Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Six String Side: 1990 Eric Clapton Signature "Blackie" Fender Stratocaster

When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In the Easter post, I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully ya'll enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically throughout the year. Here's #5

1990 was the first year a black Clapton signature model was offered.
In 1988 I got my first Stratocaster, (seen here), and by 1989 I was well aware of the Eric Clapton Signature version, which Bob, who I purchased my Strat from when he worked at the Music Corner, was playing a version of in his band at the time. Back then you could get an EC Signature Strat in Candy Green, Pewter, and Torino Red, which was a tomato soup color, really. Very early in 1991, G&G Music, the shop Bob co-owned at the time, got in a black EC Signature Strat, which Bob quickly noted was the color of Clapton's favorite Strat which the EC Signature was based off of. That 1957 Strat was dubbed "Blackie" by Clapton, and so the black Signature model had "Blackie" on the headstock.

The signature Claptons were USA made models, of course, but Fender wasn't selling "Custom Shop" models of anything back then to the public that I am aware of, so this was the pinnacle of the Strat line up at the time. It had Lace Sensor pickups, just like my '88 has, and a special tone circuit with a 25db "mid-boost" which was controlled by a "tone knob", which really was a boost control knob. This circuit is powered by a 9 volt battery hidden in the tremolo cavity. The story was that Clapton liked the way it thickened up the bridge pickup and gave it a throaty, humbucker sound. I guess I never thought that because it always sounds "muddy" to my ears, but whatever.

The second "Tone" knob had a special circuit as well. Going up from 0-5 on the knob, it was supposed to react like a traditional tone knob, but from a detent position at "5" on up to 10, it was a "TBX" tone which was supposed to be brighter and "better". Now that part did sound right to my ears, so I always make use of that in my playing when I use this guitar. Clapton never used the tremolo bridge option, so he blocked it and that's how you get your EC Signature out of the box. I was on board with that, so I even went as far as not removing the little orange sticker that came over the hole in the bridge plate you screw the tremolo arm into.

Beyond those things, this is pretty much a '57 Strat reissue with a custom neck profile spec'ed by Clapton. The pick guard is single ply with less screws holding it on than my '88 has. The bridge saddles are bent steel, which I feel have more "pop" than the saddles on the '88 do. The tuners are traditionally styled ones, which work fine if you stick with the guitar in "hard tail" mode.

That orange sticker has been on there since I got the guitar new.
 So, the story about how I got this guitar is a bit odd, really. Like I said, Bob showed it to me first, and I had another guy play it so I could listen to it critically without being overly stimulated by it's feel and then not hearing it clearly. I know, that may sound odd, but I am able to listen better to a new guitar if I am not actually playing it. Anyway, I loved it, but it was north of $1200.00 and I didn't have that kind of cash, especially when considering that I was about to get married for the first time back then. Well, I kept coming back to "visit" this guitar, hoping against hope I would be able to snag it later on down the road after things had settled down with my life. Then one day I came in and it was gone. Oh well! Probably for the best.

Well, my first wife actually got it for me as a wedding gift, and I played it with the band that I hired to play at our wedding. Funny thing was, (well, not funny, maybe ironically), my first wife got hooked on methamphetamine and left me, never to return. The guitar was connected to her, and for a while, I considered selling it. Then I realized that by doing that, it wouldn't really settle anything, so I ended up keeping it around. It doesn't bother me in that way anymore at all. It is what it is. Just a guitar.

What is weird is that neck profile, a "soft V", which is radically different than my "shallow C" profile on the '88 Strat. Guitarists are a fickle bunch, and neck feel is important, but I like both necks for different reasons. Oh, and some folks say this "Blackie" model wasn't available till '91, but the serial number dates this as a '90, so I'm calling it a 1990 model. At any rate, I am the original owner, and that's my story on this black Strat! Hope y'all enjoyed it. Look for another guitar to be featured soon.


Okie Outdoorsman said...

Very beautiful guitar! Great post, and am really enjoying this change of pace. I share a similar story regarding my wife, as well. Happened to my family back around 2001, or so. Definitely know where you are coming from in that respect. Glad you didn't sell that Strat!

Nick said...

These guitar posts are great

Mark Leuthard said...

Hi. The fender price list show the blackie as released to public in 1991. The serial numbers around that time are all a mess, lots of E8’s and E9’s that are anywhere from 1987 to 1992. Release date and build date don’t always match and body might be 90 and neck from 88. Only way to know is to take the neck off and check dates in the pocket and heel. I reckon it’s still a first year regardless, lovely guitars and being first year, likely Custom Shop quality. All the best, Mark.