Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Story of David Gilmour's The Black Strat

Some instruments take on a life of their own and become legends in their own right. They have stories to them, which may or may not be 100% factual. It's important to remember that these instruments would not be so interesting if it had not been for the players playing them. I'm writing down some of these stories mostly for my own interest, and this is one such instrument.

David Gilmour's Black Fender Stratocaster
David picked up his now legendary Black Strat in May of 1970 from Manny's in New York City to replace another black strat that had been stolen a few weeks before. It was originally a 68 or 69 sunburst body that was painted black. It had a late 60's maple neck with a large headstock and 21 frets. It had a white pickguard and a 3-way pickup selector. It's the same guitar that was featured on Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii. In the film you can see it changes volume knobs from a strat to a tele knobs. 

David has experimented a lot with the guitar, changing knobs, pickups, and necks. In 1972 he tried to add an XLR input to help eliminate noise when using the Fuzz Face, apparently he wasn't happy with the results and they reversed the mod filling in and repainting the hole. Later that same year the neck was replaced with a 63 neck that had a rosewood fretboard, he used the rosewood fretboard for recording and touring for Dark Side of the Moon all the way up through 1978 when he recorded his first solo album. In 1973 he added a humbucker briefly between the bridge and middle pickup and also added the mini switch. After the humbucker was removed the mini switch was changed to turn on the bridge and neck pickups at the same time.

In 1974 the white pickguard was changed to the black single ply pickguard that we are now familiar with. The middle and neck pickups have remained the same but the bridge pickup was changed in 76 to a DiMarzio FS-1 and then changed to an over wound Seymour Duncan SSL1C ("C" for custom) which was later offered as a production model now known as the SSL5. 

In 1978 the rosewood neck was replaced by a Grover Jackson neck with a Fender logo, which was replaced again by a Charvel neck in 1982. During 1983 Floyd Rose and Kahler wammy's were becoming very popular due to guys like Eddie Van Halen and David decided to try having a Kahler wammy installed, which he used on the About Face album and tour. To do this a large chunk was taken out of the body and when the modification was reversed they had to fill it back in and paint over it. David then started using a shortened wammy bar and then switched from a 3-way switch to a 5-way. 

At this time vintage strat prices began rising and David had begun playing a red 57 reissue strat. So in 1986 The Black Strat was loaned to Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas, Texas through 1997. At the request of David the guitar was brought back, the neck was replaced again with a new 57 reissue neck, an orignial Fender bridge was put back in and the hole from the Kahler was filled and painted. 

In July of 2005 I was causally watching Live 8 and witnessed something I thought I would never see in my life time. All four members of the classic line up of Pink Floyd including Rodger Water stepped on to stage to perform. David and Rodger put aside their differences for the first time in 30 years to help raise money for a great cause. For me though, and many other guitar buffs, the icing on the cake was the return of The Black Strat which David has continued to use since. 

If you want to learn more about The Black Strat check out this amazing book by David's long time guitar tech Phil Taylor. And to learn more about David's gear on each album check out

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