John Frusciante’s 1962 Fender Stratocaster

This guitar was purchased by Anthony Kiedis when Frusciante joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers again in 1998.

According to Anthony, at that time, John didn’t have a guitar of his own (all of his old guitars were either sold or lost in a fire that caught his house), but according to John himself, he did have his red Fender Jaguar. 

Frusciante with his '62 Stratocaster in 2022.
Frusciante with his ’62 Stratocaster in 2022.

It is likely that what Anthony actually meant is that John didn’t have any decent guitars of his own since the Jaguar was pretty beat-up, and probably not good enough for studio use. Furthermore, John stated himself that he needed a Stratocaster specifically – a guitar that he probably preferred recording on.

The major problem was John didn’t even have a guitar to his name. So we went over to the Guitar Center, and I bought him a great old ’62 Stratocaster.

Scar Tissue, Anthony Kiedis

I bought that (the red Fender Jaguar) at a guitar store, I think it was Voltage Guitars on Sunset, in 1997. I didn’t have a guitar and then I got some money and that was my Christmas present to myself.

Then when the guys asked me to rejoin the band I said that I really need a Stratocaster.

So Anthony lent me some money and we went to Guitar Centre and I got one with the rosewood neck. It’s a ’62 and I used that one on practically every track on By The Way.

Guitarist (UK), June 2003 – Universaly Speaking
Frusciante '62 Stratocaster as seen in 1999
Frusciante ’62 Stratocaster as seen in 1999, shortly after he got it. Quite a lot of wear is already present on the guitar at that point.

Frusciante’s 1962 Stratocaster Specs

John’s Stratocaster was made in 1962, which is the third year of Fender using rosewood fretboards on the Stratocaster model. However, around July/August 1962 Fender went from slab to veneer fretboards, meaning that the rosewood fretboard that was glued onto the maple neck became thinner in profile. Based on photos, John’s Stratocaster had a thicker slab fretboard, which means that it was made from early to mid-1962. The fretboard radius used by Fender at that time was 7.25 inches, as opposed to 9.5 used nowadays – which is much flatter.

The body of John’s Strat was finished in what is commonly known as ‘3-tone sunburst’. As opposed to finishes that were used on the earlier 50s models, which went from black to opaque, the three-tone sunburst has a red tint between the black on the edges and opaque in the center.

John Frusciante performs onstage during the British leg of the Live Earth concerts at London’s Wembley Stadium, Saturday, July 7, 2007. Photo by Rogelio A. Galaviz C./Flickr

In recent years, the finish on John’s Strat is completely gone on some parts of the body due to extensive use. If you’re curious why this happened on John’s guitar to such a great extent, and why this is something you don’t often see on modern guitars – it’s because the guitars in the sixties were finished in nitrocellulose lacquer. This lacquer, in contrast to polyurethane which is used on modern guitars, was applied in much thinner layers and is much less resistant to scratches and wear. For this reason, you’ll often see guitars from the 60s period worn to the extent where there’s almost no lacquer left on the body (for example, see Stevie Ray Vaughan’s and Rory Gallagher’s Strats). Although people have argued about its impact on the sound, a nitro finish is nowadays considered a selling point if you’re in the market for a vintage-sounding Strat.

Most of the hardware on John’s guitar appears to be original, starting from the Fender tremolo bridge with six mounting screws and bent saddles (as opposed to the block saddles you’ll often find on modern Strats). The tuners/machine heads, however, appear to be newer, and if we had to guess, are most likely nickel Klusons.

Less important but also worth noting, the pickguard and the knobs, as well as the pickup covers, all appear to be original (even though the pickups themselves are not, more on this later).

If you’re curious, the pickguard on the vintage 60s Strats turns to a greenish color over time, which is something that happens only on the guitars that were built around this period. Nowadays, you’ll find that Fender (as well as many other off-brand manufacturers) sells pickguards in a ‘mint-green’ color, which is essentially a replica of a pickguard that would naturally age to this particular color. Since the early 60s Strats are considered to be the best in terms of quality, and in terms of vanity, many people opt-in for that mint-green look on their own guitars.

The Pickups in Frusciante’s 1962 Strat

Although the guitar had the original pickups in it for some period of time after John acquired it, according to him, they were replaced with Seymour Duncans which John had installed prior to this in his 1954 Stratocaster (the maple neck Strat you’ll often see him use on Dani California for example). It seems though that John never stated the exact model of the pickups, but people have guessed that they were Seymour Duncan SSL-1s.

I had my ’62, which has the original pickups, and then I had the [’55] with the Duncans, and the sound was very similar. The differences had more to do with the guitars than the pickups. Eventually, I had to get Duncans in the ’62, as well.

VintageGuitar magazine – John Frusciante Red Hot On The Empyrean

However, John’s guitar tech was recently interviewed by the members of the John Frusciante Effects fan page/website on the subject of pickups and there seems to be some confusion about which model of pickups ended up being installed in the 1962 Stratocaster. Dave Lee, who worked as John’s guitar tech on tour from 1998 to 2007, argues that they were just basic Fender pickups found in the American Standard Stratocasters.

I remember reading that and realizing John was wrong in that interview (I never told him). We were experimenting with a number of different pickups at the time. And he must’ve gotten confused. The actual pickups we settled on (and John never knew this) were stock, brand new, Fender Strat pickups.

JF Effects Interviews: Dave Lee (Guitar Tech)
Seymour Duncan SSL-1 single-coil pickup
Seymour Duncan SSL-1 single-coil pickup. The SSL-1 set is based on the vintage 60s Fender pickups, measures 6.50k resistance across the whole set, and features Alnico V magnets.

This does come as a surprise since many have argued that the low output SSL-1 pickup set sounds identical to John’s pickups. Countless people have probably invested in the set in order to emulate his sound, likely switching away from the Standard Fender set – which ironically seems to be the real thing. This just goes to show that when it comes to guitar hardware, nothing is a hard science, at least when it comes to relying purely on one’s ear and listening.

Just in the case you’re reading this with the intent to figure out what to upgrade on your own guitar, we would probably recommend the SSL-1 set over the Standard American set by Fender if you’re going for pure vintage 60s sound. You can buy SSL-1s with wiring harness (tone pots and switch) for relatively cheap on Amazon, and those are fairly simple to install by yourself. The second option would probably be Fender’s own ’57/’62 Strat Pickups set which is somewhat cheaper when compared to the SSL-1s.

Be that as it may, it seems that the few songs on the Californication album on which the guitar was used, and which the band worked on in the studio from December 1998 to March 1999, were likely recorded on the original pickups. The swap probably happened sometime closer to By The Way’s release in 2002. If you happen to have a more conclusive date, please be sure to leave a comment below.

2022 Update on Pickups, Ilitch hum-canceling

In the interview with Total Guitar magazine in the May 2022 release, John talked about the gear that he used on Unlimited Love. He of course mentioned his trusty ’62 Stratocaster, and interestingly, the article claims that the guitar still features the original hand-wound pickups.

So now we have three conflicting theories. The first one was the ’62 had SSL-1s, then Dave Lee came out and said that they were actually modern Fender pickups, and now we have this recent interview saying that they are the originals.

Given that the information from the interview is correct, that must mean that John saved his original pickups and installed them back into the guitar sometime before he re-joined the band in 2021. Basically, the guitar is now back to its original specs.

The only mod on the guitar right now, according to the Total Guitar interview, is the recent addition of an Ilitch Electronics hum-canceling system. If you’re curious about his works, below is a short video from the Ilitch YouTube channel demonstrating the system.

Usage in the Studio and Live

You can see John’s 1962 Fender Stratocaster on almost all of the live performances, and he usually uses this guitar for most of the set – except for those couple of songs that require him to use a different instrument (Californication, Zephyr Song to name a few). It was used less often on “Californication” – where John used his ’55 Stratocaster more, but the next album “By the Way” was recorded mostly just using this guitar. Stadium Arcadium was also recorded mostly using this guitar, although John used a couple of different guitars on that one.

John Frusciante in 2022
John Frusciante still using his 1962 Fender Stratocaster in 2022. Photo source: YouTube

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3 years ago

John’s Strat pickups were switched out sometime prior to the 2001 tour.
In this video, you can see around the 42:10 mark, the camera zooms in on John’s Strat and you’ll notice that the screwhole in between the neck and middle pickup is closer to the middle pickup which indicates a pickguard change. John’s original pickguard had the screw in the middle of the pickups just like a stock 62 Strat would have. Since we know that John did a pickup swap around that time, it’s safe to assume that the pickguard changing was a result of that.

I couldn’t get a clear look at his pickguard in any videos since the Sydney, 2000 show but given the lack of free time during the tour, I’d guess that the pickups weren’t switched out until the Californication Tour was finished.

1 year ago
Reply to  Taylor

Hey man, you’re wrong. The guitar at 42:10 isn’t the 1962 Strat. Its a 1955 Strat with maple fretboard and the original 8 screw pickguard.

2 years ago

What Does he use for fret size? vintage frets?

1 year ago
Reply to  Marcus

I too would like to know

1 year ago
Reply to  Marcus

Original fret size for a vintage 60s Jaguar seems to be a mystery. I’ve been looking for an hour and can’t find anything but fretboard radius (7.25″), number of frets (22), and scale length (24″). But nothing about what fret wire was used. It’s driving me nuts!

1 year ago
Reply to  Marcus

Most likely, he hates Jumbo frets
JF hates Jumbo frets

1 year ago

“…finishes that were used on the earlier 50s models, which went from black to opaque, the three-tone sunburst has a red tint between the black on the edges and opaque in the center.” Do you mean transparent in the centre and opaque on the edges? The middle of a sunburst is natural, meaning you can see the wood grain.

1 year ago

Has the neck been sanded at any point or was it just used extensively?

1 year ago

I think he changed his pickguard, because, if you look closely, you can spot difference between screw that is placed between neck and bridge pickup. Photos on this page shows, what I like to call, 63 screw placing, meaning that the screw is placed next to a middle pickup, but John’s Stratocaster is 1962 Stratocaster right? In fact on this page you can see that the screw is placed in the middle of neck and middle pickup, which leads us to a fact that he changed his pickguard.
Screw placement on a 1963 Stratocaster
Screw placement on a 1962 Stratocaster
The site that we find his 1962 Stratocaster with “right” screw placement

Duncan Campling
Duncan Campling
1 year ago

Such an iconic instrument

James Marmont
James Marmont
4 months ago

I highly doubt that the pickups were “stock Fender pickups” that were available at the time due to the fact the pickups installed have staggered pole pieces. The stock Fender pups at the time would have had flat pole pieces.