Guitar Aficionado

Is This the World’s Rarest Fender Stratocaster?

Designed to court a Western swing star into Fender's ranks, this 1957 Strat is like no other.
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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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