Fender Stratocaster “Number One”
| From the Collection of Jimmie Vaughan |
Made in 1962 and played by Stevie Ray Vaughan

In 1973, an aspiring blues guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan went into the Heart of Texas music store in Austin and bought a used Fender Stratocaster. As the wear and tear on this guitar suggests, its nickname, Number One, is well deserved. As Vaughan became the most famous and influential blues guitarist of his generation, this guitar was truly his favorite.

Vaughan replaced the original three-ply white pickguard with a black unit and added his initials, “SRV,” with stick-on letters. He put more permanent proof of his ownership on the back, carving “SR Vaughan” in the wood. The vibrato bridge is a left-handed gold-plated unit because it was the only one available in the guitar store on the day Vaughan needed a replacement.

As the remnants of finish indicate, this guitar had a standard three-tone sunburst finish. Due to constant use, the fingerboard was planed and refretted a number of times, and eventually Vaughan replaced the neck with one from another of his Strats.

After Vaughan’s death in a helicopter crash following a concert in 1990, his older brother, Jimmie, reinstalled the original neck on Number One. In 2004, Fender honored Vaughan by replicating Number One in a limited run of 100.

Fender Stratocaster
| From The Collection of Experience Music Project |
Made in 1968 and played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

No guitar represents a greater convergence of artist, event, and instrument than this 1968 Fender Stratocaster played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Taken alone, the instrument is rather unremarkable. For starters, it was made during CBS’s ownership of Fender, a period of declining quality. It’s a stock right-handed Stratocaster with Olympic White finish. Although the maple fingerboard appears to be integral with the neck, as it was on 1950s Fenders, it is actually separate; the giveaway is on the back of the neck, where there is no evidence of the walnut “skunk stripe” that is present on all Fender one-piece necks. Hendrix played left-handed, but rather than special-ordering a lefty, he simply flipped the guitar over and reversed the strings, so that the heavier bass strings would be on what is normally the treble side.

Although the Strat had some degree of notoriety in rock and roll music, thanks to Buddy Holly and the surf bands, it was overshadowed in the Fender line in the early to mid 1960s by the more expensive Jazzmaster.

The film Woodstock featured Hendrix’s screaming, pyrotechnic version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which set the course for the future of rock guitar and instantly raised the Stratocaster to the iconic status that it enjoys today.

Alembic Exploiter Spyder Bass
| From The Collection of Hard Rock International |
Made in 1980 and played by John Entwistle

Alembic was founded in 1969 as an electronics consulting company but quickly gained a reputation for creating high-end basses. Alembic’s active electronics and exotic woods attracted the attention of the Who’s John Entwistle, who ordered the first of many custom Alembics in 1974.

In 1977, Entwistle came up with a design based on the Gibson Futura, a prototype for Gibson’s 1958 Explorer. Entwistle acknowledged the Explorer connection by calling his model the Exploiter. The inlaid sterling-silver spider webs also inspired the name Spyder. Entwistle had a number of basses made with this design. This one, sporting maple and walnut body woods and a zebrawood headstock overlay, was made in 1980, just in time for Entwistle to pose with it for the cover photo of his 1981 solo album,Too Late the Hero.

The five-prong microphone jack (located next to the bridge) provided a direct input to a recording studio board, but it required a transformer for use with a standard bass amplifier. This inconvenience, along with the basses’ instability under the climate variations that are unavoidable on tour, caused Entwistle to abandon Alembics as his main stage basses in 1985. He maintained a close relationship with the company, however, and was working with Alembic on a special edition of the Spyder when he died in 2002.