Crafting a unique personal sound is one of the greatest challenges we guitar players face. We all have an “ideal sound” that we hear in our heads when we think of the perfect electric guitar tone, and we spend our whole lives chasing it. Eric Johnson is no different from the rest of us, except that his sound is far more singular and powerful than anything I could ever dream up, and far more elusive. Ever since he rose to prominence in the early eighties, he’s been trying to make his guitar sound like a two-ton cello. The first fruit of his tonequest, the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster, captured the smooth, articulate, liquid tones he heard in his head with remarkable accuracy, but there was still something missing.
Fast forward to 2015, when Eric had a “Eureka!” moment and asked Fender to design a Thinline Stratocaster for his next signature model. After three years of obsessive R&D, the brilliant men and women at Fender have helped Eric Johnson distill his sound into its purest form yet: the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Thinline.
So, what exactly makes this guitar the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the tonal rainbow? For Eric, it was the inherent liveliness of semi-hollow guitars. “What I noticed about a semi-hollow body guitar is as you're playing it, it's almost like there's a give and take of the resonation,” Eric explains. “You play the note, it comes out, and then it kind of resonates back into the guitar through the chambers. As you're playing, you feel this fluxing of energy where it inhales and exhales.” In other words, Eric Johnson wanted his guitar to sound and feel alive in his hands.
Making Eric’s signature model feel this alive was no easy feat. If the body came out too solid, it would sound too toothy. If it came out too hollow, it would be too dark. Faced with this design problem, the fine folks at Fender decided to casually make history by developing the first-ever semi-hollow Strat with a contoured body. It provides unrivaled comfort and the exact sort of resonance that Eric needed to translate his sonic vision. It also features a comfy neck with a soft V-shape and a 12” radius for optimum playability.
With a quality design in place for the wood, the next piece of the puzzle was the pickups. After investing countless hours and gallons of blood, sweat, and tears, the design team at Fender crafted a set of single-coils voiced specially for this guitar, and the synergy between wood and wire is truly spectacular. Playing this guitar feels like stepping into your favorite track off of Ah Via Musicom. It’s the purest translation of his signature sound that we’ve ever heard. Unfortunately, most of us will never be able to sweet-talk Fender into spending three years developing us a guitar that delivers our signature sound. But we can access the sounds that Eric Johnson hears in his head, and that’s not a bad consolation prize at all!
Eric Johnson is a common topic of conversation around our shop. We typically spend at least an hour a week watching old videos and dissecting his impeccable tone and peerless musicianship (this week, it was this video of Eric playing the backwards solo on Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” live). So, believe me when I say that we are practically leaping out of our skin with excitement about his new Signature Stratocaster Thinline. We are proud to showcase them for our exceptional customers, and we know they will bring you endless joy and inspiration.
Amp: Tone King Imperial MKII
Overdrive: BB Preamp
Greg Koch: Fender Eric Johnson Thinline Stratocaster • Wildwood Guitars
Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster® Thinline | Artist Signature Series | Fender