Jake E. Lee’s old whitey Strat.

A tribute to one of rock’s most underrated and sadly forgotten guitar gods.

Back when I finished High School, there was a magical month or two between finishing school and starting work. Being in a small country town in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t have much to do other than play guitar. It was at this time I’d made friends with another local musician called Christian (Rish) Gaffey who is pretty much the biggest Ozzy Osbourne fan I know. He’d been listening to Ozzy since he was 10 or so, and with me being a Ozzy/Randy Rhoads fan, we got along really well. The first thing Rish did was get me onto Jake E. Lee era Ozzy, which I wasn’t too familiar with. One look at the Boris Vallejo cover art to ‘Ultimate Sin’ and I was hooked…. Boris being one of my fave fantasy artists.

The songs were fantastic. The playing (in my opinion) was a definite progression from Randy Rhoads. The style was still very technical, with awesome riffs that stuck in your head. Jake’s playing was phenomenal, plus his songs were goddamn catchy. And he looked like a rock star.


I spent that time off learning the songs off that album… Shot In The Dark (me & Rish killed ourselves trying to figure out the intro harmonics), Lightning Strikes (whose main riff is remarkably similar to Crazy Train) and also songs off Bark At The Moon. It was great fun comparing notes with Rish & my friend Anthony Biondo…. good times. Anthony nailed Waiting For Darkness.

Jake’s main weapon was his trusty modified white Strat, which may look like a typical Charvel but is much more interesting than that… in a guitarnerd sort of way.

Jake’s guitar originally started as a sunburst ’73 hardtail Fender Strat, which Jake bought when he worked at a music store. He tried out every Strat in the store and this was the one that felt & sounded the best to him.

It was then modified by a friend of his who happened to work at the Charvel factory. The main mods included shaving the neck, cutting down the CBS Fender headstock to a typical Strat/Charvel shape (you can still see the very un-Charvel bullet trussrod), painting the guitar and headstock white (along with adding a Charvel logo), and adding a new scratchplate with angled Dimarzio single coils plus a Holdsworth prototype humbucker. The weirdest mod was that the frets were vintage profile up until the 12th or so fret, and then were jumbos from then on…. oh, and the neck scale was shortened to Gibson scale. Not sure how they did that. I guess they replaced the fretboard and refretted it.

By this time, Ozzy Osbourne was absolutely mega-huge in Japan. You know what this means, don’t you? A frikken’ sweet… exact right down to the minute detail… copy by none other than my favourite Japanese guitar maker, Fernandes. Amazingly, they copied ALL of Jake’s Charvels… (along with fellow shredder Warren DeMartini’s Charvel.)

As I said, the attention to detail is nuts. I don’t know if Fernandes actually got their hands on Jake’s guitar, but it looks pretty damn close.

It’s all there… the angles pickups, hard tail body, even the bullet trussrod & pearloid machine heads… I love you Fernandes.

They even got the 3 bolt neck plate, a’la the ’73 Strat old whitey as based on. Even Charvel stuffed that up (as I’ll show you later.)

So, as you can guess by now… I’m in love with this guitar. I’m in love with all of Fernandes’ Musician Series, actually. Man they’re awesome.

The other Jake models are pretty cool, too. These were based on Jake’s custom Charvels, complete with the very 80’s bursts.

As he had become a super star by this stage, people in the USA were asking Charvel for a guitar like Jake’s. Charvel’s version wasn’t quite as on the money. It was missing the three bolt neck. Apart from that she looked pretty good… which she’d want to for 3 times the price of the Fernandes version.

The headstock doesn’t quite have the right shape as Jake’s (or the Fernandes, for that matter.)

And it’s a 4 bolt… not a big deal, but it’s not correct.

After Ozzy (or to be more correct, Sharon) sacked Jake for some unknown reason (Ozzy’s story changes every interview), he went on the form Badlands with former Black Sabbath vocalist Ray Gillen.During this time, ESP started making a Jake E Lee signature guitar based on whitey (which they still do… for a LOT of money.)

After Ray’s death, Jake’s career has consisted mostly of appearances on tribute albums and a few solo or cover albums. The last I heard was he was playing with a band called 3 Day Crush in Las Vegas. The footage I found was a bit of a shock.


I mean, Jake still has some great chops and it’s good to see him playing again. But to me, Jake was a guitar god. He played with Ozzy Osbourne and toured the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of screaming fans. But here he was playing in what looks to be a dive bar with a drunk dude hanging off his neck.

I checked some forums and the rumours surrounding Jake were ridiculous. From the few photos of Jake that had circulated the past few years, people surmised that he was living in a trailer, dating a stripper and was smoking meth (due to a photo where his teeth looked a bit suss.). This spread all over the net. The more people repeated it, the more people thought it was true. And some of his online fans were downright bat shit crazy. One swears that Jake is her boyfriend, that he’s Italian (!) and not at all Japanese, that he has no kids and that he’s starting up a new metal band and would like everyone’s input into the new sound. Yikes.

Then a friend of Jake’s said this is all bullshit. Jake just hated the music business and Ray’s death hit him pretty hard, so had become a bit of a recluse. It was just sad how a guys reputation can turn to mud by a few photos on the internet. It just shows that the music business is a really f*cked way to make a living. It’s unforgiving. Once your down it’s hard to get back up again… especially as high up as Jake had been with Ozzy.

Anyway, sorry to end on such a downer. Hopefully Jake will get together with some people and start playing some kick ass music again. I’m just going to listen to Ultimate Sin & Bark At The Moon a few more hundred times.


**update: Jake E Lee has made an appearance in the music video for the band Beggars & Thieves. While the song is very middle of the road/MOR(ie. painful to listen to.) … Jake’s lead break is pretty damn sweet. Skip to 2:14….Good to see him back in action.


*** update: Jake has a new band called Red Dragon Cartel, which is good news. Even better news is that Charvel is finally making a production version of ol’ Whitey! Sure it’s got a 4 bolt neck, but man it looks sweet!


And here’s Red Dragon Cartel in action. The riff is very reminiscent of Bark At The Moon, and while the singer’s verses sound a little rough, the chorus is pretty cool. Fingers crossed this band gives Jake the platform to unleash his fantastic playing to us fans once again for years to come.