Albert King had Lucy, B.B. King had his many Lucilles, and Stevie Ray Vaughan had Lenny.
For Chris “Fenderman” Black, the guitar in his life was a red Fender Stratocaster he named Brenda the Fenda. As guitarist for Black Cat, the British rock and roller could be seen performing with the Strat throughout England.
While it’s hardly unusual for guitarists to regard their instruments as women, Black took the game a step further when, in the Nineties, he married Brenda in a church ceremony that was widely reported in the British media.
Black, who died on Tuesday, January 26, first spotted the Strat in the early Sixties, while performing with his band Unit 7 in London.
“There it was,” Black said in an interview about the encounter. “It had a wonderful G-string and beautiful curves. Unbelievable! I just wanted to pluck it, there and then!”
Brenda proved to be the perfect instrument for Black. He practiced with the guitar for hours, much to his wife Janet’s exasperation.
“My wife would often come and say, ‘Why don’t you marry that? You love it more than me!’” Black explained in the mid Nineties. “So I did! And it doesn’t answer back! [The guitar]’s quite content. She never frets.”
Black and Brenda tied the knot in a church ceremony officiated by a friend. The U.K.’s Daily Star reported that Black planned to “take his new partner on a Jimi Hendrix memorial tour with his blues band,” referring to Black Cat.
“My wife Janet thinks I’m crazy,” Black was quoted by the paper, “but when I die I want to be buried with my guitar too.”
Black tried several other guitars over the years, including Gibsons, Gretsches “and everything else,” he said. “And they don’t stand up to it at all.”
He stuck by Brenda throughout his career with Black Cat, which enjoyed popularity on the local scene.
“The best compliment I ever had for myself and Black Cat was given to me when I was resident rock ’n’ roll band in Lennon’s Wine Bar, which was next to Stringfellows in London’s West End,” he said. “When we played the opening night, [John Lennon’s first wife] Cynthia Lennon came up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss and told me that it was the best rock ’n’ roll music she had heard since the Beatles.”
Black’s passing was reported on his website. No cause of death was given.
Below is a news account from the time of Black’s marriage to Brenda, along with a clip of Black Cat performing “Ghost Riders in the Sky” in 2010.