I caught a glimpse of Chris Plumstead’s Lowell style strat on facebook somewhere and asked if he would share some information about the guitar. here’s what he had to say:
“The inspiration for putting this guitar together came from being a huge Little Feat fan from about 1974 on. Little Feat spent lots of time in Baltimore where I grew up. And I used to stalk them at their concerts. My father actually managed a studio in Baltimore called Flight 3 studios. George Massenburg, the engineering genius that recorded much of Little Feat’s early days, worked at the studio part time when he wasn’t working at the Blue Seas recording studio “barge” which famously sank in 1977. (Read the story here http://www.baltimoremagazine.net/features/2010/08/the-blue-seas-saga)
I became obsessed with George’s guitar tone and style. Through the years I had collected various articles on what other than his hands and his brain went into the instrument. After some research I knew that he used an ash body Stratocaster, likely from the late 60’s early 70’s because of the large CBS headstock. I also knew that he had a telecaster pickup in the bridge and an overdrive booster in the jack plate that was called a Stratoblaster made by Alembic. I set out to do a remake.
I found an ash-bodied “70’s” large headstock Japanese made strat on ebay for about $600. I stripped out all of the electronics and bought some texas special pickups for the neck and middle pickups. I then bought a Seymour Duncan Twang banger for the bridge. Basically a hot tele bridge pickup that is designed to fit into a strat. After an internet search for the stratoblaster, I found out Jerry Garcia used to use one too. I read that if you don’t shield them they pick up all kinds of weird short-wave and FM signals.. So I lined the chamber with copper shielding. I then loaded it up with Fender flatwound 13’s. Because they are flatwounds you don’t get the squeak. I compress the hell out of it with a dynacomp push it through a good old fashioned musicman amplifier to get that killer tone. I have the action up pretty high to stay off of the neck so fretting notes is a little brutal. And of course I use a Sears and Roebuck 11/16 socket to slide away.”
Chris will send me some soundfiles soon, and I’ll update this post when I get them. I’ve never played a guitar with flatwound strings, but I think I understand what Chris means when he sayst “Because they are flatwounds you don’t get the squeak”. I’d like to set one of my current guitars up for slide, so I might experiment with flatwounds. Like Chris, I tend to compress slide guitar a lot, but I add delay too. Nice work Chris!