Pete’s Gear: 1957 Fender Stratocaster
Pete Townshend’s 1957 Fender Stratocaster
Ca. 1981, in the studio.
Pete Townshend’s 1957 Fender Stratocaster — a gift from Eric Clapton in 1973 for Pete’s help with Clapton’s “Comeback” concert at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London, in January 1973. Clapton purchased six guitars for $100 each from Sho-Bud in Nashville, Tenn., in 1970 and gave one to George Harrison, one to Steve Winwood and one to Pete, assembling “Blackie” with the remaining three. Pete used this guitar in the studio beginning with 1973’s Quadrophenia and can be seen performing “Secondhand Love” with it in the White City film.
Sold at Pete’s Oxfam auction in May 2000, first to David Bowie/Pete Townshend/Mick Jagger, who gifted the item to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair; it was returned to auction by Blair and sold for £75,650 to a private collector.
1957 or 1958, or 1956?
The Oxfam photo from May 2000 appears to show the body’s sunburst finish is a three-colour sunburst, which was not introduced until 1958. Therefore, if that finish is original, it is unlikely the body is from 1957. The neck, however, features the round string tree, which was phased out in 1956.
Given this guitar was pieced together by Clapton from various guitars, “1957” may just be a convenient label, but not accurate. If the neck was 1957, and stamped as such, this may be why Pete referred to it as a 1957.
Quotes from Pete Townshend on the 1957 Fender Stratocaster
Pete Townshend (May 2000): “Eric gave me this guitar as a gift for helping him do his own charity concert at the Rainbow Theatre in London in 1973. It is one of the instruments made up of various parts left over when he put together the famous ‘Blackie’, apparently still his favourite guitar”.
Pete Townshend (May 12, 2000): “Tony Blair has most generously returned the Eric Clapton guitar to us and we are putting it back into the auction. Thus, the guitar can now be said to have been owned by Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, a syndicate of David Bowie-Mick Jagger-Pete Townshend and Tony Blair while Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Surely few guitars will have such extraordinary provenance?”
Ca. 1985, filming for White City with the “Deep End” band, with the 1957 Stratocaster.
Ca. 2000, for Oxfam auction, with closeup of headstock (inset).
Ca. 1985, with the “Deep End” band, with the 1957 Stratocaster.
Ca. 1985, performing with the “Deep End” band in the White City film, with Hiwatt CP103 half stack in background. (Apologies for the poor photo.)
Ca. 1985, with the “Deep End” band, the 1957 Stratocaster on a stand, next to Gretsch Chet Atkins. Amp is 1963 blonde Fender Twin.