Nobody loves vintage Jazzmasters more than our own Shelby Pollard, and when it came time to spec our new line of “Chicago Special” Jazzmasters, he was more than happy to help design this heavily curated line of vintage-inspired offsets, even offering his own ‘61 Jazzmaster as the basis for our exclusive “Chicago Special” pickups. Here he runs down everything you need to know about these historic designs.
The Chicago Special platform is a little bit different than anything we've ever done with Fender, so let me explain that a little bit. Typically, when we do special runs, we change the wiring packages or maybe a color. This time we really went in and dove deep, picking every single spec of these instruments, including the pickups, which are named "Chicago Specials."
We designed the Chicago Special Jazzmaster pickups using my vintage '61 Jazzmaster as the basis.
We took my guitar to the Custom Shop and had it inspected by George Blanda and Mike Lewis. They pulled my guitar apart and did a full inspection of the pickups, which was significant because the Custom Shop hasn't offered a lot of variations on Jazzmaster pickups. There are a million different Strat and Tele pickups, but when it comes to the Jazzmaster, there's not a lot of difference in those winds.
So George Blanda and Mike Lewis looked at the pickups and took note of how many winds were on it and how it's been degaussed and demagnetized over time, and we worked together to make an excellent recreation of a vintage set of Jazzmaster pickups. On our "Chicago Specials," each poll piece is a magnet, so the Alnico 5 magnet goes all the way through the bobbin, which is very thin, and that thin, wide wrap of the coil around the pickups gives you a completely different spectral range. They sound so full and so big, but also retain that very Fender unique sound.
We added a 250 K volume pot. It's also got a rift-sawn maple neck, so it's extra hard and adds some good resonance. We used Jescar fret wire, which is tall and thin and has a vintage-style feel.
We're offering these in a multitude of finishes. You can order any model in any color. We've had ones that have lighter relics, some with heavier relics, and that's the best part about this. We did all of the hard work. We went in and thought about the neck carve and all of these other things for you well in advance so we can slap some paint on and have some fun, but the most important thing I wanted to do with this platform was create a boutique experience with Fender.
In the vintage market, it would be hard to find something that would beat this color in this playing condition. I wanted to be able to give everyone the ability to have something that sounds vintage without any of the problems that come along with vintage instruments.
For example, these have good frets. There's nothing wrong with the necks. The pickups are new, but they sound vintage. You have no problems with the pots or the wiring, and so on and so forth. All of the benefits of that vintage sound, but in a modern platform that's usable and feels great to play.