A Glowing History: See the New George Harrison Custom Shop 'Rocky' Strat
With its dayglo paint job and key modifications, this guitar made musical history. Read how the Fender Custom Shop paid tribute to it here.
By Mike Duffy
There were many stunning Fender instruments on display at the 2020 NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif., but a luminous appearance of the great George Harrison's famed "Rocky" Stratocaster might have created the biggest buzz of the show.
One of music's most celebrated guitars, this Strat carries quite an austere history.
When the sessions for the Help! album got under way in early 1965, Harrison and John Lennon sent roadie Mal Evans out to get a Stratocaster for each of them, and Evans soon returned with a matching pair of them in striking Sonic Blue.
Harrison’s guitar, serial number 83840, still bore a decal from a music store where it was purchased at one point – “Grimwoods; The music people; Maidstone and Whitstable”. Thus, Help! marks the first appearance of a Stratocaster in the band’s music.
In 1967, sometime between the end of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions and the June 25 live worldwide telecast of “All You Need is Love”, Harrison took up paint and brush himself to give his Stratocaster a multicolored psychedelic dayglo paint job. It also appeared prominently in the “I Am the Walrus” segment of 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour film.
The guitar remained a favorite of Harrison’s for the rest of the decade, and by December 1969, Harrison had painted “Bebopalula” on the upper body, “Go Cat Go” on the pickguard and “Rocky” — the guitar’s nickname — on the headstock.
To recreate this guitar, Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Paul Waller examined and measured the original in exacting detail — body, neck (with a rare asymmetrical “C” profile), pickups, wiring and everything else right down to Harrison’s famous D.I.Y. paint job. Even the “Grimwoods” decal remains in place on the back of the headstock.
With these features and more, it’s an amazing and meticulously crafted Custom Shop tribute to a truly magical guitar played and loved by one of rock’s greatest guitarists.
Stay tuned to get your own version of the Fender George Harrison "Rocky" Stratocaster, and visit the Fender Custom Shop to see even more amazing guitars and basses here.