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(Credit: Jim Summaria / Chris Hakkens)

When Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page traded guitars

Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck are two guitar gods that are not immediately associated with the Fender Telecaster. At their respective heights, both musicians favoured the power of the Gibson Les Paul, with Beck later transitioning to using a Fender Stratocaster almost exclusively. 

But as young players, both Page and Beck had Teles at the forefront of their sound. During their tenure with The Yardbirds, both of the guitarists were known to have used Teles to produce the psychedelic blues that the band were producing towards the mid-to-late 1960s.

As it turns out, being a Yardbird often meant leaving a Tele for your successor. Upon his departure from the group, Eric Clapton left a red Tele behind that Beck wound up using for his first couple of gigs. Beck wasn’t a fan, so he got rid of the red Tele and instead acquired a blonde one with a rosewood neck.

That was the guitar the Beck was using when he recruited his childhood friend Page into the group. In the band’s appearance for the film Blow-Up, Page is seen playing the blonde Tele while Beck plays a cheap Hofner semi-hollow body specially purchased for him to smash before pulling out his trusty Les Paul.

Not long after filming their appearance, Beck left the group much in the same way that Clapton did: by leaving the blonde Tele for Page. “I left The Yardbirds in a huff,” Beck told Tony Bacon in 2005. “I just decided in a minute I was going to leave. So I didn’t take the guitar, and Jimmy carried on playing, and because he was the only lead guitarist he had to mimic what I did—that’s how come he got the guitar.”

With a psychedelic paint job, Page went on to make the Tele his number one guitar for a number of years. He used it while finishing his tenure in The Yardbirds, and it was his main axe during the early years of his newly formed group, Led Zeppelin. It’s the same guitar heard playing pummeling power chords on ‘Good Times, Bad Times’, the wild and spacey sounds of ‘Dazed and Confused’, and the sultry blues of ‘I Can’t Quit You Babe’.

By the time Led Zeppelin II rolled around, Page had begun using a Les Paul, which was gifted to him by Joe Walsh, but something compelled Page to break the Tele back out one more time for its final recorded contribution: the legendary final solo on ‘Stairway to Heaven’. After that, Page took the guitar apart and used its various pieces in other guitars.

Page later reciprocated Beck’s present with a present of his own: a cheap plastic Maccaferri guitar nearly over 30 years later. Beck had a laugh over the mismatched quality, but found that the new guitar had a wonderful sound and decided to keep it. So ends the tale of the guitar swap that produced some of the greatest music of all time.

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