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Ritchie Blackmore

Ritchie Blackmore, known as the first “uber-metal solo god,” held onto his Fender Stratocaster when most other stadium rockers transitioned to Flying Vs, Gibson Les Pauls, and SGs. Initially during the early 70s as a member of Deep Purple, then in 1975 with Rainbow, Ritchie Blackmore established a reputation as the Stratocaster’s “dark master.” He also developed the groundwork of what would become a medieval-inspired lead-heavy vein of metal and hard rock that continues to be popular today.

Like many top artists, Ritchie Blackmore changed the instruments he played over the years. He particularly favored post-CBS, large headstock Strats, mostly the early 70s versions. These editions contained a “bullet-adjusting” truss rod at the back of the nut, as well as scalloped fingerboards. The wood in between frets is filed away, creating a concave surface fingerboard. Its scalloped neck can help with finger vibrato and speed. Ritchie Blackmore was partial to graduated scallops, which was somewhat shallow to the 7th fret (and got deeper from there). He also had the center pickup disconnected because he never used it. The necks were glued in place instead of being dependent on the bolt-on Fender attachments. The tailpieces of the vibrato were modified to accomplish up-bend and regular down-bend. Some wood got placed on the inertia block of the trem, and the body’s back was removed. Blackmore added replacement pickups (Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Strat-style) to the guitar’s neck and bridge positions, which are preserved in the Blackmore artist model Stratocaster from Fender. At Rainbow’s peak, Blackmore smashed a lot of Strats, generally at the end of a successful concert. These sets would usually culminate with a prop amp stack exploding in flames after being hit with the instrument. Instead of wrecking one of the modified guitars he put so much work into, Blackmore would usually take out his aggression on a replica that would get glued back together, only to be smashed again at the following concert.

To convey Blackmore’s hellfire and brimstone performance to an arena crowd full of 20,000 fans, some massive amplification was needed. A couple of Marshall 200-watt major heads were used, both of which traveled through a pair of 4” x 12” speaker cabs. In order to get these tube amps distorted early (as well as to warm the vibrant Strats’ tone up), Blackmore played through a tape recorder that he used as a preamp. The reel-to-reel recorder was pre-set at “pause.”

During Blackmore’s contemporary performances with the Baroque-influenced group, “Blackmore’s Night,” the musician played several acoustic instruments. His current electric excursions are made with the E650 Ritchie Blackmore 100W, a German model Engl amp.

Next player: Bill Carson