Watto’s 1956 Strat & ’59 Les Paul Jr.

A pair of eye watering vintage guitars…

I don’t usually do stories on 50’s Fenders. Not that I don’t like them… quite the opposite. It’s just that I rarely come across one to do a story on them. I’ve only played two 50’s Strat’s in my life. The first was a 1954 Strat at a tiny shop in Bondi, Sydney back in 1991. I’d only been playing guitar for a few months, but the guy in the shop insisted that I try the Strat. It was apparently one of the first 100 made and the price was $14,500… which today I guess you could add a zero on to that. I played the few barre chords I knew on it and all I can remember was the neck was beautifully worn so that it melted into your hand. Up until that point I’d only been playing my Squier… this guitar was in another universe. After adding in my head how many rockmelons I’d have to pick to afford the Strat, I handed it back to the guy suitably impressed but spoiled forever. I mean… how was any other Fender going to compare to a ’54 Strat?

The other 50’s Strat I’ve played was a ’56 hardtail at the now defunct Jackson’s Rare Guitars a few years ago. I was playing a gig at the Annandale up the road, so as usual after a quick beer I ran up the road to check out the guitar shops. The young guy at Jackson’s saw me staring at the ’56 and told me to try it. Obviously he knew I’d never be able to afford it (I think it was $75,000 or something) so it was VERY nice of him. I picked it up and it almost floated… it was one of the fabled featherweight Fender’s. The neck had a delicious V profile and even just strummed acoustically, the guitar sang. So that’s my experience with 50’s Strats…. they’re awesome.

A week ago, my friend Watto sent me this story of his new toys. Enjoy!

It started last year around June when I walked into my music room and saw so much gear that I had collected over the years, there was 12 vintage Fender amps and 9 guitars . I thought, you never use this stuff so why not sell a heap of it and only keep the pieces you really really love, so I started selling everything. I opened a Gbase account and started advertising that way.

I sold – 1 x 1946 woodie ( I kept the other)
1 x 1957 Harvard
1 x 1962 Vibrolux
1 x 1960 Princeton
1 x 1957 5E3 Deluxe
1 x 1946 Fender Lap Steel
1 x 1990’s Kids SRV strat
2 x Edwards Les Paul Gold Tops
1 x Edwards LP Junior
2 x Fender JV strats
15 x Vintage Ibanez/Maxon TS808 era pedals
and a bunch of other stuff.

Once they were all gone I realised I had myself a nice little kitty , I thought I’d never own a vintage 50’s strat, but I always cruise the web and have my feelers out because you never know. I stumbled across this guitar in a shop in New Jersey , it was an amazing price and I thought it was too good to be true, so I rang the guy and asked him why so cheap, he said it was on consignment and the owner needed the money fast so it was priced accordingly.

It was only on the internet for 5 hours when I found it, so right place right time. I’m aware of all the fakes out there so I asked for pictures, he gave me a link to over 200 hi res picts and every detail was photographed. I went through it thoroughly and it all checked out as an original paint 56 , so I bought it. 2 weeks later it arrived and it is amazing, so light, such a great action and feel, it has been played so much over the years but it hasn’t been abused, the only real issue was that it had been routed under the pickups to put some deeper ones in, otherwise it was pretty original.

Original bridge & saddles…

Original Tone pots, 60’s volume pot, original 3 way switch.

October 56 neck

50’s extreme contoured body one piece light weight alder.

Body date 9/56

Original frets and nut, with original paint.

I had enough change left over for a 1959 Les Paul Junior. Here’s the bargain of the century, a 1959 Junior that is 99% original, the only non original parts are a refret and a new nut, otherwise it is as it left the factory.

I stumbled across this on on US ebay, after many emails back and forth and a friend in the states who lived near it going and checking it out I bought it. It’s pretty ironic that an original 1959 LPJ was cheaper than a Historic Custom shop replica.

The pickup is the fattest most articulate P90 I have ever heard. The 59 P90’s are supposed to be the best ones they made and after hearing this it’s 100% true.

The amount of variations in tone that you get from one pickup and 2 knobs is amazing, I can get hollow body jazz tones, single coil strat tones and even bucker type tones. It’s an amazing all in one guitar.