The History of David Gilmour’s Famous Guitar, The #0001 Stratocaster

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    The History of David Gilmour’s Famous Guitar, The #0001 Stratocaster
    Published: February 19, 2021

    Gilmour with #0001 at the Stratocaster 50th Anniversary party in 2004

    One of the most interesting guitars in the already-interesting category of famous rock guitars is the #0001 Stratocaster once owned by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. The guitar is called the #0001 Stratocaster because it’s printed with the serial number 0001, which led many to assume that this was the first Stratocasters that Fender ever made. It was for sure built in 1954, making it one of the first Stratocasters, but in fact the first Strat ever built is printed with the serial 0100 and is currently owned by George Gruhn, vintage guitar aficionado and owner of Gruhn’s Guitars in Nashville.

    Before we go any further down this #0001 Strat rabbit hole, let’s start with the easy stuff: David Gilmour’s own personal history with the guitar. He bought the instrument in the late 70s from his guitar tech, Phil Taylor. Phil had bought the guitar a few years prior from the famous guitarist and luthier, Seymour Duncan. Strangely, Phil purchased the guitar from Duncan for $900 but sold it to Gilmour for $600. However, Gilmour was lending some money to the guitar tech so he could buy a house, so the price of the guitar was negligible at the time. Gilmour explains in a 1986 interview with Guitarist Magazine:

    “Eventually Phil wanted to borrow some money to buy a house, so I blackmailed him! I said the only way I’d lend him the money to buy the house, was if he sold me the white Strat…”

    Gilmour rarely played the #0001 Stratocaster live because of the fact that it was such a valuable instrument, being one of the first Strats and all. The first time he was spotted with the #0001 Stratocaster was in 1978, during the recording sessions for his self-titled solo album. Some sources say that Gilmour played the #0001 for the live promo clips filmed in 1978, but if you check out said footage below it’s clear he’s playing his more famous go-to, The Black Stratocaster. If you look closely, however, Either way, the video is also pretty sweet and worth watching for any fans of that record:

    It was then played on Pink Floyd’s classic 1979 album The Wall, and famously for the guitar part on “Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2”. Apparently he achieved that tone by plugging the guitar directly into the mixing board. Note that he did not play #0001 for the solo but rather a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop.

    Gilmour also played the #0001 Strat on the Wing’s (Paul McCartney’s band) 1979 album Back to the Egg, notably on the song “So Glad To See You Here”, and the live video featuring David Gilmour and the Rockestra. He also broke it out in 1986 when he recorded the solo on Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough”, with a music video that features Gilmour playing the Strat. He then broke it out again, in 1991 while jamming at Abbey Road Studios with former Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff Baxter. Finally, Gilmour played the #0001 in 2004 at Fender’s Strat Pack concert, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stratocaster.

    In 2019, David Gilmour held an auction in NYC where he sold most of the guitars in his personal collection. The #0001 Strat went for a cool $1.875 million, as part of a total lot price tag of 21.5 million. The name of the #0001 buyer was not disclosed, but Indianaopolis Colts owner Jim Irsay picked up The Black Stratocaster and more for around 5 million. He also owns Jerry Garcia’s guitars, Wolf and Tiger.

    David Gilmour’s White Fender Stratocaster, serial number #0001

    And now the uncertain history of the #0001 Strat

    As if it weren’t confusing enough to keep track of the hands that this guitar passed through before reaching David Gilmour and Pink Floyd, there is also a convoluted history behind this instrument that suggests this guitar may be a Frankenstein of sorts, rather than a real-deal original 1954 Stratocaster.

    According to some early internet days hullaballoo on Seymour Duncan’s forum, way back in 2004, Gilmours #0001 Strat may very well be a combination of two separate guitars. The story goes that in 1976, just before Duncan started Seymour Duncan Pickups, he was working guitar repairs in a shop in Santa Barbara. A customer came in with a ’57 Strat that he wanted to have refinished, but the body was too damaged for the type of transparent finish that he wanted, so when sending it to Fender for refinishing they used a new body instead.

    Normally Fender would dispose of these damaged guitar bodies but in this case the body made its way back to Seymour and he reassembled the instrument with a refurbished neck. He apparently didn’t think much of the #0001 serial number because he believed that Fender didn’t do solid color finishes at the time, and so he didn’t think the guitar had any special value. He replaced the hardware with the signature gold hardware that makes the #0001 stand out, and then used it as a testing device for pickups that he was working on. Later he sold the guitar to Gilmour’s guitar tech and then Gilmour got his hands on it.

    So, much like the story that leads us here, the history of David Gilmour’s #0001 Stratocaster can be hard to follow. Whether or not it’s a genuine 1954 Stratocaster straight from the hands of Leo Fender himself, or some thrown-together semi-custom experiment is not so important when you consider the incredible recordings that the guitar was used for. Chalk it up to the unreliable nature of folk history and remember: “Leave those kids alone!”

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