Review: Fender John 5 Ghost Telecaster

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Review: Fender John 5 Ghost Telecaster

Fender John 5 Ghost Telecaster
Words by Christopher Hockey

Fender John 5 Ghost Telecaster | Fender Music Australia | RRP: $5,599.00

John 5 is somewhat of an anomaly. A Telecaster devotee in the world of Heavy Metal is a rarity, but that hasn’t stopped him from sticking to his guns. Having first fallen in love with guitars watching the famed country music program ‘Hee Haw’ with his Dad, John 5 spent his childhood under the rather understandable impression that Telecasters were in fact the only electric guitars in existence. Despite the inevitable broadening of his horizons in later life, in John 5’s eyes, there is still only one guitar.

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After blistering turns as the resident shredder for David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and countless others, John 5 has since enjoyed a fruitful solo career and is currently the lead guitarist of Motley Crue. Throughout his journey across this impressive resume, John kept a trusty Telecaster by his side; landing his first Fender signature model in 2003.

Now, John 5 and Fender have collaborated to create a signature Telecaster as striking as the white-hot playing of its creator: The Ghost. Featuring a stunning Arctic White finish that encompasses the whole instrument including the fretboard, the Ghost Telecaster is punctuated by eye-catching red accents and a chrome mirror pickguard. This simple yet ostentatious design is the perfect match for John 5’s unique aesthetic and is absolutely certain to turn heads.

Despite its modern aesthetic, the raw components of this guitar do not stray far from the traditional Telecaster recipe. The all-white maple neck has an incredibly comfortable medium C shape that will be familiar to Fender players, a 9.5” radius for maximum playability and narrow tall frets. A white fretboard with no inlays may be daunting to a traditionalist at first, but at its core, this is a guitar that will sit perfectly comfortably in the hands of any Tele player.

Fender John 5 Telecaster

The chrome mirror pickguard on this model strays from the traditional Fender look not only in its material but also its shape. Rather than the two piece pickguard/control plate design of a standard Telecaster, this model features a one piece pickguard that engulfs the control section and sits flush with the body of the instrument. John 5 requested this innovation due to the raised metal plate on a traditional Telecaster interfering with his low-slung picking style. The resulting design may not affect the average player as profoundly as the man himself, but it certainly looks cool.

The singular balance between flash and minimalism that defines this guitar’s look is also reflected in its inner workings. A three way toggle switch, master volume and kill switch, all a vibrant red, match with a set of humbuckers that jump right off the guitar’s snowy white canvas. This simple circuit is perfectly restrained yet full of potential power, offering a straightforward path to the blistering tones that John 5 is known for.

Featuring a dual set of Dimarzio D Activator pickups, the sound of this model is Heavy Metal heaven. D Activators were originally designed to compete with and remove the need for active pickups, which are favoured by many metal players for their perceived increased power. The unfortunate reality of active pickups however are that they often entail a rather sterile edginess and whilst they do generally have a strong focused attack, their perceived loudness is somewhat of an illusion due to their ultra-compressed sound.

In contrast, D Activator pickups are wired to replicate the punchy attack of an active pickup without all the drawbacks, and have enough headroom to avoid flattening out when the guitar is picked hard. Featuring incredibly rich overtones and a warm, prominent midrange, these pickups are capable of searing lead tones when pushed into overdrive but, as they are passive, clean up nicely when rolled off.

The absence of a tone knob on this guitar, to say the least, is not particularly felt. This will not come as a surprise to any Fender fanatics out there. The master volume, featuring a rather dandy 70s style speed knob (red of course) provides a nice linear roll off that interacts well with the humbucking pickups. Rather more interesting however is the addition of the arcade-style kill switch, which allows players to momentarily cut their signal off rapidly and repetitively. This creates the cool stuttering effect made famous by players like Jack White and John 5 himself, a modern appointment that gives this guitar a special flair.

To cap it all off, the Ghost features a 6-saddle tele bridge with block steel saddles and deluxe locking tuners. These additions ensure spot on intonation and ultra stable tuning at all times, an absolute necessity for the adventurous and dynamic playing of a shredder like John 5. On top of all this, this limited run of guitars also comes with a matching white hard case with a beautiful crushed red interior, a super-fan’s dream.
The John 5 Ghost Telecaster is an expertly crafted and incredibly ambitious signature model. As well as this, it manages to perfectly balance the old with the new. The traditional Fender tone woods of Alder and Maple remain as true to form as ever under their glossy new arctic white sheath, and the Telecaster shape remains timeless even when draped in John 5’s unique modern aesthetic. Whilst this is certainly a uniquely high-octane iteration of this classic instrument, the core elements remain.

In saying that, I don’t think the Ghost would have gone down so well on the set of Hee Haw, but then this ain’t your granddaddy’s Telecaster. It’s John 5’s Telecaster, and like him, it’s one of a kind.

For more information, head to Fender Music Australia.