WAS YNGWIE FIRST?

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I am a long-stand­ing reader of Gui­tarist mag­a­zine for 30 years. I was con­cerned when I read the Fender: Le­gends Of Tone bookazine by Gui­tarist, which named Eric Clap­ton as the first per­son to be as­so­ci­ated with a Fender sig­na­ture gui­tar on p45.

I am well aware that Fender had also ap­proached Yngwie J Malm­steen to dis­cuss pro­duc­ing his sig­na­ture gui­tar model made to unique per­sonal spec­i­fi­ca­tions such as a scal­loped neck, brass nut and DiMarzio HS3 pick­ups. Both Eric Clap­ton and Yngwie Malm­steen gui­tars were launched in the late 80s. How­ever, from what I have read and heard, in­clud­ing in­ter­views with Mr Malm­steen, his was the very first of­fi­cial sig­na­ture gui­tar be­fore Eric Clap­ton.

While I am a fan of both gui­tarists, I ac­tu­ally pur­chased one of the orig­i­nal Malm­steen mod­els from that early pe­riod. It seems Eric Clap­ton al­ways seems to be cred­ited with the first Fender sig­na­ture gui­tar series. This may be through lack of aware­ness, or bet­ter pro­mo­tion by Clap­ton’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the press. It is al­ways Eric Clap­ton that seems to gather the ac­claim, and while he may be Bri­tish and Yngwie Malm­steen Swedish, readers need to know ex­actly the true facts and have both gui­tarists la­belled on p45 if nec­es­sary. Yngwie, due to his unique tal­ent com­bin­ing clas­si­cal with rock/metal, speed with emo­tion, has forged a huge global fol­low­ing and is recog­nised as one of the top sell­ers of the sig­na­ture model.

Could you clar­ify ac­tu­ally which sig­na­ture gui­tar came first to me and your readers? Nathan Burns, via email Gear re­views edi­tor Dave Bur­rluck replies: “From the in­for­ma­tion we have to hand (AR Du­chos­soir’s The Fender Stra­to­caster ), the Eric Clap­ton sig­na­ture was tech­ni­cally the first sig­na­ture to be pro­duced by Fender be­gin­ning in the spring of 1988. The Malm­steen fol­lowed that sum­mer. Both gui­tars were listed on Fender’s June 1987 price list at the same price: $1,199 (in­clud­ing case).

“It would seem that the idea for the Eric Clap­ton dates back to Clap­ton’s ‘Be­hind The Sun’ tour in 1985,” Dave con­tin­ues, “when the gui­tarist re­alised that the neck of his beloved Blackie was worn out and couldn’t take an­other re­fret. Fender’s Dan Smith be­gan work­ing with Clap­ton from then on. The con­tract was even­tu­ally signed be­tween both par­ties on 7 May 1987.

“In early ’86 Dan Smith met with Malm­steen and his man­ager to dis­cuss a sig­na­ture model, although – and this is per­haps the grey area – he signed up with Fender be­fore Clap­ton on 15 Jan­uary 1987. But, you’re right, Clap­ton does seem to get the ‘first sig­na­ture Fender artist’ ac­co­lade when, in fact, both gui­tars were listed si­mul­ta­ne­ously and pro­duced, ini­tially, within weeks of each other. Hope that helps!”

We also asked Mike Lewis, vice pres­i­dent of Prod­uct Devel­op­ment at Fender, who pro­vided the of­fi­cial opin­ion on the mat­ter. He said: “My un­der­stand­ing is that the Malm­steen was the first to be de­vel­oped. But the Clap­ton was first to be re­leased.”

So it seems Clap­ton’s sig­na­ture was, by a nose, first to ac­tu­ally hit the mar­ket as a fin­ished prod­uct. There­fore, it’s at least strongly ar­guable the lau­rels for be­ing ‘first’ still go to EC, but in view of Mike’s com­ments, per­haps we should call it an hon­ourable draw?

Was Yngwie Malm­steen ac­tu­ally the first to re­ceive a sig­na­ture Strat, not Eric Clap­ton? We think we’ve solved the mys­tery…

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