Last year, in observance of the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11, the Fender Custom Shop unveiled a trio of commemorative Stratocasters honoring the three major organizations — the New York City Police Department, the New York City Fire Department and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — that lost many men and women in responding to the attacks at the World Trade Center complex in downtown Manhattan that Tuesday morning.
Each guitar boasts a custom graphic by New York artist Lee Quinones relating to one of the three agencies, and features commendation pins and badges inlaid into the finish, as well as a specially commissioned badge that notes the number of the fallen from the agency memorialized on the instrument.
The tribute guitars are the brainchild of Tommy Clarke, a native New Yorker and rescue worker who spent many days involved in the rescue effort at the World Trade Center site. In the ensuing years, Clarke, 50, began collecting pins, badges, medals and other commendations related to the three New York agencies and to 9/11, many of which now adorn the instruments.
Clarke first conceived of the idea for the tribute guitars in the mid-2000s. Though he himself is not a guitarist, he does have a friend who plays — Eric Clapton. Through the British guitar legend’s camp Clarke hooked up with the Fender Custom Shop, which put the project in the hands of Master Builder Todd Krause, who over the years has built several instruments for Clapton.
The results are stunning, with the bold reds, whites and blues of the designs and the many pins and badges evoking feelings of both lamentation and celebration of the heroic work of the men and women who gave their lives. Clapton will be taking the instruments on the road with him on fall dates on his 2011 world tour, after which they will be making the rounds at various shows and events before winding up in the Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site.
For his part, Clarke sees the guitars as an appropriate way to honor his fellow Americans. “I’ve always felt as if music and art combined together is a good way for a person to express his feelings,” he says.
Photos: Massimo Gammacurta