Eric Clapton's 1954 Fender Stratocaster has been put up for auction. With the opening bid set at an eye-watering $1 million, it is expected to be one of the world's most expensive electric guitars.
Nicknamed Slowhand, the Strat is a rare non-tremolo model that Clapton tuned to open G and used extensively in the studio an onstage for slide parts, notably opening his 1979 sets with the toe-tapping Tusla Time and Early In The Morning. It was on regular rotation until circa 1985.
The serial number reads 7431. Under the neck-butt it reads "T-G-54" in pencil, "TG" standing for Tadeo Gomez, the Fender employee who shaped the neck.
Spec-wise, there are a trio of Strat single-coils, which if they are original '54 models – the year the Strat was launched – they should have Alnico magnets, staggered hand-beveled pole pieces, heavy-gauge Formvar magnet wire and magnificent dynamics. (You can read more about '54 Strat pickups here.)
There is the usual complement of volume and tone controls. However, the listing specifies a five-way pickup selector, which suggests a mod, but Clapton certainly was one to use those in-between positions on the three-way switches, notably on tracks such as Bell Bottom Blues.
The neck has the characteristic skunk stripe down the back, and as per the Fender catalogue of 1954 it promises a "slim fast" ride. Elsewhere, you've got a white pickguard and six adjustable saddles.
It is interesting to see Clapton using a non-tremolo Strat. Latterly he would prefer a blocked tremolo to a hardtail on the grounds that they sounded better, but he sure got a lot of mileage out of this one.
Among the case candy is a signed letter of authenticity from Clapton's guitar tech, Lee Dickson – indeed, his handwriting adorns a sticky-tape label on the case that reads “'54 S/Burst Fender Strat #7431.“ You also get a signed gold edition of Slowhand the album and a strap.
The auction is being hosted by Gotta Have Rock and Roll and opens on 25 November (Wednesday). It is expected to fetch between $1.5 million and $2 million – which, if you take into account the $3.9 million that David Gilmour's Black Strat went for, could be considered something of an entry-level Strat for the one per cent.