If you were disappointed with the $15,000 price tag that was attached to the Mike McCready Custom Shop 1960 Strat in 2021, we have some great news. Fender has a Mexican Roadworn version that is much, much cheaper and it's the most ambitious relic from the Esenada factory yet.
Mike McCready's 1960 Strat looms large in his and Pearl Jam's history; it's clocked around 1,000 performances in his hands with the Seattle band, creating glorious sonic runs on Even Flow. It's shown up frequently both onstage and on every Pearl Jam record since second album Vs, it was also the guitarist's key instrument for his 1995 Mad Season project alongside late Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Staley. It's part of his musical DNA, but the appeal of this guitar should extend to anyone looking for a '60s-inspired relic Strat.
As far back as 2013, McCready told this writer that he had been in discussions with Fender and stated early on how important an affordable model was to him; now it's delivered and seems to be as close as the company can get while keeping the price sub-$2,000. Even though there's no getting around this as the priciest Mexican-made Fender guitar to date, above the Jason Isbell Road Worn Telecaster.
"The thing that stands out for this Fender initially which is super important to me is the feel of the neck, and it feels identical to my original one," notes McCready. It even looks like it, so the wear pattern on it – how there's not a ton of finish on it. It feels like it's been played a million times. The frets feel great when I go across time. That's a super important part for me."
High praise; because something the critics of relic'ing often miss is that it's a feel thing as much as a cosmetic experience. But this also has the headstock damage McCready sustained in an unspecified stage incident – we're going to wager it could have been near the end of the Mad Season's 1995 Moore Theatre show performance of November Hotel above, and McCready hasn't ruled that out either. Pearl Jam's firebrand hasn't mellowed with age in that regard.
To match McCready's guitar, the 'slim' C-shape neck also features a 9.5" fretboard radius that is slightly flatter than Fender's usual vintage-style. And by the way, that's a rosewood slab 'board. Lovely stuff!
The nitro-finished Road Worn Sunburst alder body guitar looks and feels the part, and the McCready pickups should ensure it sounds it too. "This custom pickup set is voiced to sound like his beloved 1960 Stratocaster," assures Fender. "Warm and articulate, this custom pickup set nails McCready’s signature tone and sounds great for any style of music."
A vintage-style six-point tremolo with bent-steel saddles and cold-rolled steel block also features and just like Mike's guitar, the middle tone knob is aged cream, rather than the white of the other two.
"I want them to have a great experience with it," McCready hopes for potential future owners of his signature model. "I want them to have fun with it – that's number one. But I want them to be creative. I want them to get out of it what I get out of it. That's what makes my life better and I want it to make their life better…that's the icing on the cake. But I want them to know that they're getting a quality product and that it plays as well as it possibly [can] for me. I love it, so I want them to know that they're going to get that, and they'll be able to create themselves."
The Fender Mike McCready Strat is $1,899.99 / £1,649 / €1,899. More info at Fender