date_range 1996

John Mayer’s 1996 Fender Stratocaster Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature

John acquired this Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster in 1996, trading it for a Takamine 12-string acoustic and a Mesa Boogie distortion pedal, and paying the difference from the money he made working at a gas station. He used the guitar for bedroom practice in the early years, and during the two semesters spent at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

This one I bought from the money I made working at a gas station, and I traded in a Takamine twelve-string and a Mesa-Boogie distortion pedal. I think I paid around $900 as the difference. I bought it in 1996, and this thing has so many little stories on it. […] This has been in my bedroom when I was nineteen, practicing guitar playing, and Madison Square Garden, and Tokyo, and television shows… This is the representation of of the places I’ve been. [John Mayer – Studio Session No. 4]

In the video linked above, John also talked about a few different changes that he did to the guitar in the early years. He mentioned engraving his name on the back plate at a local mall (1997), changing the bridge after breaking the whammy bar (1998), engraving his initials on the back of the body at Berklee (1998), and sanding down all the lacquer from back of the neck and from the fretboard edges (199?). Sometime after leaving Berklee and moving to Atlanta in 1998, he also added a small photo to the back of the headstock of him and his former college roommate, Matt Mangano [John Mayer – Studio Session No. 4].

However, he did not mention one mod in particular that seemed to be have been done around the same period as the rest of them. The original pickguard on the SRV signature models is black, and it features SRV initials engraved on it. It seems that John’s guitar from 1998 onward features a tortoiseshell pickguard, which obviously is a change or a mod that was done by John himself. On the photos taken at Berklee, the black pickguard was still on the guitar, so the mod likely happened sometime in 1998.

John continued using this guitar after he left Berklee and moved to Atlanta to form Lo-Fi Masters with his former college classmate, Clay Cook [Lo-Fi Masters at Eddie’s Attic, June 1998]. Although there doesn’t seem to be any photos taken during the sessions, it is also safe to guess that this guitar was used in the studio to record parts of ‘Room for Squares‘.

John playing the SRV Stratocaster on September 20th, 2001 at the Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia. Source: YouTube.

John continued using this guitar as his main stage instrument from 2001 to 2003 [John Mayer – Live at Cincinnati, October 5, 2002][John Mayer – Live, July 7, 2003]. With the release of his second album, Heavier Things, John began introducing more and more guitars to his rig, and by 2004 the SRV Stratocaster was partially retired from stage use. Nonetheless, John still owns and plays it occasionally live – for instance at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2004, and more recently in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2013.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that this is not the same guitar that John is often seen playing in the more recent years – for example during the Live on Letterman performance in 2013. You’ll notice that the guitar he plays there features regularly-oriented bridge (as opposed to the upside-down bridge on the SRV tribute model), all the hardware is chrome, and the Stevie Ray Vaughan signature on the headstock is missing as well. The guitar he was seen playing on Letterman is a vintage 60s model which will be discussed in detail later on.
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