Guitars That Got Away

2004 Fender Stratocaster 50th Anniversary

A celebration of the 1954 Fender Stratocaster

Masterbuilt Perfection

When I heard about the 2004 Fender Stratocaster 50th Anniversary that Fender had planned, I knew I wanted one for the simple reason of regretting letting go of my original 1956 Stratocaster years earlier. Trouble was, they were rather costly here in Australia, so I headed online to try and find one in the USA.

I eventually did find two available at Makin’ Music, and I chose the one with what I considered to be the best grain in the body. Most of the guitars I had seen had a rather large curl near the arm rest, this guitar however seemed to be the same grain all over, and that was my preference.

This particular guitar was Masterbuilt by Greg Fessler, and unlike a number of guitars I have seen coming out of his workshop of late, this guitar was absolute perfection. Every detail was accurate to a 1954 Stratocaster, right down to the short skirt volume and tone knobs, and the serial number being stamped on the spring cover on the back of the guitar.

Serial Number: 4911

Neck Date: Unknown

Body Date: Unknown

The guitar was very lightly relic’d, and when I say lightly, I mean lightly. No scratches or dents, just some very light cracks in the body finish, as would naturally happen with a guitar kept under a bed for 50 years. The hardware had been treated to some light relicing with a natural looking patina.

Some of the big differences between the 1954 Stratocaster and even the 1956 Stratocaster let alone modern Strats, are not insignificant. For starters, the V shaped neck has far more rounding on the edges, both along the fretboard as well as the headstock. For this reason, it makes this guitar extremely comfortable in the hand, which begs the question, why did they stop rounding the edges so much? My gut feeling is one of economics, as it takes more time to round the edges so much.

Other major differences are the short skirted volume and tone knobs. If you compare the knobs on this guitar with later Stratocasters you will see the difference as it is very obvious. The knobs, like the pickup covers, were not made of plastic either, they used Bakelite which was very short lived as it does not wear very well at all. The string tree on these early Stratocasters was round, unlike later guitars and finally, the scratch plate is a single layer of white plastic.

The guitar shipped with two cases, a standard Brown Tollex ‘square’ case that most Custom Shop guitars come with, and the form fitted case shown above that all Fenders shipped with in the very early 1950s. This 2004 Fender Stratocaster 50th Anniversary was, without a doubt, the finest ‘new’ guitar I have ever seen come out of the Fender factory. It was a perfect replica of the original 1954 Stratocaster it celebrates, with the perfect amount of aging to fool anyone into believing this was an original 1954 guitar, if it weren’t for the Greg Fessler decal on the rear of the headstock. So, why did I sell it? For that, I have no answer…