Flying to New York, meeting one of Jeff Buckley’s friends and being allowed to play his guitar. This is a dream that came true for me. Since the singer/songwriter passed away 11 years ago no one has been granted access to this instrument. I made a documentary about the guitar model Fender Telecaster for the Dutch radio program ‘De Avonden’. Jeff Buckley is one of the most famous players of this guitar model.
The sixty-year-old guitar model Telecaster was the first commercially successful electric guitar. The Telecaster has to a large extent defined the ‘guitar sound’ as we know it. I bought one myself and became fascinated by the instrument. The sound is beautiful and I succeeded in closely approaching Jeff Buckley’s sound as heard on one of the nineties most important albums; Grace. I was curious as to the whereabouts of his Telecaster. After a great deal of research I discovered its location. Brooklyn.
Jeff Buckley received his Telecaster on loan from a friend, after all his valuables had been robbed from his Los Angeles apartment at the beginning of his career. He built his sound around the instrument and recorded his successful and sole album Grace with it. In addition he toured the world with the instrument. He never returned the guitar. After Jeff drowned in the Mississippi near Memphis, the Tele returned to its rightful owner, Janine Nichols who still has it in her keeping.
I met Janine and interviewed her. And she allowed me to play the guitar. It was a fantastic and unreal experience. The road case does not close properly, she has never cleaned the guitar and it has definitely taken a beating. But it still plays wonderfully. I noticed that Jeff had adjusted and tweaked the instrument to perfection, as it played it with ease and delight. A truly unforgettable experience.
Janine told me that she had never previously allowed media people close to the Telecaster. She does not like media attention. The fact that I am a radio-maker – less fuss than television – was my ticket to this unique opportunity. The documentary can be found on the Internet – see the link below. It is mainly in Dutch, but the interview with Janine Nichols is in English and has not been overdubbed. If you are not fluent in Dutch, you might want to skip the first ten minutes. Or check a brief translation here (many thanks to the writer, I don’t know him/her).
Botte Jellema, May 2008
(Vertaling door neef Botte)