There have been about a million variations on the classic Stratocaster theme since its 1954 introduction. Some of them have been less than obvious to the casual glance, like changes in neck construction methods and the move to 3 ply pickguards back in the early days. Others have been pretty over the top, like the old Ritchie Sambora signature model with a Floyd Rose bridge and star shaped inlays. The Deluxe Lone Star Stratocaster doesn’t try to be too drastically different from the classic Strat blueprint, so what is it that sets this one apart, and why has Fender decided to reissue the guitar only a few years after discontinuing it?
The chief difference with the Lone Star Strat is its choice of pickups, all of which have a distinctive Texas pedigree. The neck and middle pickups are Fender’s own Texas Special single coils. These pickups first surfaced on the original Stevie Ray Vaughan signature model in the early 90s. They’re wound hotter than the average single coil for thicker, fatter tone with a higher output for that down and dirty blues sound. They’re especially happy when kicking a cranked valve amp right where it counts. The bridge pickup is a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Plus model, which Seymour himself designed when Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top wanted a pickup to make any guitar sound like his beloved 1959 Gibson Les Paul, a guitar which Gibbons named …Pearly Gates. Electronics include tone controls for the bridge and neck pickups, and a 5-way pickup selector switch. Position 2 on the switch combines the full humbucker with the middle single coil. Some companies might split the humbucker into a single too for this setting, but the extra toughness of the full humbucker is in keeping with the Lone Star vibe.
Besides the pickups, appointments on this model include a brown shell pickguard, a vintage-tinted C-shaped maple neck with rosewood fretboard and 21 medium jumbo frets. The fretboard radius is a roundish 9.5”. With this type of radius, a very low string height can sometimes result in choked out notes when bending, but careful maintenance of a good setup can avoid this. The factory setup has the strings at a nice medium height, great for digging in hard for gutsy, tough blues, and for really grabbing the strings for big soulful bends.
The Lone Star Strat has a vintage style synchronized tremolo bridge, and although this is in no way a Stevie Ray Vaughan signature model, it does make me reflect on how SRV never made the switch to guitars with a two-point knife edge tremolo, so it in the spirit of Texas blues it makes sense to see the old six-screw version represented here. The body is alder, a common wood for Stratocasters, with a nice balance of frequencies.
The Pearly Gates humbucker sounds killer on a Strat. The upper midrange response makes this a great axe for those who want a Satriani style tone but don’t want to play a high tech Ibanez to get it, and when driving a dirty, overdriven amp the sound opens up beautifully. The pickup responds especially well to Jeff Beck-style finger picking, and it tracks very well for fast playing.
The Texas Specials have that up-front, punchy sound associated with SRV: tight bass, immediate impact, and open treble. There is a wide range of tonal flexibility available by adjusting the guitar’s volume control, and without too much work you should be able to find a sweet spot with the volume at about 2/3 of the way up where the single coils sound more bell-like, before cranking it back to 10 for more fatness and grunt.
The Lone Star Stratocaster is for those who want a traditional Strat but need a bit more power and flexibility. It’s a Stratocaster for those who like their steak rare or, to partially quote Homer Simpson, people who like their beer cold and their TV loud.
Neck: Tinted maple
Fretboard: Rosewood, 21 medium jumbo frets, 9.5” radius.
Pickups: Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Plus (bridge), Fender Texas Special (neck, middle).
Extras: Deluxe padded gig bag.