Keith Richards’ 1954 Fender Telecaster “Malcolm”

This guitar was first used around 1972, and at that point, it had a Rolling Stones tongue sticker on the upper part of the body. In the early years, the guitar seemed to have been used as a spare for Keith’s main Telecaster, the Micawber.

The two guitars are visually very similar. What sets them apart is the fact that Malcolm has wood grain visible on the body, while Micawber is finished in a solid color. Also, the humbucker pickup in the neck position is facing the opposite the way when you compare the two guitars.

Keith Richards 1954 Telecaster "Malcolm" seen backstage in Vancouver, 1972.
Keith Richards 1954 Telecaster “Malcolm” seen backstage in June 1971, Vancouver.

Mods

This guitar was modified at some point in the 1970s when a Gibson PAF humbucker was installed in the neck position. These mods were mostly copied over from Keith’s main Telecaster, the Micawber. The Malcolm did however have the Gibson PAF installed in the standard orientation, poles facing towards the neck. Also, it’s possible that Malcolm was re-fretted, at least according to this article. (if you happen to know when this article was published, please leave a comment below).

Usage

Based on the same article as linked above, Keith used this guitar in open B tuning, to play Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Happy, and Tumbling Dice. This is sort of misleading, as the guitar was actually tuned to open G, and putting a capo on the 4th fret made it open B.

Keith playing Malcolm, Live From London 1995.

While some other sources claim that Malcolm was only used as a spare, the footage from the gigs from the 70s until the late 80s show that Keith used it extensively. Especialy on the three songs mentioned.

PAF rotated same as Micawber?

There are some holes in the story that Micawber has the PAF rotated, and Malcolm the standard way. If you look at the footage of the 1978 concert filmed in Texas, you’ll notice that Keith plays Malcolm with the PAF rotated. To make this even more confusing, he played Micawber that night with the PAF oriented the standard way.

The quality of the footage is not perfect, but there’s clearly wood grain visible on the body of the guitar. It matches very closely what we see on the 1972 photo taken in Vancouver, especially if you look at that distinct pattern below the controls.

Keith Richards playing Malcolm with the PAF rotated, 1978.

This is all very confusing as it seems that both guitars went to their known configurations in the early 80s. It could be that Keith fooled around and had the pickups swapped between them in the late 70s, but this is just pure speculation. In any case, it’s important to mention that at one point in time Malcolm was Micawber, and Micawber was Malcolm.

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