The Fender Stratocaster, from its inception back in 1954, has become one of the most loved and imitated guitar designs.
Today, they’re one of the most widely used guitars by both professionals and amateurs alike.
On the professional side of things, there has been enough Stratocaster love to land us a whole slew of signature models.
Fender Stratocaster Signature Guitars in this List
John Mayer (discontinued)
Dave Murray (second version)
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Kenny Wayne Shepherd (second version)
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Each model has been designed with the inspiration (if not the actual direction) of the given artist.
Additionally, all the guitars mentioned here are in retail or have been up until recently.
If you’re looking for a Fender Stratocaster with something a little more unique and customized (and you don’t want to pay the Fender Builders a ton of money to make you your own) these signature models are your mass-production alternatives.
What makes it “signature?”
You’ve always got to be careful with signature models, since you’ll have a genuine signature version and than an economy version of that guitar which also bears the “signature” tag.
Take the Tom Delonge Epiphone signature, for example.
That guitar costs $500.
And do we really believe that Tom Delonge is running around with a $500 Epiphone?
There’s a Gibson version of that guitar that costs way more and isn’t as readily available to the public.
Fender does the same thing.
In a lot of cases (not all) you’ll have an “economy” version of a much nicer signature Stratocaster.
Some are good and others, not so good.
The Different Specs
The differences between the signature models and the Standard or American Stratocasters are usually one or more of the following:
- Higher-quality tone wood (usually at the request of the artist)
- Name brand pickups (sometimes also an artist signature product)
- Unique wiring or controls
- Unique changes made to the bridge or tuning hardware
Some Fender Stratocaster signature models are really subtle, like Eric Clapton’s guitar.
At the same time, some take on a completely different vibe like Dave Murray or Jim Root.
It’s a lot about the personality of the artist, which is meant to be embellished in the design of the guitar.
Fender Stratocaster Signature Model List
Just FYI: Many of the guitars here are pulled off the Fender Stratocaster Wikipedia page.
If I’ve missed anything, feel free to let me know.
Otherwise, we’ll kick things off with Jeff Beck.
1. Jeff Beck
Beck’s guitar is aesthetically simple, not looking much different from your garden-variety American Strat.
As with the American model, the Beck version boasts a solid Alder body with a Maple neck.
Both are par for mid to upper-tier Fenders.
All three pickups are modeled after the dual-coil noiseless ceramic magnet design that Beck uses and are one of the more unique features of the guitar.
Here’s a closer look at the pickups:
A thin neck and deeper carve provides easier access to the high frets.
Other familiar Strat features like the five-way pickup selector and dual tone controls are also included.
To me it seems more like a Jeff Beck-flavored American Stratocaster but, maybe that’s exactly what he wanted it to be.
- Alder Body with thinner C-Shaped Maple Neck
- Rosewood Fretboard
- 22 Medium-Jumbo Frets
- Three Dual-Coil Ceramic Vintage Noiseless Pickups with 5-Way Switching
- LSR Roller Nut
- Schaller Locking Tuners
- American 2-point Synchronized Tremolo and Stainless Steel Saddles
2. Ritchie Blackmore
Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar has the ’70s-style headstock and a graduated scalloped fingerboard that makes speed play easier.
Two Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Strat pickups sit at the bridge and neck position, while the pickup in the middle is just an inactive dummy.
Here’s what the Quarter Pound Strat pickup looks like up close:
The dummy pickup isn’t wired or anything, which is apparently something Blackmore preferred.
I’m not sure how I feel about that but, you be the judge.
As a consequence, we have a three-way selector switch instead of the conventional five-way switch.
So heavy modding to the neck and pickups are the most notable features. Regardless of how you feel about those changes, the guitar is sharp to look at.
- ’70s Style Large Headstock
- Two Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Flat Single-Coil Pickups
3. Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton’s signature Strat is sharp, boasting a vintage, single-coil, noiseless pickup configuration, along with a beautiful Maple neck and finger board.
There’s also a 25db midrange boost, which Clapton would use as a tone bump for his solos.
Other familiar Strat features include the five-way selector switch, dual volume knobs and solid Alder body construction.
It’s not the most unique-looking of the signature models but, a fantastic guitar in every sense.
- Alder Body
- V-Shaped Maple Neck
- 22 Vintage-Style Frets
- Three Vintage Noiseless Pickups
- 25dB Active Mid-Boost Circuit
- Blocked Original Vintage Synchronized Tremolo
4. Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan’s Stratocaster is no longer being made and is a bit difficult to get a hold of.
The version you’ll see on Amazon is a Standard Strat that has been modded with Corgan’s signature DiMarzio pickups, which are still in circulation.
In the modded Strat, there’s a DiMarzio Chopper pickup in the middle and two DiMarzio Billy Corgan signature pickups, a BC-1 and BC-2 at the neck and bridge.
The real signature model had the ’70s headstock and a Maple “C shaped” neck.
Since the Billy Corgan pickups are still in retail, I’d recommend picking them up and putting them in the Stratocaster of your choice.
- Large 1970s-Style Headstock
- Alder Body
- Three DiMarzio Pickups
5. David Gilmour
David Gilmour’s signature model is a Fender Custom Shop brew and one of the most expensive Stratocasters currently in retail.
The tone wood is listed as “select” meaning they used the first tier of Alder with the absolute best grain and quality.
A bolted neck and fingerboard are both Maple, carved in the familiar C shaped pattern, though modded slightly to mimic the ’57 Strats Gilmour played in the early ’80s.
Attention to detail is as good as the price would suggest, including a removed tremolo cover plate, shortened tremolo arm, aged volume and tone knobs and aged pickup plates.
The pickup configuration is unique, with the following rails included:
- Seymour Duncan SSL Single Coil
- Custom-Wound Single Coil Strat
- Custom Shop Fat ’50s Single Coil Strat
Seymour Duncan’s pickup is placed at the bridge position to encourage a more glassy and bell-like tone, thanks largely to the Alnico magnets and magnet wire used to build the pickup.
It gives off a rich, ’50s Strat sound which fits perfectly with the vibe of the guitar.
The other two pickups are high-end Fender rails that you’ll find in a number of other Custom Shop offerings.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind to see Seymour Duncan single coils in all three positions but, this hybrid arrangement seems to get a little closer to Gilmour’s original tone.
It would be hard to argue that this isn’t one of the most detailed and feature-rich signature Strats available.
- Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Single Coil Pickup
- ’83 Remake C-Shaped ’57 RI Maple Neck
- Electronic and Cosmetic Modifications
6. Buddy Guy
There’s a Fender Custom Shop version of Buddy Guy’s signature Strat and then the standard version you see pictured here.
As far as I know, the Custom Shop version is not widely available.
Aside from the polka dot finish, there isn’t a lot about this Stratocaster that makes it a signature model.
Pickups are the stock Fender single coils, which aren’t bad but, I don’t believe they’re what Guy uses. All the other specs I looked at were the same as most other mid to upper-level Fender guitars.
While I wouldn’t say this is at all a bad guitar, it’s just not Guy’s.
- V-Shaped Maple Neck
- Alder Body
7. Robert Cray
The vintage hard-tail bridge (notice there’s no place for a tremolo bar) and ’60s neck profile are the two most distinguishing features of this model.
Otherwise you’re running into a similar situation as you do with the Buddy Guy signature, wishing for something from the Fender Custom Shop.
Vintage-style single coil pickups are placed at all three positions.
Again, it’s more of a Robert Cray “flavor” than a full blown replica of Cray’s actual guitar.
If you’re willing to spend some money to get closer to the real thing, the Custom Shop version of Cray’s guitar retails at around $4700
- Alder Body
- Hard Tail Bridge (no tremolo)
- 1962 C Profile 9.5″ Radius Neck
- 21 Medium-Jumbo Frets
8. Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson’s signature model bears a two-piece Alder body with a contoured design, reminiscent of the 1957 Strat body shape.
The neck is a single piece of quartersawn Maple with a sharp “V” profile.
Here’s a closer look at the neck carving near the body of the guitar:
Johnson consistently uses his thumb to reach over the top of the guitar’s neck, due to the length of his fingers.
This neck was designed to make that easier and to be more comfortable for players with larger hands and long fingers.
The pickups look customary but, they’re specially voiced for Johnson’s tone and playing style. Countersunk mounting screws can be seen on all three single coils.
Formally, these pickups are only available when you buy Johnson’s guitar and can’t be purchased by themselves.
Per the Fender support forum:
However, it didn’t take me long to find a set of what appears to be Eric Johnson pickups for sale on Reverb.
Here’s a shot of the entry:
Now on Reverb, it’s hard to tell exactly how or why these pickups are available, especially since I didn’t see them anywhere else.
The seller has good ratings and the packaging looks authentic, so it might be that Fender has just made a few of the sets available or have just started getting them in retail.
There were two entries on Reverb, each listed as “new for 2016” so it could be that this is a recent development from Fender.
The second entry gives us a nice look at the back of the box with some techie specifics on the pickup’s EQ and output:
The output leans vintage, which would be consistent with the other ’50s design elements incorporated into the guitar.
EQs for all three pickups are provided, showing that the neck and middle pickup are identical while the bridge pickup cuts bass and treble while adding a small midrange boost.
So maybe you could find the pickups as a standalone purchase.
Otherwise, the guitar itself, even at $1900, boast a lot of value as a detailed and authentic replica of Johnson’s actual Strat.
- Contoured Two-Piece Select Alder Body
- Quarter-Sawn Maple Neck with a V-Shaped Profile
- Fender-Gotoh Staggered Vintage-Style Machine Heads
- Eric Johnson Specially Voiced Single Coil Pickups
- Countersunk Mounting Screws
- ’57-Style Pickguard
- Five-Spring Vintage Tremolo
9. Yngwie Malmsteen
Yngwie Malmsteen’s signature Stratocaster, predictable, focuses on gain and speed-friendly features.
The Maple neck is scalloped with jumbo frets, meaning the player can move between notes quickly, with greater subtlety and less effort.
All three pickups in this model are a Yngwie Malmsteen signature made by Seymour Duncan called the YJM Fury Strat set.
These pickups have a smooth response with a surprising amount of twang, especially at the neck and middle position.
I felt they had a lot of appeal outside of Malmsteen’s playing style.
The pickup selection on Malmsteen’s Strat is a three-way switch, meaning you only use one pickup at a time; bridge, middle or neck.
While I can appreciate the simplicity of that configuration, I’d love to be able to mix and match the sounds of each single coil, since they all sound so interesting on their own.
Other features include the ’70s headstock and the cream color we’re used to seeing Malmsteen play.
It’s not my favorite on this list but, a decent value with plenty of detail setting it apart from the baseline American Strat.
- Alder Body
- C-Shaped Maple Neck
- 21 Super-Sized Jim Dunlop 6000 Frets
- Large Headstock with Bullet Truss-Rod
- Seymour Duncan YJM Fury Single-Coil Pickups
- 3-Way Switching
- 3-Ply W/B/W Pickguard
10. John Mayer (discontinued)
As of writing this article, John Mayer is no longer being sponsored by Fender.
This means you can still find the guitar used but, Fender isn’t going to make you a brand new one.
Here’s the info on Mayer’s split with the company via Reverb:
Fast forward to May of 2015 and Mayer shows up on Instagram with what looks to be a new signature model from PRS:
Sure enough, if you head over to the PRS artists page:
Thus, you’ll need to count on third-party sellers to get your hands on one of these guitars.
The guitar is an Alder body with a Maple fretboard.
No surprises there.
Pickups are called “Big Dipper” single coils which were at one point a John Mayer signature.
Once again, you’ll need to count on sites like eBay or Reverb to find them:
While the more reliable specs page from Fender isn’t available, what I could find on this guitar wasn’t tremendously impressive.
There are some slight tweaks to the bridge but otherwise, this guitar doesn’t seem to be vastly different than any of the other American Vintage models.
Non-Mayer fans should look elsewhere, especially with the rising cost of this guitar because of its perceived rarity.
- Alder Body
- Thick C-Shape Maple Neck
- American Vintage Hardware
- Trio of “Big Dipper” Single-Coils with a Special “Scooped” Mid-range Voicing
- 5-way Pickup Switching
- 3-Ply Parchment Pickguard
11: Dave Murray
A signature guitar isn’t really “signature” unless it has significant differences from the baseline model.
For that reason, Dave Murray’s Stratocaster is perhaps my favorite signature model by Fender for its long list of notable tweaks, modifications and features.
Beginning with the most obvious:
Murray’s guitar lands you a real Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system, which is a rare feature on a Fender guitar.
Admittedly, I’m a little biased in this regard because I’m a big fan of the Floyd Rose systems.
Buyers will have to take their own opinions about it into account, since it’s a decent chunk of the guitar’s cost.
The bridge and neck pickup are Seymour Duncan Hot Rails, the SHR-1B and SHR-1N.
The middle pickup is a Seymour Duncan SJBJ-1N, which houses a ceramic magnet and has a slightly softer tonal profile than the two rails.
All three, combined with a 5-way switch, give you a ton of different tone-shaping options from your guitar alone.
Other features include a Rosewood fingerboard, giving it the darker coloring and the white Pearloid fretboard. Together they’re an attractive and aesthetically-friendly combination.
At $999 it’s a manageable price tag, especially for such a feature-rich instrument.
- Alder Body with a Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish
- Floyd Rose Tremolo System and Locking Tuners
- Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Pickup Configuration
12. Jim Root
Jim Root’s design breaks rank from the typical Alder and goes with Mahogany tonewood for the body, likely due to its smoother tonal response and thicker lows.
Outside of the stripped down look and control scheme (a loan volume knob and 3-way pickup selector blade), the most notable features are the two EMG humbuckers that replace the traditional single-coil configuration.
The two pickups are an EMG 81 (bridge position) and EMG 60.
Clearly, this is not your typical Stratocaster.
It’s made to play heavy and shouldn’t be considered by anyone who plans to use it outside of the metal genre.
Think baritone strings and low tunings.
If you ask me, there are a myriad of better options for those looking at a metal-friendly guitar.
- Mahogany Body
- Maple Modern C-Shaped Neck
- 22 Jumbo Frets
- EMG pickups
- 3-Way Switch,
- Single-Volume Knob
13. Kenny Wayne Shepherd
There is a Fender Custom Shop version of this guitar, which is far more pricey and not widely available in retail mediums.
We’re focusing on the one listed as the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Stratocaster that retails for $900.
The guitar comes with three different graphics options.
- Traditional Sunburst
- White with the Cross Graphic
- Black with Racing Stripes
Without the graphics, there isn’t a lot that make this “Kenny’s Guitar” as the cost-cutting measures really start to show through.
The pickups are all a Custom-Voiced Kenny Wayne Shepherd single coils, thought the EQ and output isn’t listed anywhere that I could tell.
Other features include a vintage-style tremolo bridge with Graph Tech saddles, which adds some appeal to the guitar’s aesthetics.
Otherwise, there just isn’t a lot to get excited about with this signature model as it unfortunately continues the pattern of Fender signatures getting thin on “signature” when you dip near the $900 mark.
- Alder Body,
- Maple Neck
- Rosewood Fretboard
- Custom-Voiced Kenny Wayne Shepherd Pickups
- Racing Stripe Graphics
14. Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Stratocaster has a litany of unique features that do well in their attempt to justify the $1700 price tag.
First, the thicker, oval-shaped neck combined with the jumbo frets gives you some extra sustain and is true to Vaughan’s own preferences.
While the neck is Maple, the fingerboard is made of a South American tonewood called “Pau Ferro” which is a Rosewood alternative and shares many of the same sonic qualities.
The pickups are Fender Texas Special single coils, which you can buy separately if you want to install them in another guitar.
The pickups house an Alnico 5 magnet and are “over-wound” making them ideal for the bluesy tones Vaughan was famous for.
Other features include the upside down bridge with the tremolo bar located above the strings (per Vaughan’s preferences), gold hardware and the engraved “SRV” pickguard.
Granted, the entire “SRV vibe” has to appeal to you.
Personally, I’m not crazy about the idea of playing a guitar with another guy’s name already on it.
If you disagree, buy confidently.
- Black Pickguard with Vaughan’s Initials
- Three Fender Texas Special Pickups
- Pau Ferro Fretboard
15. Jimi Hendrix
This is not a bad guitar.
It’s just not much of a “signature” guitar.
With the Jimi Hendrix Strat we run into the same problems that plague the other signature guitars in this price range.
The style and “feel” of the artist is there but, not much else.
One feature we like is the inclusion of the Vintage ’65 Strat pickups from Fender.
The magnets are Alnico 5 with a tonal output that leans vintage, similar to the Eric Johnson arrangement.
Outside of these pickups and the reverse headstock, the rest of the guitar is stone cold normal.
In fact, Fender even left the bridge in the right-side up position, where the tremolo bar stays underneath the strings. If they were to assume that right-handed players would be playing this model, the bridge should have been reversed, like they did on the SRV signature.
Why they left this out isn’t clear, outside of the fact that they didn’t want to make a completely left-handed guitar for right-handed players and have trouble selling it.
Once more we see that $900 signature Stratocasters need to be presented in quotation marks.
- Reversed Headstock
- Vintage ’65 Strat Pickups
- Reverse Bridge Pickup
Differences Between the Cheaper and Expensive Stratocaster Signature Guitar
In most cases, if you have a Fender Stratocaster that is astronomically more expensive than what you’re used to seeing, it’s coming from the Fender Custom Shop.
This is where Fender handles special requests and custom orders and thus any of the actual signature models that the pros ask them to build.
If a guitar is built that they can sell on the open market, they do what most companies do:
They make an economy version of that guitar.
These guitars serve as a cheaper way of manufacturing what probably took a lot more care and effort to make.
It’s not that they aren’t decent instruments, it’s just that the aren’t anything like you would get if you were willing to come up with thousands of dollars to pay the Custom Shop guys to make you one from scratch.
How do I check prices for the Custom Shop guitars?
In some cases it’s difficult to tell the difference between what the Custom Shop is making and what Fender is mass-producing.
Typically, you’ll need to go through a smaller dealer, which is listed under the “Find a Dealer” section for each guitar:
Once you click on that button, you’ll get a list, usually for several different countries.
Within each country you’ll have a list of dealers to choose from.
Look for the website link.
Not all of them will have one:
Each one may or may not still carry the guitar you’re looking for.
For example, I clicked on the Rainbow Guitars website link and there was no David Gilmour signature model available.
Once you get to a dealer’s website you should be able to find the “Authorized Fender Dealer” icon:
From here you can start to get a feel for pricing conventions. Most of the prices you’ll see will go north of $3000.
Can a dealer ship me a guitar like Amazon or Guitar Center would?
Like I mentioned, a lot of local dealers don’t even have websites yet.
While that’s a trend that’s changing, you’ll obviously have to focus on dealers that have sites running and are willing to ship to your location.
Otherwise you’re hoping to find a dealer that’s close enough for you to drive there and buy/pickup a guitar in person.
I know that Guitar Center will ship used instruments from any store.
Other dealers are going to be hit or miss, so you’ll just have to get in touch with them and see for yourself.
Value of the Cheaper Models
So what do we conclude about the cheaper signature models?
Even the guitars priced in the $1500 to $2000 range aren’t custom shop-quality.
Maybe they aren’t straight from the Custom Shop but, I’ve found that the specs and value of those models made them a solid compromises for the prices.
The Vaughan, Johnson and Murray signatures are all fantastic guitars making it difficult for me to find any weak spots in my reviews.
Where you run into trouble is when you get to the $800 - $900 price ranges.
Those guitars just felt cheap, like a slightly modded American Strat.
And to be clear, I like American Strats.
But, that’s all they were.
My conclusion then, is to aim to hit four-figures, somewhere around the $1500 neighborhood.
What are your thoughts about the Fender Stratocaster signature models?
Anything to add?
Let us know in the comments section below.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of TomBass59