My Fender Stratocaster Ultra electric guitar, built during the second half of 1992, has been a part of my “guitar arsenal” since March 1993, and I bought it in my former hometown Gothenburg.
My Ultra was my main guitar in the nineties, until I bought my Tom Anderson Hollow-T (read that blog here) in January 2000. After that, I only used it occasionally for whammy bar stuff in my studio. I didn’t bring it to a regular gig again until 2009, when I did a contract as an electric guitarist in the orchestra on a cruise ship.
I really love this guitar, although it doesn’t sound as much “Fender” as my Hollow-T. However, my Fender Stratocaster Ultra does have its own unique sound that I love more and more as time goes by—especially when using the neck pickup (The Blue Fender-Lace Sensor pickup). How I ended up with this guitar has its own little story that I’m going to tell you now.
After several years of struggling without any money, and only playing on replica or imitation guitars such as Squire, Epiphone etc., at the end of 1992, I suddenly found myself with a lot of well-paid gigs, such as my composer-on-demand-contracts and a gig at The Gothenburg City Theatre. For the first time in my life, I found myself with a great deal of money even at the end of the month. 🙂 With this new situation, I pretty soon came up with the idea that I wanted a Fender Stratocaster from 1963 (my year of birth), and that I also wanted to go to New York and listen to jazz (two long lasting dreams of mine).
I started to look around for old Fender guitars in Gothenburg, and pretty soon I found a sunburst Fender Stratocaster 1963 in a music store called “Bengans Audio & Music” (it doesn’t exist anymore). Bingo, I thought! While I was trying out this wonderful guitar in the store, I asked the salesman if all the parts on the guitar were original, something very important for vintage guitars. “Of course!”, he answered. But after realising that the guitar had a 5-way switch, a kind of switch that didn’t appear until 1968, I tried to bargain over the price since the guitar actually wasn’t 100 % original. The salesman rejected my suggestion to reduce the price with 50 %, so I handed the guitar back to him, said thank you and left the store.
On my way from the store, I also realised that there had been a lot of noise and humming from the old pickups on the guitar. This I would have been forced to accept since it’s a deadly sin to replace original parts on vintage guitars. It also occurred to me that using an old guitar with noisy pickups in a studio might not be very wise. Then and there, I decided to look for an up to date Fender Stratocaster with modern pickups.
I went to two other music stores, Waidele (it doesn’t exist anymore) and MUG, and tried a lot of the then new Fender Stratocaster Strat Plus guitars. This model was equipped with a new kind of pickup (Fender-Lace Sensor) that reduced the noise and humming immensely. I must have spent three or four weeks trying several Strat Plus-guitars at these two stores. Finally, I ended up with two guitars that felt good. The problem was that I preferred the body on the first guitar and the neck on the second one. After having whined about this to the salesman at MUG, he said: “ok, let’s switch the necks on these guitars and hope you’ll get happy then”.
When I came back to the store and tried the “new” guitar with the “new” neck it was better. However, I wasn’t one hundred percent satisfied and happy … and the salesman wasn’t happy either. (I can understand him and I still feel a little bit ashamed for being troublesome.) Anyway, after a couple of weeks, the very same salesman called me and said that he got another Fender Stratocaster—some kind of luxury model. When I saw this guitar for the first time, I didn’t like the look of it. Firstly, the dual single coil pickup at the bridge position wasn’t to my liking. Secondly, I really hated the look of the roller nut by the head. However, the guitar was absolutely wonderful in my hands and it sounded great, plugged as well as unplugged.
When I tried to bargain over the price, the salesman told me that it was a luxurious guitar with an ebony fretboard and shell dot inlays, and that’s why it was more expensive than the other Stratocasters. I told him that I could pay for the ebony fretboard but not for shell dot inlays (what a meaningless and vain hotchpotch). The salesman reduced the price with about 10 % and the guitar was mine. 🙂 I think I paid around 1,700 USD for my Fender Stratocaster Ultra.
Pretty soon, after purchasing my Ultra, I changed the middle pickup from a Silver Lace Sensor to a Gold Lace Sensor. The silver pickup has too much of a harsh and upper mid timbre for my taste, and the gold one is more like the old vintage Fender from the 60’s (at least I got that little bit of vintage on my new guitar).
In 2007, I let my guitar repairman install a Graph Tech Ghost-system (midi converter) on both my Fender Stratocaster Ultra and Tom Anderson Hollow-T. It’s an absolutely fantastic and accurate system! Unfortunately, I no longer use midi on my guitar, but at least it’s there in case I want to. The repairman had to remove the original TBX tone controller when he installed the midi system, but it was no problem for me—I didn’t like that tone control anyway. Now I have a standard tone control for all three (four) pickups, and that’s better.
When, after almost five years of only acoustic solo guitar gigs, I started to play electric guitar again, in 2016, I decided to use my Ultra instead of my main Hollow-T (very much due to the whammy bar). The funny thing is that I’ve now discovered other pickup combinations apart from the standard ones that I used to use, e.g. the bridge position (distortion solo), bridge and middle position (the famous Fender “egg-sound”) and the neck position (jazz sound à la Gibson Les Paul). Now, I really love to use my Blue Lace Sensor neck pickup for a thick bluesy distortion sound that reminds me of a Gibson Les Paul—but in a “fenderish” way—and not only for the jazz sound. Another distorted sound I’ve started to like, is the sound I get when putting the switch into the middle position. After having owned this guitar for almost 25 years, I’ve recently discovered that in this position both the neck pickup and the bridge pickups are on but not the middle one (!). This is a special feature for the Ultra model and I had no idea about that. 🙂
In 2016, when I did a cruise ship contract in Alaska, I also switched the Dual Red Lace Sensor bridge pickup for a Dual Gold one. So now my typical Fender “egg sound” is much better and more authentic. After all, I didn’t like the red pickup since it’s a kind of heavy metal high output pickup, and I don’t need that high output. If I want a lot of distortion I might as well bring up the distortion level on my pedals. However, the best thing of all is that I’m finally on good terms with the ugly roller nut. I don’t think it’s that ugly anymore. 🙂