Is This the World’s Rarest Fender Stratocaster?

June 6th, 2016


By Tom Beaujour | Photo by Justin Borucki

In the Fifties, the fledgling Fender Electric Instrument Company was courting high-profile endorsees to raise brand awareness. Western Swing, an amalgam of string-band pickin’ and jazz, was drawing huge crowds in California, where Fender was based, and it seemed only fitting that the company should recruit notable players from the genre for its roster.

Enter Eddie Cletro and his Roundup Boys, who were the toast of Los Angeles at the time thanks to spirited singles like “Flying Saucer Boogie.” The group was a perfect fit for Fender’s marketing strategy, and in 1957 the company manufactured this rare Stratocaster for Cletro.

Unlike production Stratocasters of that era, which featured maple necks and two-tone sunburst finishes, this instrument is painted in Desert Sand, and the neck is solid rosewood. Even the “skunk stripe,” which covers the truss rod channel at the back of the neck, is rosewood rather than the traditional walnut.

David Davidson and Richard Friedman, of Long Island’s We Buy Guitars, acquired the instrument from a long-time customer in 2009, when they shared it with us.

“In my entire life of doing this, this is the rarest Fender Stratocaster that I’ve ever seen,” Friedman says.

He and Davidson are not alone in their estimation of the Cletro’s desirability: They promptly sold the guitar for an undisclosed six-figure amount, making one happy collector the proud new owner of a truly unique piece of guitar history.

Check out the gallery below. In the video at bottom, you can see Cletro playing a Strat [UPDATE: though not this guitar] around the one-minute mark and again around 1:18.

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  • The Strat in the video is NOT the RW Strat.
    Eddie had TWO Desert Sand Strats given to him by his good friend Leo Fender. He also had a Sunburst (used in Fender ads, and one in Fiesta Red.
    Eddie passed away in 2012, and was pickin’ and grinnin’ to the end. His daughter still has his Gibson J-45. Eddie was an amazing musician and person.

  • Very interesting

  • Alex

    The guitar in video certainly does not have rosewood neck. Cant tell about the rest.

  • David Price

    This guitar was also previously owned by Norm Harris at Norm’s rare guitars — I saw it in person in the early ’90s along with some of his other personal stash instruments including a desert sand, maple neck, anodized black guard Jazzmaster and Freddie Tavares’ early ’60s Jazz Bass (which had an ebony, rather than rosewood, fingerboard).

  • D S

    That doesn’t look like the same neck on that guitar in the video. The video looks like a maple neck/fretboard?

  • Andrew

    In the video, Eddie is playing a Strat but the neck is clearly maple, not rosewood and the pickguard is standard white, not one with gold anodized plating.

  • James Daley

    Very cool…..

  • Kevin Condran

    Everyone is saying that the guitar in the video is not the rosewood neck one in the picture. It already clearly states that in the text above!

  • One of the most beautiful (and desirable) Strats I’ve ever seen.