Guitars: 1991 Fender '72 Reissue Stratocaster
Thrashing her with The Tone in 1996, Seoul, Korea.
I bought her new in Berlin, Germany in 1992. It was the classic case of seeing her in the window when the store was closed and just "having" to have her. Something felt just right about this one when I eventually plucked her off the rack and started noodling around. The neck profile is more like an '80 or '81 Strat than a mid-70's, which I actually prefer because the radius is a bit smaller. The original pickups had a real nice edge to them too when playing through a reissue '59 Bassman cranked up to 7 or 8.
Finally, after 100's of gigs by 1997 the guitar just didn't sound quite right anymore for some reason. She seemed to have lost her edge, growl and mojo. I had no other way to describe it at the time. I tried replacing the volume pot with several different brands of potentiometers to no avail. As nothing seemed to be working, I put her in a case and left her sit for a few years.
Playing the '72 RI at the Harnack House, Berlin, Germany 1992.
Fast forward to 2005. By then I felt just had to try and do something to bring her back to life. I cranked the action way up, and reset the intonation. Well, that alleviated some of the issues. The problems with this guitar were stemming from the bad frets, not the volume pot as I had originally thought. I adjusted the action back in the late 90's and forgot that I had done so. I had also been experimenting with SRV style string gauges, so I did get the axe out of sorts with all of that messing around.
In 2006 I sourced pickups and a harness from a 1976 Strat. That really seemed to wake the guitar up. My ears were kinda turned off to the stock pickups after playing my vintage Strats so much. I also added an off-white tortoise shell guard and matching p/u covers at that time. Installing some steel Fender saddles instead of the cast ones helped a bunch too.
Local guitar tech Richard Diaz-DeLeon said he could recrown the frets without having to do a fret job. Well, I let him have a go at it in 2007 it finally played better than ever. I still thought the finish was hampering the resonant qualities of this guitar, but I figured it was about as good it was going to sound.
I had been reading posts back in 2009 on the MetroAmp forum about bridges and how they really affect the guitar's sound. I heard that the Callaham bridge really helped newer Strats have a larger, fatter tone. I mentioned this to Richard, and he said Jason over at Spacetone Music just got in a previously owned, but not installed unit and he was willing to unload it for a good price. The kit included the Callaham bridge, saddles, springs and claw. After I installed it I realized the sustain had improved a LOT while darkening the tone somewhat. The Callaham also gave it more 60's vibe tonally. Which in this case helped even out the tone palate between dark and bright (in stock form this guitar was very bright and "trebly").
Realizing that I needed a refret to be able to really play this guitar again, I had guru Jamie Rodeman refret this axe in 2010 along the same specs of my '75 in addition to a bone nut. This guitar finally WAILED! The bone nut added sustain and a bit of high-end brightness that combined with the bridge made the notes ring out without being too bright or shrill. I finally had this thing just perfect for me after how many years? The only original parts left are the wood, input jack and tuners. It was a project that took literally a decade.
Playing with the Emergency Blues Band Dec. 2011
Now replete with a gold-sparkle pickguard and white P/U covers and knobs, this guitar was my regular axe with the SA Blue Cats for a few years. She was rock-solid during that time and played great with extremely balanced tone thru a 1965 DuKane PA head (which I converted for guitar use) and custom cab loaded with a Weber Alnico 12. This guitar has made me more money than any of the others that I have owned throughout the years.
Playing with Primal Vinyl at the Hop Stop May, 2021
By 2019, once again the guitar wasn't playing quite as nice as before. With many, many gigs under the belt and with moving all over the country, wear and changing humidity conditions took their toll. I pressed her into service with Primal Vinyl, but she was starting to fret out everywhere and become basically unplayable. I was having to lean more on my '58, '66 and '75 Strats for the live gigs. Fortunately, I had a trip passing through San Antonio in May of 2021 where Jamie once again worked his magic on her. "You need to bring her to me more than once every ten-years," he chuckled. So, as of 2022 she's back in the rotation and playing as wonderfully as ever.