Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Guitars and Gear
Bio: Stephen Ray Vaughan was born on October 3, 1954 in Dallas, Texas. Stephen – or Stevie was best knows as a guitarist, singer-songwriter and a founding member of Double Trouble, which he formed together with drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shanno. They released four albums: Texas Flood (1983), Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984), Soul to Soul (1985) and In Step (1989).
Albums “Family Style” and “The Sky Is Crying” were released after his death.
While Stevie had many music influences he admitted that his main inspiration was Jimi Hendrix “I love Hendrix for so many reasons. He was so much more than just a blues guitarist–he played damn well any kind of guitar he wanted. In fact I’m not sure if he even played the guitar–he played music.” He has received wide critical recognition for his guitar playing, ranking at #6 on Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Guitarists” in 2011.
Stevie was killed in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990 in in East Troy, Wisconsin, just after performing with his band.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Electric Guitars:
1962/63 Fender Stratocaster (Number One)
This was Stevie’s main guitar. He got it from the owner of Ray Henning’s Heart of Texas music shop in 1973, and it quickly became his main companion. Number One originally had a white pickguard which was replaced with a black one that now adds the “SRV” logo, and a right-handed tremolo bar – now gold-plated left-handed.
The guitar was built using a 1963 Stratocaster body and a 1962 neck, even though Stevie believed it was a 1959 Stratocaster. The reason for that was that he once took the pickups off and realized that they were made in 1959, so he made a conclusion from that. It was not until 1980 that Rene Martinez took the whole guitar apart and saw the year 1963 stamped in the body and 1962 on the neck.
Stevie’s Number One is finished in sunburst and it’s original neck has a thick, D-shaped profile with 1-5/8″ (41mm) nut width. The fingerboard radius was originally 7.25″ but eventually came down to 10″. This was a consequence of countless refret jobs done by Rene Martinez, who mostly used Dunlop 6100 fretwire. The headstock was fitted Fender Schaller Elite Gold tuner pegs.
The neck eventually became damaged beyond repair, so Rene figured out he’d put the neck from Stevie’s 1962 red Stratocaster on it. Unfortunately that neck was broken into pieces at a show in Holmdell, New Jersey, when a piece of stage equipment fell on several of Stevie’s guitars. After that, Number One had a new Fender neck until after Stevie died, when the original Number One neck was re-installed on it.
Number One is currently in possession of Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie’s brother, although there are rumors that Number One was buried with Stevie in Dallas – which is unlikely.
In 1992 Fender released a Stevie Ray Vaughan signature Stratocaster, based on Number One.
1963 Fender Stratocaster “The Lenny”
This guitar first cough Stevie’s attention around 1979, when he went with couple of friends to a pawnshop in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately it cost $350, and he couldn’t afford it at the moment. That didn’t stop his wife, Lenora, who talked to a couple of Stevie’s friends to cash in $50 each, so they could give it to him as a birthday present. The plan worked out, and they presented the guitar to Stevie on October 3rd 1980 at Steamboat Springs – nightclub he often played at.
The guitar was originally a 3-tone sunburst maple-neck model with a rosewood fingerboard. It was refinished by the previous owner with a dark natural color, and it had arty inlay behind the bridge. Stevie decided to replace the neck with the mid-’50s-style maple neck given to him by Billy Gibbons. He kept the tremolo arm, pickups and frets in their original condition, but added his signature and initials on the neck plate and pickguard. This guitar also has Mickey Mantle’s autograph on the back of the body, who signed it on April 10, 1985, when Vaughan was invited to play the national anthem at the Houston Astros season opener at the Houston Astrodome.
Stevie recorded with this guitar on many of his heartfelt love songs, including “Riviera Paradise”, and of course – “Lenny”.
The guitar was put up for auction at the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival on June 24, 2004 and it was sold to Guitar Center for $623,500. The Fender Custom Shop has produced a limited-edition run of Lenny replicas since December 12, 2007, and they are sold by Guitar Center for $17,000.
1959 Fender Stratocaster “Yellow”
This guitar was previously owned by Vince Martell, Vanilla Fudge’s lead guitarist, who sold it to Charley Wirz of Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas. The previous owner had hollowed out the body to mount four humbuckers but Wirz removed those and installed a new pickguard in which he placed a Fender single-coil pickup in the neck position. He also painted the whole body yellow, and installed Charvel brass tremolo system. Charley then gave the guitar to Stevie in early 1981, who added SRV decals where the two pickups would normally be placed, just under the strings.
This was supposedly the guitar Stevie played on the album versions of “Honey Bee” and “Tell Me”, and live on DVD “Live at Montreux” for the last song on the set – “Collins Shuffle”.
Yellow was ultimately stolen in 1985 at the Albany International Airport in New York, and never recovered.
1962 Fender Stratocaster “Red”
Stevie bought this guitar at Charley’s Guitar Shop in 1983. It was originally a sunburst Stratocaster, but it was repainted with custom red by Fender.
The guitar remained in the stock condition up until 1986 when Rene Martinez took the neck of to replace the neck on Stevie’s Number One, and installed a left-handed 1964 rosewood neck. Around that same period, Stevie added “SRV” sticker on the pickguard.
Stevie often played this guitar live for “Love Struck Baby” and “Pride And Joy”.
Hamiltone Lurktamer Stratocaster “The Main”
This guitar was made for Stevie by James Hamilton, a guitar builder from Buffalo, NY, who gave it to Stevie on April 29, 1984 as a gift from Billy Gibbons, who first ordered the guitar in 1979.
“The Main” aka “the Couldn’t Stand the Weather guitar” features a neck-through-body design (unlike any other guitars Stevie played), a two-piece maple body, ebony fretboard with a mother-of-pearl inlay that read “Stevie Ray Vaughan”, and EMG pre-amped pickups. During the recording of Couldn’t Stand the Weather music video the pickups were damaged, and soon after replaced with vintage Fender single-coils.
1961 Fender Stratocaster “Scotch”
Stevie got this guitar in 1985 in either Baltimore or “The Boathouse” in Norfolk in Virginia. It was supposed to be a prize at one of the Stevie’s shows, but he decided to give away some other guitar and keep this one for himself.
The guitar has a butterscotch finish and a custom tiger-striped pickguard made by Rene Martinez, and of course, a “SRV” sticker on it.
Stevie used this guitar when having problems with Number One, or regardless from that – live for songs such as “Leave My Girl Alone” and “Superstition”.
1983 Custom Strat-style Guitar “Charley”
This guitar was made by Charley Wirz – owner of Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas, in 1984. It has a white strat-style body with a rosewood neck, two controls (volume and tone) and Danelectro lipstick pickups. On the back of the body is a hula girl sticker and the neckplate has the words “To Stevie Ray Vaughan, more in ’84” engraved on it.
Stevie played this guitar on “Life Without You” (which was Stevie’s tribute to Charley after his passing in 1984), and live on the “Live at Montreaux” video.
In 2003, Charley’s and Rene Martinez made 23 limited edition replicas of this guitar, selling for $2500.
1958 Gibson ES-335
Stevie carried this guitar on tours between 1982 and 1985. It was given to him by Wayne Nagel – who leased The Continental Club on South Congress in Austin until 1983, and later co-founded the Austin Rehearsal Complex in 1990.
The guitar is from 1958, and had a green finish on the inside, and was supposedly one of 500 that had that interior finish.
* (info provided by Stevie’s guitar tech Greg Sisk)
|Custom Hendrix “Tele” Prototype. Stevie stated in an interview with John Sebastian in 1990 that he used this guitar on “House is Rockin'”.|
Gibson Johnny Smith
|Stevie used this guitar to record “Stang’s Swang”.|
Seen on an early photo of Stevie, and during a concert with BB King.
We couldn’t find any specific info about it.
19?? Gibson Les Paul
|This guitar is a complete mystery. Only proof of Stevie ever playing one is a picture of him from the late 80s.|
1958 Rickenbacker Stereo Prototype
Stevie was seen playing this guitar around 1977/78, while gigging with Hubert Sumlin, and it was supposedly one of his first guitars.
During one of the gigs – which happened to be on Stevie’s birthday, Hubert Sumlin showed up with no guitar after a cabbie drove of with his guitar and amp. Stevie decided to give the Rickenbacker and a Westberry amp to Hubert as a kind of reverse birthday present.
* (info provided by Stevie’s guitar tech Greg Sisk)
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Acoustic Guitars:
Guild JF6512 12-string
Stevie used this guitar on MTV Unplugged. This guitar actually belonged to Stevie’s friend and personal assistant Timothy Duckworth. Timothy recalls that Stevie’s hands were so strong that he accidently cracked the neck.
This guitar is now at The Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas.
1928 National Steel
This guitar was a gift from roadie Byron Barr, who bought it from Charley’s in 1981.
Stevie can be seen holding this guitar on the cover “In Step” album.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Amps:
- 1964 Fender Vibroverb
Stevie owned and used two 1964 Fender Vibroverb models. They can be seen in his back-line from about 1984 on.
- Fender Super Reverb
Stevie owned two of these amps. Both were equipped with 10″ EV speakers.
- Fender Vibratone
Used on stage circa 1985-1987.
- Dumble Steel String Singers
He used the 150-watt Dumble Steel String Singer heads (usually two of them) and 4×12 Dumble cabinets.
- Marshall 4140 Club And Country
Stevie used this amp in early the 1980s for clear tone. The amp had two Celestion G12-80 speakers, and brown vinyl and tan grill cloth. During the preparation for the tour with David Bowie, David’s crew took Stevie’s Marshall and painted the vinyl black and the grill cloth grey to make it blend in with the other amps. Stevie eventually decided not to go, but the amp remained in that condition.
Stevie eventually traded in the amp in 1983. As of now, it can be seeb at the Stevie Ray Vaughan museum.
- 1962 Fender Twin Reverb “Blonde”
Used on the recording of “In Step” album.
- Soldano SLO 100
After Stevie talked to Mike Soldano, and complained how he wasn’t happy with the fact that he had to use pedals in order to get his heavy tones, and had to crank the volume all the way up, Soldano offered to build an amp for him. The amp that he built was a custom SLO 100 with a switch that would cut mid frequencies, which would enable Stevie to pull out those overdriven tones without any addition equipment.
Unfortunately, this whole deal happened just a couple of months prior to Stevie death, and he never had the chance to test it out properly. It is now back with Mike, who keeps it safe in his shop.
- Fender Bassman Reissue
Stevie had used a couple of Bassman amps prior to buying one for himself in 1989. He reportedly used it on the “In Step” album.
- Marshall JCM 800
Seen on the picture taken at the time of “In Step” studio recordings.
- Marshall Major 200w
Same as the JCM – used on “In Step”.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Effects:
- 1960’s Vox Wah
Stevie often had two more of these paired on stage and they were usually duct-taped together.
- Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face
This effect can be heard on “Voodoo Chile” (Jimi Hendrix used the same pedal), and on the solo for “Couldn’t Stand The Weather”.
- Roger Mayer Octavia
Can be seen on Vaughan’s pedalboard during his 1989 Austin City Limits performance. The effect was used for several songs, but can be clearly heard on “Voodoo Chile”.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Guitar Strings:
Stevie used different types of strings all the time, and he did not target a specific brand of strings, but he often used GHS’ because they were easy to get. Gauges ranged all the way from .012-.058 sets to .018-.074.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Guitar Picks:
He usually used Fender mediums, and he played with the “fat” end. He also used plain Fender picks, and freebies he picked up.