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Randy Bachman

Randy Bachman, founder of Canadian rock ’n’ roll giants The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, is also closely associated with the Fender Stratocaster thanks to a guitar known as “The Legend”, obtained in the late 1960s. It had already been modified a bit by a previous owner, but Bachman was fearless when it came to laying the thing down on his workbench and applying chisel and saw, all in an effort to make the guitar sound exactly as he wanted it to do. As Bachman told photographer Rick Gould:

“Originally a black ’59 Strat, the Legend was stripped to bare wood. The upper horn had my name in rub-on decals as well as a round metal Titano accordion logo. The guitar had been modded to be a 9-string and had extra tuners on it, which I took off, leaving three extra holes in the headstock. Also, the big curved part on the headstock had broken off when I threw the guitar into a speaker cabinet à la Pete Townshend. I also broke off the wang bar and had to redrill the tremolo block to accommodate a bigger screw-in arm that I had made by a blacksmith. It was a ‘T’ with an arm to grab over the pickups and a big one that went out back past the strap attachment. This allowed for extreme Hendrixian wang-bar tactics with feedback."

Bachman also said “In the back, I chiseled out a long channel, thinking I could create my own B-bender by cutting out the B saddle, stabilizing the trem block, and keeping just one spring on the cutout B saddle. Then I found out I couldn’t hacksaw the trem block so I just left it. When the nut broke to pieces, I didn’t have a replacement so I used my mother’s metal knitting needle. It didn’t have grooves and it was cool how the strings slid around for low bending. I sanded and steel-wooled the back of the neck like a violin neck with no finish, which made playing such an ease. I reversed the inny jack to be an outy, which I thought Fender always should have done anyway because it allows bigger jacks and L jacks to be easily used.”

If you think that all these modifications made The Legend a Stratocaster in name only, you haven't seen anything, yet. Reportedly, the guitar featured the swapped-in round profile of the Fender Jazzmaster neck and three on-off pots, instead of the usual three-position selector, which let Bachman combine two pickups of any kind, including the bridge and neck units. In Bachman's words, “My bridge pickup was a ’50s Tele that was held to the pickguard with clear bathtub caulking, which prevented feedback and squeal. I had a Rickenbacker pickup at the neck for a while and then a ’59 Humbucker. The last mod was three off/on pickup switches that allowed for an amazing combination of pickups—neck and bridge, all three, bridge and middle, neck and middle, et cetera. Problem? Yes. I was too wild onstage and would hit them all. Of course the guitar would have no sound because all the pickups had been switched off.”

“There’s something about the Strat sound that just rings out,” Bachman wrote in his book, Vinyl Tap Stories. “If you take that same guitar and run it through a small tweed Fender amp cranked right up, you get a really great bluesy sound.”

As for The Legend, sadly it went the way of many other guitars belonged to rock ’n’ roll legends; Bachman reports that it was stolen. “It would be the thrill of a lifetime to get the guitar back, but it was just a wreck, so unless someone knows what it is . . .” he said. “But what a sound and monster it was.”

Next player: Jeff Beck