I'm starting a new thread in hopes of clarifying things about the original vs. Custom Shop Robbie Robertson Bronze Stratocaster (at least in my mind). Maybe it will help others equally interested in this very unique guitar.
First off, I'm an old timer. Born in the 50s (the 1950s... when dinosaurs with large tires and fins roamed the US) and got into electronics and guitars in the early 60s. I've owned numerous guitars over the years; Gibson Flying V & Les Paul and a lot of Fenders. I tended to get odd Fender guitars - 1969 Telecaster Thinline, 1966 Telecaster with Bigsby Vibrato, 1964 transition Mustang with non-contoured body, early 70s Mustang and my favorite a early 70s Stratocaster with bullet truss-rod. I've worked on so many different make and year guitars, it's hard to remember how many. The one that does stand out, and I almost bought it for a couple hundred, was a 1954 hard-tail Stratocaster (yes the real deal).
At any rate, it was the 70s and a new film hit the theaters - 'The Last Waltz'. I can still remember going to see it, sitting in the back row. What a film! What playing! And what a guitar Mr. Robertson was playing for that concert! I was hooked, I had to have 'that sound' and tried to read everything there was about it at the time. Naturally, sources were limited. No internet, just a few real guitar magazines and not a zillion channels on TV (just 7, but there was actually some good shows on). So now in these 'modern' times, my interest once again gets piqued when Fender rolls out the Robbie Robertson signature model - well it's about time guys!
I have a couple of questions for this post and maybe one of you readers can help. The basics of the original guitar are simple - 1954 stock Stratocaster, painted red and carrying serial number 0234. It's transition to the fabled 'Bronze Strat' also pretty simple - guitar dipped in bronze, custom pick guard made by someone to accommodate Robertson's pickup arrangement - basically moving the middle pickup towards the rear (turning it 180 degrees to nudge it close to the bridge pickup) and wiring in series with the bridge pickup. In early articles I've read he (RR) stated that the 3-way switch was maintained. This makes sense, since it was originally equipped that way and (if memory serves me well) the 5-way wasn't even in use until later 1977.
Can anyone verify the original pickup selection? Again, I thought I remember him saying it was just neck alone, all (3) - neck with middle/bridge in series and finally middle/bridge in series.
Did it have a master tone control, like a Telecaster and the second tone control not wired? I never did find that out, but I'm leaning towards a master tone.
Has anyone played or does anyone own an actual Custom Shop signature model? Did they modify the wiring once again for Robertson? I'd like to know the pickup selections and control workings, if possible. A wiring diagram would be great! I contacted Fender direct, but there was no wiring diagram on file (which I find hard to believe) only a very brief owners manual. The manual seems to support the three selection concept I mentioned earlier.
The problem I'm having with all this is some of the other description in the Fender info and the one or two videos I've seen on You-Tube of the guitar (at least I thought it was a CS model in the videos).
In the Fender description it states: a "handwound '54 Strat neck pickup", a "handwound LH Strat 50s middle pickup" and a "handwound '69 Strat bridge pickup". What, did I read correctly? Yep. I tend to think this was a mod they did now. I would think he used all the originals to the guitar and had the middle/bridge wired in series. Note: this would not be a true hum-bucker, just a beefy 'bridge' pickup. All the Strats from that year had pickups wound in the same direction and all magnets would be oriented the same direction - North up. South up magnets came around 1958.
The description does not make any reference to series wiring though. So again I'm left with articles I've read where he stated that the bridge pickup now sounded 'fuller'. I've done this modification on one of my Strats (of course) and found this to be the case. Both fuller and louder, being wired in series.
I also can't believe he would have searched out a left handed pickup to compensate for magnet stagger, as is now the case. Again I think they were all original and stagger wasn't a consideration - we just didn't think about things in that depth back then. It was more 'just use what's on hand and if it sounds cool, go with it'. Kind of like Lowell George with a Tele bridge pickup in his Strat - just what was on hand. You have to remember, back then if you went into a dealer and asked for a Strat pickup you got one and a Tele pickup...you got one. What was there. If it had been laying around for years, so be it. There were no choices like 'I want the Fat '50s model' or yeah, let me have a 57/62 model'. It was just;'look, do you want a pickup for a Straocaster or Telecaster?' Ahhh...simplicity at its best!
As to the 'Tube' videos - the guitar seemed to have more pickup configurations than you could count. I realize that with a 'no-load' pot in tone position 2 it could be used as a 'blender' to dial in single coil bridge or middle/bridge series configuration. Except to were no 'no-load' pots back then either. You can make use of a standard pot, but you always have a slight connection to ground even in a series connection. Okay, still possible for the times. I just think Robertson, being a Telecaster junky at heart, would have opted for an easy to use pickup selection and volume/tone configuration, as he is almost always playing with both controls to get his sound (tone) - whether rhythm or lead work is being held down.
I welcome all comments. Please try to be concise when you write back as to whether the wiring you are talking about is from the original guitar he used, the signature model or some mod you've read about or done. And whether or not your knowledge is first hand or an assumption. We are going to try to bust through the myth and hype here. I think this will make for an interesting thread and can't wait to hear from those as taken with this guitar and player as I am.
Last edited by Mr McRuff; 10-01-2017 at 01:25 PM.
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