I started gathering parts to build a Roy Buchanan “Nancy” Telecaster tribute. Roy’s 1953 Blackguard Telecaster serial number 2324 was a special lady with a very unique voice and is an iconic guitar. I grew up listening to Roy Buchanan and Nancy. Roy always had a unique tone and you always know it is him playing when you hear it. Roy was sometimes known as “The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World” as most “rock stars” seek the spotlight, Roy seemed to avoid it. See Roy Buchanan – P.B.S. Greatest Unkown Guitarist in the World from 1971.
I am making an attempt to re-create Roy’s 1953 Blackguard Telecaster “Nancy” and get it as period correct as possible. I want this to be a nice tribute to the guy who was so important to the Telecaster and to music.
Unfortunately, I never got to see Roy play live or spent any time with “Nancy” but there is so much information, pictures and videos if you spend the time researching.
Nacho’s Blackguard Book again is invaluable for this project. As well as Roy concert footage, interviews and pictures from a museum exhibit.
Many guitar players and collectors consider a 1953 Blackguard Telecaster the Holy Grail of all Teles. With famous players that include Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and James Burton opting for one this should come as no surprise. With it’s 1953 list price being just $189.50 these old Telecaster’s in all-original condition can easily fetch $25,000 – $32,000 or more in today’s vintage guitar market. Way out of the range for most players and even many collectors.
I was lucky to find a vendor on eBay Evan Webb (webbtecamusicalindustries on eBay). Evan is a guitar guy and built his own stamping machine and makes Fender bridge plates with any unique serial you may want. Evan is making the iconic bridge plate and will be doing some relic treatment to match the original one on Roy’s Nancy. Fender originally stamped the serial numbers on the bridge plates on Blackguards until late in 1954 when they started stamping them on the neck plate instead.
Original Fender bridge plates in the early days had a shiny chrome finish above the pickup and were more dull where the stamping and bridge saddles are located. Evan was able to find a plate that match this as some of the more modern plates are all chrome and shiny.
The 1953 Telecaster bridge saddles where brass and slotted under the high E and low E strings. This was unique when the 1953 Tele came to be. Luckily, Rutters makes replicas and sells them thru Specialty Guitars.
Adding a bit more aging process to the bridge plate. I first suspended the brass bridge saddles and bridge plate over Muriatic Acid (HCL) that I purchased in Lowes. Just 40 minutes in the fumes to take some of the shine away. Then, I soaked them in a concoction of vinegar, salt and coffee. Added some more scratches like the “real” Nancy bridge plate. Next I will age the screws and springs some more.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this project was the availability of Don Mare’s ‘2324’ Nancy pickups that are clones of the ones in Roy’s Nancy. Don Mare has spent years researching these pickups and has had direct access to Nancy. Thanks to Don, I think the unique tone that Nancy has is nailed as close as you could get to the real thing (without the use of Roy Buchanan’s talent of course). Don Mare hand winds all of his pickups so expect at least a 4-5 week lead time.
From Don Mare:
My LIFETIME GOAL, was to actually make a bridge pickup identical in every way to Roy Buchanan’s 53 Tele he nicknamed Nancy.
The pickup in his Nancy never would give up a ohm reading. This baffled us for years and years… But it’s not uncommon for a pickup to fail and suddenly lose its entire bass. I used to get calls about pickups doing that in the field and we would offer replacements. The common complaint was this: “All the bass is gone and now it sounds treble-y ~ and now I can’t get any ohm readings ~ yet it’s still working, but it’s a total treble bomb”
In 2007, when I was allowed to play Nancy and go “under her hood” to take readings, etc., I found there was no ohm reading from the bridge. So I recorded some clips www.roybuchanan.org.
That’s me testing Nancy with the owner because he thought something was wrong and it needed to be fixed… LOL. By the way, Nancy’s Christy Auction House value is currently at $600K. The majority of the interest in obtaining her is that sound of hers. Just listen to my clip. She was unique. There’s no way to debunk that! It’s because of that failing pickup, and the neck was nicely spec-ed from the factory.
But for 4 years steady I’ve chased that sound. Got close using alternative components, etc., and have made revisions to my product with every new break-thru.
But deep down inside I wanted to know just what happened inside Nancy’s pickup and duplicate it perfectly without adding a thing. I just wanted to recreate it perfectly- Clone it, or make a Twin Sister! That was my Life-Time Goal that I wanted to achieve in this life!
WHY?…. just because Nancy is often thought of as the best sounding Telecaster® that there ever was… need I say more? She’s super important, that voice of hers needed to be recreated, and it was my mission to hopefully do just that and then offer it to those who wanted it dearly. Just like I once needed it dearly when I decided to sport a band that just did Roy’s tunes. BUCK CANNON BAND.
There was no other way to get that sound, i.e. this sound!
Don’s Nancy pickups are AlNiCo III neck & bridge – neck has the same Brass Cover in Chrome as found on most all 1953 Telecasters.
Great demo below from Don Mare of these pickups thru an early ’70s Fender silverface Vibrolux Reverb (CTS alnicos, with a decent blackfaced-job).
Settings on amp:
Upon ordering, Don Mare sends this informative message:
YOUR NEW NANCY CLONE PICKUPS ARE UNLIKE OTHER PICKUPS (Best to use them in a spare guitar, not your main #1 guitar)
The Bridge pickup is a 100% accurate in every way as a recreation of Roy Buchanan’s 1953 Tele® That he nick-named “Nancy.” This pickup in his guitar would not give us an OHM meter reading, yet it still worked all these years! With very little Bass, it was still very loud and extra trebly, almost like a hand held AM transistor radio. The pickup was actually faulty (No OHM reading!) and after 7 years of research, we figured out the fault and where it occurred in the coil allowing us to finally recreate it perfectly.
I was once allowed inside Roy’s guitar to draw the schematic and spotted the .1 capacitor in series on the guitar’s main “Hot” going out to the amp. It’s important that you do install this .1 capacitor AS SHOWN in the drawing provided with the pickups. The cap also helps the Neck pickup get the unearthly Neck tone Roy’s Nancy had.
The controls will operate differently from normal pickups and the two pickups (Neck and Bridge) do not share the Tele’s® volume and tone settings very well. It’s the same on the actual guitar Nancy because of the faulty yet functioning Bridge pickup.
So when you’re using the Neck pickup and you’ve pre-set the volume and tone controls then suddenly switch the selector to Bridge only, you’ll quickly notice a huge volume loss since the bridge is very sensitive to the controls. That is also what helps the volume and tone knob “swells” to sound so good.
If you need to test your pickups with meters, the Neck is going to be around 6.1 OHMs. The Bridge requires a capacitor meter. Select 200N and your reading should be around .002 to .004
Performance-wise, these pickups are not as versatile as a normal set. They are not intended to be used as a main #1 guitar would be. We suggest you use these in a 2nd guitar for fun and to see (like Roy did) what you can create with their seductive sound!
The Nancy’s Bridge Dc’s, while using an ohm meter, will not actually read ohms on that tap – Just like Roy’s Nancy does today and did all along! However you can get a cap read of .0035 if you’d like to test things. Apparently this is all part of the unique treble rich tone it has.
Nancy’s 3-way switch was wired:
This is probably because the old “dark” tone cap that the Blackguard Telecasters had was removed and this how the wiring ended up without a selection for both pickups at the same time.
The early Telecasters used pickups with flat poles like Don Mare uses on these ‘2324’ Nancy pickups. Fender changed to staggered poles in 1955. Most modern Telecasters use staggered pole pickups. I found an interview where Roy Buchanan mentions that one of the reasons he liked his old ’53 Tele was due to the flat poles and that he could get the pickup up closer to the strings unlike the newer Telecasters with the staggered pole pickups. He mentioned that he was unconcerned with the magnets causing intonation issues when that close to the strings. He just liked the sound better.
One unique feature of Nancy is the hole Roy Buchanan drilled between the B and E string on the headstock. According to Don Mare, the hole in the headstock is not straight its right angled as it goes thru. Roy once told a reporter it was so he could hang the guitar from a nail on the wall, but in reality it was likely he was experimenting with a B-bender. Roy often did behind the nut bends on his Telecasters and started out playing Pedal Steel. Another story was that Roy actually shot Nancy with a .22 once (not sure this one is true).
From my research online and pictures I have gathered on the ‘real” Nancy. Weights in just under 7 lbs. Neck is large, but less than boat-sized. The frets are larger than vintage probably like Dunlop 6105. The radius is bit flatter than 7.5, probably like around 9.5. The neck pickup most likely has steel springs instead of rubber tubing. Fender used these springs on the older Telecasters around 1950-53. Roy was said to use lemon Pledge on the neck and strings of his guitar, for lubrication. On my tribute I will be incorporating as many of these things as possible.
Like most ’53 Telecaster’s Roy’s Nancy has a mix of slot head and phillips screws. The dome knobs on 1953 Telecaster’s are a bit shorter than the ones that came on the earlier Blackguards.
1953 Telecasters used “no name” Kluson Tuners. I ordered these from a vendor online that look like a great re-issue of these same tuners. From 1950 to around early 1952 Fender used closed-shell tuners. After that Fender used the open-shell like these meaning the tuning shaft can be seen protruding slightly from the side. The closed-shell tuners seem to be impossible to find these days.
Matt Jenny at MJT will be working with me on the body and neck aging process from the pictures I provided. They will also be providing some of the aged hardware.
Matt has sent over the first pictures to show the aging process he is doing. They look great. He is using pictures I sent over of the “real” Nancy. Coming along nicely.
Matt will be adding some finish checking, bit more aging and “dirty-up” the finish next. Should end up looking an awful lot like Roy’s axe! Which will be a great tribute to the man.
New Pictures From MJT
I sent Matt over some side-by-side comparison pictures of the body he is aging and the “real” Nancy Blackguard Telecaster. See the progress on the body aging from the new pictures from Matt Jenny.
Matt is matching the wear marks we see in the pictures of Roy’s guitar. Next he will dirty up and add some more checking.
The blackguard neck has been ordered from Musikraft to my specs. This is the same neck I used on my other Blackguard Project that I was quite happy with. The big fat boat necks that these old Blackguards have add a great deal to the tone of these guitars.
Number Frets: 21 Fret (Standard)
Scale Length: 25.5 Standard Fender
Shaft Wood: Quartersawn Maple
Nut Width: 1.650 (41.91mm)
Heel Width: Standard Fender 2-3/16 (55.56mm)
Truss Rod: Vintage Single Acting Adjust @ Heel
FB Radius: 9-1/2
Fret Wire: Medium 6105 Nickel Silver
Tuner Holes: Vintage Kluson Style 11/32
Top Dots: Black Synthetic Dots
12th Dots: Wide Pre ’64
Side Dots: Black 2mm
Back Profile: Boat V .95 X .95
Nut Style: Fender Flat Bottom
FB Edges: Heavy Rolled
Nut Install: Install Slotted Bone Nut
The relic finishing for the neck will also be done by Matt at MJT.
I ordered a reproduction of the original Fender Telecaster waterslide decal for the headstock from Croxguitar in the UK. I had ordered one for my last Blackguard project and the waterside decals they sell look exactly like the ones Fender used in the 50s. I normally would never put a Fender decal on anything Fender did not make. These decals are made for restoration purposes only. But this project requires the decal to get the vibe correct. Maybe one day Fender will do its own tribute Telecaster for Roy Buchanan.
Most of the parts are on order and I will post pictures as the build progresses.
UPDATE: The Don Mare ‘2324’ Nancy pickups have arrived and the relic process looks good. Cannot wait to hear what they sound like. Waiting on the MJT relic body and Musikraft Blackguard neck to come next. Should be a few more weeks at least.
I was able to locate an original 3-way CRL 1452 switch from the 1950s just to add a bit more authenticity.
This would be the exact 3-way switch that you would find in a 1953 Telecaster. This vintage part was a pricey edition to add to this project. Any 3-way Fender switch could have done, but I got caught up in the moment bought this vintage part.
UPDATE: Body and neck and some more of the relic parts arrived today from MJT. Matt Jenny did a terrific job on this. I will add a bit more aging and darkening and will start to put this project together. I am using the pictures I have of the real Roy Buchanan “Nancy” and trying to make this project a good representative.
I put the Fender headstock decal on. It will need to dry for at least 24 hours before I can apply clear nitro sealer to protect decal. I will need to do some more aging on the headstock. The fingerboard and back of neck are basically done.
I started on the control plate. I am using an original 3-way CRL 1452 switch from the 1950s and two 250K pots from Callaham Guitars. They are cryogenically treated, de-greased and they also reduced the spring pressure of the wipers to make these pots smooth for volume and tone swells. Cost a small up-charge, but the pots are quite a bit smoother and feel worn in.
I bought a set of original 50s Telecaster dome knobs that look very much like the ones on Roy Buchanan’s Nancy. The dome knobs Fender used from year to year varied a bit as illustrated in the Blackguard Book. These look like a better match than the ones I was going to use for this project.
Did a bit more aging and adding scratches and dings.
Mounted the aged jack cup. Thanks to Stewmac’s Telecaster Jack Tool installing is pretty simple. It is a bit of a pain doing it without it.
Wiring for aged control plate includes Callaham pots that have been de-greased and spring tension reduced and an “original 1953” 3-way CRL Switch. Happy I was able to find this original switch and even though it will not be seen as it adds to the authenticity for this project. I bought original early 1950s dome knobs I will be using as well.
I have repro springs and screws for neck pickup on order. These are pretty hard to find. Newer Telecasters used surgical rubber tubing, but in the early 50s Fender used springs for neck pickup mounting.
I have aged the body a bit more and have sprayed the clear nitro on the headstock to protect Fender waterside decal. Waiting for it to dry. Will need a few coats. Than I can mount the tuners.
Did a bit more aging on the headstock to match pictures or “real” Nancy.
The vintage early 1950s dome knobs I bought have arrived and they are perfect. These are original parts from an early 1950s Telecaster and not reproductions. These knobs sure are better then the aged reproductions I was going to use. Glad I found these at an affordable price.
The neck pickup repro screws and springs have shipped and I should have them in a few days. Need to do a bit more aging on the body and headstock. Then I will be ready to get the wiring done.
UPDATE: Repro neck pickup screws and springs have arrived. Simple springs are actually pretty hard to find. Fender was still using springs on Telecaster neck pickups in 1953 (as Roy’s Nancy neck pickup had) before switching to surgical tubing. The rubber surgical tubing lowered the possible microphonic feedback, but this was part of Roy Buchanan’s sound.
Most of the major guitar part vendors no longer have these springs and I almost gave up looking and was going to cut down some bridge springs I had. I was lucky enough that my Google searches paid off as I found a vendor that reproduced these screws and springs. I only used the springs as I had already aged the screws.
The aged control plate was purchased from Matt Jenny and I was quite happy to see it is thick like they were in the old days. The newer ones are manufactured with thinner metal.
I am using a repro aged .1 old style capacitor and the .47 capacitor disk style is the one supplied by Don Mare with his Nancy pickups. According to Don Mare this was the style Roy had installed in the real Nancy.
I found a switch knob that looks like the one the real Nancy shows in the pictures that was very round and smooth and a bit different that you see on a lot of early Telecasters. It shipped should have it in a few days.
I decided to use the standard 3-way wiring which gives you both pickups in the middle position. Roy Buchanan had his wired neck-neck-bridge with no setting for both pickups. I figured i can change it in a few minutes with soldering iron if I decide to mimic Roy’s configuration.
Quick setup and plugged it in. Guitar sings!
My tribute to Nancy weighs in at 6 lbs 13 oz so it is just under 7 lbs like the real Nancy was said to weigh from an article I read on the web.
Got to play the guitar for the first time and it sounds great. Don Mare pickups are outstanding. This Telecaster surely does have a unique voice. Now I will need to practice those Roy licks.
This project is finally in its final stages. Waiting on switch tip that matches the look on Roy’s famous axe and have a bit more aging to do and some final tweaks.
The only things I have not decided to add is the drilled hole in the headstock and “Roy Buchanan” literally scratched in to the back of the body. I have been on the fence about adding these two features. Still thinking about it. This project was started as a tribute to Roy Buchanan that did so much for the Telecaster, the Blues, Rock and Roll and music in general. It was never meant to be an exact clone. However it is quite close to the real thing in a lot of ways.
Toughest part was working only from the photos that I was able to find on the Internet and videos from Roy’s concert footage. I also had some interview footage I purchased on DVD that featured Roy and the Nancy guitar. The many photos were taken all from different times in Roy’s career and the wear patterns although similar, are seen in different levels of aging.
Here are some pictures of my completed Roy Buchanan “Nancy” Tribute 1953 Fender Telecaster. I have tried to closely copy the real Nancy as close as possible except for two things. No hole drilled in headstock and no Roy Buchanan scratched in to back.
I picked up a “poodle” style case on eBay that was a re-issue from 1988. This was similar to the cases Fender used in 1953. Stories have been told that Roy Buchanan often carried his guitar from gig to gig without a case. Might explain the heavy relic that “Nancy” is today.
Watch some video of Roy Buchanan playing Nancy
Listen to Roy make Nancy sing thru his favorite Fender Vibrolux amp
Roy Buchanan – Misty
Roy’s Guitars from a 1992 Guitar Show
Roy Buchanan Tribute City Winery – GE Smith, Arlen Rothe and Jim Weider
Roy Buchanan Tribute, 3 Teles – Arlen Roth, Jim Weider and Tom Principato