Fender / Jeff Beck's Stratocaster / 1986 / Graffiti Yellow / Guitar For Sale
In February 1986 Jeff Beck, along with other celebrated musicians including Eric Clapton, Hank Marvin, David Gilmour and Gary Moore attended a presentation by Fender at the Hilton Hotel in London. The group of musicians were met by Fender associates Bill Shultz and Dan Smith and were presented with the idea of creating artist signature series guitars.
Following this presentation Beck called Fender asking for a special guitar for his upcoming tour in Japan later that year. His main requests for a guitar were that it have a very large neck and that it be yellow, so as to match his replica 1932 Ford Hotrod Coupe car from the film 'American Graffiti'. As such approx.6-8 guitar bodies in Graffiti Yellow were made for Beck by a select group at Fender which included the well-known George Blanda who had worked on other artist signature guitars. Blanda has suggested that from this selection of guitars, only one or two were vintage bodies with 6-screw bridges and vintage pick-up routs. The others were American Standard, Floyd Rose and Fender Japan 5700 models. Beck was either shown these instruments or they were described to him, but despite this, he chose a '62 Reissue Stratocaster with an oversized neck. The guitar was fitted with an American Standard Tremolo, a 60's eleven-screw white scratchplate and 60's pickups, and made its live debut when Beck used it on tour in Japan in August 1986 as seen in images and videos of him during this time: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSc4caThpbU
Over the next couple of years, Blanda and the team at the Fender Custom Shop (which was founded in 1987) continued to work with Beck to develop a signature guitar. The team were also working closely with other iconic musicians such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan and were no stranger to crafting unique, custom guitars for the world's most demanding players. After some back and forth of the guitar and parts, we believe it was sometime in 1987/88 that important modifications were implemented on the guitar. Keeping the original 1986 body, the Standard American Bridge was removed and replaced with a prototype two-point pivot tremolo (resulting in the original six screw securing holes being filled in). It was fitted with a new one-off neck, still oversized, but this time fitted with early edition Sperzel Star locking tuners (which were still in development) enhancing its tuning stability and playability. The new neck also had a first-generation Trevor Wilkinson Roller Nut (which was also still in development) and significantly improved tuning stability, particularly when using the guitar's whammy bar. It was also probably at this time that the 60s scratchplate was replaced with the 50s eight-screw scratchplate which is on it now. Though Lace Sensors were in development at this time, they were not quite ready yet and so it may have been that the guitar kept its '60s pickups. Either way, Blanda's main aim was to get these newest features into Beck's hands to test.
Following the guitar's return to Beck, it was this new combination that can be seen very clearly in rock photographer Robert M. Knight's promotional photo of Jeff Beck, Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas taken at Prince's Paisley Park Studio in May 1989. Soon after this, the guitar appears on stage with Beck during his Japan tour in August of 1989 with Bozzio and Hymas as part of their 'Guitar Shop' tour suggesting that Beck favoured this instrument and the new combination. Beck and the guitar can be seen on the covers of CDs associated with this tour and on the cover of the Japanese magazine 'Young Guitar' from November 1989.
Following Beck's 1989 Japan tour, Beck decided against having a signature model and the project ended and the guitar was returned to Fender. However, in around 1990 it restarted again when they repaired the neck (due to finish issues) and it was fitted with the latest Lace Sensors, making it become the prototype for the Fender Strat Plus model. Fender sent Beck the finished guitar and continued to send him new hardware as it became available.
The guitar we have today is therefore a combination of the original tour-used body from 1986 together with the tour-used neck and components from circa 1989. Having started life off as a '62 Reissue Stratocaster, the guitar has been a working project between Fender and Beck, and has ended up as a Strat Plus. The Lace Sensors on the guitar today are early examples given two out of the three have 'patent pending' labels on them. We can also confirm that the guitar was once fitted with alternative pickups due to the black shielding paint found on the inside of the guitar, which was done by Blanda and Dan Smith and was necessary for earlier pickups and not so for Lace Sensors. The guitar's electronics also include a master volume control, two tone controls, and a five-way pickup selector switch, allowing for a wide range of tonal possibilities, typical of Beck's playing style.
Following his tours, the guitar remained with Beck until 1994 when he met flying instructor Suzy O'Hara at his 50th birthday party. The two began a relationship when she agreed to teach him how to fly at Biggin Hill in Kent, UK. During their relationship between 1994-1996, Jeff wanted to teach Suzy how to play the guitar, and so it was at this time he gifted her this Fender guitar. O'Hara states "As he demonstrated to me and played the Strat, Jeff said that the neck on the guitar was 'amazing and had an incredible feel' and, if I didn't mind, he would switch it for another neck so that he could use it himself, but we never 'got around' to do this and so the original neck remains". The guitar has been in O'Hara's possession ever since.
For Beck to have kept the 1986 body through the years suggests that the shape, weight, sound and colour of the guitar were favoured by him. This working prototype signature Stratocaster guitar is a significant instrument because of its special sample parts and because it laid the groundwork for the eventual Jeff Beck Signature model and the eventual Strat Plus model, acting as a milestone in both Beck's career and the history of the Fender Custom Shop. The collaboration between the two parties has resulted in an instrument that encapsulates Beck's unique sound and playing style while showcasing the Custom Shop's dedication to craftsmanship and innovation. This guitar remains an important piece of guitar history and a testament to the enduring legacy of one of the world's most influential guitarists.
With sincere thanks to innovators George Blanda and Trevor Wilkinson for their assistance in the research of this guitar, and to guitar technician Steve Clarke.
Matts Guitar Shop, France
In a milieu where desirable objects are generally locked away in a safe or behind glass, Matthieu Lucas’ collection is a refreshing exception to the rule.
He represents a new generation of guitar lovers, for whom music comes first and the sound is more important than the serial number. Like any fine collection, Matthieu Lucas’ one has a speciality: he tracks down instruments that have belonged to artists, from Jeff Buckley’s Telecaster to Tal Farlow’s Gibson, not to mention Spot - one of the few sunbursts to be found in France and which belonged to a certain Joe Bonamassa.
Through perseverance, Matthieu managed to open doors that are generally kept well shut and gained access to instruments that were not even supposed to be sold. And true to the principle that the love of music comes first, Matthieu is not the type to prevent a guitarist from enjoying his or her prized jewels.
Out of that desire to share, he finally created the Matt’s Guitar Shop showroom, a special place for selling and trading that gives Paris back its reputation for excellence in the area of beautiful guitars. Inspired and inspiring instruments, which continue to bring beautiful notes to the ears of music lovers.