’63 Sonic Blue Stratocaster Tribute – Father of Rocky!

John Lennon Fender Sonic Blue Stratocaster

John Lennon Fender Sonic Blue Stratocaster

This project is a tribute to the 1963 Fender Sonic Blue Stratocaster just like the Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison bought back in the day. Of course George painted his and created the iconic Rocky Stratocaster. No one is quite sure what happened to the one John had. The Beatles played their Sonic Blue Stratocasters on several albums, but rarely did we see them played live.

This project will be a very light relic, closet classic.

I picked up a really nice Sonic Blue Stratocaster very light relic Alder body from MJT on eBay. This body weighs in at only 3-lbs 13-oz. I had many of the parts in stock that are left over from other builds. I have the recent “Rocky Strat” build which started out with a 1963 style Sonic Blue Stratocaster. So this project is like the “father of Rocky.”

MJT Sonic Blue Stratocaster body

MJT Sonic Blue Stratocaster body

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I will be using only premium parts for this project. The bridge is a vintage style nickel plated tremolo from Callaham as they are better made than the current Fender part in my experience.

Callaham Tremolo kit

Callaham Tremolo kit

The Callaham Tremolo kit can be ordered with a choice of tremolo arms:

  • Gilmour arm (4-18″ from tip to center of bend)
  • “64” arm (5-1/4″ from tip to center of bend)
  • Fender arm (6″ from tip to center of bend)

I already had the David Gilmour arm and “64” arm. So I ordered it with the longer 6-inch Fender sized arm. This will give me a choice of any of them.

I will be using a genuine Fender mint green 3-ply pickguard and an aluminum shield. The knobs and pickup covers will be Fender aged white parts. Callaham strap buttons, Fender butterfly string tree, switchcraft jack, Fender jack cup and Fender neck plate with same serial number 83840, as George Harrison’s Sonic Blue Stratocaster.

The pickups are hand wound Fender Custom Shop by Abigail Ybarra who is now retired after more than 50 years with Fender. Abigail Ybarra was known as the “queen of tone” and wound pickups for the biggest artists and one of Fender’s most loved employees.

“Abby is one of the many individuals, like George Fullerton, Freddie Tavares, and Forrest White, who have set our course as a company and leader in our industry,” said Mike Eldred, Marketing Director of Fender’s Custom Shop. “She has literally set the tone for Fender.”

Genuine Kluson traditional 6 in-line nickel tuners with one line logo just like Fender used from 1961 to 1963 on Fender Stratocasters. Ordering a period correct birdseye maple Fender licensed neck with rosewood slab fingerboard and aged clay dots.

Musikraft Neck:
SCALE LENGTH: 25.5 Standard Fender
NUMBER OF FRETS: 21 Fret
NUT WIDTH: 1-11/16 (42.85mm)
HEEL WIDTH: 2-3/16 (55.56mm) Standard Fender
TUNER HOLE SIZE: 11/32 Vintage Kluson
TRUSS ROD TYPE: Single Acting Adjust at the Heel
FB RADIUS: 9-1/2
12TH DOT SPACING: Wide (Vintage Pre 64)
NUT SLOT STYLE: 1/8 Standard Fender Flat Bottom Style
SHAFT WOOD: Birdeye Maple Premium 5A
FB WOOD: Indian Rosewood Dark
FB STYLE: Slab Standard Fender
TOP DOTS: Real Aged Clay
CUSTOM INLAY: None Use Dot Inlay Selected Above
SIDE DOTS: Real Aged Clay 2mm
SIDE DOT LOC: Centered on Finger Board Wood (Slab Style Only)
FRET WIRE SIZE: 6105 Medium Nickel Silver
FB EDGES: Semi Rolled Standard
BACK PROFILE: Medium C 83 x 92
FINISH: MJT Finishing
NUT INSTALLATION: Install Slotted Bone Nut

I bought a blond Fender case like the ones they introduced in 1963 that matched the Fender Amps of the era.

Fender 1963 Blonde Reissue Case

Fender 1963 Blonde Reissue Case

The Sonic Blue body has arrived and I copper foiled all the cavities to reduce hum.

Copper foiled

Copper foiled

The pickguard is done and has a Fender aluminum shield.

Fender Mint Green Pickguard with Aged White knobs and pickup covers

Fender Mint Green Pickguard with Aged White knobs and pickup covers

Mounted the Callaham Tremolo bridge and pickguard. Installed the strap buttons and the jack cup. Waiting on the Musikraft neck to arrive.

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The Musikraft neck was shipped from MJT. They put a nice nitro finish like the old school Fender Strats. I applied an accurate restoration waterslide Fender decal to complete the vibe. I then applied several coats of clear satin nitro to protect the decal. I use the clear nitro spray from Stew Mac. After it had time to dry I installed the Kluson tuners.

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Premium 5A Birdseye Maple neck with a vintage tinted nitro finish. Looks and feels great.

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I used a steel 6-inch ruler and “frog” low tack tape to get them perfectly aligned so I could drill the screw holes.

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Now attach the neck to the body and install neck plate and screws.

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I used some sand paper and small nut files to do a some small finishing touches on the bone nut. Used some lemon oil on the rosewood fingerboard and applied a very small amount of guitar grease to the nut so the string work better with the tremolo system.

Next I did installed strings and did the basic setup. Plugged it in… sounds great.

Back tremolo cover installed

Back tremolo cover installed

The intonation and the tremolo setup finalized. Put the back cover on. This project is finished. The weight on this Stratocaster is 7-lbs 9-ozs. Plays really nice with low action.

Same serial number as George Harrison's Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster that became the famous Rocky Strat when he hand painted the guitar

Same serial number 83840 as George Harrison’s Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster that became the famous Rocky Strat when he hand painted the guitar

Private reserve birds-eye maple neck is awesome

Private reserve birdseye maple neck is awesome

The Musikraft private reserve 5A Birdseye maple and MJT vintage tint nitro finish is awesome. The fingerboard is darker Indian rosewood and have real aged clay dots.You only see this on a high end quality Fender Custom Shop today.

Dark Indian Rosewood fingerboard

Dark Indian Rosewood fingerboard

Nothing but high quality parts used on this project. The tremolo, strap buttons and screws are from Callaham Guitars. These tremolos are vintage style and are better than what Fender makes these days. The Callaham tremolo block gives the guitar better sustain and the whammy has a nice fit. Callaham sells three different length tremolo arms. I feel luck that I have all three for this guitar. Standard Fender 6-inch length, the “64” length 5-1/4 inch and the super short “Gilmour” style length 4-1/8 inch tip to center.

Callaham Tremolo arms

Callaham Tremolo arms

Fender mint green pickguard - Fender Abby pickups

Fender mint green pickguard – Fender Custom Shop by Abigail Ybarra pickups

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I think this guitar is a wonderful ’63 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster Tribute. Even though many of the parts are non-Fender. I wanted to use the best parts I could find.

'63 Stratocaster Tribute in Blond Fender case

’63 Stratocaster Tribute in Blond Fender case

Sonic Blue nitro finish

Sonic Blue nitro finish

Dark Indian Rosewood neck

Dark Indian Rosewood neck

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Premiere birdseye maple neck

Premiere birdseye maple neck

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Father of Rocky - Rocky Strat

Father of Rocky – Rocky Strat

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Beatles Collection

Beatles Collection – Rocky Strat, Epiphone Casino, Gretsch Country Gentlemen, Hofner Bass