DAVID GILMOUR’S WHITE FENDER STRATOCASTER #0001, USED TO RECORD PINK FLOYD’S HIT SINGLE ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (PART 2)
First offered in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster was the product of a team of guitar designers and musicians who included Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton, Freddie Tavares and Rex Gallion. Rex Gallion was an active musician on the California country and western scene and, along with his brother Von, an endorser of Fender instruments and amplifiers. Rex Gallion is often credited with Leo Fender’s evolution of the Contour Body, a shape unique to the Stratocaster at the time. The outline of the Stratocaster body incorporated a flowing and rounded edge that tapered into an undulating wave on the back and front upper edge. Without any hard edges it allowed the instrument to fit comfortably against a musician’s body, a positive attribute for any performing guitarist.
It is traditionally believed that this Fender Stratocaster guitar, bearing the serial number 0001 on the neck plate, was one of a number of pre-production and custom appointed guitars produced by the Fender Electric Instrument Company in Fullerton, California, between 1954 and 1955. These instruments were produced as custom presentation instruments and gifted by Leo Fender to a select group of endorsing artists who had assisted Leo Fender with the development of the Stratocaster and in building the Fender brand. It is believed that the Stratocaster bearing the number 0001 was given to Rex Gallion in about 1955, while a Precision Bass, similarly appointed, was gifted to his brother Von Gallion.
According to the late Von Gallion, the Stratocaster left the possession of the Gallions when it was traded to a Santa Maria music store known as Sousa Music. In 1966, the guitar came into the possession of a young guitar student, Richard Hoxie Green, who brought the instrument to the guitar workshop of Seymour Duncan in Santa Barbara, California in the early to mid-1970s for the purpose of having the instrument refinished in a different color. The refinishing of solid-body electric guitars was a common practice at the time and in the mid-1970s there were few who recognized or appreciated the historical significance of the early works of Leo Fender. Seymour Duncan was ahead of his time in connoisseurship by recognizing the importance of such an early Stratocaster. Duncan chose to preserve the originality of the 0001, giving an alternate Stratocaster body and neck to Mr. Green, refinished in the requested color. Duncan kept the 0001.
By 1977 the guitar had been sold by Duncan to Phil Taylor, guitar technician to David Gilmour. Within a year, Taylor had resold the guitar to his employer David Gilmour, in whose possession it has remained. The first time I played that 0001 Strat I wanted it for its sound, Gilmour told Melody Maker’s Karl Dallas in 1981. Over the last forty years the White Stratocaster 0001 has become one of the instruments synonymous with Gilmour’s long artistic career. Although seldom seen on stage due to its rarity and value, the guitar has been used for a number of recordings and live performances, becoming readily recognizable by both fans and connoisseurs.
The guitar’s first recorded discography is with Pink Floyd backing guitarist Snowy White, who laid down guitar tracks on Richard Wright’s 1978 solo album Wet Dream on the Stratocaster at Super Bear Studios in the South of France in early 1978. On Wright vacating the studio, Gilmour moved in to Super Bear in February 1978 to record his eponymous debut solo album, with bass and drums provided by Gilmour’s old Jokers Wild band mates Rick Wills and Willie Wilson. Gilmour used the 0001 on the album’s instrumental opening track Mihalis, for a part that Gilmour called the Hank Marvin bit. Although not in use, the guitar can be seen on stage in footage of Gilmour’s set at The Roxy, London in May 1978. Five tracks were recorded live and the film released by CBS to promote the album release.
The guitar was next seen at London’s Abbey Road Studios on 3rd October 1978 for the recording of the track Glad to See You Here for Back to the Egg, the final studio album by Paul McCartney’s Wings. McCartney had assembled a supergroup of musicians, dubbed the Rockestra, which included Hank Marvin of the Shadows, The Who's Pete Townshend and John Paul Jones and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Gilmour can be seen playing the 0001 Strat in footage of the session, which was filmed for the 40-minute documentary Rockestra.
Returning to Super Bear in 1979, Gilmour used the guitar to record Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1) and, most notably, the funky rhythm work on hit single Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) for Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album The Wall. An attack on the British education system and on the establishment in general, Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) would be the fifth track on the double album and the band’s first number one single in both the UK and US. Entirely unlike any other Pink Floyd song (largely due to the influence of co-producer Bob Ezrin), the track had a disco beat and a school choir on the second verse. In an interview with Guitar World magazine in 2009, Gilmour remembered: It wasn’t my idea to do disco music, it was Bob’s. He said to me, ‘Go to a couple of clubs and listen to what’s happening with disco music,’ so I forced myself out and listened to loud, four-to-the-bar bass drums and stuff and thought, Gawd, awful!’ Nevertheless, Gilmour set down a funky rhythm on his Stratocaster 0001, followed by a masterfully rhythmic and fluid solo on his recently acquired gold Les Paul (lot 34), recorded directly into the mixing console in one take.
The 1954 Stratocaster next appeared in the 1985 promotional music video for Bryan Ferry’s Is Your Love Strong Enough, recorded for the Ridley Scott film Legend, which saw Gilmour appear from a cloud of smoke and lights, delivering a haunting solo on the Strat. Gilmour was next seen with the 0001 for a jam session with ex-Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter at London’s Abbey Road Studios for the 1991 documentary Guitar. The guitar made a stage comeback for two benefit concerts in 2004. Gilmour selected the Stratocaster 0001 for a brief appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 1st April for the Teenage Cancer Trust and, most fittingly, for a performance at London’s Wembley Arena on 24th September 2004 to celebrate 50 years of the Fender Stratocaster. As part of a stellar line up of guitar greats paying tribute to the iconic instrument, Gilmour performed the tracks Marooned and Coming Back to Life on his 1954 Strat. The show was recorded for the live concert film The Strat Pack: Live in Concert, released in 2005. In February 2006, rock photographer Ross Halfin shot Gilmour with the white Fender Stratocaster 0001 on the deck of his Astoria houseboat studio as part of a promotional photo shoot for his 2006 solo album On An Island.
Although Gilmour tells us that he plays this guitar almost every day, the Stratocaster 0001 was last seen during an interview at the Astoria for a three-part documentary The Story of the Guitar, hosted by Alan Yentob and aired on the BBC in October 2008. As he strummed on the guitar, Gilmour enthused I don’t think it’s the very first one ever made, but it’s a 1954 Fender Stratocaster and they don’t get much better than this, I mean this is about as perfect as a guitar can be.