May 13, 2013 in Historic Fenders

Historic Fenders: John Mayer’s Black1

“This guitar has the fourth position pickup from heaven.” – John Mayer

Black1You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but John Mayer’s Black1 Strat is one of the newer additions to the ever growing list of Historic Fender Guitars. After coming into some downtime after his Heavier Things World Tour, Mayer began contemplating building his own custom Stratocaster from the ground up. He called the Fender Custom Shop and they invited him down. The rest has become music history.

Mayer said he came up with the idea for the guitar while playing Fender’s Stevie Ray Vaughan Tribute Stratocaster, which is a distressed, relic style Strat. Mayer said that he fell in love with the way the guitar felt while he played it and became fascinated with the idea of a guitar without paint or lacquer. However, he was also concerned that a guitar with no paint at all would be too “rustic” for his taste. This is why he decided to go with the vintage, relic look.

It is interesting that the guitar, which is known for its incredibly cool vintage look, was only made to look that way in order to get the resonating feel that Mayer was looking for. In the video, Mayer explains that the idea was for the guitar to have “more negative space than positive space in terms of paint.” This is a unique twist on the reasons behind designing a relic guitar.

Here is a video of Mayer talking about the guitar with clips of him actually working on it:



Mayer points out that the guitar would not have been nearly as important to him if he simply went to Fender and told them what he wanted. He wanted to actually work on each aspect of the guitar. This hands on approach to building the Black1 probably explains why the guitar has remained so important to him. He was the one who hand selected the alder body. He actually sprayed the paint that was later distressed. He made the guitar, thus it became HIS guitar.

Towards the end of the interview, Mayer talks about how excited he was to open the case for the first time. It is comical now, but you can picture the frustration he must have felt when it didn’t play well the first time he plugged it in. He was so desperate for this guitar to be great that he actually stuck it in his freezer overnight hoping that something would fix it.

The problem turned out to be a ground issue that was easily fixed. After that, Mayer went on to write his Contimuum album, which won a Grammy Award, on this guitar. The Black1 has become famous for being John Mayer’s go-to guitar.

The guitar is made from an alder body. It has a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. The frets are medium-jumbo and it has vintage gold hardware with custom made single coil pickups that Mayer helped wind to his specifications. The clean white pickguard provides a cool contrast compared to the vintage body.

Due to the incredible popularity that Black1 has experienced, Fender released 83 Custom Shop replicas. These guitars pop up on eBay from time to time and tend to go for around $4500. Fender also released 500 Black1 replicas that are not distressed.

Here is a video of Mayer playing the Black1:

John Mayer’s Black1 is model is sold out of the Custom Shop for now. But here’s a similar CS 1963 Heavy Relic Black Strat that get close to that vibe for less:
Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition 1963 Heavy Relic Stratocaster Electric Guitar Black

Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition 1963 Heavy Relic Stratocaster Electric Guitar Black

And here is the John Mayer Artist Series Strat sold in Fender’s regular lineup:
Fender Artist Series John Mayer Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Fender Artist Series John Mayer Stratocaster Electric Guitar

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