10. Mid-80s Surf Green Fender USA ’62 Reissue Strat – aka “Hubert”
EVERY now and again, you pick up a guitar which is just so right you don’t want to put it down. For years, this was THE ONE, my go-to guitar bar none. I don’t usually give my guitars names, but have been known to refer to this one as “Hubert”, in honour of the late, great Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist, who signed the back of the headstock at a gig in Stortford about 15 years ago. (Thanks, Richard!)
In 1991 (I think) I found myself in Future Music, Chelmsford, checking out one of the new brownface Fender 2×10 Vibroverb reissue amps they’d just got in. SRV had used Vibroverbs, and the promo and the reviews at the time all made a big deal out of the fact these amps had an old-style valve rectifier, the first such amp Fender had made since the 1970s. Intrigued, I just had to try one. So which guitar to pull off the wall? It was either a lovely blonde USA 57 reissue – TOTAL Jimmie Vaughan! – or this amazingly gorgeous USA Surf Green ’62 reissue, both allegedly brought back from Texas on a recent visit by Len Tuckey, Mr Suzi Quatro, as he still was then. No contest. It’s not an uncommon colour these days, but back then, I don’t think I’d even SEEN a Surf Green Fender before! An hour later, I was still playing the damned thing. A couple of months later £450 worth of pastel-coloured Fender guitar – complete with seriously cool tweed case – were mine. Wow!
After my old 52 reissue Tele, the Surf Green Strat (when I bought it, I was told it was Sea Foam Green, but I quickly learned the difference) is my second most played guitar. If you didn’t know, the…ahem…patina (filth) and the state of the finish on the body and the neck would give it away. Having said that, it hasn’t seen all much action since Owen built me a totally amazing Sherwood Green Strat a couple of years ago. For all that, it’s a fantastic guitar, though I have to admit if it reminds me of an even more famous “axe” – the one the executioner used to behead Henry VII’s wives at the Tower of London. You know, the one that’s had four new handles and two new heads!
The neck, body, tuners and jackplate are original. That much I can vouch for. As for the rest…the white pickguard was replaced early on with a more vintage-looking mint green item (it currently sports a rather natty tortoiseshell one) while the Klein 62s are the fourth set of pickups to grace its routs. It’s also had a refret, at least three different styles of strap buttons and a new, Calaham tremolo block. The latter came after a certain guitarist managed to snap the original trem arm off during a visit home from California and it proved impossible to dig out the threaded end from the block. Grrr! Mind you, the used Calaham block on there now is far better – and I even rather like the fact the really short, gold-plated arm that came with it doesn’t match the rest of the hardware.
A much-played guitar, the one which among other things, saw me through literally dozens of those mad all-night jams, Rob, Paul Lester and myself led at Boogaloo blues weekends over the space of two decades. As such, it found itself in the hands of a vast range of guitarists – good, bad and indifferent – that reads like a who’s who of the British blues scene (and a good few touring Americans, too.) The old Rockin’ Armadillos website even had a whole page devoted to pictures of some of those who played “Hubert” down the years.
Sadly, the site is no longer available… I would have loved to paste a link to it.