Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 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 sometime in the early 80s.
Before we move further, please note that most of the info about this guitar comes from second-hand sources, as Charley and Stevie never really talked about it. So, it’s unclear where all this information that is available online originated from. So, we’d appreciate any help regarding finding sources and interviews where this guitar is mentioned either by those two, or someone close to them.
When Charley got the guitar, it had a hollowed-out body, because Vince apparently wanted to fit as many humbuckers in it as possible. Charley decided to ignore this approach, and instead make a new pickguard that would cover up the routed out holes, and instead placed just one single-coil pickup in the neck position. He also repainted the body in bright yellow paint.
Charley then gave the guitar to Stevie sometime around 1981 or 1982 – as he was seen playing it on “Live at Montreux 1982” for the last song on the set – Collins Shuffle. At that point, Stevie had added the SRV decals where the two pickups would normally be placed, just under the strings. He also had the standard Fender bridge saddles replaced with the Mighty Mite “toilet seat” saddles.
Allegedly, he also used this guitar on the album versions of Honey Bee and Tell Me, although this could be just an internet tale without any sources to back it up – so take it with a grain of salt.
Restored to Three-Pickup Spec?
On a set of photos taken of Stevie on July 31, 1985, he can be seen holding a yellow Stratocaster with three single-coil pickups. It’s hard to say anything conclusively, but it appears that this is the yellow Stratocaster, restored back to its original specs. The bridge is the same, and some of the scratches on the finish match up pretty well.
The only other possibility is that the guitar seen in the 1985 photos is Stevie’s 1961 “Scotch” Stratocaster. However, that guitar didn’t have the Mighty Mite bridge saddles, it doesn’t have any of the scratches seen on the ’85 photos, and the necks don’t match (one has a veneer fretboard, the other has a slab).
So most likely, based on these photos, Stevie restored the yellow Stratocaster to the three-pickups spec sometime around 1985. But, good photos of the original yellow Stratocaster are hard to come by, so it’s hard to do any proper comparison and research. Furthermore, the photos taken of the guitar in 1985, for some reason, seem to be re-touched. Some of them don’t even show the scratches that are clearly visible on the others.
If you want to look at them yourself, they are available on Getty.
Yellow was ultimately stolen from Stevie in 1985 at the Albany International Airport in New York. According to the book Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the guitar was never recovered. However, according to some online sources, it was found, and it now hangs at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas.
If you make an effort to look for any photos of the guitar at the HRC in Las Vegas, you’ll only find two random Stratocasters kept behind a glass display, that appear to have Stevie’s signature on them. But neither of those two guitars is the yellow Stratocaster that is the subject of this page, so it’s unclear where this rumor originated from. It could be yet another internet tale without anything to back it up.
In any case, if you happen to visit the HRC in Las Vegas, and you happen to snap a photo of Stevie’s yellow Strat, please be sure to post it in the comments.
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