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Old Strat - Custom Shop


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I'm sitting here on a Tuesday morning playing my old Stratocaster. It was my Number One for forty years and is now enjoying semi-retirement but still gets out and about on occasion. It's battle scars are mostly wear and tear from regular use - belt buckle scratches on the back and cymbal hits on the headstock etc. - but there are a few unexplainable gouges here and there.

 

For some strange reason (it could possibly be related to an email I got from Fender about the George Harrison Tribute Rosewood Telecaster) I began to picture someone from the Fender Custom Shop examining in great detail all the dings and scratches along with the odd bits of hardware that ended up on the guitar because that was all that was available at the time.

 

The purpose of this examination would be to build a strat just like mine and then meticulously add the dings and scratches - mustn't forget the eleven screw-hole pickguard with only eight screws in it and the slight bit of additional routing in the channel between the pickup cavities. I wonder if they would bring someone out of retirement to wind the pickups or if they would just go with the Kinmans.

 

The problem with this scenario is that I'm not famous enough for someone to pay a premium price for a brand new old looking stratocaster with my name on it. I still like to think about the idea of the Fender Custom Shop onelife Tribute Custom Mongrel Stratocaster.

 

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It's not actually rosewood. It's a Fender JV strat and it is not 45 years old but 35 (I made a mistake in the OP - it was my Number One for thirty years). I believe the body is ash and it has a one piece maple neck with the skunk stripe in the back.

 

It is one of the first run Squier Series MIJ Fenders. It was stolen about five years after I got it and when I got it back about a year later it was in pretty rough shape so I stripped it - after which it became a much better guitar.

 

A luthier friend of mine shared a shop with another friend who restored antiques. When I took the guitar in for a refret, the antique guy offered to put a shellac finish on it for me.

 

I really liked the sound of the original pickups but they were noisy to the point of being unusable in some venues and difficult to work with when recording. The pickups used actual magnets for the polepieces and the guitar suffered from stratitus. A friend of mine had some EMGs and let me try them. I liked the fact that they did not buzz or pull on the strings but I didn't want a battery in my guitar so I decided to put Lace Sensors in it.

 

There was a compromise in tone with the Lace Sensors but I felt the tradeoff was worth it for my "work" guitar. I gigged for several years with this strat, a '68 "pencil neck" ES-335 and a Twin Reverb.

 

About fifteen years ago Chris Kinman convinced me to try a set of his pickups and I was not disappointed. He claimed they sounded so good that the fact they are noiseless is a bonus. It was like getting my original pickups back but without the noise or the string pull - definitely worth the premium price.

 

The original single layer pick guard broke so I replaced it with one I had taken off a modern strat that I'm using a lot now.

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I'd like to add a bit to the story of the recovery of my stolen guitar. I used to play in a bar where the back door was near the edge of the stage. A group I didn't know at the time was playing there and had a Rickenbacker guitar stolen from the stage.

 

A couple of years later I heard someone bragging about buying this Ric that he knew was hot. By this time I had met and developed a casual friendship with the guy who had lost the guitar.

 

One day I was listening to the radio and heard he was coming to town to play on the weekend so I called the guy who had the guitar and told him the owner was at the police station and had called me to ask where he lived.

 

Needless to say, the guy freaked out and said he wanted to give the guitar back without any hassles so I told him to bring it to my house. Once I got the guitar in my possession, I called the venue where the original owner was playing and invited him over. He was flabbergasted and told me he never expected to see his Ric again.

 

As if by some sort of Karmic design, the following weekend I walked into a club and saw that my old strat, which had been among the missing for over a year, was up on the stage. I was a bit freaked out and took a few minutes to get myself together then called the police.

 

When the police came they wanted to take the guy right away but the club owner had a full house and didn't want the band to stop. The police agreed to let them finish the show with two officers sitting in the front row then arrested the guy who claimed he bought the guitar. I was almost willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because the serial number was on the neck plate which could have easily been removed but was not.

 

The next day I went to the police station with the receipt containing the s/n and got my guitar back. As it turned out, the van the band was using and a good potion of their PA system was also stolen.

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Wow, good looking guitar and great story, thanks for taking the time to post it.

 

Wow that's quite a story Onelife. So the guy that had your guitar got victimized as well huh? Stolen van and PA' date=' sounds like a rough neighborhood. Quite amazing you got it back. Also, that antique guy did a heck of a job I'd say.[/quote']

 

I took it to mean they had also stolen the van and PA.

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When Fender's JV starts first came out I was really impressed. I think USA starts were selling for $900-$1000 at the time and the "Squier Series" were $600. I heard the "copies" - particularly the ones with the Fender logo - were nor allowed in the US so there were lots of them in Canada. Every music store I went to had at least four.

 

I played them all. I was looking for the special one and then it jumped out at me. I asked the guy how much it would cost to put a hold on it and he said $100. I gave him the cash and got him to give me a receipt for the deposit wit the serial number on it. The serial number on the receipt came in handy when I needed proof of ownership to recover the guitar at the police station.

 

I think it only took me three days to come up with the rest of the money.

 

JV57fheadstock.jpg

 

Apparently, the ones with the Fender spaghetti logo (as above) are worth quite a bit these days - if they are all original.

 

Mine is far from original now but it is worth a lot to me.

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Those JV era Squier Strats are really nice guitars!

 

I have a couple of very good friends who work in the Fender Custom Shop. I'm not famous enough for them to make a custom shop model for me, but they did help me with some work on one of my vintage Fenders. It's amazing the work that they can do there - those folks are incredible craftspeople.

 

As far as pickups, Abbey apparently does come out of retirement to do pickups occasionally, but Josefina Campos, her protegee / replacement, has been with the Fender Custom Shop for years and does excellent work too.

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