- Mar 18, 2007
- Reaction score
Stevie Ray Vaughan's Guitar called "Number One"
"Number One"- Also called "First Wife," a 1959 Strat body with 1962 neck, received in 1973 in trade of 1963 Strat with Ray Hennig, Heart of Texas Music
Number One "Number One" is the beat-up mongrel Strat that we all know and love. Constructed of a 1959 body, and (originally) a 1962 neck, it possessed a deep, dark growl of a tone that was immediately identifiable. Even though it used all "stock" Fender Strat parts, about the only "original equipment" parts it possessed by 1990 were the body and the pickups. Over the years, Stevie and Rene Martinez, his guitar tech, replaced the pickguard, vibrato unit, saddles and neck. Some modifications were purely cosmetic, some were functional (to derive a particular feel or tone), and others were out-and-out repairs.
Number One Number One was obtained in 1973 in a trade-in of his first Strat, the 1963 he purchased in 1969. According to Stevie, he saw the Strat in Ray Hennig's Heart of Texas Music, in Austin. He said he knew that this tobacco-sunburst, used Strat was, just by looking at it, the guitar for him. The neck was an oddly-shaped rosewood D-neck, very large, which fit Stevie's large hands like a glove. The body was stamped "LF-1959," but the neck was stamped "1962." Stevie surmised that Leo Fender probably assembled this guitar from left-over 1959 production parts in 1962. It was rumored that the "LF-1959" actually meant "Louis Fuentes" and not Leo Fender. Neither was ever truly verified.
Number One In interviews, Rene sometimes took issue as to the date of manufacture of Number One. Rene claims he has found that the pickups are 1959, while both the neck and body are 1962 (See Guitar World book on SRV). In Stevie's mind, the guitar was a factory-cobbled-up 1959, so all discussion ended there.
The guitar originally came with a stock, early-sixties style white pickguard, a right-handed vibrato unit, and 1959 pickups. It is rumored that sometime during the life of the guitar, either Stevie or a previous owner had the pickups rewound at the Fender factory. The result was a slight overwind from original, which is duplicated in the SRV Signature Strat. I cannot find proof of the pickup rewind.
Number One Over the years, Stevie replaced the pickguard (several times) with a black pickguard and added his "SRV" initials in iridescent lettering of several styles. Rene Martinez remarked that he would prowl truck stops to obtain letters to replace the ones that wore away. Eventually the iridescent "SRV" was replaced by Letraset script-style lettering, first seen during his appearance on the "Tonight Show" in 1989. This show introduced the SRV Signature Strat prototype. Stevie was to play this prototype, but it did not sport his trademark initials. The "Tonight Show" art department came up with this new lettering style at the last minute. These script letters are what is engraved in outline form on the SRV Sig Strat.
The vibrato was replaced with a gold left-handed unit sometime around 1977. This was the beginning of Stevie's "Hendrix period." Since Jimi Hendrix and Otis Rush played a right-handed guitar turned "upside down," therefore putting the vibrato bar on top, Stevie emulated this by installing a left-handed vibrato unit in Number One. He also felt it gave him better access to the bar, but did remark that several times, during especially manic performances, it fairly well tore half his sleeve off when he got caught-up on it. Stevie normally used four or five springs in this unit, and had the pivot plate pulled tight against the body. This meant he could only push the bar, and not pull up on it.
Another significant change from stock were the installation of jumbo bass-style frets. This added to the sustain, and gave Stevie added ability to bend the strings with the enormous strings that he used. He gradually went to smaller strings as he got older, but they were still heavy by modern standards. His string sizes in 1984 were generally .013, .015-.016, .019, .028, .038, and .056-.060. In the 1970s, his high E string would sometimes go as high as a .018! By the time 1989 rolled around, Rene convinced him to use a .011 or .012 to save his fingers. His fingers would get torn up so badly that he would actually use super glue to re-attach torn calluses.
The finish of Number One became progressively more beaten up as the years went by. Stevie would pound, scrape, kick, stand on, and otherwise torture the guitar during his performances. Eventually it developed a quarter-inch gouge just above the pickguard where Stevie's manic strumming continually bashed it. There probably was not a square inch of lacquer remaining by 1990. That certainly did not detract from the wonderful sounds it made.
It is not known when the original neck was replaced. Number One had many repairs throughout Stevie's career. An early mishap can be seen on the liner photos for the In the Beginning album. Stevie had watched how his brother Jimmie would bounce his guitar off the wall, and he thought it was a cool trick. During an early performance of "Third Stone From the Sun," he recalled, he tossed Number One a little too hard. It hit the wall at a bad angle, and severely split the headstock. The photos in the album show the taped-up headstock. Either Rene Martinez or Charley Wirz eventually repaired this damage, as Rene has said that Stevie used the original neck until 1989.
Stevie briefly considered retiring Number One by late 1989, when the neck became unusable. It had gone through so many re-frets and repairs that it just could not hold another re-fret, and its playability was near impossible. So, Rene swapped the neck from "Scotch," a 1963 Strat, onto Number One. This was the neck that was snapped on July 9, 1990 at the Garden State Art Center in New Jersey, when a heavy piece of stage scenery fell on several guitars. This prompted Stevie to beg Rene to try and get one more life out of the old neck. Rene ended up ordering a replacement vintage neck directly from Fender, and received according to Rene a 1963 copy, similar to what was destroyed in the accident. Stevie was without Number One for only one show.
Number One was originally rumored to be buried with Stevie at Laurel Land Cemetery, near Dallas. Another rumor was that Number One actually "resides" with one of the Vaughan family members, either Jimmie or his mother.
The truth is that all of Stevie's guitars, pedals and amps are safely locked in a vault. The Guitar World, August 1998 issue, interview with Jimmie Vaughan has laid this issue to rest.
GW: Where is all of Stevie's gear now?
Jimmie Vaughan: I got it locked up at Fort Knox. [laughs] It's at a bank, and I don't even look at it. Every time I go back to that stuff, it kicks my ass, because I have to go through it all again. Each amp, each pedal, triggers a memory: "I was on the road with him for six months when he was playing that amp..."
Rene Martinez swapped the original neck back onto Number One and gave it to the Vaughan family.
SRV Stevie Ray Vaughan strat guitar no1 #1
click to enlarge
1959 - 1962 - 1963 See neck, body & pickups for clarification
1962 D shaped Maple neck, fattest neck Fender made. Replaced in 1990
Rosewood Veneer, compound radius flatter than standard 7.25". Radius flatness due to refret work
Jumbo size Fretwire, NOT bass frets as rumored, Nut replaced with Fender style made of bone
1963 Solid Alder wood
3-color sunburst front and back
Fender 3-single coil 1959 (which is why Stevie thought the guitar was a '59 model)
'Left handed steel Fender Synchronized Tremolo, Gold plated hardware added in 1986. Stevie used 5 springs
• The headstock on #1's original neck had been damaged by Stevie himself. He had attempted to recreate a trick he saw his brother do by bouncing the guitar off the wall and catching it. The headstock split when Stevie attempted this. The headstock was taped up and later repaired.
• The fingerboard had worn down due to the number of refret jobs over the years. According to the Fender® Custom Shop, upon examination of #1, the neck had been repaird after it was damaged in an accident while on tour. The original neck was replaced with a neck from one of Stevie's other guitars, and then later by a neck from Fender. The original neck was put back on after Stevie's death.
• There is a hole that was patched on the right side of the bridge/tremolo plate. This is either a mistake created when attempting to install the left handed tremolo or this is the hole that will be left as the left handed tremolo arm is now located on the left side of the bridge/tremolo plate.
•Stevie used very heavy gauge strings and his set-up had the string action very high. This combined with the large fretwire gave Stevie his signature guitar tone.
• The stickers for the block SRV letters and the Custom sticker were items Stevie would find at truck stops.
• Stevie's guitar tech would use heat shrink electrical tubing to reinforce the strings where they cross the bridge plate and travel through the body. This was a point of the greatest friction and caused strings to break. So the tubing helped alleviate the friction.
• Stevie's pickups were shielded and there is also information stating there was a dummy coil installed to help with ground buzzing, which single coil pickups are prone to.