Ever since I heard the opening riff to “Sweet Home Alabama”, I was mesmerized by the pure, plucky tone of the Fender Stratocaster. Of course I saw the one Hendrix played in the Woodstock movie my mom took me to for my birthday. But I never connected with the Strat until I heard Ed King’s iconic Skynyrd lick sometime in ’73-’74. The epiphany made me “aware” and I heard the Strat popping-up all over the place with the Outlaws and “Hurry Sundown”, to the group Orleans and their string of hits while I was in high school. Jackson Browne always had a great Strat tone on his records.
As I have mentioned several times in the past, I was raised in the same city in which the Stratocaster was born: Fullerton, California. All the tones of the Strat that caught my attention originated in a factory not far from my home. I really didn’t put two and two together until I moved out on my own, away from Southern California. I’m sad that there is only a small monument to Leo Fender and his factory, on a street corner, in front of a parking garage that sits in the place of one of the most important sites in rock and roll history; it’s truly a shame–but that’s progress.
When I was a teen, I wanted a Strat so bad. So my dad took me to a local music store in Anaheim where a young salesman convinced me to buy a Telecaster Deluxe model instead. I went home elated yet disappointed at the same time; this Tele Deluxe was a Fender, for sure, but it didn’t have that single-coil sound at all. In fact, it had humbucker pickups–ones with tone common to the Gibson Les Paul. I played that Tele throughout high school, in dance bands and a few other gigs. But I still had that love and longing for the Strat sound.
|Me & my first Strat, somewhere in Kentucky, circa 1982|
I finally saved my money while on the road in 1980 to buy my first 70s-era Strat. It was hanging on the wall of a pawn shop in Columbus, Nebraska. I loved it, bought it and carried it with me to gigs all over the US and the world. I later sold it to acquire a Yamaha electric–similar to a Gibson 335, because the tones I was needing to copy for the gig at the time were from a humbucker-style guitar. I was an idiot–and clueless at the time. Oh, how I wish I had that old 70s Strat today.
I purchased an Eric Clapton signature Fender Strat in the 90s. It was a great guitar. I had to sell it years later to pay some bills. IDIOT again! I wish I still had it. I then put together a “Franken Strat” with castaway pieces from the Island of Lost Guitars. It was nowhere near the quality of my earlier Strats, but it sounded pretty cool. I have done hundreds of recordings and gigs since with that “Franken Strat.” That’s until I met John Scott.
|My new Bluesman Vintage “’54 Sedan” Strat|
John’s guitar company, Bluesman Vintage, is located here in my current hometown of Spring Hill, Tennessee. His guitars are built to strict vintage standards, with date-appropriate designs of the particular era in which the Fender models originated–down to screw types, plastics and hardware. I love his early 50s Strat model and purchased a ’54 Strat relic with minor wear and amazing D. Allen pickups (that’s a whole other post!). John’s guitars are newly built in his shop but are made to look as old as an original. The build of Bluesman Vintage guitars surpass those of the originals, due to modern techniques in stabilizing intonation, pickup innovation and just “plain ol’” love and care.
I’m loving my new Bluesman Vintage “54 Sedan” Strat. It’s funny that I’ve come full circle and now have a great guitar manufacturer in my backyard again. I may have lost the opportunity to connect with the Fender of my youth, but John Scott and the Bluesman Vintage crew have remedied that!