Beauty is, they say, in the eye the beholder. To me this guitar is staggeringly, breathtakingly beautiful. If I was the kind of guy that personified objects I might coo lines from “My Funny Valentine” as she emerged from the case but it is after all just a guitar. That’s not to say guitars (this one especially) or other inanimate objects can not be imbued with a spirit or soul of some sort. What began as a 1962 Olympic White Fender Jaguar has mutated to something much much more and in my opinion, much better.
At some point in its tumultuous life it was painted black. A few coats simply applied over the original paint and finish. Then falling into the hands of someone who pined for a Strat, a conversion was attempted. A haphazard route for a middle pick-up, extraneous wiring removed, the tremolo assembly jammed in place and miscellaneous parts tossed aside. The “Jaguar” on the headstock sanded off as was the majority of most of “Fender.” The incomplete and unsuccessful surgery was then hidden away, neglected for years.
In the mid ’90s I spotted the scarred, lifeless instrument on consignment at a favorite repair shop. The black paint worn and chipped in many places. Most of the electronics but still contained two random strat-style single coil pickups, the tremolo system was incomplete and there were Twinkie wrappers and hockey trading cards from the ’80s stuffed inside the electronic compartments presumably to keep everything in place and/or suppress the rattles common to these guitars which were only exacerbated by the “modifications.”
Enlisting the owner of the shop we began to resuscitate the instrument. The routing was completed properly, three reissue Jaguar pickups installed (he provided additional shielding with a beeswax bath), the traditional and oft confusing 3 slider switching system on the bottom bout was abandoned in favor of a simple on/off switch to correspond to each pickup. Ironically, the addition of the middle pick up allows for some Strat like tones. The controls on the top bout work similar a stock Jag. Flick the switch down for a brighter sound with volume & tone controlled by the knobs near the input jack. In the up position a darker sound with volume tone controlled on the upper bout. A mini-toggle was also added. When in the downward position the pickups are in single coil mode and are controlled by the bottom bout sliders. Any combination of the 3 can be utilized. The up position acts like a reverse coil-tap, creating a Humbucker out of the neck and one other selected pickup. If the neck isn’t paired with another pickup then the toggle or the pick-up sliders will acts as kill switches. The tonal possibilities of the guitar are bountiful.
A few years back, I swapped out the incomplete, non working tremolo for an after market one so I could get my MBV fix. The black paint continues to chip and wear away, the original white yellows with age and in a few places the raw wood shows through. The stock bridge has naturally reliced (ie. rusted) becoming quite temperamental making intonation a challenge. The low E saddle replaced to prevent the string from jumping ship during cathartic fits and to reduce the risk of tetanus.Note: Since these pictures were taken a Mastery Bridge has been installed.
As for the neck. Simply put, amazing. Like a well worn baseball glove or the perfect jean jacket. Anyone that has played the guitar first remarks on how ugly it is or how strange the electronics are, before marveling over how familiar it seems. Even those not usually fond of short scale guitars feel at home.
Had the guitar had more of its original parts or had it not been left for dead, perhaps a more traditional restoration would have been in order. Instead of trying to hide its past it deserved new life. It is a players guitar in the truest sense. It has and will continue to take everything in stride, soft and loud. Rising up in the post apocalyptic wasteland roaches and rats will worship before it. And it will still look great.
Manufacturer: Fender, Allparts, Mastery Bridge
Color: Olympic White, Black