I solved the mystery of Prince’s guitar.
Not the mystery of the one shaped like the symbol that was his name for a while or the one he plays at the end of Purple Rain.
Throughout his career, Prince has returned again and again to the tele. It’s an odd choice for an electro funk genius, as it’s the twangiest guitar there is. I’ve played them and they always sounded at least a little bit country or really sharp (watch the girl in the beginning of this video for its country-ness). They have a distinctive bright and thin quality to them. Keith Richards has played them pretty much exclusively since the mid ‘70s. Bruce Springsteen plays one. Andy Summers from the Police and the great Joe Strummer of the Clash played them.
If funk dudes play Fenders brand guitars, they usually stick to strats. Strats are more versatile and don’t twang the way teles do. This fun little video from Nile Rodgers, the guitar player from Chic and about half the disco tunes of the ’70s, showing off his guitar techniques on his well-worn strat, illustrates its a perfect funk instrument.
So how did Prince end up playing a Telecaster almost exclusively?
Well, technically he doesn’t. As I recently learned, Prince actually plays a Telecaster knock-off made by Hohner.
The model’s name is Prinz. And it is funky.