The Vintage Fender Stratocasters of John Frusciante

John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Nissan Stadium on August 12, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(Image credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

John Frusciante first stormed the stage with a Fender Stratocaster in the late ‘80s while following in the footsteps of Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar progenitor Hillel Slovak (1962-1988).

Though he is certainly one of the best-known Strat players around, Frusciante's collection comprises a broad variety of instruments. 

These include some of the more left-field electric guitar models like the Fender Jaguar and Yamaha SG2000 in addition to those iconic axes that are a mainstay of his Red Hot Chili Peppers rig.

Guitar Player tagged along to the band’s Austin City Limits October 9 concert to get a look at several of them.

There we spotted an early Fender Telecaster Custom from the 1960s, a 1950s Gretsch White Falcon, and a 1940s Martin 00-15. All stone-cold classic vintage guitars with a great history to boot.

We also came across four of Frusciante’s Stratocasters: a 1955 maple neck sunburst; a 1962 rosewood ‘board sunburst; a 1961 Fiesta Red; and a 1964 Olympic White.

1955 Fender Stratocaster

John Frusciante's 1955 Fender Stratocaster

(Image credit: Future/Eleanor Jane)

“This was the first guitar John had that I know of when he came back to the band,” says Frusciante’s former guitar tech, Dave Lee.

“He was like, ‘Here’s the guitar, here’s a Marshall head and a cabinet.’ We had to build his setup from there. And it started with the ’55 Strat.”

This was the first guitar John had that I know of when he came back to the band

Dave Lee

“It’s a more mellow-sounding guitar,” points out Frusciante current tech, Henry Trejo. “And so he uses it for songs in the set that don’t require searing leads, like “Don’t Forget Me” [from By the Way] and also new songs like “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” “One Way Traffic,” and, oddly, “These Are the Ways” [all from Unlimited Love] which is heavier and in drop D.

“The ’55 is probably there for two or three songs a night. And it’s got a big chunk of fretboard that it looks like went missing, and then was replaced at some point.”

“That was Anthony [Kiedis]’s fault,” adds Lee. “It was sitting in the lounge at Cello Studios [now EastWest Studios in L.A.], and he accidentally knocked it over!”

1962 Fender Stratocaster

John Frusciante's 1962 Fender Stratocaster

(Image credit: Future/Eleanor Jane)

“This Strat was a big part of the two new albums,” explain Trejo. “It was pretty much John’s main guitar for the bodies of most of the songs, if not all of the songs.

It was pretty much John’s main guitar for the bodies of most of the songs, if not all of the songs

Henry Trejo

“Whenever he would do solos or really heavy parts he would use a different guitar, but the ‘62 is the meat and potatoes of everything you hear.”

“I seem to recall the ’62 first showing up during the Californication sessions,” says Lee. “John had just come back to the band, and he did a few shows with them before they started writing and recording the record.

“I don’t think he had this guitar yet. I remember him only having the ’55 Strat, which was the only guitar he wanted to play. Then we got this one and he used it a lot on that record. When he got ready for the tour, it was one of the main ones we took out with us.”

1961 Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster and 1964 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster

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Guitar Player issue 728 featuring cover artist John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers

(Image credit: Future)

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.