News

Fender to reproduce Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'Lenny' guitar

Mike Daniel
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

DALLAS -- Hey, Stevie Ray Vaughan fans: Has Fender got a deal for you!

Starting Dec. 12, you can buy a Lenny.

The Fender Custom Shop will produce 250 replicas of Lenny, one of the late guitarist's two primary performance guitars. It got its hands on the axe courtesy of Guitar Center, which bought it for $623,500 at auction in 2004, and is re-creating every inlay, etch mark, crack, wear spot and glue smear in the copies, which will cost $17,000 each. (Find more information on the guitar at www.fender.com/lenny).

"I think it's way cool," said Lenora "Lenny" Vaughan, the guitarist's widow. "Doesn't it blow your mind?"

The replicas represent a recent trend in guitar building toward "the relic," which is a new instrument that's artificially aged. Think of frayed, torn and stonewashed jeans you can buy at clothing stores.

The Lenny guitar is only the fifth famous instrument that Fender has given this Tribute Series limited-edition treatment to, following axes owned by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher and Andy Summers. Fender Custom Shop director Mike Eldred said that this project was particularly challenging because of how customized Lenny was before Vaughan acquired the used 1965 Stratocaster as a birthday gift on Oct 3, 1980.

"There were things with that guitar that were really quirky," said Eldred, who disassembled Lenny while a team headed by master builder Jason Smith documented its features. "For instance, the pickup in the middle position had been routed out for a humbucking pickup. I don't think that Stevie had done that."

What surprised Mr. Eldred the most was Lenny's neck, which had been given to Vaughan by ZZ Top guitarist Billy F. Gibbons. At that time, Eldred worked at Charvel, an emerging custom guitar builder in the 1980s.

"It was a Charvel neck," he said, "I used to work at Charvel; my job was to shave necks. It should have had my name on it, but I knew right then that it was one of the necks that we made for Billy F. Gibbons ... we'd always write his name in pencil on the heel if we knew it was for Billy. And his name was on Lenny's neck."

Vaughan didn't prefer Lenny because of any technical or sound feature, as many would assume. It was preferred because of its sentimental value: Lenora Vaughan and six others pooled together $350 to buy it from an Austin pawn shop, and that first night of owning it brought Vaughan some magic.

"He could talk and play at the same time," Lenora Vaughan said. "He was hanging out at home with some friends after a gig, after we'd given it to him. I think I had to work the next day, so I went to bed. So he came into the bedroom that morning and said, `What do you think of this, honey?' And he played something, and I was blown away. Then he said, `What do you think it's called?' and I said `What?' and he said, `Lenny, of course.'"

Both the song and the guitar were called Lenny from then on.

"Stevie could pick up any guitar and make it sound amazing," Chris Layton, drummer for Vaughan's backing band, Double Trouble, said about Vaughan's two workhorse Stratocasters: Lenny and No. 1. "They were both really good guitars, and they worked really well, sure. But he developed a spirituality and loyalty to them. It was a war-buddy kind of relationship." That, and Lenny "would not go out of tune with the wang bar, no matter what he did to it.

"That thing was beat up, and it looked like it'd been sanded by a gorilla. But that makes it that much more beautiful to me. It's kind of like the ugly duckling story, really."

"Stevie wasn't that cute, either!" Lenora Vaughan said with a laugh when asked about Lenny's gig-beaten and oddball appearance, which is characterized chiefly by a sub-par dark refinishing job, smoke-stained plastic, metallic mylar SRV stickers on the pick guard and a stylized inlay behind the bridge that Eldred thinks is from a mandolin-like Greek bouzouki.

"To me, he was beautiful, though, and it was beautiful, too," she continued. "For me it was so beautiful that it was really hard to listen to him play that song. I had to go to the bathroom because I'd cry every time he played it. It wasn't a sad cry; it was a loving cry."

"When he played Lenny, it sounded like a million bucks," Layton said. "But what's to say that maybe the guitar wasn't all that special after all? No one else ever played it, so no one else could really say for sure. Even from where I sat -- pretty darn close, night after night -- who's to really say why he loved it so much: practically or spiritually?"

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image