As it is with cars, people are always on the lookout for the guitar of their dreams – “the holy grail of guitars.” Have you found anything that comes close?
“Well, that moment came for me when I found my ’61 Strat. The first time I came out to Los Angeles, the first thing I did was go to the Guitar Center. It was like a really big deal. I walked into the vintage room and saw this one guitar – out of everything else, it stood out. I was drawn to it, I picked it up, and right away it was like the ever-elusive instrument. It was like the Sword and the Stone, almost [laughs] – you’re the only guy who can pull the thing out.
“That guitar played like no other. From the first moment, it fit my hand like a glove. And it sounded incredible – it had everything. The unfortunate thing was, I didn’t have any money at the time, so I had to walk away from it. I never forgot about it, though. A year later, maybe more, I went out to LA, and the first thing I did again was go to the Guitar Center. The guitar was still there. I picked it up and started playing it to make sure it was the same guitar – and it was. My dad was there, one of my attorneys was there, and so was one of my A&R guys from the label. My dad was like, ‘We’ve gotta go. We’re gonna be late for soundcheck.’ But I just said, ‘I’m not leaving without this guitar.’
“I still didn’t have the money for it, but the three of them discussed it amongst themselves, and they decided to split the guitar on their credit cards under the condition that I would pay them back. That’s what happened. I got the guitar, I paid them back, and it’s been mine ever since.”
Do you mind saying how much it was?
“I think at the time it was a little over $7,000. It wasn’t cheap. Even back then, vintage guitars were commanding pretty hefty prices. That was in the ‘90s – today, the same Strat would go for 25 grand or more. But that was money well spent. The guitar’s been my soul mate. It’s been all over the world with me many times over, and it’s been on every record that I’ve made since the day I got it. It’s helped me to become the musician that I am and to have the career that I have.”
Did you leave it as is? Did you do any mods to it?
“I didn’t do anything to it. No, wait – I put graphite saddles on it. That’s it. Original pickups. It’s been refretted once, but I think it was refretted when I got it. It had jumbo frets, which is exactly what I like. I played it like crazy and wore those frets out, so we refretted it one more time.
“My signature Strat is loosely based on that one – loosely. The profile of the neck is similar, but the signature Strat has a bit of a thicker neck than the ’61. And it has a 12-inch radius, which is flatter; it allows you to play a little faster if you want. Vintage Strats didn’t have 12-inch radiuses. Pretty much everything else is similar to the ’61.”