The Rory Gallagher Tribute Stratocaster:

An Interview with John Cruz and Mike Eldred

Interview by Patrick Kennedy

Message from Richard McDonald, Vice President of Marketing, Fender Musical Instruments

rory4right.gifRory's music came along at a time when listeners were concerned whether the players really meant what they were playing. With Rory there was never any question about the conviction of his art. He wore his heart on his sleeve, even his battered Statocaster guitar was an open book, like a diary of the journey his music had taken him on.

As part of the 50th-anniversary planning we began to make a list of Stratocaster guitar players that mattered. Rory's name was always going to be on this list. With a voice that matched his explosive soulful playing and that guitar... we knew we needed to do a cool clone to pay tribute to this Irish blues-rock legend.

The Stratocaster didn't become an icon on its own. Its position is a result of the vast body of recorded music and live performances it has been a part of. Rory's war-torn axe personifies the blood, sweat and tears that go into defining yourself as a musical force. It's a huge honor to pay homage to one of the great guitarists that helped define the Fender Stratocaster as the guitar that is in it for the long haul.

Richard McDonald
Patrick: I know that you are aware that the 1
st Rory Gallagher Custom Shop Guitar which was especially built for Arbiter was a hit? Why do you think that was?
Mike Eldred: Rory’s guitar playing, songwriting, style, tone, image and appeal are overwhelming if you are into guitar on any level. People (guitarists) who saw or heard Rory could not help but be influenced by his style and the look of that Stratocaster® guitar!!!!!! I mean, it was like a worn-in pair of your favorite jeans! Battle Worn!

John Cruz: I think anyone who was lucky enough to get one of the Rory tribute guitars can feel and be a part of the magic of his playing style. There is definitely a certain mojo to the look and sound of this very special battle axe.

Patrick: Rory Fans are very excited that there will be an Official Fender Release of that Guitar? I know you are the one that created the prototype?
John Cruz:Yes, and believe me it was an honor to be a part of one of my hero’s projects. And knowing that there are other fans out there that will get to share the experience of Rory is very rewarding in itself.

Patrick: What was your reaction when you 1st saw Rory’s Guitar?
Mike: I picked it up from Donal at LAX, and he just handed it to me there in front of the terminal. It was frightening! Then I took it home, and just sat on my couch and played it for about an hour. It was an honor to be able to do that.
John: I personally got to plug it in and wail on it at the shop when most of the employees went home. It was a magical experience for me. This is about the time I developed my rendition of “The Loop”. The sound of the guitar floored me.

Patrick: What is the process you go through in examining and analyzing Rory’s guitar?
Mike: John English and myself took the guitar apart the next day and measured everything on it. Pickups, string gauges, neck dimensions, body weight, etc. Then, I made a copy of the neck shape, and John Cruz and myself worked on the body.

Patrick: What surprised you most about Rory’s Guitar?
Mike:The mis-matched tuners, the replaced 12th fret marker, and just the amount of wear and corrosion.
John: I think the amount of wood that was replaced under the pick guard from previous modifications was weird. Also the extra file marks on the back cover to accommodate the string holes on the back was very unusual.

Patrick: You got to play Rory’s Strat?…How did it feel to you?
Mike: Rory’s guitar was definitely Rory’s guitar! It was so worn-in and you could tell it was just part of him.
John: It was definitely a guitar that needed to be worked hard to get those singing notes out of.

Patrick:What was the most unusual thing about the guitar?
Mike: Inside it was pretty trashed. Replaced wood, bad wiring job, bits of rubber. It was a mess!
John: Yes indeed, it looked like world war 3 under there, but it was cool.

Patrick: By the way you recreated the Rory Strat I am assuming you are a huge fan?
Mike: John Cruz and myself fight over CD’s, DVD’s, Videos!! Everybody here at Fender® is!
John: Ya but I usually win because I’m bigger!

Patrick: Have you had the chance to meet Donal Gallagher or speak to him since you made it?
Mike: I talked to him briefly, after we gave him the first one. I told him all the mushy stuff like how much I loved his brother’s playing, and what a great influence he was, and what an honor it was to be part of this project. I probably made quite an Ass out of myself, because it’s all true!

Patrick:What was the biggest challenge in making the guitar?
For myself, trying to nail the prototype on the first run was quite the pip. You know; Long hours, no sleep, basically getting into the creative zone.

Patrick: How does the one you created play?
John: Like butter. There’s something about playing a guitar with little or no finish on the body that helps to project that special sound. And the feel of the neck was positively orgasmic.

John Cruz at work on the Strat

Patrick:What is the biggest thrill you get from creating something like this?

John: I think sharing the passion and artistic feel of this very special tribute guitar with our customers all over the world is an accomplishment in itself. Not to mention the nice articles and thank you letters that we get.

Patrick: How long did it take for you do create the original?
John: I did not really keep a timer next to me at the time, but I suppose it was around 10 to 15 hours.
Cruzsidebyside.gifRory's Strat on the left

Patrick: What preparation did you do to get ready to make the 1st Rory Guitar?
John: All my specialty Relic’ing tools, Files, Jackhammers, Chains, and LOTS of Coffee!

Patrick: How do you make something so different from any other guitar and recreate it over and over?
John: It takes a lot of patience, a good eye, and a certain amount of artistic chops and production skills to keep a consistent look to this project.

Patrick: Do you use a template in building a guitar like that?
John: There were some templates I created to get me in the ballpark of what needed to be done yes. But the majority of the labor was created by hand.

Patrick: How long does I take to build a Rory guitar now that you have all the specs?
John: Again it’s hard to nail an exact time when you’re re-creating something so special. Every guitar is a canvas waiting to be painted on, you really don’t want to rush the process, remember were trying to re-create 40 plus years of battle scars here.

The Fender Custom Shop
Rory Gallagher Tribute Stratocaster

Image credits
Top right:
Rory in action photograph taken by and courtesy of Patrick Kennedy

All other photos copywritten by

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and courtesy of FMIC.

Posted to RoryON!! with permission from and thanks to Patrick Kennedy

reformatted by roryfan
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