When I think of Prince at the mic stand with a guitar strapped across his body, I rarely think of Prince with a Stratocaster. But his love affair with Strats extended from 2003 to 2011, starting with the custom blue Strat, and ending with him regularly playing a collection of them – in Red, Orange, Purple, and the most recognisable of all – this custom Gold Stratocaster.
The luthier that created the Gold Stratocaster is Belarussian Fender master builder Yuriy Shishkov. He has recounted the story both in press interviews and via his Instagram account. According to Yuriy he had a dream of creating a guitar completely covered in gold leaf, but who would ever want such a gaudy guitar? Later, and completely co-incidentally he was approached by one of the Fender’s sales reps, who asked him if he could create such an instrument for Prince.
Yuryi has shared some very high quality photos of the guitar in his workshop they are worth checking out.
The guitar appeared on the cover of the tour programme for his 21 night residency at the LA Forum in April and May 2011, and on advertisements for various tour dates in the US and Europe. Prince was apparently very happy with his extraordinarily unique instrument.
But given the craftwork that went into the guitar (and presumably the $$$$ too), its life was short-lived. In April 2011 the guitar was auctioned for charity, raising $100,000 for the charity Harlem Children’s Zone. The buyer was Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, although sadly I can’t find any photos of Lewis with his guitar.
On 13th April 2011 Prince was asked about the upcoming auction during an interview segment on Lopez Tonight, during which he pulls out the guitar and says how much he will miss it. But look closely…the guitar now has a Floyd Rose tremolo, just like his Blue Strat. This is not the same guitar that Prince played live, at least I can’t find any evidence of Prince playing this.
And of course the answer is that Yuri Shishkov built two Gold Strats, one with a Floyd Rose and one without (and with more traditional Strat pickups). [Reader Nazarenko Denys kindly shared a link to a Russian site that shows both guitars in Yuri’s workshop: http://jimi.ru/read.php?99351%5D
In April 2019 I attended Celebration at Paisley Park, where they displayed a Gold Strat in Studio A – in a small display called “Suits and Strats”. This Gold Strat was not fitted with a tremolo, so I suspect that it is the same guitar that Prince used, and that the guitar sold to Lewis Hamilton had the Floyd Rose fitted. Since then Paisley Park have allowed guests to take some photographs in the Sound Stage and NPG Music Club rooms, and its good to see that the Gold Strat is still being displayed there.
- How Prince’s All Gold Fender Stratocaster Came to Be – LA Times
- How A Guitar Maker Started Rocking, Back in the U.S.S.R. – The New York Times
- Yuriy Shishkov’s Instagram account
- Harlem Children’s Zone