fender to bring his sound into a new versatile guitar available to the public: the Fender Stories Collection Brent Mason Signature Telecaster. Offered in both a standard production (our review piece) and a Custom Shop model, this guitar exposes the genius of Brent Mason through an instrument that’s been in his hands since the early ‘80s.
Fender’s Stories Collection was first unveiled with a signature guitar for Eric Johnson, with the implication that famous Fender guitars celebrated by fans would be available for the first time boasting their respective players’ own modifications and honoring their histories written over the years. Mason’s Tele is the second of the Stories Collection lineup. While Mason’s recording background could easily fill pages beyond this review, Mason’s signature guitar is made for the versatility of delivering a multitude of tones in both a session format and a live setting.
The history of the guitar has a wacky and fun folklore – resulting in a logical instrument. Mason was on tour with Nashville artist Don Kelley in the early ‘80s and the pair went on a guitar safari in search of some Telecasters – given the Tele of course was the right look and sound for the band. The pair each bought a Tele and took them to their gig that night. Mason was slightly reluctant in his choice, thinking Kelley’s Tele had a better tone! Kelley, an avid guitar trader, switched guitars with Mason and took his and this guitar has been in Mason’s hands ever since.
What became Mason’s Tele turned out to be a 1967 ash-bodied Fender axe finished by its previous owner haphazardly in auto primer before trading for another guitar. (The USA production Stories Collection model we received for review is finished in satin Primer Grey, while the Custom Shop model is flashed with a satin relic finish.) Mason’s challenge at the time was not being able to tour with more than one guitar. With the assistance of guitar luthier Joe Glaser – we’ll hear more about him later – and the inspiration from fellow guitar players such as Steve Morse, Mason changed and added electronics and a trio of new Seymour Duncan pickups into his Tele to increase its tonal spectrum.
The Stories Collection model features the same set of pickups – a Seymour Duncan mini humbucker in the neck position, his Vintage Stack Tele bridge pickup, and a Hot Stack Stratocaster middle pickup. Mason uses this middle pickup to cover the “quacky” in-between style Strat tones as a coloring pickup to back off some of the high-end from the bridge position pickup. The middle pickup is engaged via the guitar’s push/pull master tone pot, and the center position knob is its volume control. Its volume is independent and not run out of phase, so the center pickup can also be run on its own. And as their name may suggest, the stacked pickups are hum-cancelling which works in tandem with the true hum-cancelling nature of the neck pickup.
Uniquely and highly defining of this particular guitar is a Joe Glaser B-Bender system, which comes stock with the guitar. The B-Bender depicts the ‘cows-come-home’ sound of pedal steel with greater accuracy than conventional string bending. Other styles of the B-Bender are available but what the Glaser Bender does, unlike similar build concepts, is require a much lesser fraction of the Telecaster body to be routed out in order to accommodate the bender arm. The mechanism for the system is mounted on the neck plate, rather than take over the guitar’s strap pin. What makes the system even more versatile is it can be set up as a G-bender by changing the position of the B and G string saddle. Conveniently, a set of strap locks are included with the Mason Tele – you’ll need them to mount your strap to the bender!
This guitar sports a wickedly comfortable ‘60s C-shape neck with a 7.25” radius and 21 vintage-tall frets. A bone nut and Sperzel locking tuners increase stability of intonation, making for behind-the-nut bends to fall back into pitch with true ease. It’s naturally made for country twang but can sit with virtually any type of music – especially thanks to its incorporation of hum-cancelling pickups. The Strat-style tones are bright and distinguished, yet they still carry their own sonic character slightly unlike a conventional Strat pickup set. Although the Strat pickup arrangement can be seen on such guitars as Fender’s Deluxe Nashville Telecaster, the configuration on the Brent Mason model is a very cool homage to what its namesake artist himself had at his disposal.
Figuring out the electronics without a diagram or instruction is a bit challenging at first, but easy to grasp their workflow. To oversimplify, it runs like a classic Tele with an added middle pickup with its own volume. As described earlier, the guitar’s master tone pot doubles as a push-pull activator for the middle pickup’s introduction in the circuit. Incidentally, having the tone pot positioned “up” allows for easier access for tone swells, and if you can figure how to manipulate that technique with the B-Bender, you’re on your way to Nashville ace! (…well maybe with a few more steps along the way!)
The Brent Mason signature Tele captures the “all-in-one” solid body guitar exceptionally well. It’s impressive that Mason used this as his sole guitar in his early touring days, as this is a pretty heavy guitar, probably due to the pickup combination, solid body and B-Bender. Session players or those using it at home will have few issues with the weight.
Obviously if Brent Mason’s Tele is also your dream guitar, here it is! However – Mason fan or not, country picker or not, if you like the look of a hot-rodded Tele that can double or triple itself in tonal expectations, look no further! Not to mention of course, these Stories guitars are going to be something to hang on to over the years. On top of that, you don’t often see a production model guitar equipped with a Glaser Bender. All of these features envelop an excellent electric guitar and a long overdue collaboration.
Manufacturer link: https://shop.fender.com/en-US/electric-guitars/telecaster/brent-mason-telecaster/0115912793.html
ABOUT THE BRENT MASON TELECASTER® – $2,499.99
The Stories Collection Brent Mason Telecaster® recreates the prized Telecaster® he discovered in a Nashville guitar shop in the early eighties: a ‘67/68 model that had been stripped of its original finish and re-sprayed in gray auto primer. Brent outfitted it with new pickups and controls, as well as a Glaser™ Bender system – transforming it into a versatile all-in-one session guitar. Boasting a Joe Glaser B-Bender system, Seymour Duncan mini-hum in the neck position, Hot Stack in the middle and Vintage Stack in the bridge, locking Sperzel tuners and Dunlop locking strap buttons – the Brent Mason Telecaster® provides the special features, smooth playability and diverse range of tones to nail Mason’s platinum Nashville session sound.
ABOUT THE FENDER CUSTOM SHOP LIMITED EDITION BRENT MASON TELECASTER® – $12,500
The Limited Edition Brent Mason Telecaster®, masterbuilt by Kyle McMillin, is inspired by the distinctive Tele® Mason has used for countless recordings and performances with a one-of-a-kind-tone that has made him one of Nashville’s most sought-after session aces. A trio of Seymour Duncan® pickups includes a mini humbucking neck pickup, ’80s-style hot-stack middle pickup and vintage-stack Telecaster bridge pickup, all wired to a custom control assembly with individual volume for the middle pickup, a push/pull tone knob that deactivates the middle pickup when pulled, and three-way blade switching. Other custom appointments include an off-center-seam ash body, 1967 “C” neck profile, 7.25”-radius round-laminated quartersawn maple fingerboard with 21 vintage frets and black pearloid face dots, and a Joe Glaser B-Bender system for extra Nashville twang. Deluxe hardshell case, strap and certificate of authenticity included.