Jimmy Page’s 1959 Fender Telecaster “Dragon Tele”

This guitar was given to Jimmy by Jeff Beck in 1966 as a gift shortly after Page joined the Yardbirds. As the story goes, Eric Clapton was leaving the Yardbirds in 1965, and his initial idea was that Jimmy should replace him, but Jimmy at that point in his life did not want to be a touring musician. He did eventually change his mind, and he joined the Yardbirds in June 1966 and played alongside Beck for a short time.

After Jeff Beck left the band in November 1966, Jimmy took over the role of the lead guitarist and played with the band until its break-up in 1968. During all his time with the Yardbirds, this Telecaster was his main instrument.

Mirrors, Custom Paint Job

When Jimmy first got the Telecaster, it featured just a regular white finish. At some point in 1967, he glued eight circular mirrors on the body – four of them behind the bridge, three below the pickups, and one on top of the body. He was possibly inspired to do this by Syd Barret of Pink Floyd, who was famous for playing a Fender Esquire with the exact same mirror setup.

Jimmy Page's 1959 Fender Telecaster with mirrors glued to the body.
Jimmy Page’s 1959 Fender Telecaster with mirrors glued to the body.

After a while, Jimmy decided to take the mirrors off, strip the finish completely, and repaint the guitar himself. The Telecaster ended up looking the way it’s mostly known for – featuring a clear lacquer, and a red and black dragon decal. This remodeling also included adding a custom-made clear plastic pickguard, under which there was some sort of reflective film that was supposed to do the job that the mirrors previously did.

The whole idea was to put an extra life into the guitar. The whole of the Dragon artwork it starts off – I don’t do a sort of a pre-run of it. I wanted to use sort of poster paint which was used in the production of those psychedelic posters.

The Making of Jimmy Page’s Mirrored and Dragon® Telecaster Models | Artist Signature Series | Fender
Jimmy Page playing the Dragon Telecaster after painting it, 1969.
Jimmy Page playing the Dragon Telecaster after painting it, 1969.

Usage

Jimmy Page used this Telecaster as his main guitar on the Yardbirds album Little Games released in 1967. He continued using it with Led Zeppelin, until April of 1969 when he bought his first Les Paul Standard. This means that this was also his main guitar on Led Zeppelin I.

As far as the exact songs on which he used it, it seems that the general consensus among the researchers is that he used it on the entirety of the album. This is also partially confirmed by Page himself, although his statement doesn’t necessarily exclude the possibility that he used other guitars, like his Les Paul Custom.

Because of the heritage of this guitar, because it comes from Jeff and goes through the whole of the first (Led Zeppelin)first album, I thought it would be really interesting to see if Fender would be interested to do it, I wanted to recreate the original guitar, so it would travel beyond what it originally was.

DRAGON SLAYER: THE MAGICAL MYSTERY OF JIMMY PAGE’S PAINTED TELECASTER

Apart from the first album, the Telecaster was also probably used on Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III – although it’s unknown to which extent. At that point, Jimmy had his 1959 Les Paul Standard, so likely, he used that as his main recording guitar.

The Telecaster used on Stairway to Heaven solo

In late 1970, Jimmy Page used this guitar to record to solo on “Stairway to Heaven” which was released on Led Zeppelin’s fourth studio album. Shortly after the recording sessions, Jimmy went on tour with his Les Paul, leaving the Telecaster at home.

At that point, someone had, without Page’s permission, repainted the whole body of the Telecaster. According to Page, this basically ruined the guitar and left it with only the neck pickup working.

I still have it (referring to the Dragon Tele), but it’s a tragic story. I went on tour with the ’59 Les Paul that I bought from Joe Walsh, and when I got back, a friend of mine had kindly painted over my paint job. He said, “I’ve got a present for you.” He thought he had done me a real favor. As you can guess, I wasn’t really happy about that. His paint job totally screwed up the sound and the wiring, so only the neck pickup worked. I salvaged the neck and put it on my brown Tele string bender that I used in the Firm. As for the body… it will never be seen again! (laughs)”

Jimmy Page – Original Source Needed

From that point on, the guitar had never seen stage light again, and based on Jimmy’s wording, he took it apart and left the body somewhere to sit.

Around 2017 he decided to restore the guitar after all, inspired by the release of the Sundragon amp – a replica of his Supro Coronado 1690T amp that he used on the solo for “Stairway to Heaven”, among other things.

The guitar was restored in 2018 by Jimmy and one of his artist friends, which prompted Fender to approach Jimmy and ask him whether he would be interested in a signature model based on this guitar. Jimmy agreed, and in 2019 the “Jimmy Page Telecaster” was officially released by the company.

Feedback

GroundGuitar counts on your criticism and feedback. In case you notice anything wrong with the information posted on this page, or you have knowledge of something that you would like to share, be sure to leave a comment below.

In case you want to talk to me directly and privately, please use the Contact Form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. (Dan)

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Michael Organ
Michael Organ
10 months ago

Good article, apart from a few date errors, such as in the date Page acquired the guitar from Beck, and the fact that the guitar has been restored by Page. Check out my blog on the Dragon for more detail: https://freewheelinobscurity.blogspot.com/2020/12/the-dragon-telecaster.html

Michael Organ
Michael Organ
10 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kopilovic

Dan – thank you. Happy to make any of my information available to your site etc. I have only done indepths on the Dragon Telecaster, Jimi’s Flying Vs and Clapton’s Cream era The Fool. So not as comprehensive as your site in any way, but a big fan of the electric guitar nevertheless. Michael

Michael Organ
Michael Organ
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Organ

PS. Re the design on the Dragon, you state that Jimmy stripped the body and applied ….”a clear lacquer, and a red and black dragon decal.” I would replace that with “….a clear lacquer and added an original Chinese dragon design, with red, green, blue and orange paint .”

Pete Porter
Pete Porter
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael Organ

Jimmy’s original dragon tele was not a string through and all the reproductions Fender makes are. (that I’ve seen) any idea why?