*** Preface - I like to name the guitars I own and use. The following is a post
about one of them, presented with a classic b/w slideshow portfolio.
Photographs by yours truly. ***
A fruity treat so cool and sweet . . . a lovely mix I like to drink . . .
~Jeff Jewkes (Yeah, I made this dorky stanza up for the blog. Watcha gonna do about it?!)
When I first put this guitar in my hands and began to play I exclaimed, "Now this one's smooth!" The image of a refreshing desert like beverage actually came later. It didn't take too long, however, to connect smooth playing feel . . . 3-tone sun burst . . ."Smoothie"!!! And so the formula of naming a guitar often goes . . . Physical impressions multiplied by emotional response = name.
A Strat . . . is a Strat . . . is a Strat, right? We'll, no, at least not in my book. I don't know what it is about Fender® but no two guitars seem the same to me when it comes to feel, built, playability, etc. I'm not just talking minor variances. I really mean no two Fender guitars feel the same to me. I demo two Strats, the exact same model, with the exact same appointments, they'll feel and play totally different from one another. One feels good, the other, horrible . . . Sometimes, both feel horrible. Sometimes, every Strat in a store feels horrible! That has been my experience, anyway. I personally came to the conclusion a long time ago that, if you're into acquiring your "special" Stratocaster®, you're going to have to find a dealer with a lot of them in stock, walk in the door, sit down, play them all, take your time and "cherry pick" one out. It is the "Fender way", I guess. If I were to compare two exact models of a Taylor® guitar, let's say. The result would be that they play, sound, and feel the same. There is a "consistency" with Taylor guitars that you can rely on . . . Not so with Fender.
This "peculiarity" with Fender has evidently been around since time immortal. To prove my point, lets examine the case of Eric Clapton's famous and most favorite Strat, "Blackie". It is not just a "cherry picked" Strat, but three (3) hand selected Strats in one. Around 1970, Mr. Clapton purchased six (6) 50's era Stratocasters. He gave three (3) away to George Harrison, Pete Townshend, and Stevie Winwood respectively. He then "cherry picked" the finest parts from the three remaining guitars and, with the help of luthier Ted Newman Jones, forged together "Blackie".
There is no intended connection with the names "Smoothie" and "Blackie". The similarities with the "ie" in both is purely coincidental, or subconscious at best. Besides, "Blackie" is a famous Fender Stratocaster. "Smoothie", while great in my mind, will likely never receive the admiration "Blackie" gets. In case you haven't already figured out, I'm not Eric Clapton!
Neither am I the next guy I'm going to talk about, Alex Lifeson of Rush. I'll use Alex's Strats as an example of what a lot of guitar players do with their Fenders. That is, modify them to fit their needs. Mr. Lifeson (Mr. Živojinović if you really want to identify him by his real last name, or you could just call him, "Lerxst") modified his Strats so aggressively he dropped the Fender name off of the guitars and came up with his own. "Hentor" was the name, the "Hentor Sportscaster" to be exact. Given Alex's typical sense of humor, he came up with the name as a joke referring to the bands producer at the time, Peter Henderson. "Hentor' was the name that we had for Peter Henderson, the producer of 'Grace Under Pressure.' When he wrote his name out to leave us his number, it looked like Peter Hentor instead of Peter Henderson, so we nicknamed him Hentor The Barbarian. I got some Letraset and put it on this white Strat that I had. It has a Shark neck - these are unlabeled replacement necks - so I threw 'Hentor Sportscaster' on there. Amazing all the mail we used to get over that [laughs]: 'Where can I buy a Hentor? How much does a Hentor cost?'" - Alex Lifeson, in the April 1986 Guitar Player magazine
Alex's Fender Stratocaster ("Hentor Sportscaster"), was modified with a "Shark" neck, a Bill Lawrence L500 humbucking pickup in the bridge position, custom cut pick guard, re-worked electronics with a Gibson® toggle switch mounted in the lower body cutaway, Original Floyd Rose® "non-locking" tremolo (Alex did not install the locking nut on the guitar), and, of course, the "Hentor Sportscaster" logo on the headstock.
So, in the tradition of countless Strat players, known and un-known, I too have modified "Smoothie" (an American Standard™ Stratocaster®). Actually, "Smoothie" is not so much “modified” as it is "hot-rodded" with upgraded parts. Such as: Super-Vee® vibrato bridge. Schaller® locking tuning gears in "satin chrome" finish, 3-ply (black-white-black) pick guard, and my favorite volume / tone knobs I buy from Radio Shack®.