Original “Lenny” Electric Guitar Among Most Storied Instruments In Music History
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Oct. 09, 2007 — In a historic collaboration among Fender®, Guitar Center® and the Stevie Ray Vaughan estate, the famous Stevie Ray Vaughan “Lenny” Stratocaster® guitar has been commissioned by Guitar Center to be reproduced in a limited edition by the Fender Custom Shop. As part of Fender’s Tribute Series of guitars, “Lenny” will be produced in a limited quantity, with 185 guitars offered for sale in the United States, made available exclusively through Guitar Center. Guitar Center stores throughout the United States will introduce the guitar on Dec. 12, 2007, and will offer them to customers for $17,000 (U.S.).
This emotive addition to the Custom Shop Tribute Series will feature an intricate reproduction of “Lenny” down to the smallest of details—from the customized neck that was a gift from ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons to the reflective “SRV” stickers on the body to the battered headstock, the autograph that Stevie himself etched into the neck plate, and even an autograph from legendary baseball great, Mickey Mantle.
Guitar Center, the world’s largest musical instrument retailer, purchased the original guitar for $623,500 at a 2004 Christie’s auction that benefited the Crossroads Centre, Antigua, a charitable organization founded by Eric Clapton.
“Guitar Center is both thrilled and privileged to be able to offer Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Lenny’ Fender Stratocaster to the world,” said Keith Brawley, Guitar Center vice president of merchandising for guitars and amplifiers. “Stevie Ray Vaughan’s fans are among the most loyal and passionate guitar lovers in the world. The ‘Lenny’ Stratocaster, Stevie’s main instrument for his love songs, is a truly fascinating guitar that has, as part of its DNA, a tender, personal love story and an incredibly colorful and touching history.”
The original “Lenny” guitar is a universally recognizable Fender Stratocaster, best known for its uniquely bright and powerful tone and known as one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s favorite instruments throughout his entire career. The guitar itself has an almost mystical heritage that can be traced back to the very beginning of Vaughan’s rise to stardom.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was just a struggling young guitarist in Austin, Texas, in 1980, when his wife, Lenora “Lenny” Vaughan, gave him a used Stratocaster that had recently caught his eye in a local pawnshop. It was a 1965 Fender Stratocaster guitar with the original pickups that, from the look of it, had seen better days. Although it began life as a three-color sunburst model, it had obviously been refinished (none too expertly) at some point, and now it had a dark natural finish bearing an elaborate inlay in the body behind the bridge. Nonetheless, there was something about it that clearly and immediately resonated deeply with Vaughan.
As Vaughan himself said during an interview published in the Feb. 1990 issue of Guitar Player magazine:
“It’s called ‘Lenny.’ I found it at a pawnshop and didn’t have the money to buy it, and my wife and several other friends of mine put a pool together and bought the guitar. It’s always meant a lot to me. And I love what it sounds like. ‘Riviera Paradise’ and ‘Lenny” (Texas Flood) are both played on the same guitar, and for some reason that guitar works for songs like that more than anything else.” [Guitar Player, Feb. 1990]
Seven friends with $50 each pooled their money to buy the Stratocaster and gave it to Vaughan on his birthday during a celebration at a local Austin nightclub. He was thrilled. He took the guitar home and, sometime that night, as Lenora slept, wrote a new song on it. In the morning, Lenora Vaughan remembers, “He was sitting on the edge of the bed with the guitar and said, ‘Listen to this.’” He played her the song he had written that night, “Lenny.” The song later became one of Vaughan’s most well-known instrumental pieces, and he continued to perform it exclusively on the “Lenny” guitar. Throughout the remainder of his career, the “Lenny” guitar traveled with Vaughan almost everywhere he went, and it was later autographed by baseball great Mickey Mantle during a chance meeting in Houston. On April 10, 1985, Vaughan had just performed the National Anthem at the season’s opening game for the Houston Astros where Mantle was also in attendance as a guest of honor. Without a baseball or bat nearby, Stevie offered up his beloved guitar to be touched with the magic of the American sporting legend. More information on the guitar’s journey, plus detailed images, can be found at www.fender.com/lenny and www.guitarcenter.com/lenny.
"This guitar had very special meaning to Stevie,” said Mike Eldred, Fender Custom Division sales and marketing director. “He had it throughout his career; he took it everywhere, and during each show, he stopped, sat down on the stage, and played that song, on that guitar. It’s like he was holding on to that very special time before he was a star, and just didn’t want to let that part of his life go."