Fender launches Eric Johnson ‘Virginia’ Stratocaster


“Virginia” Stratocaster® Honours Johnson’s Original 1954 Guitar Used to Record “Tones” and
“Ah Via Musicom”

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (February 11, 2020)—Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) today released the Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster guitar with the Grammy® award winning artist Eric Johnson. As part of this unique collaboration with the singer, songwriter and guitarist, Fender has recreated Johnson’s 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster in the Fender Custom Shop in limited quantity and on the Fender Corona production line for one year only. Available now at local musical instruments dealers worldwide and on Fender.com, the model is a reproduction of Johnson’s prized 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster with personal touches, celebrating his unique playing style and desire to inspire new musical journeys for guitar players everywhere. Johnson’s “Virginia” Stratocaster will be the first model in Fender’s all-new Stories Collection: a celebration of modified Fender guitars that shaped history’s most iconic music and the details that made them unique.

“Fender and I talked about doing a reissue of my ’54 “Virginia” for the Stories Collection and I wanted to try it in Sassafras, like my original,” said guitarist Eric Johnson. “When I got the prototype from Fender, it had the tone I had been looking for since my original guitar. It has a particular smooth sustained tone but as you turn it up, it has gain like a little violin.”

For the first time, Fender has replicated and released Eric Johnson’s beloved ’54 “Virginia” Stratocaster, the instrument he used to record the Tones record (1987 Grammy® nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance) and the Platinum Ah Via Musicom (1991 Grammy® for Best Rock Instrumental Performance) albums that made him a hero to music fans and guitarists alike. Built in Corona, Calif., these “Virginia” Stratocaster guitars combine extraordinary history and exceptional tone. The rare sassafras body, custom switching and special set-up will thrill players and collectors by showcasing the guitar’s unique silky tone and distinct fine grain appearance.  

Models include the Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster ($4,999) and Fender Custom Shop Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster ($14,999). In the same spirit as the production line version, the Fender Custom Shop masterbuilt “Virginia” will take on the same aesthetic and tone as the original guitar, but in exacting detail with handwound pickups and a flamed maple neck – available in an extremely limited quantity. “When I first took on this project, I was a bit intimidated because of all the intricate specs involved with this guitar,” said Carlos Lopez, Fender Custom Shop Master Builder. “From the Sassafras and flamed neck to the pickups – the challenge was to make sure Eric was happy with it and loved it the first time.” Learn more about the creation process with Eric Johnson and Fender Master Builder, Carlos Lopez in this video.

The Fender Custom Shop version is complete with the same specifications and features as his original, including a 6-saddle American vintage synchronized tremolo bridge with a 2-piece offset seam sassafras body, lacquer finish and custom wiring. Additionally, Eric added a number of personal touches to facilitate his distinctive technique and sound like a GraphTech® high E saddle, flattened 12” fingerboard radius and jumbo frets for optimal playability.

“To this day, Eric continues to release brilliant music, tours constantly and is, to the electric guitar community, a guitar wizard and widely-followed tastemaker,” said Justin Norvell, EVP Fender Products. “It was a perfect fit having Eric Johnson as the first artist in this Stories Collection celebrating modified instruments played by important guitarists that created music for the ages.”

In true tradition, the Fender’s Artist Signature Series honors iconic musicians through product progression and storytelling, creating instruments inspired by the unique specifications of the world’s greatest guitarists and bassists. In that spirit, the Stories Collection celebrates modified Fender guitars that shaped history’s most iconic music. Learn more about the Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster models and access product descriptions here; product photos and images of Eric Johnson with his Signature Stratocaster can be found here.

For technical specs, additional information on new Fender products and to find a retail partner near you, visit www.fender.com. Join the conversation on social media by following @Fender and @FenderCustomShop

#  #  #

Fender Custom Shop Eric Johnson “Virginia” Strat ($14,999) & Stories Collection Eric Johnson 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster ($4,999): Eric Johnson already had his 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster when he recorded Tones and the Platinum Ah Via Musicom, groundbreaking albums that made him a hero to music fans and guitarists alike. In 2020, for the first time, Johnson’s 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster will be replicated by both Fender Custom Shop and the Fender Corona Production line. With its rare sassafras body, lacquer finish, custom wiring and more, the Eric Johnson 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster will thrill players and collectors alike with its distinctive look and exceptional tone.

The Women’s International Music Network Launches The “She Rocks” Podcast

February 26, 2020 – The Women’s International Music Network (The WiMN) announces the debut of the She Rocks Podcast. This new podcast series presents conversations with extraordinary women from all walks of the music industry – from top-tier performers to behind-the-scenes heroes. Sharing insights, tips, gear rundowns and so much more, the She Rocks Podcast gets in-depth and personal about all the issues that matter.

The show is hosted by Laura B. Whitmore, founder of the Women’s International Music Network and the She Rocks Awards, journalist for Parade.com and music industry marketer. A champion for women in music, Whitmore has interviewed hundreds of musicians from every spectrum of the industry. She notes, “It has always been my mission to share women’s stories in order to inspire and energize others. The She Rocks Podcast is a great platform to go in depth with intimate conversations that really help these stories come alive through the artist’s own voice and emotions.”

The podcast features current and upcoming interviews with a diverse array of guests including Lisa Loeb, Mindi Abair, Anna Nalick, Gretchen Menn, Shelly Peiken, Yasi Hofer, Lari Basilio, Ali Handal, Ana Egge, Command Sisters, and many more to come.

Subscribe anywhere podcasts are available, or visit www.thewimn.com/she-rocks-podcast for more information and to see the first selections in the series.

Watch the new Joe Satriani video!

Joe Satriani announces release date for new studio album

PRESS RELEASE: JOE SATRIANI’s new studio album, Shapeshifting, is set for release on April 10, 2020 via Sony Music/Legacy Recordings. The first single, “Nineteen Eighty”, is available today on all streaming platforms and at rock radio stations nationwide.

Pre-order packages are also available beginning today. In addition to the CD and standard black vinyl, the D2C store will offer an exclusive translucent blue colored, signed vinyl. Additional offerings will include stemless wine glasses, coffee mugs, koozies, crew socks, guitar picks and a t-shirt – all featuring Joe’s original artwork. Also available, an autographed CD via pre-order with Newbury Comics online retails store. Anyone who pre-orders via the D2C will receive early access to the upcoming US tour, to be announced shortly.

Shapeshifting Pre-order Link

Shapeshifting was co-produced by Satriani and Jim Scott (Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) with longtime associate John Cuniberti on board handling the mastering duties. Satriani enlisted a wide range of collaborators, both old and new, to help him bring the songs to life. Legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty), bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction) and keyboardist Eric Caudieux were the core musicians on the new album with additional contributions coming from Lisa Coleman (The Revolution) and Christopher Guest.

The retro feeling sounds of first single, “Nineteen Eighty” finds Satriani spiritually revisiting the time period when he was working with his first band, the Squares. The future guitar hero the world came to know less than a decade later, would have to wait. He recalls that in those early days, they “dialed back the guitar solos and histrionics to try to create a cooler new wave vibe.” Decades removed from those goals, he was free to go forward and attempt to recapture what was on his mind in 1980.

Staying true to the sounds of the time, he even used a vintage MXR EVH phaser. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Eddie Van Halen,” Satriani says. “In my mind, he just crystallized that era. The late ‘70s and early ‘80s, he kind of saved rock guitar. So that’s what I would have been doing.”

Photo Credit: © Joseph Cultice

As previously announced, SATRIANI will embark on “The Shapeshifting Tour” beginning April 15, 2020 with a 42-date European leg that currently winds up in mid-June. Additional dates, including the U.S., to be announced soon. The 2020 touring band features celebrated drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty), bassist Bryan Beller (Aristocrats) and keyboardist Rai Thistlethwayte (Thirsty Merc) joining SATRIANI on guitar.  Current Shapeshifting Tour Dates HERE

For two decades, the guitar virtuoso has traveled the world, playing to sold-out crowds as both a headliner and as founder of the all-star “G3” guitar extravaganza.  SATRIANI’s studio and live recordings have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide to date and of his many solo albums, two have gone platinum and four others went gold, with 15 Grammy nominations between them.  His side project, Chickenfoot, featuring former Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar, former bassist Michael Anthony, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith saw their debut album certified gold and their second studio album debuted at #9.


Pierre Bensusan Guitar Collection Now Available!

Hal Leonard Releases the Pierre Bensusan Guitar Collection

MILWAUKEE- In 1987, Hal Leonard and Pierre Bensusan collaborated for the first time with the release of The Guitar Book of Pierre Bensusan. Since then, thousands of guitar students and players around the world have utilized the book to take their fingerstyle skills to the next level. Bensusan has also continued a storied career, releasing many popular albums, books, and DVDs, while regularly touring the world. Now, as Bensusan is preparing for the release of his latest album, “Azwan,” he is collaborating once more with Hal Leonard to release the new Pierre Bensusan Guitar Collection.

This comprehensive book, written in both English and French, combines extensive instructional topics for intermediate to advanced fingerstyle guitarists with tab transcriptions of some of Bensusan’s most popular performance pieces and each song on “Azwan.” Additionally, the hardcover book comes with a spiral comb-binding, making for much easier page turns, and features a plethora of extras including photos and a foreword from Jean-Marie Ecay.

Instructional topics Bensusan covers in the book include: DADGAD tunings and origins, position, fingerings, modes, scales and chords, harmonics, non-standard techniques, practicing, and more. Transcriptions of Bensusan’s pieces include: Chant de Nuit, L’Alchimiste, Silent Passenger, Wu Wei, If Only You Knew, and So Long Michael. Transcriptions for the entire track listing of Bensusan’s “Azwan” album are also featured, including: Fils de la Rose, Optimystical, Azwan, Abeilles, Wee Dander, Dia Libre, Without You, Return to Ireland, Balkangeles, Portnoo, Corps Vaudou, and Manitowoc.

Pierre Bensusan is a French-Algerian composer, guitarist, and singer who over the course of a 40-plus year career has become, “one of the most unique and brilliant acoustic guitar veterans in the world music scene today,” as described by the Los Angeles Times. Bensusan will be releasing “Azwan” on March 13th and will be touring the United States and Canada in support of the album throughout 2020.

The Pierre Bensusan Guitar Collection is available for $39.99.

Check out Gary Holt’s new Hutchinson-customized ESP!


Gary Holt recently posted photos of a new guitar on his Instagram, commenting: 

‘The sickest collaboration ever between myself, @espguitars and the insane skills of @hutchinsonguitars, to create a six string medieval woodcut guitar!!! 

Hutchinson: Gary contacted me over a year ago, after seeing some of my Viking and Medieval concepts. He had the great idea of doing a medieval woodcut carved on the guitar. I came up with some designs, but it was put on hold until he had the right guitar from the ESP Custom shop made.

October comes round again and I receive the bare wood guitar; a super heavy custom Holt Eclipse! So I set to work to create a Medieval Satanic scene, satirically referencing the Ascension, and taking ideas from old historical Occult woodcuts. I even included a levitating cat!    

The fretboard was left plain, except for a 12th fret inlay of 666 in Roman numerals, and the ESP logo was translated into an Old English font, carved into the headstock.

It’s the most intricate guitar carving I’ve done to date. It was a balance between too much fine detail and making the Baphomet image stand out enough to be visible on stage. I think it works! The guitar is being used on the current Exodus tour.

Hutchinson Guitar Concepts accept requests for new custom concepts and designs, offering extensive modifications to existing guitars, or complete concept instruments built to the highest standard. Due to high demand, there is a reserve list that potential customers can apply to on the website www.hutchinsonguitars.com 

Photos by: Thorsten Seiffert/www.rocknroll-reporter.de

New Beauty In Chaos video ‘A Kind Cruelty’

Here’s the new video for Beauty In Chaos’s ‘A Kind Cruelty’ featuring Curse Mackey. It’s the second video/single from the upcoming 33.3 Music Collective full-length release ‘the storm before the calm’ (release date: May 22, 2020).

Get the digital download of this track here: https://www.beautyinchaosmusic.com/music-store/a-kind-cruelty-digital-download

And check out Beauty In Chaos’s Michael Ciravolo on the I Heart Guitar podcast here.

Wanna advertise on I Heart Guitar?


Wanna advertise on I Heart Guitar? Hit me up! Bands, brands, tours, events, whatever, wherever!

In March the site begins daily posting again with lots of news, interviews, guest columns and reviews.

Also if you have news you’d like included, videos you’d like shared, etc, email me at peter@iheartguitarblog.com.

Tone Vs Sound

If you’ve ever posted about guitar anywhere online you’ve probably found yourself in the middle of a bloody free-for-all about the nature and origin of tone. Is it all in the fingers? Is it all about gear? If it’s a combination of the two, what’s the ratio? Can you sound like player X if you get their exact same gear? Is signature gear just an elaborate red herring to make us think we’re buying the same stuff some guitar hero uses, but in reality they’re using one-off custom equipment forged in some far-off village by a guitar-building hermit? Why is some dude trying to cancel me for saying you won’t sound like David Gilmour if you plug a Squier Strat into your iPhone?

Well unless science comes up with some kind of algorithm for quantifying the exact percentage of influence each factor has in tone generation – from the material and gauge of string to the density and pressure of the fingertip pushing it down, to the various gasses and particles in the air between the speaker and the listener – I don’t think this one will ever be resolved. Certainly as long as companies design signature gear with famous axemen, there will always be fans buying that gear so they can tap into some of their hero’s mojo. And that’s totally cool because that stuff’s fun.


My theory on this whole matter is that there are two completely separate factors at play: tone and sound. They both conspire to make a player who they are, but they’re completely different. Even though they sound the same. Confusing? You bet. I’m only on my first coffee of the morning and I think I just gave myself a headache.

Here’s how I see it. ‘Tone’ can be summed up as anything and everything that comes together to make up the rawest qualities of the sound: the type and construction of the pickup, the string gauge, the guitar’s body wood, bridge type, construction (is it bolt-on? Set neck? Neck thru?), the type and length of cable, any pedals, the type and design of the amp, the settings on that amp, the speaker wire, the speaker, the mic recording it, the room it’s being recorded in, and on and on and on. Imagine if you could rig up one of those chair-testing machines at Ikea – you know, the ones that simulate a butt plonking down on a cushion 100,000 times over a week – to strum a single open-string note on Joe Satriani’s guitar while plugged into his rig. Then logically, if you constructed an identical rig, then with the exception of tiny variables (such as changes in the guitar’s wood over time or differences from plank to plank, and any possible minute variation of circuit component values), the tone of the two rigs should be very much the same, and measurable for frequency content and stuff like that. So why is it so hard to sound like Player X even if you buy their exact same gear?

My theory on that is because it’s not just their tone that makes them identifiable, it’s their sound. We’ve all heard the saying ‘tone is in the fingers.’ But I think that’s a bit misleading. While certain picking and fretting techniques can, say, introduce a little more treble to the overall sound for instance, you can’t exactly simulate a Dimebag-style scooped-midrange EQ curve just by changing the pressure of your fretting hand or something. So what exactly does ‘tone is in the fingers’ mean? Does it mean there’s an unquantifiable X factor inherent in an individual’s fingertips, separating the guitarists from the mere guitar-players?

To me it refers to the way a guitarist interacts with their rig to influence the interactions between each item within that rig. I remember a while ago reading a post where a dude said he had Steve Vai’s exact amp, guitar, pickup and pedals, but they didn’t sound like him at all, and wanted to know what piece of gear he were missing. My feeling is that if you’re after Vai’s sound and you already have the amp, guitar, pickup and pedals, then what’s missing is that you’re not playing the way he does, which means the rig isn’t responding to the input of your fingers the way his rig responds to what his fingers are doing. You may have the tone, but not the sound.

So perhaps, if my little theory is true, then tone isn’t in the fingers after all: it’s in the ears. Your fingers are guided by what you hear, and if you find that you like the way a certain rig responds when you strike and manipulate a note or chord a particular way, then your fingers will retain the muscle memory to make it happen, and it will become a part of your style.

When I was 13 and had been playing guitar for a few years, my teacher taught me Van Halen’s version of ‘You Really Got Me.’ He said something that made a huge impression on me – something like, “The cool thing about Eddie Van Halen is that he’s so in control of everything he does on guitar that he can make every note sound exactly the way he wants it to.” That one sentence (or at least the general content of it, since it was a loooooooong time ago and I don’t remember it word for word) was a more important lesson than my teacher ever could have known, because it made me think about how the string responds to everything a guitarist does. I started experimenting with different fretting pressures, different types of vibrato, different picks, different pick grips, different ways of applying phrasing after striking a note, and all sorts of time-consuming stuff like that. I started to notice that if I did something a certain way, it sounded like a certain player, and I got to be a pretty good mimic, to the point where it was kinda my party trick at a regular blues jam I used to play at, that the other guys would call out the names of famous guitarists and I’d have to play like them.

It was a handy skill to have, because it taught me to think a bit more about phrasing and just generally interacting with my guitar, although the downside is that perhaps it might have taken me a little longer than I would have liked before I found my own style. Still, I don’t regret being a guitar impressionist for a few years there, because inevitably these little tricks mutated through my own tastes and experiences, and now, for better or worse, I pretty much sound like me.