Undoubtedly one of the most recorded guitarists of all time, Michael Landau is a Los Angeles legend.
A true session ace, Landau has appeared on records from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Pink Floyd and Miles Davis.
But Landau’s solo career is just as prolific, as he continues to raise the bar in electric jazz, instrumental and rock by fronting several bands including the Raging Honkies, Burning Water and, most recently, Renegade Creation with the great Robben Ford.
Throughout his illustrious career, one of Landau’s constant companions and creative muses has been his “Coma” Stratocaster.
Landau first came across this 1959 model as a vintage guitar shop in Hollywood when he was only 16 years old. At that point, it already had the stripped-down Dakota Red finish giving the alder body a unique look and the pickups definitely weren’t stock.
These early modifications opened even more doors of experimentation.
“I instantly had a good feeling about the guitar when I brought it home,” Landau recalled. “Since it had already been modified, I felt it was alright to modify it even more. I certainly did so many times over the years — different pickups, bridges and even necks. Really the only thing that stayed constant over the years was that resonant ’59 body.”
This Strat wasn’t always named Coma. As Landau explains, he originally got it at a time when singular names like Bono, Sting and Madonna ruled the airwaves. What if he adopted the moniker of Coma for himself?
Well, that didn’t necessarily stick, but it did on the guitar. Once he officially bestowed the name — writing it in permanent marker on the upper horn — this Strat became even more of an extension of his musical persona.
Landau put an even more permanent mark on the Strat in the early 1980s. Before going on tour with Mitchell, he brought two Strats, including Coma, to the great Floyd Rose, to fashion a cutout to accommodate one of Rose’s revolutionary tremolo systems.
“With the cutout, it has a resonant sound akin to a Thinline guitar,” said Landau. “The sound, the weight and the body contours of that ’59 Strat fit me like a glove. That guitar's always been home to me.”
Today, the Fender Custom Shop is paying tribute to Coma with a new limited-edition model that has all the character imparted by Landau’s decades of tinkering.
Its current iteration features custom-voiced Gen 4 Noiseless™ neck and middle Stratocaster pickups and a Wide Range CuNiFe humbucking bridge pickup, a ’60s Oval “C”-shaped maple neck with round-lam rosewood fingerboard and vintage-style hardware.
And not only does that relic’d Dakota Red finish make it instantly recognizable, Landau is hand-drawing Coma on each model, with tattered stickers included in the case for everyone to personalize them further.
And it’s impossible to miss the tattered stickers, hand-drawn artwork and that relic’d Dakota Red finish that make it instantly recognizable.
Handcrafted by Custom Shop Master Builder Todd Krause in Corona, Calif., these Stratocaster models sound and feel just like the one Landau continues to play today.
“This latest incarnation of the Coma guitar has lasted a few years now,” said Landau. “In many respects, it’s come full circle back to the way it was in the ’80s, but with some modern updates. I’ve used this version on many recordings and many live shows.
“These new guitars will take on a soul of their own. Guitars are magical that way.”
For more information on the Limited Edition Michael Landau ‘Coma’ Stratocaster, click here.
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