LOT 105 CHRISTIE’S 1999
EST: $80,000 - $100,000
Serial No: 12073
Body: Alder, sunburst finish, dated 6-56
Neck: Maple with skunk-stripe truss rod routing, 21 frets, maple fingerboard with dot inlays. Neck date and initials XA-6-56 written in pencil
Bridge: Synchronised tremolo
Pickguard: White single-ply
Controls: One volume, two tone
Pickups: Three single-coil
Switches: Five-position pickup selector with white switch tip (replaced original three-position pickup selector sometime in the 1970s)
Additional: Red guitar strap
Case: Black rectangular hardshell case stencilled on both sides in yellow ‘DEREK AND THE DOMINOS’ and ‘FRAGILE’ and handwritten tie-on label inscribed ‘1956 Strat #12073 2TSB BR’
ERIC: "I don’t think there’s anything on the Stratocaster that doesn’t come from pure logic. I would challenge anybody to come up with a better design for a guitar. The Stratocaster is as good as it gets, isn’t it?
"With Delaney and Bonnie I used my old Stratocaster, Brownie, which was really, really good – a great sound. It was just right for the kind of music I was playing with them.
"I never met Leo Fender, but I wish I had. If I could go back and somehow talk to him about the Stratocaster, I’d say, ‘You’ve created something that can’t be bettered, really. How did you do that?’ I know there were prototypes with the Telecaster and the Esquire, and some early experimental stages, but nevertheless, the fact that he got to this conclusion so quickly is remarkable.
"Leo Fender was so far in advance of anybody else, developing the Strat to the point where it just couldn’t be bettered, even now. My hat’s off to him. I think Brownie dictated the way I played to a certain extent. Because the Strat has less sustain – it’s harder to bend on and harder to hold the bends and apply vibrato – I play more notes.
"I didn’t look at the change from Gibson to Fender as ‘I’m done with that.’ It was more a case of wanting to try something else. In the early days I had predominantly played a Gibson Les Paul. The Les Paul had completely knocked the Strat out of the public eye back then. Everyone was playing Les Pauls (page 52) and 335s (page 26) and other guitars like that.
"I had a lot of influences when I took up the Strat. Everyone thought, ‘What do you want with these? Nobody plays these anymore,’ but Buddy Guy was playing one, Steve Winwood was playing one, and Buddy Holly played one. You could really hear the Strat on Hoodoo Man Blues by Junior Wells with Buddy Guy. It was so immediate. You heard the sound of the wood, and I wanted to pursue that sound. Buddy Holly played a sunburst Strat with a maple neck, and that became my Holy Grail.
"For me the whole thing went back to the cover of The “Chirping” Crickets, the first album I ever bought. There was a picture of a Stratocaster on it, so it’s been iconic for me from year one. When I got my hands on one, I was surprised at how easy it was to play. One reason why I hadn’t played Strats earlier in my career was that the necks always looked so narrow. I thought, ‘I won’t be able to bend any strings, no room,’ but in fact I was wrong.
"Picking up a Stratocaster makes me play a bit differently. I find that I play more with my fingers because of the way my hand sits on the guitar. I don’t feel the need to use a pick quite so much as I would with any other guitar, where the bridge sits higher off the body. With the Strat the bridge is almost flush with the guitar, so my hand rests on the body, part of my heel rests on the bridge, and then my fingers rest on the scratchplate. It’s really easy to play either way, but I’ve found more and more that I’m using just my fingers.
"It’s got those famous lead tones, but it’s so versatile you can use it in any kind of rhythmic sense as well – great big power chords, or that really light kind of Tamla/Motown chord sound with very little volume. Unlike most other electric guitars, it sounds almost better when the guitar’s volume knob is on two or three, really under-amplified and quiet.
"Brownie was the last guitar to be sold in the 1999 Crossroads auction and when it was brought out onto the revolving rostrum, they played ‘Layla’ over the PA and the whole audience stood up. I had no idea what ‘Layla’ was going to be. It was just a ditty. When you get near to the end of it you know you’ve got something really powerful. I’m incredibly proud of ‘Layla’. To have ownership of something that powerful is something I’ll never be able to get used to. But the funny thing was that once I’d got ‘Layla’ out of my system I didn’t want to do any more with the Dominos. I didn’t want to play another note."