38. 1982 Squier JV 57 Strat
IF you asked me to compile a Top Ten of all my guitars, past and present, this would most DEFINITELY be Top Five material. I’ve known this Strat – or known of it – for the best part of 40 years, even though it’s only actually belonged to me for a decade or so.
These early “JV” Squiers are truly remarkable instruments and highly sought-after these days. Every time I pull it out to play it (something I’ve not done often enough lately, I’d admit) I feel very grateful to actually have it.
A bit of background about the JV series…After remaining largely unchanged since the early 70s, Fender’s guitar range underwent a major revamp in the early 80s, with the launch of new models, including the USA-built reissue series (my old 52 reissue Tele and Surf Green 62 reissue Strat are both fine examples). In response to competition from the likes of the Japanese Tokai brand, Fender also launched a whole new “budget” brand of Japanese-built instruments under the Squier name. (Squier was a brand owned by the Fender company from the days when it marketed Squier strings in the late 50s.)
The original JV (Japanese Vintage) series comprised matching 50s and 60s reissues of the Tele, Strat and Precision Bass, plus (I think) a 60s Jazz Bass, all built to an incredibly high spec, based on original Leo Fender-era blueprints and in many ways, more accurate that the USA reissues. They also featured American hardware and pickups.
Unsurprisingly, they were an instant hit for one very obvious reason – they were amazingly good guitars (as were the Tokais) and markedly better than many of the instruments produced by Fender USA from the mid-70s. Rumour has it around this time quite a few famous players started leaving their treasured vintage instruments at home and toured instead with Squiers and Tokais. Ronnie Wood was definitely pictured gigging them on Stones tours in the 80s.
If you’ve been reading this blog from the start, you may remember me falling in love with a gorgeous Fiesta Red JV Squier 62 reissue in the early 80s when they were brand new. Well, the beautiful two-tone sunburst guitar pictured here was the 1957 reissue counterpart of that guitar.
I remember my Burnham buddy Simon Trussell buying this Strat – from Honky Tonk Music in Southend in 1982, he tells me. It was secondhand when he bought it, so the original owner could only have had it a matter of months. Simon’s band, Carmilla Rouge, used to rehearse in the hall behind the New Welcome Sailor pub, just along the road from my house, and I remember him showing it to me. Up to that point, Simon had played a succession of rather iffy home-made guitars (I remember a vaguely Les Paul-shaped one and a sort-of Flying V) so this was his first “proper” guitar. He still had the JV Strat a few years later when I went in the studio with his band to produce a demo for them, though at some point after that, foolishly, he sold it.
What I hadn’t realised was that Simon had actually sold it to a mutual friend, a bass-playing songwriter acquaintance of Howard Bills named John Barry, from Witham. John often used to come out in the van with us on Automatic Slim gigs and was also the original owner of the infamous “Fender Fire Door”, a Tele-shaped guitar Ian Cundy bought from him and still uses for slide guitar.
Fast-forward something like 15 years and John was doing some recording with my pal Pete Crisp at Saint Studios in Burnham. My notoriety as a buyer of guitars was clearly spreading. John phoned to say he had a guitar he wanted to sell to finance a bit of kit for his home studio. Would I be interested? Well, what do you think?
It was Simon’s old JV Squier, a little more beaten-up, minus a couple of knobs, a switch tip, the backplate and a tremolo arm, but otherwise all there, in all its glory. My first reaction was, sorry, I wasn’t interested. It had a maple fingerboard – and I didn’t do maple board Strats. My second thought – after lifting it from the case, was that it was as light as a feather and well and truly felt like a really good, really old vintage Strat! My third thought was JVs were changing hands for serious money – the kind of money I couldn’t justify spending on something I probably wouldn’t use much.
I still can’t believe the price John was asking. I won’t name the figure, but it was a lot less than the examples I’d seen on eBay (and a lot less than the two JV Strats my pal John Edmonds subsequently bought, impressed after playing this one). He’s a stubborn old bugger, is John Barry, though and he was insistent he wouldn’t take a penny more. His argument was that it was missing several bits, it had a few marks and dings and he knew how much he needed to make from it. Thanks, John!
A couple cream knobs, a trem arm and a switch tip from eBay (all suitably grubbied-up by me) replaced the missing bits (I never use the backplate on Strats). The frets were very worn and it desperately needed a refret. A visit to the magnificent Martyn Booth’s workshop near Sudbury, an anxious wait of a couple of weeks and a fairly substantial chunk of cash left me with a truly amazing guitar, the equal of any Strat I’d played up to that point.
I ended up playing that Squier Strat at WOLFPACK’s very first gig and just about every subsequent one for the next five years, alongside my Vintage Lemon Drop Les Paul. You can hear the Strat on both the WOLFPACK albums, too.
These days, Simon lives a mere 200 yards up the road from me. He popped round last year to ask me to solder something on one of his guitars and was more or less dumbstuck when I dug the JV Strat out of a case and put it back in his hands. I didn’t let him keep it though… A truly great guitar and a DEFINITE keeper!