"Just Like You Would Think, it Had a More Metallic Sound": Inside Robbie Robertson's Bronzed ‘Last Waltz’ Strat
Purchased from Norman’s Rare Guitars in 1973, the one-of-a-kind Strat found its way onto multiple albums by Bob Dylan and, most famously, the Band's star-studded farewell concert.
Today (July 5), electric guitar great Robbie Robertson – one of the sonic architects of The Band – celebrates his 79th birthday.
Robertson has used plenty of guitars over his nearly 60-year career, but one of the most legendary of the lot is the bronzed 1954 Fender Stratocaster he used during The Band's star-studded 1976 farewell concert, which was forever immortalized in the Martin Scorsese documentary The Last Waltz.
Purchased from Norman’s Rare Guitars in 1973, the Strat found its way onto multiple albums by Bob Dylan – with whom the Band had a long and legendary relationship – and the Band's 1977 album, Islands.
A few years ago, the Fender Custom Shop set about creating a thoroughly detailed replica of the bronze Strat. In the video below, Fender Master Builder Todd Krause takes viewers inside the historic guitar, and its unique pickup layout and appointments.
The video also shows a clearly impressed Robertson "unbox" the replica of the guitar and take it for a typically textural spin.
“When we were preparing to do The Last Waltz, I thought, I should do something for the occasion, and I had it bronzed,” Robertson told Guitar Aficionado in 2011. “They dipped the body in bronze, just like they do with baby shoes. They dip it in, leave it for a minute, and then take it out.
“So then they put the guitar back together again, and it had a completely different sound to it. Just like you would think, it had a more metallic sound. And I liked the sound I got out of it, but it was heavier.”
As for the guitar's second most eye-catching element, Robertson explains that he repeatedly hit the Strat's middle pickup with his hand while playing, necessitating his request to double up the single-coils at the bridge.
With a build run of just a few dozen, examples of the Fender Custom Shop Robertson bronze Strat are currently valued at anywhere between $16,000 and $31,000 online. We'd love to see it perhaps end up in Fender's more attainable Signature line one day...
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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.
- Christopher ScapellitiGuitar Player editor-in-chief