It was this ad from Fender on the back cover of Guitar Player magazine that started the buzz about The Strat in early 1980. The guitar was launched as their new flagship model at the time and was a customized version of their traditional Stratocaster - long before “custom shops” even existed. A big surprise for everyone was how damn heavy they were. Between the bodies being made of dense Northern Ash wood and the heavy-duty brass hardware that was 22k gold plated, most weighed in around 10 lbs, including mine, which was a gift from my Mom for my 15th birthday that same year.

As usual the necks were offered in maple or rosewood. Many of the rosewood fingerboards were so dark they were thought to be ebony. Borrowing some ideas from their early pre-CBS days, Fender went back to the smaller headstocks for this model. They reportedly used the old routing jigs from the 1950's & 60s, but the jigs were worn down by that time, so it required additional improvising on the shape. There's a definite difference when compared to the original design. Another feature was that the headstocks were painted to match the bodies, as done for a while in the 1960's. This was also the very first model to officially bear the name STRAT instead of Stratocaster.

                            

The three main colors offered were Candy Apple Red, Artic White and Lake Placid Blue, although some very rare colors exist on some models that the factory experimented with. Rarer still is an all walnut model pictured on right.

     

Fender had modified the electronics on these guitars as well. They used an over wound pickup in the bridge position, which they called the X-1, giving it more output than a stock pickup. They also used a 2-way rotary switch in place of the bottom tone knob, enabling more sound variations, including an exact Telecaster sound when using the bridge & neck pickups together. I used this setting on the track Telekinesis from my album Worlds Within. The remaining tone knob was wired as a master tone control for all three pickups.

My Strat has toured the world with me and has been recorded on the majority of my music since the ’80s - and it remains my main axe to this day! In 2012, I paid musical homage to it on the track Red Strat Shuffle, which features all three pickups used on different parts of the song.

For the small number of people out there who were 'in the know' about this model, it rightfully earned the nick name "Super Strat" on the streets. Yet another name that stuck was the "Brass Master Series" due to the solid brass bridge used for added sustain. Since it never really caught on with the guitar buying public (fine with me), the Strat was discontinued in 1983. As a result, it's one of Fender's best kept secrets. Despite its weight, this over-looked model is one of the best sounding, most versatile Stratocasters ever made.

Also in 1980, John Lennon was interviewed by Rolling Stone Magazine and is pictured playing his new Strat at his NYC apartment. Straight from the Holy Grail of endorsers, John called it “The Cats Pajama’s” – he was right!

Pictured below:

L: John with his Strat (featured in Jan, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone magazine).

R: Me with my Strat (featured in May, 2009 issue of Vintage Guitar magazine).

                    

Fender also made a limited run of P-basses during this time called the Precision Special, which had the same type of look as the Strat.

                

Below is a pic of three, now rare, Fender’s - the two red Strats (brother Jim’s on L, mine on R) and a limited edition white Precision Special bass (brother Mike’s). 

                       

 

 

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