Two Canadian Guitar Heroes and their Guitars

Through the years, I’ve been lucky enough to get my mittens on quite a few cool and iconic guitars. Two of the most interesting have been the mongrels “played to death” by two of my favourite guitar players: David Wilcox (’65/’56 Stratocaster) and John Bride (’62/’56 Stratocaster).

If you’re a Canadian (and you’re old enough), you might remember John Bride tearin’ it up with the Cameo Blues Band in Toronto at the Hotel Isabella’s Cameo Lounge in the late 70s/early 80s. John set the tone (quite literally) for rockin’ blues at that time, and as a twenty-something kid who tended to follow the Cameos on a weekly basis, I was mezmerised by JB’s sound – the blue ’62/’56 Strat through a Black Face Pro Reverb and an Echoplex. A huge part of his sound was the Alembic Strat-o-blaster (I think Alembic was the Grateful Dead’s business venture… but I digress…) – an on-board pre-amp that replaces a Stratocaster’s output jack without modification. You can see the Strat-o-blaster on John’s blue guitar in the picture, and there’s actually a newer reissue version right there on David Wilcox’s guitar – but I don’t believe he ever used one. Some people would argue that John Bride’s Strat – a 1962 body, 1956 neck and a mix of 50s parts and 60s pickups – is worn out! It’s pretty badly beaten up, definitely, but you just plug the guitar in, flip on the Strat-o-blaster(which has it’s trim screw set all the way up!) and go to John’s favoured bridge/middle notch position, and the sound is ALL THERE! Such a full and punchy sounding guitar – but very much a pure Stratocaster in tonality! If you want to check out the Cameos on CD, not too many years ago they released their “All Play and No Work” – you can get it on-line at CD Baby. They’re all fine, fine musicians… I really recommend it! (Hey, where’s my royalty cheque?) 🙂

David Wilcox’s 1965 Strat was a guitar that I gigged with solidly for about 10 years – that was after Wilcox (aka: David K. Wilcox – so we won’t confuse him with his US namesake) used it for at least a couple of decades – and recorded many of his hits with it. It’s pictured on the covers of the albums: “Bad Reputation”, “Out Of The Woods”, and “The Best of David Wilcox”. I had a chance to see Wilcox live again a couple of years ago, and he’s still a “force of nature” –  a master of that fingerstyle roots & boogie tradition. Why is he not world famous? At some point, I sought out a 1965 neck – actually, a “Dec65B” big headstock neck – to replace the ’56 neck that Wilcox had played the guitar with for all those years. I thought the ’65 neck made the guitar sound better (maybe a bit myopic on my part, considering that changing the player back to David Wilcox would also make the guitar sound better!!!), so I left it there!Below are a couple of pics with each of the necks…