During the 2007 Superbowl half-time show Prince played three guitars. He started with his trusty Madcat, and ended with his purple symbol guitar. In between, he performed All Along The Watch Tower and the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” with this light blue Stratocaster. It wasn’t the first time Prince was seen with this guitar – he also used it in the summer of 2006, most notably at Bryant Park, New York – which was part of the Good Morning America concert series. There are dozens of photos of that event here.
Prince was also seen playing this guitar on Saturday Night Live in February 2006 – it was his guitar of choice for a short period in the run up to Superbowl where it became water damaged. That damage didn’t render it unplayable, it made another appearance in June 2007 when Prince performed with Sheila E. at the ALMA awards.
2007 will long be remembered for Prince’s 21 night residency in London. He rocked the O2 arena playing the same combination of guitars as at the Superbowl, which included this Strat. The latest video footage I can find of Prince with this guitar is on the Jay Leno show on the 26th March 2009.
Although he’s not generally associated with Strats, Prince owned many. Almost all of them have been customised, ranging from replacing the pickups, all the way through to a complete customised paint job like his glitter gold Strat.
Fortunately this is one of the guitars featured in Paisley Park’s Guitar and Bass book, providing us with some detailed pictures. It has been fitted with a Floyd Rose tremolo system, and had the standard 3 pickups replaced with a singe EMG at the neck and a humbucker at the bridge. But there is a problem with the photos. The colour of the body looks a lot more vivid – turquoise blue, rather than the powder blue that it appears to be in the various photos of Prince’s performances. Perhaps the studio lights have caused this anomaly, or maybe the photos have been touched up by the publisher. Either way the colour is not right in my opinion. Even more confusing is that the commentary accompanying the photos says that Prince chose the guitar due to the colour being close to the Miami Dolphin’s shade of blue – but this is also much more turquoise than the guitar’s actual colour.
It’s hard to work out the precise model of Strat that Prince customised just from photos. The vast variety of Stratocasters produced also makes it tricky. One clue comes from Facebook user Marqus Morgan. Marqus is a member of the Facebook group “Prince: Masterpiece Guitars” and he says he got in contact with Takumi Suetsugu who was one of Prince’s guitar technicians, and Takumi said that the Strat is a “Made in Mexico 1950’s reproduction”. This might mean that the same basic model is readily available from retailers such as PMT. If this is the correct model, it would suggest that the actual colour of Prince’s guitar is “Daphne Blue”.
While I was looking into the colour, I found the website of a guy in the US that provides paint number codes and also sells example blocks. A fabulous resource for anyone looking to build their own custom blue Strat.
During Paisley Park’s Celebration event in April 2017, fortunate VIP ticket holders were offered the opportunity to handle this guitar as part of their VIP tour. But it wasn’t on display at Paisley Park when I visited in 2018, and it wasn’t on display at the My Name Is Prince exhibition in London, nor in Amsterdam as far as I know.
I have found a few other photos of Prince with this guitar. If you know which dates these are from please do get in touch and let me know.
[Update 11th December 2018] Twitter user PURPLE FUNK (@Eroticcity319) has posted video of Prince playing this guitar, claimed to be from a gig on the “Támar Tour” at the Nokia Theatre in New York on February 3rd 2006. Link to the post below: