Vaughan owned and used a variety of guitars during his career. His guitar of choice, and the instrument that he became most associated with, was the Fender Stratocaster, his favorite being a 1963 body with a 1962 neck. Acquired in 1974, this guitar was bought by Stevie Ray’s wife Lenora “Lenny” Bailey who asked her friends to help her financially. The owner of Ray Henning’s Heart of Texas music shop in Austin, Texas decided to give it to Lenora as a gift for her husband’s birthday. Vaughan referred to this instrument as his “first wife”; his fans refer to it as “SRV’s #1”.
He started using a borrowed Stratocaster during high school and used Stratocasters predominantly in his live performances and recordings, although he did play other guitars, including custom guitars built for him by James Hamilton of Hamiltone Guitars Vaughan bought many Stratocasters and gave some away as gifts. A sunburst Diplomat Strat-style guitar was purchased by Vaughan and given to his girlfriend Janna Lapidus to learn to play on.Vaughan used heavy strings starting with .013’s, tuned a half-step below standard tuning. He played with so much tension that it was not uncommon for him to separate his fingernail from the quick. The owner of an Austin club recalled Stevie coming into the office between sets to borrow some super glue, which he used to keep fingernail split from widening while he continued to play.
He preferred a guitar neck with an asymmetrical profile (thicker at the top) which was more comfortable for his thumb-over style of playing. Heavy use of the vibrato bar necessitated frequent replacements; Vaughan often had his roadie, Byron Barr, obtain custom stainless steel bars made by Barr’s father.Vaughan was also photographed playing a National Duolian, Epiphone Riviera, Gibson Flying V, as well as several other models. Vaughan used a Gibson Johnny Smith to record “Stang’s Swang”, and a Guild 12-string acoustic for his performance on MTV Unplugged in January 1990.On June 24, 2004, one of Vaughan’s Stratocasters, dubbed “Lenny”, was sold at an auction to benefit Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua; the instrument was bought by Guitar Center for $623,500