SHADY GROVEFor the Vets
People ask me a lot about my main workhorse solid body, that light powder blue custom Strat with the Mother of Toilet Seat face plate. Having described its features a thousand times over the years, I’m finally wising up and putting the information into a hole in the world where I can send people, hence this log entry. It’ll burn a few miles on this tour bus ride.
History: My Strat started life in 1983 as an Ibanez Roadstar and has since had 3 bodies, 9 or 10 necks and 6 bridges. Tuners, pickups, switches and pots have changed often as well, the last piece of original gear—the middle single coil pickup—having gone bye-bye just a few years ago. Nothing of the original axe remains now; not even a face plate screw.
Considering my career since ’83 to be an exhaustive research and development project, here is the livery and gear, in all its glory, currently sported on the guitar. Having slung mud with the axe in almost 30 countries now, this gear is as much the result of attrition as hard-won wisdom.
Body: Jelutan (also spelled ‘Jelutong’). This is a Malaysian softwood, commonly used for cutting forms and molds; it’s only one grade denser than Balsa Wood. Allan Holdsworth introduced me to Jelutan when we traded axes for several weeks in the IOU days; he gave me his White Charvel, which had recently been on the cover of Guitar Player mag. I noticed the body had tonal responsiveness more like a violin than a solid hunk of wood; thus was my love affair with Jelutan born. In 2001, I finally got my Jelutan body. It’s different to work with…you have to imprint the threads from all the screws into all the holes, then drip super glue into the holes and let it set & harden overnight before assembly. It doesn’t really take paint; it just drinks the stuff up. But man, it sounds fantastic; like nothing else.
Neck: Carvin. Maple & rosewood, stock 14″ radius. Their headstock design is very intelligent and tremolo-friendly, every string following an identical and very gentle 8-degree angle through the nut. This is basically what EVERY headstock should do; hopefully the world of guitar design will realize this someday and get past the love affair with 1959.
The Graphite-Delrin Nut placement is in accordance with the Buzz Feiten system. As on all of my axes, I opened up the nut somewhat so that the strings run freer, with no binding. Right now it’s got brand new jumbo frets; neck finish is Tong Oil / Satin.
Bridge: A brilliant Allan Holdsworth design by Ibanez which Allan put on his 80s-era Ibanez model. Ibanez then took the design, changed some very minor aesthetic features, called it the “Power Rocker” and put it on most of their non-locking tremolo solid bodies for several years, without paying Allan one cent. It’s a wonderful design, though…almost impossible to find nowadays. I’ve narrowed the insert spacing a bit and customized where the tremolo arm meets the bridge with a larger bore and a delrin sleeve, a la PRS’s brilliant no-threads, no-nonsense design. The tremolo arm itself is .200″ stainless dowel—the headliner strut from a ’68 Mustang, which is what I had on hand the day I did that particular piece of work.
Pickups are all Seymour Duncan:
Bridge ‘bucker is a George Lynch Screamin’ Demon, coil tap operated by push / pull tone pot.
Middle PU is a stock SD Vintage Strat Staggered.
Neck PU is a custom build: Two Vintage Strat Staggered in a Humbucker configuration, with TripleShot micro switches, so I can get series (humbucker), parallel, or either pickup alone. It has a really great, very distinctive sound as a humbucker; the single coil at the neck is also fantastic.
A push/pull volume pot adds the bridge PU to whatever else is going on. So all in all, I can get every possible combination of coils.
Tuners are Sperzel, strap locks are Schaller.
Credit: Erik Goersch has done some of the work on it—including obtaining the Jelutan and making the body—and the latest fret job was my first time going to Eric’s guitars in Van Nuys, but most of the trickiest custom work was done by John Carruthers, my go-to guy when I get in over my head.
You can see and hear the guitar going through its paces on this vid…
…and for recommendations on what I would ideally put on a new build these days, I suggest you take a tour through the brave new world of design, as outlined here: