It’s hard to imagine a cleaner example, especially one that comes with this much documentation and provenance. This is a stunning collectable instrument with a very interesting history…
This guitar was given as a promotional piece by Fender to the Natural Music Guild in Santa Ana, California in 1956. The Music Guild were specialists in “Steel Guitar Lessons and Supplies” and at the time generally did not deal in guitars. As such this would be the first and only Strat they would sell. As the original sales receipt shows, in March 1956 a Mr. Quentin Murray purchased this guitar for $319 plus tax and with the sale they included a large amount of Fender promo material and ephemera which has been kept with the guitar to this day. Mr Murray would own the guitar for the next 40 years where it spent most of the time in its original tweed case, only to be played on a few occasions. In 1996 he sold it to guitar dealer Michael Indelicato, and in 2002 it was then sold to its current owner Andrew Raymond.
Visually the guitar has an unusual style of Sunburst finish. Lacking the finesse of later two tone ‘56s it shares more in common with the wide burst used by Fender during ’55 but in an even more exaggerated manner. There is little fade between the yellow stained body and the burst around the perimeter, there are a couple of small stray blobs too, and the black finish also follows an unusual line by the upper horn.
The body is single-piece Ash and the guitar weighs in at a very comfortable 7.4lbs. The Xavier Armenta initialled neck dates to Jan ’56. Strangely he has initialled it "AX" rather than XA as you would normally expect. The headstock is slightly thicker than you’d expect too and there is a pencil “2” mark in a circle on the bottom of the neck which we have seen on another example from the same year. This combined with the unusual Sunburst finish may suggest this guitar was a factory second and could explain the reason it was sent out to the Music Guild at no charge.
Lifting the guard reveals a label signed by “Gloria” in the control cavity, dated 14th Feb ’56 - something you always like to see, done by the person assembling the electronics. The correct black bottom, staggered pole pickups are present, with original rubber grommets, cloth wire and masking tape intact. The two visible codes on the pots denote Stackpole manufacture and date to the 43rd week of ’55. Interestingly they’re of Linear taper rather than Audio taper, again something we have seen on other examples. In practice this gives a much smoother, more even role off. To the rear the spring cavity is pencil dated 1/56 so all dates are within an acceptable range as you would expect. Tuners are correct no line Kluson’s and to the front of the headstock there is the correct single round string tree and no patent no. decal.
Playing this guitar is an absolute joy. The neck has a very familiar feel and a comfortable, nicely rounded “C” profile. The original frets have plenty of height remaining, as you would expect from such a clean example. Amplified you can expect an incredible Strat tone; reedy, woody, with punch and clarity from the neck pickup. The bridge pickup is spikey and aggressive with bite and punch that will certainly cut. Think Buddy Holly and the early rock n roll years.
The guitar comes complete with it’s plush, red-lined tweed case. Overall it offers something a little different from your average 50s Strat. The condition, history and ephemera it comes with along with some slightly unusual features present a really attractive prospect… it’s likely we’ll never see another quite like it!