Chris Rea’s Guitars and Gear

Short bio: Christopher Anton Rea was born  on March 4th 1951 in Middlesbrough, England. His father owned an icecream factory together with his brother Gaetano owned an ice cream factory, and ran 21 cafés. Chris earned money for his first guitar woking at his father’s company at the age of 22. He is natural left-hander, but nontheless he decided to learn to play right-handed. In 1973 he joined a band called “Magdalene”, replacing David Coverdale who later created Whitesnake.

Shortly after Chris went on to form the band “Beautiful Losers”, but he left it after he secured a solo recording deal. This resulted with his first single entitled “So Much Love” in 1974.
His first solo album was called “Whatever Happened to Benny Santini?”, and it was released in June 1978. The biggest hit on the album was the song “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)”, earning Grammy Award nomination, #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary Singles chart.

This was only a beginning of a fruitful and long career for Chris. He sold over 30 million albums worldwide, and released a total of 23 studio albums.
He’s also much respected as a guitarist, and he incorporates slide playing into his style. He always plays tuned to E. and doesn’t use tremolo arm at all.

Chris Rea’s Electric Guitars:

1962 Fender Stratocaster “Pinkey”

Chris Rea Stratocaster This is Chris’ main go-to guitar and the one he’s most often seen with; he’s been playing it since the beginning of his career.

Chris’ Stratocaster originally had candy red finish, but after many years of use and a couple of incidents – one of which resulted in guitar being submerged in water for three weeks – the finish on the guitar became almost pink.

The guitar has a few stickers on it. On the front are the “pick holder” socket which Chris has on each guitar, Lotus 7 and a sticker that says “Formentera” – which is an island in the Mediterranean Sea where Chris used to go on vacation – and on the back of the guitar is Jean Alesi sticker, who is a former Formula 1 driver.

Chris replaced the original pickups with three single-coil-sized humbuckers from Seymour Duncan in 2006, but the originals were eventually put back.

You can watch Chris play this guitar, and talk about it in an interview shown bellow:

1960s Fender Stratocaster “Bluey”

Chris Rea Blue Stratocaster Bluey This is Chris’ second most used Stratocaster. He used it since the early 80s, and it’s mainly been a back-up guitar for the Pinkey.

The guitar has a daphine blue finish, 3 single-coil Fender pickups and a rosewood fretboard.

1960s Fender Stratocaster

Chris Rea Blue Stratocaster 2 Chris played another blue Stratocaster with rosewood fretboard in the 1980s. This one had a lake placid blue finish, which is a little darker than the one on the “Bluey”, and it had a few stickers on it. At first there was a square shaped sticker on the hand-rest, but it was removed, and replaced with “Formentera” sticker – identical to the one on the “Pinkey”. It also had a red-colored pick socket just above the pickguard.

Chris used this guitar from around 1985 to 1989. You can see him play “Josephine” on it at Nürburgring, Germany on June 15th 1988.

1970s Fender Stratocaster

Chris Rea Red Stratocaster This Stratocaster is one of the few with a maple fretboard in Chris’ collection. It has a black pickguard and pickup covers, hard-tail bridge and a big headstock – which was characteristic of models made after 1965.

Chris played this guitar on Peters-Popshow in 1985

Fender Lead III

Chris Rea Fender Lead III Chris played this guitar occasionally live in the late 80’s – you can see him play it in the “Josephine” music video.

This guitar has two specially designed humbuckers – one in the bridge and one in the neck position, soft C profile rosewood neck with a 7¼” radius and hardtail bridge. It was produced for short period of time from 1979 through 1982, and it was considered a cheaper and more modern version of the Stratocaster.

Squire Stratocaster

Chris Rea Squier Two Humbucekers Chris started using this guitar more often on the more recent tours – more precisely during the 2012 farewell tour “Road To Hell”.

The guitar has a rosewood fretboard, white pickguard and brown colored body. It is equipped with two humbuckers, both with chrome pickup covers.
We couldn’t figure out the exact model of the guitar, because it looks quite unique. It has the small sized tinted headstock with transition’-style, large Squier logo and 1970s-script ‘Stratocaster’ design. It is also quite worn, so it may be that this guitar is from the 80s, or early 90s.

Unmarked Stratocaster

Chris Rea Unknown Stratocaster This guitar seems to be a replacement for the previously mentioned Squier, as Chris started using it for a last couple of tours. It is set up in the same fashion, with two humbuckers and a rosewood fingerboard. The finish on it heavily-worn three tone sunburst, and the guitar overall seems pretty beat-up.

The guitar has no markings on the headstock, making it very hard to name the exact model.

Chris played a wide variety of different Stratocasters during his career. A few worth mentioning are the rare model called “The STRAT” featured in the “Driving Home for Christmas” music video, and  his own signature model from Fender – which is based on the “Pinkey”.

1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline

Fender Telecaster Thinline Chris uses this guitar almost exclusively to play songs “Heartbeat” and “Til The Morning”.

The guitar is equipped with two humbucking pickups, and offers a more fat and sustained sound when compared to a Stratocaster, or a regular Telecaster.

Italia Maranello Classic

Italia Maranello Classic blue Chris bought his first Itala Mranello in 2002, just prior to recording the “Dancing Down the Stony Road” album. He got it from a guitar shop in London, and after using it for some time, he went back and bought another three. They are all set up with different tunnings, so Chris can easily swap guitars during a gig.

Chris mentioned in an interview that he loves the sound of this guitar, and said that it sounds almost identical to Pinky, but without the buzz – which makes this guitar his favorite one, at least in the more recent years.

As of specs, the Italia Maranello Classic guitar has maple neck with rosewood fretboard, hard-tail bridge, and two Wilkinson Alnico V humbuckers humbuckers.

Chris Rea’s Acoustic Guitars:

Chris rarely performs live on an acoustic guitar, so it’s nearly impossible to get an insight into his acoustic guitar collection. We managed to track only two, but keep in mind that Chris probably has more than a few more.

Dobro Resonator

Dobro GuitarSeen on a couple of photos taken at Chris’ place. This is a wooden model of the Dobro guitar, which Chris got in music shop in Clarkston, MS, some 20 years ago. He wrote many of his song on it since then.

He commented on this guitar in an interview with DailyMail: “It’s particularly good for blues music and I’ve written most of my songs on it.”

Yamaha NTX1200

yamaha_NTX1200R Used on “Santo Spirito”.

Tanglewood TB18 5-String Bluegrass Banjo

Chris Rea Banjo Chris often picks up his banjo on stage when he feels like changing things a little bit. Although this is a 5-string banjo, Chris removed the 5th tuning peg, and he plays it as a regular 4-string.

You can see him use the Tanglewood on “Josephine” during the Farewell Tour.

Chris Rea’s Guitar Amps:

Chris’s amp setup in the recent times is really simple – he uses a pair of vintage Fender Blues Juniors on stage.

In the interview shown in the beginning of this article he mentions a valve “piggyback” amp from 1958/59. Unfortunately he does not say which model it is exactly.

Chris Rea’s Guitar Effects:

According to an article in Guitar Buyer magazine ( #80, April 2008 issue), Chris uses just a couple of effects:

– Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer
– Boss CS-2 Compressor
– Boss DM-3 Analog Delay
– Boss CE-1 Chorus 

Chris Rea’s Guitar Strings:


Chris Rea’s Guitar Picks:

– Dunlop Tortex .73mm (most often; he’s been using different models too)


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1 year ago

I also seen on one of his Interviews that he used to own a sigma acoustic guitar. Interviews are on

russ milenbach
russ milenbach
1 year ago

Did Chris have guitars or pickups by Jim Cairnes?I have 2 Cairnes guitars…..just curious.

2 months ago
Reply to  russ milenbach

Yes he did! Jim built some pickups for him.

4 years ago

‘Pinky’ got sold I heard somewhere. The unnamed Strat with HBs and the blue Italia appear to be his main guitars now.

2 years ago
Reply to  Guest

The unnamed Strat was built by Chris. He said he found the body in a junk shop in Russia, added a new neck and a pair of bare knuckle pickups to create something special. That guitar sounds incredible when Chris is playing.

4 years ago

What about Höfner?

4 years ago

Hello there,
what do you know about his white Strat, please? He played it as his only backup instrument for Pinky at least 1983 and early 1984. It was worn, but not as much as Pinky. He played that “Whitey” besides of Pinky 1983 at the concert in Heidelberg-Eppelheim (october 3rd, 1983, as supporting act for Saga) and also in a 1 hour German TV Live gig that was boadcast by SWF 3 TV around january, february or very early march 1984.
That live-in-the-studio-without-an-audience-TV-gig made me finally to EXECUTE :-) that postponed purchase of my first Chris Rea LP Water Sign. Along with his selftitled LP (featuring Do You Still Dream, If You Choose to go and especially Runaway, the three compositions he nailed as perfectly as never again in his astonishing career as a songwriter), it is still my favourite in his work. By the time of that TV broadcast Chris was assigned to tour Germany in May 1984, not longer a support act anymore.
I think – but do not exactly remember – having seen him with that Whitey in May 1984 on his tour, too- In May 1984 (Wired To The Moon Tour) and 1985 (On The Beach Tour) he came up with a nylon strung solidbody (yes!) that mimiced a nylon strung classical or Spanish acoustic guitar very well, at least over FOTH PA. To my deep, deep sadness, he also used that instrument instead of Pinky for Nothings Happening by the Sea … ;-( Never heard that very core song of his with electric rhythm and solo section again ;-((( . Untill a few pre 84 gigs became available on youtube.

10 months ago
Reply to  Peter

From my memory of seeing that guitar at a Dec ‘83 gig, it was a Squier. Like your Oct gig, it was Pinky and that white Squier only.

4 years ago

About the Banjo: he didn’t use a Tanglewood, it was a G. Houghton & son transformed to be played as a Tenor (4 strings).
Thank you.

4 years ago

Why is there a guitar pick(?) taped to each guitar?