Last week I got a phone call from my friend, Graeme. He was a little excited. He had money to spend and was on a mission to purchase a quality electric guitar and amplifier – to add to his collection. Like many of us, he suffers from Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. A noble affliction.
Graeme is a great guitarist, bassist, sound engineer, ex-studio owner, all-round audio guru and occasional reader of this blog. He knows I like nothing more than a trip to a guitar shop, so he invited me to join him on his mission by starting at my local: Guitar Guitar in Epsom. He said he valued my opinion. Pure flattery. He knows a good guitar when he plays one. He didn’t need me to advise him. He was just sharing the love.
I invited him and his wife, Alex, over for the weekend. The plan:
- meet at the guitar shop
- test a few guitars and amps
- find a guitar and amp combination that speaks to him
- make purchase of said guitar and amp
- go back to my house for food and wine
- jam and talk guitar shit while drinking more wine
- listen to vinyl and drink more wine before going to bed
- get up in the morning and talk more guitar shit over a fried breakfast.
After another tough week at work, I was really looking forward to the weekend and our trip to the guitar shop. Saturday came and I set off to meet Graeme at Guitar Guitar. As I approached the shop, there he was outside, grinning and waving at me like a big kid. Excellent.
Once inside, we perused for a while, then asked a member of staff, Jeremy, for some guidance. Graeme explained that he was interested in a Fender Stratocaster, of some guise, and an amplifier that would complement the guitar. I own an American Standard Stratocaster and a Hot Rod Deluxe amp. Graeme had always been a fan of that particular guitar and amp combo. He described his playing style to Jeremy and set out his budget.
A couple of minutes later we were in a sound room running a few guitars through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Into the mix Jeremy had thrown a Fender Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster. While Graeme played away on other guitars, I picked up the Classic Player and fiddled unplugged for a few bars. Instant appreciation. I put it down quickly. This was obviously Jeremy’s secret weapon. It was a gem. I didn’t want to give the game away. I wanted to watch Graeme’s face when he plugged it in and played. If it sounded as good as it felt, Graeme’s face was going to light up.
Yep. It sounded great and Graeme was smitten. He said it played itself. Graeme likes to bend strings a lot, so the shallow “C”shape 12-inch radius neck really suited his style. The fretboard is quite a bit flatter than that found on modern 9.5-inch radius Strat necks.
Everything about the guitar was fabulous. A product of the Fender’s Mexican Ensenada factory, the guitar is part of the popular mid-price Classic series. Mid-price it may be, but it holds its own against the more expensive American-made Strats. The build of the ’60s Classic Player was overseen by Fender’s masterbuilder Greg Fessler, and it shows. The guitar is appointed with three Custom ’69 single-coil pickups that sound a little hotter than those found on most Standard series Strats built in recent years. The sonic blue finish, mint green scratchplate, aged knobs and pickup covers work brilliantly together. A lot of love went into the design of this guitar. It even comes with a two-point vintage bridge.
Graeme bought the guitar, obviously. The perfect partner for a Strat is a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amp. So Graeme bought one of those too.
That night, as we drank wine and chewed the fat, Graeme played away on his new Strat and Hot Rod Deluxe. We enjoyed a lot of bloom, shimmer and twang. In the morning, as planned, we talked tone and guitars over a large fried breakfast.