Not very many musicians have done what Stevie Ray Vaughan has with the Strat. The American Blues Machine stayed loyal to the Stratocaster, playing with and owning a bunch of them. He even named his favorite – “Number One.” The musician spent most of his time playing an early 60s Stratocaster, more so than any other guitar he had. The instrument is what most people think of when his name is brought up. While Vaughan called his guitar a 1959 Stratocaster, and even though it did feature 1959 pickups, the neck and body showed 1962 date stamps. As such, the instrument must have originated from the same year. Towards the final phase of the musician’s career, the Strat had been converted into a Parts-o-Caster.
In the middle of the 70s, Vaughan purchased his Stratocaster at a music store called in “Hennig’s Heart of Texas.” The guitar remained with Vaughan until his untimely death in 1990. As passionate as he was about “Number One,” Vaughan had it go through a number of modifications to accommodate his needs. He added reflective stickers marked “SRV” and “Custom” to the replacement pickguard and vibrato bridge, respectively. The guitar also went through other changes to accommodate is playability and feel. In the early 80s, a left-hand vibrato unit was the sole replacement he could find in the state of Texas when his original one broke. He had another one made, which was personalized as an homage to the right-handed, upside-down Stratocasters Hendrix used. Vaughan replaced its original frets with jumbo-sized ones, too. The neck had to be refitted multiple times throughout the years, so much so that by 1990, it could no survive another re-fit. The neck of another 1962 strap (called “Red”) replaced it. New hardware with gold plates also adorned Number One in 1990.
Aside from the specifics, Number One may be popular because of the tone he wrangled out of it. Vaughan did so with the help of some pre-CBS pickups (wound up on the hotter side) because of his love for heavy strings (.013 to 0.058). This tweak allowed the musician to optimize his right and left hand for fierce attacks.
When Number One wasn’t being played, Vaughan was probably using “Lenny,” a Strat he saw in the 80s inside of a pawnshop in Austin. Vaughan couldn’t afford to pay for the guitar back then, though he later received it as a gift by some of his friends (including Lenora, his wife), who all contributed $50 to pay for the $350 instrument. The guitar was named after Vaughan’s wife. This Stratocaster had pre-CBS pickups, a rosewood fingerboard (original), and a white 3-ply scratchplate. The body was stained before with a dense brown color after being stripped. A mandolin-like inlay from the Victorian era was inserted under the Strat’s vibrato bridge. This modern replacement unit had saddles that were die-cast.
The guitar was modified further to accommodate Vaughan’s preferences. He added reflective stickers marked “SRV” on the pickguard, later replacing the neck it came with for a contemporary maple unit (which was a gift from ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons). Vaughan performed with Lenny on a number of songs, including “Riviera Paradise” off of the “In Step” album and “Lenny” from the “Texas Flood” album. When the tribute tune was performed live, Vaughan would put Number One down and pick up Lenny, an instrument he had a very close bond with.
Today, Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie’s brother, owns Number One. The Guitar Center purchased Lenny for $623,500 at the “Crossroads” auction for held in 2004.