Fender treads the boards for latest Custom Shop reclaimed wood guitars
Following in the creative footsteps of the Old Growth Strat, the Front Row Legend Esquire and the 80 Proof Blues Junior, Fender has now used wood reclaimed from a famed Toronto nightclub for a pair of limited edition guitars by Custom Shop Master Builder Ron Thorn.
The original El Mocambo was opened on Spadina Avenue in Toronto in 1948 when it housed a dining hall on the main floor and a dance floor on the next floor up. The property changed hands a number of times before becoming a music venue in the early 70s. The Rolling Stones made a surprise appearance in 1977 as The Cockroaches, and attracted the gaze of the international press due to the wife of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau partying with the band.
Other notable performers at the venue include Tom Waits, U2, Joan Jett, Dream Theater, Jeff Healey, Blondie, Meat Loaf, Queens of the Stone Age, Al Di Meola and Elvis Costello. The list goes on. But personally, I will always associate this venue with an explosive performance captured on film by the legendary Texas guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
In late 2014, the club was renovated by new owner Michael Wekerle and the limited edition Custom Shop El Mocambo guitars have been built using wood from the rafters and floor joints removed during this work.
Toronto native and Custom Shop Master Builder Ron Thorn had reportedly considered adding a striking yellow/green finish to the instruments to mark the occasion, but thankfully decided against it.
"Once we got into the lumber and just how much character there was in it, it just seemed like a shame to cover that up," he said. "We don’t need any color, it’s just beautiful exactly how it is."
The El Mocambo Stratocaster and Telecaster each has a body fashioned from eastern white pine sourced from the club's renovation, and has been treated to a heavy relic finish. Each rocks a Canadian maple neck with a 1959-style D profile and 21 jumbo frets on an African blackwood fingerboard with gold-colored inlays, including a palm tree motif inspired by the famous nightclub's 22-ft (6.7-m) sign at the first fret.
Both instruments have also been treated to hand-wound Josefina Campos pickups with special wiring and switching – with the Strat sporting a Texas Special single coil at the bridge, a Vintage 65 in the middle and a 69 at the neck, while the Tele also gets a Texas Special at the bridge position but the neck slot is filled with a Twisted Tele.
Elsewhere, there's a Custom Shop Vintage tremolo bridge for the Strat and a 58-63 Tele bridge with Gatton saddles for the Tele, engraved neck plates for both, 3-ply black pickguards and vintage-style tuners.
"These are definite rock guitars," said Thorn. "They’re special guitars. And where the timber has been for the last 80 years, it just makes it a little extra special."
The El Mocambo Strat and Tele are available as a pair for US$25,000, and come with eye-popping green hard cases, a guitar strap, a DVD of Stevie Ray Vaughan's awesome 1983 show at the venue, some stickers and a certificate of authenticity. The video below has more.