Stevie Ray Vaughan playing his ‘Number One’ Stratocaster live in Dallas, Texas, 1986 © Joe Giron/Corbis/Corbis
Blues Week has quite the celebratory affair on MusicRadar. You can check out all of our incredible (and incredibly comprehensive) contentright here. Wrapping things up, we bring you a conversation with Rene Martinez, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar tech from 1985 until the beloved bluesman’s death in 1990.
When Stevie Ray Vaughan was looking for a guitar tech, he knew just the man: Rene Martinez. Martinez was an old acquaintance, a well-known luthier and repairman at Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas. Jimmie Vaughan was a customer, and eventually Stevie started dropping by the store.
Martinez, a classical and flamenco guitarist who got his start in the repair business painting cars and refinishing violins, was initially hesitant about going on the road with Vaughan. And the way that the guitarist treated some of his instruments on stage – slamming them against walls, dragging them across the floor by the tremolo arm, standing on top of them – might have played into his reticence.
But Martinez was charmed by Vaughan, dazzled by his talent and won over by his persistence – Stevie kept calling until Rene said yes. It wasn’t always an easy gig, though: Vaughan didn’t bring an arsenal of axes on the road; in fact, he toured with a prized but small selection of Fender Stratocasters that included the famed ‘Number One,’ its sidekick called ‘Lenny,’ another called ‘Butter,’ one called ‘Red,’ and a Frankenstein model called ‘Charley.’ (The latter wasn’t a true Stratocaster; it was assembled from spare parts by Charley Wirz, owner of Charley’s Guitar Shop.) Which meant that the touring life for Martinez was one in which he was “always in repair mode” at every show.
In the following interview, Rene Martinez recalls working with Stevie Ray Vaughan, detailing the specifics of the Number One guitar and Vaughan’s live rig and speaks eloquently about the legendary bluesman he came to think of as a friend as well as a boss.
What was the first guitar Stevie brought in to you, the Number One Strat?
“Yes, indeed. It was the Number One Fender Stratocaster. The action on it was pretty high. The guitar was pretty beat up, even then, showing a lot of wear and tear. He had had somebody install a left-handed tremolo system, even though he was a right-handed player.”
Because he wanted to emulate Jimi Hendrix?
“I would imagine that was the case. I never really asked him. But that’s what he had done. Maybe he liked the way it moved.”
Now, Number One was a ’62 Strat, but Stevie was fond of calling it a 1959 model.
“That’s right. The reason why he called it a ’59 was because of some wiring in it – the back of the pickups said ‘1959.’ So the pickups were a ’59, but the body of the guitar was a ’62. My attitude was, ‘Hey, it’s your guitar, you can call it whatever you want.'” [laughs]