As my friend Eric Bradley once said, “From the top!”
I found this very unique guitar while doing some online eBay searches for, I have no idea what, when I saw a posting for an all-black, ebony, American Deluxe freaky-looking thing. I put it on my watchlist and kept an eye on it, but on the day-of, at the last minute of the auction, disaster struck due to technical issues with my phone and bad reception. The bidding process did not go according to plan and it got away. POOF! Gone. But I was hooked. I researched, I looked, I scoured the internet getting all of the pertinent details about this guitar. This particular line was a Fender Custom Shop FSR creation, it was a limited run of 250 and it was from 2004/2005 (mine is an ’05). It has an ebony fingerboard (which basically clinched it for me right there), medium-jumbo frets and that loved/hated S1 switching system with the S3 noiseless pickups. The hardware is steel two-point tremolo and the FSR steel roller nut (that I actually dig) and capped off with locking tuners. Oh! and it has an HSS (humbucker, single-coil, single-coil) pickup configuration. I really like this model of Strat in this configuration. In fact, I like American Deluxes so much, I now own four of them.
After several afternoons and evenings sadly poking at the internet searches, I got a hit. The Guitar Center in Detroit (ha!) had one in their “Used” listings. I immediately emailed the store and was soon engaged in conversation with a sales rep. Now, here’s the part I need to edit carefully because I’m still a bit sore about how this whole transaction went down. No need to be mad at anyone but myself because in the end, I chose to keep the guitar.
Anyway, after talking to the dude in Detroit, he described a “fairly decent” instrument. It had two pickups changed out for some Seymour Duncans. I was like, “Ok, no harm there. I’m cool with mods. but how’s the guitar look? The more beat up it is, the less I want it.”. And HERE is where I screwed myself with this long-distance bogus appraisal. The dude said that the guitar was an “8 out of 10”. That the guitar was in great condition and aside from the pickup mod, it was a good axe. I should have politely asked for photos. If I am going to front almost a grand for something, there better be pictures. But noooooo, I got all trust-y and nice about it and hammered out the whole deal in like ten minutes. Send that shit over! Now! And he did, as-promised and even called me back the same day to tell me that it got shipped already.
One man’s trash…
Fast-forward three days later, and I run my greedy self down to good ol’ Guitar Center on 14th street to claim my prize. I’ll skip all of the negative parts here because as I stated, it was my call to accept the guitar and there’s no need to rant about other people.. Sigh, ok.
The guitar was DIRTY. It was dinged up. It was scratched up all over. It looked like… well, it looked like what one would expect an eight year old Strat to look like if it got played a lot. Someone played the shit out of this one. Ok, fine. It’s got “character”. I took the opportunity to play it in the store and it was actually really nice-sounding. The guitar felt surprisingly comfortable to me. The neck was a bit wacky and the control knobs had something off… wait… what happened to the volume and tone.. AWW HELL NOoo!. The whole S1 switching system was ripped out! And what the bloody hell is that crap on the pickguard? Ugh!
And that’s where the fun started.
I immediately walked back and told the sales guys and the manager-looking guy and the guitar “tech” that this sad Fender American Deluxe that was sold to me with “a pickup mod” and described as an “8 out of 10” was not fairly described to me. I was ready to drop the whole thing and walk. The manager was open to some (tiny!) negotiation. And to be fair, he was also ready to help me get a newer instrument instead of the corpse that lay on the counter.
While the manager dude went away to call Detroit (heh), I looked at the corpse again and felt it could be a good instrument. I really felt that if the previous owner(s) played it this much, there had to be something to it. Also, those pickups were top-of-the-line items. I could remove them and sell them on eBay to recoup repair and restoration costs. Hmm. Time slowed down a little as I waited for the manager to get back from his office. I stared at the guitar using the overhead lights to really show me its true condition. The frets were worn a bit in the upper part of the neck, the pickguard was totally warped by what I assumed to be a bad soldering job underneath, the body had a lot of nasty scratches all over, the pickups and volume/tone knobs looked like a home-made hack job, and there is an annoying ding on the lower part of the neck.
My brain, (and my friend CJ, who came with me to the store) were telling me WALK AWAY. But I didn’t. The manager made his token effort to reduce the price a little. And as I said, there was an offer to get me a better guitar… But there was no other choice. I ignored all of the good advice I was getting. Really? Yeah really. Because I had already made up my mind. As I took that moment to inventory this imperfect guitar that someone had really put to work, I made up my mind to take it it as-is and start this crazy plan to fix it, to restore it, put it all back together… stock.
Later on, I started to write an angry letter to the NY and MI managers but I have decided to let it go for now.