GEAR 2021: There's good news and bad new for Mike McCready fans; he's finally getting a signature model based on the vintage Fender Strat he's used from the early Pearl Jam, Temple Of The Dog and Mad Season days. The bad news is most of us can't afford the $15,000 Custom Shop limited run guitar. But there's also an interesting twist in the tale…
McCready and indeed the rest of us always believed his Sunburst Strat - that he still tours with – was a '59 model. In the process of developing this model Fender discovered that wasn't the case.
• NAMM 2021 is cancelled, but we'll be covering all the big January gear announcements right here on MusicRadar.
The Strat was McCready's first ever vintage guitar purchase, used to record seminal albums including Pearl Jam's Ten as well as supergroup one-off records from Mad Season and Temple Of The Dog. The SRV and Hendrix-inspired player still uses it live with Pearl Jam for tracks including Black and Yellow Ledbetter and on the band's latest album, Gigaton.
Fender's Custom Shop has recreated the guitar in exact detail for a 60 instrument run, but in in doing so "a long held secret about the guitar’s lineage" was forced to be revealed to McCready: it was made in 1960, not 1959 as had long been believed.
The Custom Shop’s Vincent Van Trigt disassembled the guitar to chart every detail, and scratch from its decades on the road. The recreation features an ultimate Relic lacquer finish on a two-piece select alder body; a flat-sawn flame maple neck with a 1960 “oval C” profile; and a flat-lam rosewood fingerboard with 21 vintage frets.
The trio of Custom Josefina hand-wound pickups are matched to the originals and are connected to a five-way switch and vintage wiring, including a “treble bleed” tone capacitor.
Other features for the Strat include a three-ply vinyl pickguard, vintage-style synchronized tremolo with Callaham bridge block, vintage-style tuning machines, bone nut, and wing string tree.
As McCready explained to this writer for Total Guitar in 2013, the original guitar was actually wired differently. "I had my ’59 Strat with the out of phase treble pickup," he explained of his recording sessions for Mad Season's only studio album, Above, "of the five positions it was the second from the top."
"For Black I’ll use my ’59 Strat but I wouldn’t use a Les Paul on that," he added regarding the guitar's contemporary live appearances in Pearl Jam. "I’ll use a Les Paul for Alive but in the early days I’d use a Strat because that’s all I had. But I love both of them."
A deluxe hardshell case, strap, polishing cloth, McCready case candy kit and certificate of authenticity are included with the custom shop model.
So after the Gibson Custom Shop take on his '59 Les Paul and now this, most fans are left priced out. But could there be a more affordable version ahead? We're not holding our breath but back in 2013 when he was only having preliminary discussions with Fender, the man himself told this writer, accessibility was a priority for a collaborative model.
“I want something that’s cool and affordable for kids. I don’t want it to be ridiculously priced.”
McCready isn't the only grunge hero getting the nod with a new guitar release either – the new Vintage Select '89 Jet models recreate the era model Chris Cornell used in Soundgarden after being given a Sparkle Jet by Screaming Trees guitarist Gary Lee Conner.