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"Blackie" Tribute S-Type

"Blackie" Tribute S-Type


Our homage to one of the most famous and distinctive guitars in the history of rock n' roll...  

“Blackie” Tribute S-Type Spec.


Since I began building tribute models to some of the most famous ever guitars used, the one that I'm most often asked about is Eric Clapton’s “Blackie”.

Assembled from the best parts of several Strats purchased for very little money in Dallas around 1970, Clapton and Nashville luthier Ted Newman Jones chose the best feeling and sounding body and neck with the pickups supposedly from one or two of the mid-‘50s guitars to create Eric’s ultimate guitar.


Blackie became Clapton’s constant companion and he used the guitar extensively during the 1970s and 1980s, including iconic performances at “Live Aid” and the recording of his album “Slowhand” amongst many others. As Blackie began to wear out Clapton retired it in favour of his signature model (based on Blackie but with active electronics and midrange boost), and in 2004 Blackie was auctioned off for charity at Christie's for close to one million dollars.


Our Eternal “Blackie Tribute” is a wonderful early mid-'50s combination of alder and maple finished in heavily aged nitrocellulose aged to mimic the battle scars and wear of the original guitar. The neck has a wonderful worn aesthetic and feel - broken in and comfortable but with the addition of medium-jumbo frets for an enhanced vintage feel, it’s accurate and a breeze to play - the perfect combination.


The hardware is all Gotoh vintage repro with split-post tuners and a steel block vibrato bridge with bent steel saddles for THAT tone. Our “Timeless Blackjack” pickups are a perfect match and wired through our usual top-notch, highest-quality CTS, Switchcraft and CRL electronic components (there’s even a repro “Phone Book” paper in oil cap) for decades of hassle-free use.


I’ve recreated the heavily worn black nitro finish on a two-piece, 50s routed alder body and mated that to a truly sumptuous feeling one-piece maple neck with a soft but distinct “V” shaped back profile. A vintage correct 7.25” radius ‘board uses black dot markers beneath the heavily worn and lightly tinted nitro finish - there’s virtually zero finish left on the back of the neck and it feels broken in and well-used with rounded edges and a smooth effortless playing feel. The original guitar was re-fretted on numerous occasions so I’ve used medium-jumbo frets to aid string bending and offer a more definite, responsive feel.


Eric never used the original six-screw vintage vibrato, preferring to screw down to the body so I’ve used an excellent Gotoh reproduction and secured it firmly with a full complement of five springs tightened as far as possible into the body to ensure that it never moves. The original also reportedly had a small block of wood inserted between the vibrato block and body but I can’t see any evidence of this in any pictures available so I’ve omitted it as it isn’t needed.


There is very little actual documented information about how Blackie was wired but I assume it was as standard with the addition of a five-way sector to replace the original three-way, and most probably the small mod to wire the second tone pot to the bridge pickup. The back of the one-ply pickguard has some additional copper sheet shielding added to reduce noise and undoubtedly a few small electronic parts would have been replaced during maintenance over the years. From the one or two images available, I believe that the original cloth-covered wiring has been replaced with plastic-covered wire (or the wiring loom is from a later period guitar) The pots are almost certainly approx 250k and an original ‘phone book” capacitor appears to be in situ, so I’ve replicated this as closely as possible but used cloth-covered hook-up wire as I much prefer it.


Things get interesting with the pickups, however. Both Eric and his long-serving guitar tech Lee Dickson always seemed vague on the subject of which pickups are in the original guitar, and the assumption is that they are a mixed set from the three mid-‘50s donor guitars - Eric having simply chosen the ones he preferred the tone from. This makes perfect sense given that the neck and body are mid-50s but in my research, I discovered an anomaly: the pickups appear to be grey-bottomed. This is significant as grey-bottomed flatwork was first used in the mid-‘60s by which time Fender had swapped to using dark purple plain enamel pickup coil wire and the pickup winders at the factory were struggling to see it against the black fibre board. The solution was to use a light grey fibre board for greater visual contrast.


This is common knowledge but why significant? Well, just maybe all these glorious tones didn’t come from a set of Heavy Formvar wound ‘50s Strat pickups as has long been accepted, but just perhaps they were from a set of mid to late ‘60s Plain Enamel wound, lacquer dipped single-coils? The timeline fits and maybe Eric simply preferred the brighter, louder tones that they offered. His friend Jimi Hendrix was using them after all and making some fairly decent sounds…


Another detail is that the original pickups appear to have black and white plastic lead wires rather than vintage cloth-covered. Okay, it’s extremely possible that a guitar this heavily used would have needed a pickup or two re-wound or repaired at some point, and it’s not beyond belief that a tech somewhere on the road would have suggested replacing old and worn cloth wiring throughout with more robust plastic wire - or maybe the pickups and wiring are from a later era guitar after all?


Without access to the original guitar, I would have to do what I felt was best and closest tonally, so I set about designing and building a bespoke pickup set that would nail the sweet, singing tone. A few prototypes later I was happy - so happy that I’ve decided to make this set of pickups available to purchase separately as part of my “Timeless” range and have named them “Blackjacks”.


    • Model: “Eternal Blackie Tribute” S-Type  
    • Body: Two-piece alder
    • Neck: One-piece maple
    • Neck profile: Soft V-shape  
    • Neck dimensions: 22.3mm deep at 1st fret to 24.4mm deep at 12th  
    • Radius: 7.25””  
    • Fret size: 6130  
    • Number of frets: 21  
    • Nut width: 41.8mm   
    • Finish: All nitrocellulose, aged black on the body with worn tinted lacquer on the neck  
    • Plastics: One-ply aged white pickguard, with matching aged pickup covers and knobs 
    • Bridge: Aged Gotoh vintage repro with steel block and bent steel saddles  
    • Tuners: Aged Gotoh split-post vintage repro  
    • Pickups: Eternal handwound “Timeless Blackjack” single coil set. 
    • Electronics: CTS Brass collar 250k volume and tone pots with a repro “Phone Book” paper in oil capacitor, a CRL five-way selector switch, cloth-covered hook-up wire and a Switchcraft output jack socket. Aged copper shielding on the back of the pickguard with a small aluminium shielding plate.
    • Nut: Handcut bone  
    • Strings: Ernie Ball Slinky 10-46  
    • Weight: 7.8Ibs  
    • Case: Vintage style hardcase included
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