Nobody with even a slight interest in blues needs to be introduced to the late Irish blues legend Rory Gallagher – or his famed Fender Stratocaster for that matter. Gallagher’s original Strat was purchased on credit from a music store in Cork in 1963 for a measly £100 (around $130). This high-end replica from Fender’s prestigious Custom Shop is an eye-wateringly expensive guitar in comparison. Is it overpriced or worthy of every last penny? Let’s check it out.
This is truly a unique instrument. Gallagher’s original Strat is distinctive, as barely anything of the original sunburst paintjob was left intact. It had been almost completely removed after the guitar was stolen and left in a ditch in the rain, while years of sweaty performances added even more charm to the beaten-up old instrument. This premium replica is a brand-new guitar, although certainly has the old beat up look about it.
It features a solid alder body, with the grain on proud display, apart from a few areas where sunburst fragments have been added. The bolt-on maple neck and rosewood fretboard have both been dramatically aged to match the vintage style Fender are replicating. However, unlike the original, the playability on this replica is exceptional, with a very comfortable early 1960s’ C shape, which is surprisingly thin. The action is low, with playability on the 21 medium jumbo frets an absolute breeze.
Some other quirks of this guitar include the clay fretboard dot inlays, with one mismatched plastic dot at the 12th fret, a la the original. Of course, it also features the Fender logo on the headstock, which has been heavily distressed. Frankly, it’s a piece of art as much as it is a guitar and deserves full marks in this section.
Next up, the hardware. There’s no need to worry – there’s no water-damaged pickups here! Instead this replica is equipped with a trio of Fender’s Custom ‘60s Single-Coil Strat pickups at the bridge, middle and neck position. Controls are kept simple, with a tone control for the neck and middle pickups, as well as a master volume knob and a five-way selector switch – again, all heavily aged.
The distressed look and mismatching continue with the rest of the hardware, with a set of five Sperzel diecast machine heads on the headstock, with a single Gotoh tuner holding the low E, just like the original. Being a Strat, this guitar features an American vintage synchronized tremolo bridge in aged chrome, with an accompanying whammy bar. Finally, it comes complete with a Deluxe Fender hardshell case and a strap, which is to be expected.
For a guitar pushing five grand, sound doesn’t get much better than this. Ultimately, it’s not too different from other slightly less expensive high-end Strats in terms of tone – you are paying more for the style of this beauty than anything else. Yet it still impresses with flawless clarity, sparkly cleans and an abundance of rich warmth.
For solos it truly sings and will cut through any mix, with plenty of punch when higher gain is added. Of course, it’s just perfect for all styles of blues, yet works well for just about anything from jazz and country, to rockabilly and classic rock.
Remove all the aging and mismatched components and you are left with a very solid American-made Fender Strat, oozing tone, comfort and playability. Add the painstaking design process and authentic hardware and you can see why it is so pricey. Ultimately, nothing ends up looking like Rory Gallagher’s original Stratocaster without a lot of love being given over many, many years. Purchasing this high-end masterpiece will probably make you fall in love with guitar all over again!