Monday, October 10, 2011
Stevie Ray Vaughan's Number One
Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas on Oct. 3, 1954, and went on to become one of the most prominent blues guitar players that emerged from the 80’s era. SRV and his band Double Trouble's popularity came a long way from being booed at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival to perform sold-out concerts in various locations all over the world until his early demise on Aug. 27, 1990.
As SRV survived drug and alcohol addiction over the years, his popularity soared. He became even popular after his untimely death. He was onboard an ill-fated helicopter, on the way to Chicago from Wisconsin, that crashed on the side of a steep hill. Earlier that evening, Vaughan had played with Double Trouble at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, featured as a special guest with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan. This tragic incident cut short Stevie Ray's career and denied the music fans from experiencing more of his music.
Number One was SRV's main guitar. The beat-up vintage Fender Stratocaster is often called "the most famous battered Strat in rock history".
He was able to acquire the guitar in 1973 from a guitar shop in Austin, Texas. It was of tobacco-sunburst shade, built with a combination of a 1962 solid alder body, a 1963 maple neck and 1959 stock single-coil pickups. SRV, being a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, tried to imitate the way Hendrix plays his guitars by putting a left-handed vibrato system on Number One. This way, the tremolo arm would be hanging from the top part of the unit, the same way as when left-handed Jimi played right-handed guitars. SRV also replaced the original white pickguard with a black piece, then putting his signature SRV initials with stickers.
Number One, as with Stevie's other guitars, was usually strung with heavy string gauges. SRV used amazingly thick .013-.060 gauge strings. In comparison, guitars are bought normally with .009-.042 (high-E to low-E) string gauges. There's even a widespread account about SRV's propensity to use super glue on his fingertips to re-attach torn shards of skin. It's no wonder though, considering the chunky string gauges he was using!
All these attributes of Number One gave Stevie his distinctive, signature tone. Over the years, the abuse, wear and tear of SRV's playing resulted in several repairs for the Number One strat, such as re-frets with jumbo frets and replacements for neck/headstock. After Stevie's death though, the original neck was put back on the guitar.
Number One is presently under the care of brother Jimmie Vaughan. Recently, Fender Custom Shop was able to produce replicas of SRV’s Number One with a limited number of copies. According to the guys at Fender Custom Shop, Number One was meticulously measured and weighed. Every part was copied every odd detail, replicated each dent and scratch for a creation that looked as though it was the real thing.
A fitting tribute to one of the greatest blues guitarist who ever lived.
Here's a video of Stevie Ray playing his classic song "Tightrope" with his Number One strat live. Enjoy!