This is the one that started it all for me. My first true love of an electrical instrument. It began one day about 14 years ago when I walked into The Starving Musician in Santa Clara. I saw wall after wall of these Fender guitars. Besides the paint job they all looked the same to me. The only difference that my novice eye could see in them was the price tag. They seemed to range from $200 to $2000. Why? I gauged that it was probably something to do with quality but I really wanted to find out what goes into making a good guitar. Especially a classic.
Some easy definitions were where they were manufactured. Overseas seemed to be cheaper. Vintage american instruments got to an outrageous amount of money for an instrument. More importantly as I searched deeper and deeper into peoples passion for stratocasters, I realized that there was this romantic love for this instrument. Be it maybe the musical life cut short of Buddy Holly or seeing Clapton gravitate to them in mid-career, people loved them. Then I started picking them up and understanding why they loved them. They are like a fine wine or a fine woman. They just feel right. Leo Fender hit it out of the park when he designed his second solid body guitar in 1954. The stratocaster has become as American as Baseball and Apple Pie. And I wanted one.
Many trips to Starving Musican came that year back in 2001. Their inventory always kept changing and they keep the shelves stocked with a good cross-section of instruments. Then it happened. The '82 stratocaster caught my eye. The first thing I noticed about it as I grabbed to take it off the rack was how heavy it was. It was a solid piece of machinery. It appeared aged, but not worn. I placed it on my knee and strummed a chord. Everything just felt right. It was the most solid piece of musical equipment I had ever felt. Still being a novice I knew little about this guitar besides that it just felt right. So after giving it an initial test run through an amp, I finished up my lunch break and went back to work. Not before noting the first couple of digits in the serial number on the headstock. E207....
Back at the desk I searched the internet for how to read Fender Serial Numbers. The first two digits were the decade and the specific year it was made. That would translate this one to 1982. But what caught my eye beyond the serial dating was an article. Somewhere out there on the internets, a fellow lover of the "smith strat" (as it became to be known) wrote about guitars made during the time that Dan Smith was hired as marketing manager for Fender. The Fender Musical Company wanted to attract players back to their instruments. They wanted the draw and allure that they had before Leo sold the Company to CBS in early 1965. Dan Smith had the idea to not cut corners and to use the same materials and quality control that had gotten away from Fender by the big corporate purchase. CBS was all about mass production and cutting costs. They started building quality instruments again in this magical year of 1982. They also had a revolutionary idea that year and a great marketing ploy to actually be able to charge more...they started the Vintage Series. They built reissue '57 Strats and reissue '62 Strats. Two key years in Stratocaster design. They were able to phase out the high cost of the typical american series strat and get more money for it by saying it was a vintage reissue. Brilliant. But for one key year they built all instruments of quality. Then the divisions began. They shipped off product to japan for the low-end entry level guitars, continued making the mid-level "american series" along with the new high end "Vintage Reissue" series.
So out of sheer luck and the lack of lore that now bestows the '82 Smith Strats, I was able to pick up my baby for the cost (at the time) of a brand new American Series. I thought it was quite a bargain back then. She taught me how to play the electric guitar. She taught me how to explores tones. She was my Number 1 for a good 10 years. I had many a good guitar. And utilized many a different guitar onstage as well as record. However, no guitar has been on more recordings or been played live more than my '82 Strat. Her frets are wearing a little thin and her paint job is a little more chipped than when I got her, but she is still a beauty in my eyes.
They are still out there. If you can find an '82 Strat in good condition for the price of a new Strat, my recommendation is at least plug her in and see how she sounds. My bets are that you wont be disappointed.