Stevie Ray Vaughan is a legendary guitarist and frontman of blues rock who will forever be remembered for producing amazing songs and as a talented musical artist. Even though it has been 32 years since Stevie died in a tragic helicopter crash, many people still remember him as he has inspired millions of people all around the world. One thing the Blues legends were known for was their connections with their instruments. Similarly, Stevie was also known as one of the guitarists of all time and his Strat-heavy collection of custom and vintage guitars is quite famous as well.
He was an incredible guitarist who became famous for playing his guitar behind his back. Initially, he was popular in Europe and he was also famous for plucking the strings with his teeth just like Jimi Hendrix. He has inspired multiple generations of people and many are interested to learn about the guitars that he used to perform and record songs with. In today’s article, we will tell you everything you need to know about the guitars that Stevie Ray Vaughan used throughout his career. Let’s get started.
The Guitars that Stevie Ray Vaughan used throughout his career
Stevie Ray Vaughan started learning to play guitar when he was just seven years old. His elder brother was his source of inspiration. Throughout his career, he has used mostly Stratocaster guitars but occasionally he has also used other types of guitars as well. His first ever guitar was the 1960s Fender Stratocaster aka “Number One”. Let’s discuss his “Number One” guitar down below and also all the other guitars that he has used throughout his career one by one.
Number One (Fender Stratocaster)
“Number One” is the first guitar that he picked up from Ray Henning’s Heart of Texas music store back in 1973 located in Austin, Texas. The store owner sold the guitar at a very cheap price because he had thought that the guitar wasn’t worth much and that it was the worst guitar he had seen. It was an old Fender Stratocaster and Stevie mastered this guitar. He also gave the nickname “The First Wife” to guitar with Paul Ray and the Cobras.
Stevie performed a lot of songs with this guitar and it was only in March of 1983 with the release of the song titled “Let’s Dance” that the “Number One” was properly introduced to the world, courtesy of David Bowie. After three months, he once again shocked the rock and blues world with the Double Trouble by releasing “Texas Flood”.
Talking about the features of the Stratocaster, the body of the guitar featured a standard three-tone Sunburst finish on a solid alder body. The color of the pickguard was white and it had a maple neck with a 21-fret rosewood fingerboard. Furthermore, the guitar has a distinctive mark on the headstock because of the burning cigarette which was tucked under the sixth string by the guitarist himself. The radius of the fingerboard was 7.25″ and the neck relief of approximately .012″ at the 7th and 9th frets.
However, he has customized the guitars many times throughout the years, and the radius of the fingerboard was increased to a 9″ or 10″ radius in the upper registers. The neck was also replaced with a ’62 neck and pickups were also replaced with a ’59s. Also, Rene Martinez who was Stevie’s main tech had to replace the shattered whammy bars and worn frets with the Dunlop 6100 fret wire and Fender Schaller Elite Gold tuner pegs. Stevie himself said that the guitar was rebuilt more times than a custom Chevy.
Number One was quite special to Stevie and he used to take this guitar into his studio albums while he had to perform live on international tours. Undeniably, this guitar is one of the most iconic guitars that Stevie owned and used to record and perform songs.
Yellow (1959 Fender Stratocaster)
Originally, the 1959 Fender Stratocaster aka “Yellow” was owned by Vince Martell, who was the lead guitarist of Vanilla Fudges. He had sold the guitar to the owner of Dallas’ Charley Guitar Shop, namely Charley Wirz in the early 80s. Charley had made some adjustments to the guitar after purchasing it. He changed the color of the guitar to yellow and replaced the humbuckers with a Fender single-coil neck pickup. He also added a Chrvel tremolo bridge before selling it to Stevie in 1982.
Upon receiving the guitar, Stevie customized the guitar once again and added his trademark initials on the pickguard under the strings, i.e, the letters “SRV”. Talking about its feature, it has a new Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and “clay” dot fingerboard markers, and a fade-prone red pigment in the sunburnt finish to cover the surface of the guitar. Additionally, it also included the killer hand-wound single-coil pickups.
According to the legend, Stevie used this guitar in the studios while recording the songs “Tell Me” for Texas Flood and “Honey Bee” for Couldn’t Stand the Weather. He also used this while performing live on stage as well. Unfortunately for Stevie, the guitar got stolen at the Albany International Airport in New York in 1985. However, he did get his guitar back which you can all see being displayed in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe.
Red (1962 Fender Stratocaster)
Once again, Stevie brought another 1962 Fender Stratocaster from Charley’s Guitar Shop back in 1983. Stevie has chosen a custom color option and the owner had repainted the guitar in fiesta red. He also gave a simple name to the guitar calling it “Red”. The guitar remained stock until Stevie installed a left-handed neck and applied “SRV” stickers to the pickguard in 1986.
Do you still remember Stevie’s first ever guitar? Unfortunately, his “Number One” guitar couldn’t withstand the countless re-fret jobs so the “Red” had to sacrifice its neck only to be shattered in a stage accident the following year. The incident occurred during the concert at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. However, the neck was replaced the next night.
Talking about its feature, the body of the guitar had a solid Alder body and it had three single-coil pickups. Also, the Rosewood veneer fingerboards were added with the Maple neck. Not only did Stevie like this guitar but other legends such as Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan also really loved the opulent ferocity of the guitar.
Lenny (1963 Fender Stratocaster)
The “1963 Fender Stratocaster” has a heartwarming backstory. His wife, Lenora, and several friends had gifted him this Stratocaster for his birthday in October 1980. At the time, he was broke and didn’t have the money to buy the guitar. Initially, he had found the guitar at a local pawn shop which was up for sale at $350n which is quite expensive at that time.
The neck of this guitar was quite big as compared to other guitars that he has owned and used. Similarly, it has got a rosewood fingerboard and a dark natural finish. It has a hand-carved etching below the bridge and the neck of the guitar was swapped with a 1950’s Fender piece Stevie had received from Billy Gibbons. On the same night that he received the guitar, he recorded several of his compositions such as “Lenny” and “Riviera Paradise”. He also named the guitar “Lenny”.
Mickey Mantle also signed at the back of the guitar when Stevie performed the national anthem at the season opener for the Houston Astros in April 1985. Thus, the guitar is quite valuable and it was bought by Guitar Center back in 20004 for a total of $623,500. Currently, the guitar can be seen displayed at Guitar Center’s Austin location on Anderson Lane. Since 2017, replicas of the guitar have been produced and sold at a price of $17,000.
Charley (Custom build Stratocaster by Charley Wirz)
The owner of Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas was a friend of Stevie and he created this white custom-made Stratocaster-style guitar. It had a rosewood neck, modified Seymour Duncan “lipstick” tube pickups, and there were engravings on the neckplate as well that read “To Stevie Ray Vaughan, more in ’84.” Stevie didn’t use this guitar quite often but he did use this guitar to pay tribute to Charley during Soul to Soul’s “Life Without You” back in 1985.
The guitar was built in the year 1983 and rumor has it that the guitar is currently in the possession of Jimmie Vaughan. In 2003, Charley and Rene Martinez joined forces and produced a limited edition of “Charley”. However, they only made 23 units and sold them for $2,500 each. Later in 2005, the former owner of Charley’s and Reene produced additional ten replicas.
Scotch (1961 Fender Stratocaster)
In the fall of 1985, Stevie bought a 1961 Fender Stratocaster either from Baltimore or “The Boathouse” in Norfolk, Virginia. Initially, the guitar was almost given to a fan as a prize at one of Stevie’s shows. Apparently, he had loved the guitar soo much that he insisted on giving another one of his guitars as a prize.
Talking about the guitar, it was quite similar to “Red” besides the finish. Stevie replaced the original white pickguard with a tiger-stripped option with the help of Martinez. The custom-made pickguard was made by Martinez and it was adorned with a gold SRV decal. Similarly, it has got standard tri-tone Sunburst, maple neck, and a slab rosewood fretboard. It had a very innovative design such as a progressive neck design. Also, it had got a built-in tremolo and enhanced changeable pickups.
Stevie used this guitar during the final five years of his life. It became the main backup guitar when “Number One” malfunctioned or didn’t work. He had used the guitar while performing live on “Superstition” and “Leave My Girl Alone”.
James Hamilton’s custom Hamiltone “Main”
James Hamilton created this custom Stratocaster -style guitar named “Hamiltone” (aka “Main” or the “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” guitar). However, Billy Gibbons was the one who was involved with James in order to create this masterpiece for Stevie. James created a beautiful guitar with a red mahogany sunburst finish and a gorgeous ebony fretboard with mother-of-pearl unlay that read “Stevie Ray Vaughan”. The design was astounding as it featured a 2-piece maple body and a 3-piece “neck through body” design.
James had to revise the design of the guitar five years into the making because he had to include Stevie’s middle name after he decided to use it professionally. Originally, the guitar was equipped with three EMG pre-amped pickups and Stevie had named it “The Main”. Stevie didn’t like the original pickups though and he was about to shoot for the next music video for “Couldn’t Stand the Weather”. While filming, he didn’t want his “Number One” to get wet so he used the Hamiltone for filming. Of course, the water damaged the pickups but from the beginning, Stevie wasn’t satisfied with the EMGs so he got the chance to replace them with vintage Fender single-coils in June 1984.
In the last five years of his career, this guitar became one of his most used guitars mostly for photo shoots and live performances. It has also been revealed that he had used this guitar while performing for “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” and “Cold Shot”. Since 2018, the guitar can be seen displayed at a Guitar Center in Austin, TX in celebration of Stevie’s 64th birthday.
Guild Acoustic JF6512
Guild Acoustic JF6512 was probably one of the unique guitars that showcased his talent in a new light. Just before his death, he had played this acoustic guitar on one of MTV’s unplugged. In the show, he performed an 8-track setlist with this acoustic guitar and it became one of the most iconic and memorable performances. Even Joey Satriani performed together with him to play songs like The Feeling, Proud and Joy, and May This Be Love. Furthermore, he also played the acoustic guitar on “Life By The Drop” from the posthumous album The Sky is Crying.
Stevie’s Fender signature model
Later in Stevie’s career, he collaborated with Fender in order to create an Artist Signature model which was based on his original Number One. Unfortunately, the model became available only after his death in 1992 so he didn’t get a chance to see or use the guitar. Larry Brooks was the creator of this model and Stevie’s brother Jimmie had to ask for the production to be faster as Stevie was no more.
Talking about its features, the creator of this guitar had used 6000 windings on the pickups and the polarity of the middle pick was reversed to eliminate hum. The design and finish of the guitar are wonderful as it has an alder body with a maple neck and pau ferro fingerboard. Guitar Player also commended this guitar by stating that it was one of the coolest Starts that they’ve ever played.