Fender has partnered with mercurial Massachusetts guitarist Johnny A. for a luxuriously crafted custom shop signature Stratocaster, which amalgamates the artist’s four favorite model years.
The made-to-order signature guitar is based on Strats from the years 1963 to 1966, and arrives in two Time Capsule flash-coat colorways that aim to provide a suitably elegant aesthetic for “one of New England’s most accomplished sideman and solo artists”.
Johnny A., aka John Antonopoulos, has a storied session portfolio – boasting stints with Delaney & Bonnie, Derek and the Dominos keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, drummer Doug Clifford of Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more – as well as a prolific solo career.
His Fender joins his current catalog of signature six-strings, which most notably contains a uniquely designed semi-hollow ES model made by Gibson in 2005. For his newest instrument, though, it’s all about classic aesthetics and vintage Fender tones.
Inspired by Johnny A.'s own Masterbuilt prototype, the signature's spec sheet is headed up by a two-piece alder body with an off-center seam, which is paired with a 3A birdseye maple neck – with a ‘65-style oval-C profile – and round-lam rosewood fretboard. The latter’s 7.25” radius is another callback to vintage Strat design.
21 medium jumbo frets join the party, and line up alongside a bone nut, vintage-style tuners, wing string tree with tall metal spacer and dot inlays.
At the business end of things, Johnny A.’s Strat sports a three-ply mint green pickguard, Custom Shop synchronized tremolo bridge and a classic control circuit comprising a five-way blade switch and Strat Blender wiring with Tone-Saver bleed circuitry.
As for what all that actually means, the Johnny A. Strat – if it conforms to conventional Strat Blender wiring – unlocks two hidden sounds: bridge and neck in parallel and all three pickups together in parallel.
The pickup set in question features hand-wound 11/56 neck and middle single-coils, as well as a steel bottom-plated 11/56 bridge pickup that promises a livelier tone and wide-ranging response.
As mentioned before, two Time Capsule colorways are on offer: Lydian Gold Metallic with Closet Classic chrome hardware, and Sunset Glow Metallic with Closet Classic gold hardware.
Each iteration arrives with a deluxe hardshell case, guitar strap and letter of authenticity from the Fender Custom Shop.
Of his newest signature model, Johnny A. commented, “The history of this signature model came from a conversation with former Fender Custom Shop builder Chris Fleming. When I was given the honor of having two Masterbuilt guitars, Ron Thorn offered himself up and I was thrilled.
“In the first conversation I had with him about the guitars, it was a pretty emotional conversation as I learned that one of the best memories he has of his dad is of when they would work on guitars together and my music was playing in the background,” he continued. “It’s this personal connection to music that really bonded us and I quickly knew Ron was the perfect one to build these initial guitars.
“I’ve had a bunch of Strats in my day and the first two guitars he built for me were incredible.”
Johnny A. added, “I had a lot of discussions about pickups to match my tone and style. I was really able to go in and sculpt and dial in the specs for these guitars. I’m hoping that when the guitars are released to the public, it's the specs people enjoy.”
The Lydian Gold Metallic Strat is available for $5,200, while the Sunset Glow Metallic will cost $5,450.
The guitar, which is made to order by builders in the Fender Custom Shop, is yet to be posted on the Fender Custom Shop website, but keep your eyes peeled there to check it out when it is.