Custom Shop Rory Gallagher Signature Stratocaster review by Fender

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  • Features: 8
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.5 (6 votes)
Fender: Custom Shop Rory Gallagher Signature Stratocaster

Price paid: £ 2849

Purchased from: Guitar Guitar - Edinburgh

Features — 8
Rory Gallagher tribute Fender USA Custom Shop Stratocaster (2014). This is the ultimate relic'd Strat. 2 piece alder body with a 1 piece maple neck and rosewood fretboard. There are 21 jumbo frets on the custom profile neck with a custom 9.5 inch radius to match Rory's neck that was re-fretted a few times. What little paint there is left on the guitar would have been 3 colour sunburst. There's a 3 ply mint green scratch plate housing 3 custom wound '60s single coil pickups, a 3-way selector switch (which I might replace for a 5-way which I hear Rory did later in his career) and 2 tones and one volume control. The bridge is a very aged American vintage tremolo with curved saddles and vintage tremolo arm.

There are 5 Sperzel tuners and 1 locking Gotoh tuner to mimick Rory's guitar (I really don't like the Gotoh tuner and may get another Sperzel, I don't think it's a coincidence that there's only one Gotoh on this guitar, hence the deduction of a few points for the tuner and the 3 way). It also comes with a G&G custom case, Custom Shop strap, lead, cloth, and Cruz tools kit, tremolo cover and certificate of authenticity. This is the best lot of case candy I have ever come across.

Sound — 10
This is the best sounding guitar that I have ever owned or played. I actually look forward to getting home from work to play it. It doesn't even have to be plugged in! It is the most resonant, and loudest of my guitars (Dean USA Hardtail, Charvel Custom Shop San Dimas NAMM 2008, and ESP Horizon, previously owned PRS Custom 24 and Jackson Soloist) when unplugged and equals all of my Seymour Duncan humbucker equipped guitars for volume and betters them for tone when plugged in. I don't consider myself a Strat fan, and bought the guitar for some covers that really need that strat sound, but would quite happily do most of the songs my band does with it. We play rock, punk, pop-rock, alternative, funk etc.

I would say that it is a really warm sounding Strat with the best nuanced articulation of all my guitars. You can get the quietest finger picked single notes out of it or really full on rock tones on the same amp setting. The volume and tone controls are amazing, and you can get the "in between" sounds using the gaps in the 3 way selector (I just haven't worked out how to get the tone controls to work properly individually on this though).

I don't think it's just the 10 gauge strings that make the difference either as I have the same on my Dean. The only thing it doesn't do so well is really high gain stuff, but I don't play that much, so it isn't an issue, but I won't deduct a point for this and the selector as it's a tribute to a '61 Strat.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The guitar is flawlessly put together. The relicing is done really well and it plays and feels so well worn in that you swear you'd owned it years the day you pick it up. The exposed wood feels great and it's my current favourite neck of all time for feel, comfort and playability (and there was me thinking I wanted something shreddy, I must be getting old).

The action was a bit high for my playing style (although perfect for slide as Rory would have had it) and the trem unit was about 40 degrees from the body so I got the shop to alter the string height and the bridge so I just had a full tone up pull on the G string. Cosmetically it's as rusty and knocked about as the original, but the build quality is superb. A bit of the paint was flaking off but I was told this was to be expected due to the exposed wood of the body.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I have played 2 gigs already with this guitar. There were tuning issues at the first gig as it was only 2 weeks from being purchased. I changed strings before the 2nd gig the day after and applied Nut Sauce to the saddles, nut and string trees and it's much better now. The Custom Shop strap supplied with the guitar fell off the rear strap button after about 3 songs but I luckily caught the guitar and was able to play on. I usually put Schaller Straplocks on all my guitars but didn't want to swap out the relic'd strap buttons provided. Grolsch bottle cap washers have been suggested!

The other major pain is the Gotoh tuning peg. I didn't have any prior knowledge of this system, so spent 2 hours of YouTube and phone calls when the short piece of string left in the peg wouldn't come out even with the peg removed from the guitar. Brute force eventually prevailed but the wire badly cut the thumb on my fretting hand as I pulled it out, 4 hours before a gig. I can see why it looks like Rory was changing to Sperzels on his guitar. Having said all that, I think USA Custom Shop guitars are the best built and it will be reliable. I never gig without a spare.

Overall Impression — 10
I have been playing on and off for 27 years and mainly play rock, blues, pop, punk and alternative. I'm not a major Rory Gallagher fan, and am not mad for Strats in general, but this is the coolest looking and sounding Strat available in my opinion. I used to think Relics were stupid, but as I gig a lot these days I'm starting to shy away from "furniture guitars." I practice on an Orange Tiny Terror and gig using a Soldano Hot Rod 50 Plus. The guitar sounds amazing through either. It also sounds as loud as my humbucker equipped guitars. It works well with delay, chorus, compression, wah, OD9 and probably anything else you put it through.

I wish I'd asked about the tuners when I bought it. I love the super relic'd looks, the tone, and the playability of this guitar. I think it's actually improving me as a musician. I compared it with other CS Strats and this blew them all away, although I wish it had a 5-way selector and strap locks. I'm going to get it insured because if it was lost or stolen I'd have to get another one.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    > not a Rory fan > doesn't like strats > drops $4k on the wet dream of fans of both. Must be nice bro.
    $4k is about exactly what I'll have saved over the year from stopping smoking cigarettes. Yes they are THAT expensive in the UK!
    Strats can sound and play amazing. Even the cheap ones. I'm sure it's an amazing guitar. What I struggle with is the "distressed" look. If I dropped 4000 British pounds on my guitar (I'm not bothering to look up the exchange rate, but I'm sure it's close to $6000 USD), that SOB better have a Ferrari quality paint-job. And honestly about $1000 is my threshold anyway, considering my talent and skill levels. And that's probably a bit of a stretch.
    looks like john mayer's black relic'd strat... wouldn't drop £4k on the JM one either
    How can you not be a fan of strats.....some of the greatest music ever was made with a strat. Frankly I didn't care for your opion at all after I read that first sentence.
    That's a pretty dull comment, it's like asking a gay guy ,, how can you not be a fan vaginas, some of the greatest people ever were made in them'' Just beacuse important stuff happend on those guitars doesn't mean you have to love the sound, the look or the playability of it.
    Chuxter (and Vampire_State), I actually wrote, "I'm not a major Rory Gallagher fan, and am not mad for Strats in general" My meaning being that I didn't buy this guitar out of fannish adoration for the player it's attributed to, or the type of guitar that it is, but actually on the merrits of the instrument itself. Rory's great, and some of the best music of all time has come from Strats, agreed!
    PS. I didn't intend that to be a headline quote, just a passing comment. UG must've put it up there.
    Maybe some people don't care for the ordinary Strat shape. I myself happen to be a flying V guy, but everyone has their own tastes.
    I see a lot of opinion on what makes a great guitar. The truth is that once you have developed you own skills and style you will know the rite guitar. I had done fleet service for many years, and a company may buy a 1000 of the same truck. There not ready for the road yet,they need to be set up. After a few mile I can tell who is driving them and which mechanic has serviced them. So the point I am making. The manufacture is not trying to sell you guitar, but memorabilia. Rory Gallagher most likely did not buy a cosmetically depressed guitar for the name on the head stock. He knew how much he could afford, and shopped around until he found a guitar that spoke to him. If I had as much talent as I have guitars, I would not be turning a wrench. I have all the names in my collection. A name really means nothing. So put the guitar in YOUR HANDS, LISEN, and FEEL. I learned to do my own set ups. The tech at my local guitar retailer will not set up a guitar the way I want it. He dose not want to take any risks. It is the way a guitar is set up. The way it is played and cared for that makes a guitar special. Go to a pawn shop that has lot of guitars. Play them all. You will find that one or two will have a soul of there own.
    I had heard good things about this particular guitar and having some spare cash last year I took a chance. All I can say is that I wasn't disappointed. I have tried hundreds of guitars over the last 25 year but there is nothing that comes close to this one. The neck just fitted my left hand perfectly. The only downside is that once you pick it up you can't put it down again!
    I have played and owned many guitars, but there really is something about this one just fits my hands, feels so comfortable and is so easy to play. I had the action lowered and the tremelo blocked for my style of playing. As many have said already, the only and biggest problem with this guitar is that you can't put it down. I am starting to suffer from sleep deprivation.