The Fender Custom Shop and their Masterbuilders have the reputation for duplicating some of the most well-known guitars of all time, to a truly painstaking level. Finally, the Rocky Strat from George Harrison has joined the likes of SRV's #1, EVH's Frankencaster, Clapton's Blackie, Andy Summer's Tele, Jeff Beck's Esquire, Malmsteen's Strat, and Robbie Robertson's Last Waltz Stratocaster! As a massive George Harrison fan, this is easily the coolest of the group. The Harrison Rosewood Tele was certainly cool but this takes things to a WHOLE new level!
Rocky was featured in some of the Beatles most popular recordings, seen during The Magical Mystery Tour film, and then down the road some years in Tom Petty's video for I Won't Back Down (along with arguably the best backing band in history!) in the hands of Mike Campbell. The story of this guitar is supremely cool and certainly worth reading up on as its impact on rock n' roll is undeniable!
Master Builder Paul Waller examined and measured the original in exacting detail—body, neck (with a rare asymmetrical “C” profile), pickups, wiring, and everything else right down to Harrison’s famous DIY paint job. Even the “Grimwoods” decal remains in place on the back of the headstock. With these features and more, it’s an amazing and meticulously crafted Custom Shop tribute to a truly magical guitar played and loved by one of rock’s greatest guitarists.
You know a project is a big deal when Abigail Ybarra comes out of retirement to be a part of it! And what makes her participation even cooler is that it is likely that Abby wound the pickups in George's original Strat! THAT'S how long she worked with Fender! Rocky is loaded with a set of 1960's spec pickups that are warm and sweet, with a wonderful kerrang on the top end that is captivating. Abby's pickups have gone on to be the stuff of Legend, selling for huge bucks online when you can find them. A 5-way switch leads you down a familiar path along with a Master Volume, and 2 tone controls. Played clean, slightly broken up, or madly overdriven, this guitar sounds amazing! Handwound pickups provide added dynamic range, responding to the touch like no machine wound pickup can. Slight movements on the volume or tone controls offer unparalleled shaping abilities. The wealth of usable, musical tones you can find is staggering!
Here is some of the Rocky Lore from the Folks at the Fender Custom Shop. Stratocaster® guitars were almost impossible to find in England in the late 1950s and early 1960s, so when George Harrison actually found one in a shop during the pre-fame early days of the Beatles, he meant to get it but was scooped by the guitarist for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (whose drummer went by the stage name Ringo Starr).
A few dizzying years later, when the sessions for Beatles Help! album got underway in early 1965, Harrison had better luck—he and John Lennon sent roadie Mal Evans out to get one for each of them, and Evans soon returned with a matching pair of Sonic Blue Strat® guitars. Harrison’s guitar, serial number 83840, still bore a decal from a music store where it was purchased at one point—“Grimwoods; The music people; Maidstone and Whitstable”. Thus, Help! marks the first appearance of a Stratocaster in Beatles music; heard in the low drone throughout that album’s “Ticket to Ride” and in the solo for “You’re Going to Lose That Girl.” Near the end of 1965, both Strats were put to even more prominent use on groundbreaking album Rubber Soul, most notably on the ringing chordal solo in “Nowhere Man”, and again on mid-1966’s Revolver.
In 1967, sometime between the end of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions and the June 25 live worldwide telecast of “All You Need is Love”, Harrison took up paint and brush himself to give his Stratocaster a multicolored psychedelic dayglo paint job. It also appeared prominently in the “I Am the Walrus” segment of 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour film. The guitar remained a favorite of Harrison’s for the rest of the decade, and by December 1969 Harrison had painted “Bebopalula” on the upper body, “Go Cat Go” on the pickguard, and “Rocky”—the guitar’s nickname—on the headstock.
We love seeing these recreations. Fender pulls out all of the stops on them and every spec, ding, dents, glob of paint, is something worth taking a moment to appreciate. The execution from Paul Waller is jaw-dropping. The guitar plays like a dream and sounds astounding thanks to the Abigail Hand Wound Pickups, and is the most eye-catching guitar we have seen in years! The paint-job certainly looks like George had some help from Lucy (in the Sky with Diamonds) and the ability of the Custom Shop to recreate it perfectly is shocking! Also included with the guitar is a Custom Embroidered Brown Tolex Briefcase that carries the special case-candy that it comes with including a White El Dorado Leather Strap, Mini Model of Rocky along with a stand, and a special two-fold certificate of authenticity. It is an insanely groovy add-on to this otherwise already staggeringly cool piece.