1982 Ritchie Blackmore’s Backup Fender Strat, Deep Purple Reunion 1984, Built by Dan Smith & John Paige, Modified by John “Dawk” Stillwell.
in April 1984 the original members of Deep Purple (Mk II) came together for discussions regarding a potential reunion tour, less than one month later the band was in full rehearsal in Vermont, this Fender Strat SN E203852 was present for those rehearsals & was subsequently taken & played on the reunion tour.
TWO YEARS PRIOR
Custom built by Dan Smith & John Paige in 1982 built for Ritchie Blackmore, The guitar is a very interesting instrument in the history of Fender & of the development of the Fender Strat. Back in 1982 Dan Smith was attempting to turn Fender away from the excesses & lack of quality in production of the CBS era back to the original 1960s ideas & style that Leo Fender first envisioned, (little did they know that they only had 2 years left before Fender would cease production completely), some of the changes Dan made are all featured on this guitar & they remain more or less constant in all of the guitars since reintroduction of the line in 1985/6,
1. Small headstock
2. 4-bolt neck
3. Truss rod adjustment moved from the 1970s “bullet at the headstock” end to the cross head bolt at the neck pocket end
Dan Smith initiated all of these changes in 1982, the serial number of Ritchies guitar is E2 (1982), it’s worth noting that Dan’s early 1957 & 1962 reissues from 1982/3 are now commanding $9000 + on the open market, Ritchies guitar would is based on a 1962 as it has the rosewood fingerboard, the ’57 reissue featured a maple fingerboard.
The guitar was used on the 1984 Deep Purple reunion, it was Ritchi’s back up guitar ,his number 1 looks exactly the same but pre-dates this one by a few years,There are many images online where you can clearly see the bullet truss rod adjustment & large headstock of the 1970s production models, other than these details the two are very hard to tell apart, Ritchie had Fender custom build #2 as a support guitar, Fender did so but utilized the return to the 1960s build details as per Dan Smith’s in house makeover.
Dan wrote Ritchies name on the end of the neck where the truss rod adjustment is, Dan also managed to misspell Ritchie’s name!
Once the guitar was completed by the team at Fender it wasn’t simply a matter of shipping the guitar to Ritchie Blackmore, not by a long stretch, the guitar was shipped to John “Dawk” Stillwell, Ritchie Blackmores long standing guitar tech ( RIP Dawk)
the strat was customized & maintained from day one Dawk, there is a running narrative taken from Dawks forum where he discusses the guitar in detail, the modifications that Dawk undertook were often repeated on many of Ritchie’s Fender Strats.
1. Internal radar paint
2. Internal Dawk built booster
3. Scalloped fingerboard
4. Change white bone nut to black graphtech
5. Change the white control knobs to black to match strat #1 ( there is a photo of Ritchie with the guitar pre parts change, so white knobs, white nut but crucially, no Bullet truss rod & does have a small headstock
#4 & 5 were purely cosmetic to render guitar #2 to be visually as close as possible to guitar #1.
Ritchie ended up gifting the guitar to Dawk & Dawk subsequently sold it, right now the guitar is completely unchanged from when Ritchie owned it, it still lives in the original Fender hardshell case with various Deep Purple backstage passes, Dawk also photographed the guitar internally & externally & these records survive to this day & are still with the guitar.
Look out for another blog post shortly which will recount the story of our hand delivery of Ritchie Blackmore’s long forgotten but crucially important 1961 Gibson ES335 to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame to be the main Deep Purple exhibit following the bands induction in 2016. The Gibson ES335 is the guitar that Ritchie recorded many legendary solos with including 1970’s “Child in Time”