A prototype Graffiti Yellow Fender Stratocaster used extensively onstage by Jeff Beck has sold at auction for £76,600 (~$94,500).
The electric guitar, which went under the hammer earlier this week (May 24) in a sale facilitated by Bonhams, has a fascinating history, heavily intertwined with Beck’s significant role in Fender’s revitalization and the development of the company’s Strat Plus guitar.
The Strat was commissioned by Beck from Fender in 1986 for a forthcoming Japanese tour, with two key conditions – the first was that the neck had to be oversized, and the second was the unique finish, an homage to Beck’s American Graffiti 1932 Ford Hotrod Coupe replica.
Originally, the guitar – a ’62 Reissue Strat with the requested oversized neck – featured an American Standard Tremolo, a 60’s eleven-screw white scratchplate, and ’60s pickups.
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At some point, according to Bonhams, the guitar’s Standard American Bridge was removed and replaced with a prototype two-point pivot tremolo, in tandem with the installation of a new, oversized neck – featuring a headstock with then-still-in-development Sperzel Star locking tuners.
The Strat’s ’60s scratchplate was also replaced with a ’50s eight-screw scratchplate, with another then-in-development product, a Trevor Wilkinson Roller nut, also being fitted to the guitar.
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Beck then used the modified guitar during another tour of Japan, in 1989, before deciding (for the time) against developing a signature guitar and sending it back to Fender.
Fender, however, repaired its neck, and installed a trio of Lace Sensor electric guitar pickups (essentially turning it into a Fender Strat Plus model) and sent it back to Beck, who then kept it around.
The final product, as sold, features an alder body and a maple neck with a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, and came with its original Selmer tweed rectangular hard case, and a host of memorabilia relating to the Japanese tours on which Beck used the guitar.
In 1994, Beck gave the Strat to Suzy O’Hara, a flying instructor with whom he was in a relationship at the time.
“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 doing this and so the original neck remains,” O’Hara told Bonhams.
For more info on the guitar, visit the Bonhams website, and be sure to read our full feature on Jeff Beck’s influence on the development of the Strat Plus design.