Playing Jeff Buckley’s guitar

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).

Listen online
Listen to the documentary online: website of HollandDoc. If you’re looking for some pictures of my adverture and Jeff’s guitar, click here.

Botte Jellema, May 2008
(Vertaling door neef Botte)

12 Reacties

  1. Great story and great pictures. You are one lucky man to play the late Jeff Buckley’s guitar. Now if I can only find the same bridge pickup he used (Carvin no longer sells it)…

      1. Whoops… meant to say “D and G strings”, not “pickups”…

  2. A very special guitar.. used to produce magic by a great talent. r.i.p. Jeff

  3. Hey! k heb vandaag ’n Fullerton gevonden in Zeist: maple toets, vergeeld ‘white’ in zeeeeer goede staat!!! Verleidelijk om er een chrome plaat en Seymour Duncan in te leggen…maar het is nu al zo’n zalige gitaar!!!

    ‘k had zelf op deze al dat gevoel wat jij omschrijft…het voelt alsof je op een museumstuk speelt!!

    Mijn zoektocht is beeindigd – nu ligt het dus NIET aan de gitaar meer gheheh!!

    groeten uit BelgiuM


  4. Hey,great interview.i was just wondering as i cant speak dutch,did mary guibert lie about the guitar not being altered ?because the lady who owns the guitar says it was?

    1. Dear Emma,

      Thank you for taking time to listen to my documentary and thanks for your comment. To answer your question, in my (Dutch) voice over I indeed said that in my experience, playing the guitar, it feels tweaked to perfection. I’m not sure wether Mrs. Guibert understood exactly what I ment to ask her. I’m not a native English speaker, it was an intercontinental phoneline, so I don’t know. There were no substantial physical changes to the instrument made by Jeff (Mrs. Nichols put on a chrome pick guard) apart from some new electronics. Mrs. Guibert might have in mind that Jeff put on a new neck or something. This was not the case, for as far as I know. Mrs. Guibert hasn’t seen the Tele much, so she will not know it as good as Mrs. Nichols. The only thing I know for sure is that the action (still) was perfect and it felt just great. It’s a great instrument.

      I hope I answered your question.

  5. Did the guitar still have the butterfly stickers all over the back of it?


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