A TALE OF TWO REPLICAS
Once upon a time, there lived a modest but powerful wizard who conjured celestial melodies from a worn and battered plank affixed with wires and knobs. His magic reached such Epic proportions that his machine became an icon of the realm, and subject to imitation and reverence. Artisans far and near fashion implements in the image of the wizard's, to the delight of patrons and possessors.
Okay, enough of that. You can't throw a rock anymore without hitting a replica of Number One. Naturally, people ask me who makes the best replica, and how it stacks up against the Fender Custom Shop Tribute Stratocaster (above left). Tim Davis' artwork (above right) is the best I have seen among the many privately-made replicas.
You may click on the photos above for larger images, by the way, but please note that the photos of Tim's artwork are a couple of years old, and the guitars he is doing now are even more exact after additional research and refinement of his technique. Both guitars are the result of many hours of research and work. As described elsewhere, the Fender Tribute Strat is a limited edition of 100 guitars priced (originally) at $10,000, but now costing $25,000+. (The first one sold at the Clapton Crossroads charity auction for over $40,000.) The most recent sale I know about was on eBay 1-1-2008 for $29,905, but whether the transaction was completed I don't know.
Tim Davis (www.srvnumber1.com) is currently taking orders for a limited edition of 25 "Hall of Fame" Number One special editions, which include many extras and connections to Stevie that amateur relicers have not matched. Portions of the proceeds are spread between several charities.
There are elements of the Tim Davis artwork which, in my opinion, more closely resemble Number One. Particularly, the area to the left of the "Custom" sticker in the photos above. Also, the overall damage and wear to the finish on Tim's guitar has a more natural appearance in areas where Stevie's arm or hands would have worn the finish off smoothly over time, rather than the hard-edged, chipped appearance of the Tribute Strat. (Obviously, Number One went through many changes over time, including different pickguard stickers.)
Tim Davis: "I take pride in the fact that not only do the buyers talk about the looks, but more importantly, they rave over the playability. I have played for over 30 years and have worked on guitars over 25. I have NEVER had a return or disatisfied buyer and continue to develop new and long-term relationships with the people who buy from me. It's like a club."
The "Hall of Fame" limited edition guitars include the following elements: The guitars were purchased from Ray Hennig's Heart of Texas Music in Austin, the same place Stevie obtained Number One. The fretwork on the necks is done by Charley's Guitar Shop of Dallas, where Stevie obtained several guitars ("Life Without You" is dedicated to Charley Wirz). The relicing is done to match the appearance of Number One in late 1989, the time of Stevie's appearance on Austin City Limits. Before delivery, each guitar will be plugged in to Stevie's Marshall amplifier and wah pedal, with one of Stevie's used picks placed between the strings, for that Stevie mojo! Each of the guitars comes with signed copies of Cutter Brandenburg's book, You Can't Stop a Comet, and one of the very last copies of my book, The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The bottom line on these guitars is this: The Fender Custom Shop guitar stayed home in the closet while Tim's guitar was displayed in the Stevie Ray Vaughan Museum exhibition in Dallas from 2006-2007! Countless people have seen the guitar and thought it was actually Number One.
For more information and more recent photos see www.srvnumber1.com.
Disclaimer: The Tim Davis artwork, though incorporating some Fender parts or parts licensed by Fender, is not a product of Fender Musical Instrument Corporation, and is not endorsed by Fender or the Estate of Stevie Ray Vaughan. It should be viewed as an individual work of art.