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Has Anyone Played an Objectively Bad Pre-cbs Strat?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by Silverman, Aug 18, 2019.

  1. Silverman

    Silverman Strat-Talker

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    I know that those things are considered to be the Holy Grail of Stratendom, but the fact that it was pre-automation/CNC and that Fenders were envisioned as a "working man's" alternative to the more expensive competitors of their day suggests that the quality must have been all over the place. My understanding is that they were built by nearly unskilled workers, not passionate luthiers. Was this group of laborers really able to unwittingly craft consistently stellar examples that would become the ostensibly de facto bench mark of excellence?

    I have never held one myself, so I have no way of knowing. The best I can do is press random strangers for anecdotes. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
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  2. Ferpie

    Ferpie Strat-O-Master

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    I would argue that a 10 years old could assemble a Stratocaster from scratch with minor supervision...

    I think back then they had better materials better electronics better woods that would make them hard to repro nowadays without added costs.

    That’s what you get when you buy vintage, some great woods, brazilian rosewood fretboard, good pots, nearly unique pickups (handwound) good wirings, nitro finish that weathered over time, history.

    You could get all that in a custom shop except the last one. Depends how you feel about it.

    So yeah, grabbing a pre CBS in this Custom Shop era will likely make you go WOW. But 30 years ago most of those features were considered obsolete... that’s all perspective really...
     
  3. LOSTVENTURE

    LOSTVENTURE Strat-O-Master

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    I can't say that they don't exist, but the two I own, and the many I've played over 60+ years, have all been good examples of why people crave them. Those "nearly unskilled workers" were apparently skilled enough to generate models the quality of which I wish was more consistant today. Not that you can't find great Strats from any generation. I've never had a problem with Fender's general QC, and my current collection is a perfect example.
     
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  4. DeMelo

    DeMelo Strat-Talker

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    I myself never did come across a pre-CBS lemon, but I do have friends who state they have.

    They are older (I’m in my 40s) and they say that like in all eras, there were good and bad guitars, though back then the materials were indeed pretty good and the work mostly done by hand, which made the QC considerably better.
     
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  5. hexnut

    hexnut Strat-Talker

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    I started playing in a band in the early 60s. I owned a few of them including a 59 strat and played several more. I never played a bad one. And that 59 is the best playing strat I have had to date.
     
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  6. Silverman

    Silverman Strat-Talker

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    fair enough. I didn't mean to characterize the fender workers unfairly, but provide context for my skepticism.

    Perhaps there is a more nuanced explanation. Like maybe the real lemons were not as cherished as the vintage examples making the rounds at present, and they were treated poorly, lost, or treated carelessly enough that they simply didn't survive into the modern day.

    When I was in middle school, my best friend had a peavey predator. These are considered pretty damned good guitars today, but he got it into his head somewhere that it wasn't nearly as good as a fender, and decided it'd be cool to smash it to bits like Kurt Cobain used to. A shame, and ugly - I know.

    My point is that perhaps there are extraneous variables that could account for the remaining examples being of such high quality.

    My intent is not to slander the vintage enthusiast as a mark or anything like that, nor am I trying to "big up" fender's current offerings by throwing cold water on the past.. I accept that my skepticism could be unwarranted, and I hope no one takes offense at my hypothesizing.
    Thanks for the feedback.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
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  7. fezz parka

    fezz parka Making a record.... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    To answer the title question: yes.

    My 65 Strat is a good guitar.
    My 83 JV Squier is a great guitar.


    A 59 Les Paul Standard in 1959 was around 250.00. The case put it around 300
    A 59 Strat was 275.00.
     
  8. dirocyn

    dirocyn Senior Stratmaster

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    I would agree, Strats are simple enough to assemble. When I was 10 I was assembling string trimmers at my dad's lawn mower shop; I could do 2 in an hour. I didn't learn to solder until I was 15, not because it's difficult or dangerous but because I didn't have a reason to. 10-year-olds could handle installing bridges and tuners and pickups and pots etc., although they probably couldn't handle working more than an hour or two at a time--and they need to be in school, learning things like arithmetic and social studies.

    The guys Leo employed were cabinet carpenters and they were paid a factory worker's wage. Not luthier/artisan wages. There probably aren't too many 10-year-olds with the strength and steadiness to handle the lathe and templates or the bandsaw or spraygun; plus when kids get tired they get clumsy. There are definitely parts of the job that would not be appropriate for kids--although most of those parts are now done by a CNC lathe.

    Back in the 50s air-dried lumber was cheaper than kiln dried so air dried is what Fender used. And a larger portion of the trees in the lumber mills were old growth. Brazillian rosewood was still around, and not illegal to use in an instrument. There's a little bit of difference in the wood--and it's aged another 70 years which probably also doesn't really make a difference.

    The electronics available back then were made to looser tolerances. They weren't better. Nothing about a 250k pot with a +/- 20% tolerance is better than a 250k pot with a +/- 10% tolerance. Nothing about a pickup that's hand wound somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 turns is better than a pickup that's wound to a specific number of turns, except maybe by accident. Is it better if you accidentally put 273 fewer winds on a pickup, or 500 more winds? Maybe it sounds different, maybe different in a way some particular musician is able to use well.
     
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  9. Ferpie

    Ferpie Strat-O-Master

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    All those looseness in a high quality instrument tho is what gives it personality, why you grab one and go this is the smoothest strat i ever heard, this is the most IN YOUR FACE I ever played or this one got the glassy sound or OMG this one got the 4th position of heaven! PERSONALITY.

    Nowadays you get the same guitar as anyone else. I bet that would have been a crazy blind guess to buy online and get it delivered home back in 61
     
  10. Sarnodude

    Sarnodude Senior Stratmaster

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    Many people say that there were good ones and bad ones made back then.
    Fender makes excellent products right now, and unless the vintage ones are guaranteed to appreciate in value, I will not buy one, regardless of how good it is. Risky investment IMHO.
     
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  11. DeMelo

    DeMelo Strat-Talker

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    Pricing aside, I’ve never read anything like “Fenders were envisioned as a "working man's" alternative to the more expensive competitors of their day” before.

    Quite the opposite, Leo made functional, easily repairable great guitars, not meaning to be a maker of budget items.

    On the contrary, the Strat was a guitar that held its ground so well that Gibson tried to change the Les Paul in order to compete, thence the SG.

    I don’t think the price was ever a factor back then.
     
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  12. tim gueguen

    tim gueguen Strat-Talker

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    The objectively bad ones were presumably either fixed or trashed a long time ago. Of course it is possible that someone is playing one that everyone else but them would think is awful. Canadian singer/guitarist Art Bergmann apparently had one like that, which as I remember was stolen years ago. His friend Bob Armstrong wrote about it in the liner notes to a 1995 compilation of the band Young Canadians:


    Like some old delta bluesman who created a new style because his Sears & Roebuck instrument was impossible to play “correctly”, Art’s ‘61 Strat had much to do with the sounds he came up with. Purchased from his older brother by dint of a summer’s worth of newspaper delivery and lawn work, it looked to be, and was, largely unplayable. Certainly no-one else could play it. When in tune, and in this case that was an almost laughable term, chords that contained many of the proper notes in one position on the neck were found to contain none at all in a different spot. Art quite casually invented new chord fingerings to accommodate the pitch and these new voicings, combined with a much-abused Ampeg head and massive Kelly-Deyong speaker-bottom, created strange and wonderful overtones, which only encouraged him to create even more arcane structures.
     
  13. fezz parka

    fezz parka Making a record.... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    He was the Henry Ford of musical instrument manufacturers. Quality instruments using Ford's assembly line.
     
  14. DeMelo

    DeMelo Strat-Talker

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    Perfectly said
     
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  15. Rufustelestrat

    Rufustelestrat Senior Stratmaster

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    It is not so much that they are bad but less than others of the same era. Perhaps bad is too strong a phrase. I think that flawed or poorly modified. In fact the ones I have played that were less than wow this is a great guitar were perhaps set up or care issues. I know when I get a new guitar I want it set up my way. When I touch or are offered the opportunity to play and handle a 40-50 or even 60 year old vintage guitar, I am more reverent and careful about my play, making sure I do not scratch it with my pick, belt or shirt, and otherwise treat it like what it is, a survivor and treasure. My guitars, or more modern ones I possess I do not and do immediately adjust them even if trying them out to suit my preferences. SO perhaps in a long way I am saying they are not bad, just misunderstood.
     
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  16. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985 Strat-Talk Supporter

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  17. vid1900

    vid1900 Most Honored Senior Member

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    The great guitars survived because people played them, and maintained them.

    The poorer examples got put in the basement or garage and ended up getting damp and thrown out.

    The great songs of yesterday are still played on the radio, the duds have long been forgotten; thus the old chestnut "Back then they knew how to write great songs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
     
  18. Neil.C

    Neil.C Most Honored Senior Member

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    Any pre-CBS Strat you play nowadays will of course have been fettled many times over its life.

    It may not have felt/played the same to the original purchaser.
     
  19. Will Lefeurve

    Will Lefeurve Senior Stratmaster

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    The consistency and quality of Fender products today is way further on than those of yesteryear. The majority of the looking back is a rose coloured romantic one, which has no real basis, and doesn't stand up to examination in any sort of practical engineering/manufacturing sense.

    Still.. romance obviously sells guitars.. hence reissues.. :whistling::D
     
  20. dueducs

    dueducs Senior Stratmaster

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    My opinion (take it for what it's worth to you)...
    Short of a warped neck or other physical damage, about the only thing that could make a Strat "bad", is a bad setup.
    So when people say they've played bad Strats, I think they actually mean they've played a Strat that was not setup to their liking.
     
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