Premier Collector #6: Custom-Built Strats and Fender Tube Amps

Roger Jackson builds his own Strats and loves Fender amps, but gives Gibson a fair shake as well

Starting this week, we''ve kicked Premier Collector up a notch. You''ll learn a bit more about the collectors through a series of questions we''ll be asking, including stories from gigs and personal tone philosophy. Of course, if you have your own gear and stories you''d like to share, drop us a line at

Without further ado, introducing Roger Jackson and his collection, in his own words:

Roger Jackson, aka “The Phantom Man”
Years played: 42
Home turf: Southern Arizona
Current/former bands: Various, currently doing consulting work for several local luthiers
First guitar: ’66 Fender Stratocaster
Favorite guitar: (tie) Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul
Favorite amp: any Fender with vacuum tubes
Favorite effect: Compression
Favorite strings: GHS Regular Boomers

From L to R: ''62 Gibson Les Paul SG (Historic Shop re-issue), Fender MIM ''50 Classic Stratocaster re-issue, ''59 Gibson Les Paul flame-top (Historic Shop re-issue), 2001 Fender American Standard Telecaster, 1977 Gibson Les Paul Standard (my "touring guitar").

From L to R: Custom-built ''63 hardtail Strat, Custom-built ''65 hardtail Strat, CIJ ''65 Strat re-issue (modded), MIM Classic ''50s re-issue Strat (modded), Custom-built Jeff Beck Strat clone.

"After years of dissatisfaction with off-the-rack Stratocasters I decided to assemble my own, using parts combinations not generally seen with regular Fender production guitars. Some pieces came from Mexico while others hail from Japan. Stage situations dictated a change to noiseless pickups, thus all are equipped with either DiMarzio Virtual Vintage or Fender SCNs with S-1 switching. The trem-equipped guitars all feature steel blocks for maximum sustain and tuning stability while the hardware is of the vintage-style variety. Ash bodies with the traditional S/S/S routing were selected for their sonic properties, mated to vintage-spec necks. I liken the Fender Strat to the ’69 Chevy Camaro – easy to build, easy to hot-rod, and a joy to drive."

Custom-modded Fender Deluxe Reverb re-issue: hot-rodded chassis, larger blonde/wheatstraw furniture, 15-inch JBL D-130F speaker. Custom cabinetry by John Hinsdale, aka "The Cab Guy." I call this amp my "Spankmaster Reverb."

"A late ''67 Fender ''drip edge'' Bandmaster: dead-stock, matched set, one-owner (I''m the second)."

Who needs a singer, anyways?
"Some years back on the eve of an important audition for a house band gig, our lead singer found himself jailed on a drunk and disorderly charge. The night before his arrest our mixing board had crashed and burned during rehearsal. What to do – pay the bail or buy a new PA? We opted for the new board, re-arranged our demo set that afternoon and – to our collective surprise – got the job. Our front man never forgave us and went on to a lucrative solo career in the food service industry."

"My ''Fillmore'' rig: a 1978 vintage Fender Twin Reverb with factory ''orange basket'' JBL D-120F speakers, with a ''65 re-issue version (also equipped with JBLs). Both amps poised on a pair of vintage Fender Bandmaster cabs for the ultimate in festival/outdoor stage projection."

"The porch weasel from hell: Fender Stage 100 DSP with matching DT112 extension cab. Not quite as toneful as a Fender with vacuum tubes, but this little critter is capable of causing seismic events and eats Crate half-stacks for lunch!"

Other gear in my stash: Fender Stratocaster 12-string, 1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior, Ibanez PF-120 acoustic

Roger''s Tone Philosophy
The best gear in the world is only a small part of the equation; the lion’s share of what emanates from your amp comes from your fingers. The nuance of your picking style, a credible vibrato, an articulated hammer on/off technique, and a symbiotic relationship between the vibrations of your strings and that of your speaker(s) is a more significant factor to your overall sound than your choice of guitar, amp, cabinet, or stomp-box effect. There’s a world of difference between a “Mastercard Maestro” who runs a monthly tab at the local music merchant in a rush to buy the latest and greatest “widget du jour” and someone who practices his craft four or five hours a day (beyond normal band rehearsals and/or play dates). Money only buys you gear – but practice yields your tone.

To join Roger as a Premier Collector, send an e-mail with photos and a description of your gear to

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