Nils Logfren (born June 21, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois) started playing with the band Grin, made by bassist George Daly (then replaced by Bob Gordon) and drummer Bob Berberich. Despite the release of four amazing albums in the early 1970s with them, Lofgren's musical career took off thanks to sessions with Neil Young while Young was performing at the Georgetown club The Cellar Door. Young and the Grin trio then moved to California and lived together for some months in Laurel Canyon. Logfren played both piano and guitar on Young’s 1970 solo album, After the Gold Rush, despite Lofgren’s lack of experience with the guitar. After Grin disbanded in 1974, Lofgren released a few solo albums before replacing Steve Van Vandt in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984 for the huge Born in the U.S.A. tour.
It’s thanks to these performances with Springsteen, that continued for over three decades, that Lofgren’s become famous for a particular natural-finish 1961 Stratocaster. As he told to Fender News, “My first guitar, in the mid-’60s, was a Tele; I got it because Jeff Beck played one. Soon after that, I saw Jimi Hendrix live . . . and the Strat soon became to me, even more than the Tele, the instrument that I was most comfortable with, as far as having different sounds.” Lofgren has owned two 1961 Strats. The first was bought from a friend in a trade for a 12-string acoustic. However, the famous Strat is the second one that was acquired by Lofgren a bit later. “The other ’61 I found in a pawn shop in Berkeley when I was on the road in the late ’60s,” he said interviewer Peter Walker. “It was this ugly purple thing, but I bought it because it sounded great. I gave it to my brother, Michael, who is a master carpenter, to restore it. He stripped it and dyed it natural wood, and made a beautiful oak pickguard.”
This Strat also features an Alembic Blaster preamp unit in place of the stock recessed output. When activated, the Blaster allows the guitarist to increase volume without affecting tone. Logfren uses it with a rubber effects pedal knob, instead of the traditional skirted Strat's knob, as it gives him better control of the volume, so he can use the Blaster to create swirling effects. Last but not least, the guitar is equipped with Bill Lawrence double-blade pickup in the neck position. It is worth spending a few words on Lofgren’s technique, which involves a down-stroked thumb-pick and harmonic-inducing upstrokes with his second and third fingers. Despite some custom modifications, Lofgren is an enthusiastic Fender fan and user. Nonetheless, he also uses a Jazzmaster, numerous other Stratocasters, and Fender amps. “I’ve found that with a Fender, you can lose your finesse and not totally lose it on the instrument, if you can understand that,” he told to an interviewer of Premier Guitar in 2009. “I like to lean into the guitar and use those five settings you can get out of a Strat. I like playing lots of different guitars, but I’ll always reach for a Strat. It’s the most beautiful electric guitar ever made.”
Next player: Yngwie Malmsteen