If you ever took the time to explore and learn about the world of guitar techs, the name that will often pop up is that of Rene Martinez. As of lately touring with one of the biggest guys in the industry nowadays, John Mayer, Rene certainly has quite a resume behind himself.
The fact that Mayer chose Martinez to be the person to responsible for taking care of his guitars, such as his 1960s sunburst Stratocaster that John is using as of late as his main guitar, is not a coincidence. If you’re familiar with Mayer you’ll likely be aware of the fact that his biggest influence in music was late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Rene Martinez started his career as a guitar tech in 1985 working for Stevie, or just after the release of the 1984 album Couldn’t Stand the Weather, which was Ray Vaughan’s second album in total. Given that both albums were well accepted and the entire world wanted to see the band on tour, Stevie needed someone reliable to take care of his guitars on the road.
According to his own bio (posted on Rene Martinez’s personal website Texas Guitar Wiz) prior to meeting Stevie, Rene spent 13 years repairing various musical equipment, so all the experience that was needed for the job was right there. But working for Stevie also meant making a huge change to his lifestyle, as he was no longer working from one place, but became a full-time roadie.
Initially, Rene was not doing particularly much aside from cleaning the guitars and re-stringing them, but as the time went on he took on more and more responsibilities.
As time progressed, the guitar guy who was doing all the set up and everything wound up quitting, and then I took up his place because we needed somebody to do that. I’ve been setting up and touching them up ever since. I learned about guitar cables, shorting in plugs, I learned about tubes and about pickups. You name it. [Rene Martinez – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Guitar Tech, Adam St. James, Guitar.com]
By late 1989 Stevie and Rene worked together flawlessly. Rene knew exactly what Stevie needed and when he needed it, and nothing shows this synergy between the two better than the clip recorded in November 1989, when Stevie broke a string while playing a solo during “Look At Little Sister”.
Take note as Stevie finishes the solo playing a good part on it on just five strings, and a guitar slightly out of tune because of the removed tension from the neck. He knows Rene is already out there with a backup Stratocaster, already tuned and ready to be strapped on and plugged in.
Following the untimely death of Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1990, Rene continued working as a guitar tech for various artists such as Mick Jones of Foreigner, Prince, The Moody Blues, Carlos Santana, and John Mayer.
Over the years he also contributed his knowledge in the design of various guitar products, such as the Big Core Strings (manufactured by GHS, see price and availability on Amazon), and a guitar lube named GraphitALL (particularly useful if you’re having trouble with keeping the guitar in tune due to the friction at the nut – usually more common on Gibson-style headstocks).