One thing that's remained constant over the past 15 years of buying vintage guitars is that it's impossible to predict what might surface next. This rare Fender Stratocaster, custom made for Roy Lanham in 1957 with rare Red finish and gold anodized aluminum pickguard, is an excellent example of the unpredictable nature of buying vintage guitars. I did not know the history of this guitar as I purchased it from the family of its second own, but my obsession with reading books about Fender history really paid off once I got it back to my shop. The "mineral streak" (or budding branch branch really) in the Maple neck which may have been considered a flaw in 1957 was the key to unlocking the true history of this rare Stratocaster. 

I'm always looking buy the nicest vintage Fender guitars from the 1950s and 1960s. You can contact me here: Sell a Fender.

I was contacted by a guitar shop owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico helping with the valuation of an old Fender Stratocaster which was brought it by a local family. This guitar, finished in very uncommon bright Red color with gold metal (Anodized Aluminum is a better term) pickguard and tremolo cover plate, was owned by a banjo playing uncle who worked in the Los Angeles area in the 1950s. The serial number began with a "-" mark followed by 5 digits which places it in the 1957 range (more here: Fender Serial Number Lookup). The Stratocaster model was offered in Sunburst and Blond in the 1950s, so any other color was certainly a custom order and very rare. They're notoriously difficult to authenticate unless you can compare to other known examples from that time period. 

The description of this Stratocaster was very similar to a well known guitar custom made by Fender for Pee Wee Crayton in 1954 which is currently on display at the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis (Pee Wee Crayton on Luther "Red" Rountree played professionally all around Los Angeles but was also a temporary member of the Sons of the Pioneers at some point. 



I was struck by the beauty of this vintage Stratocaster so I made an offer to purchase it. After a week of considering, the sellers accepted and I flew in to buy it. I was thrilled to find that it was all original and in nice (but well played) condition, but it didn't make sense to me that a tenor banjo player would have ordered this guitar. I began scouring all my books on vintage Fender guitars and Stratocasters until I came to Tom Wheeler's The Fender Archives. There was a picture of Roy Lanham playing a Stratocaster with a caption that read: "Roy didn't mind the mineral streak on his Stratocaster...". I looked at the picture and there it was! The exact same shape and position mineral streak as is on this guitar guitar. It seems that this guitar was made for Roy and used extensively before he began promoting the Jazzmaster and Jaguar models. 

I am always looking for the nicest examples of 1950s Stratocasters: Sell a Fender.

1957 Stratocaster Red with gold guard Roy Lanham

Authenticating this 1957 Stratocaster

It's important to authenticate every detail of a 1950s Fender Stratocaster, but especially when the guitar in question has so many interesting features including a custom color, a gold anodized aluminum pickguard and tremolo cover plate, and a wide (1 3/4") neck. It's nice to have two pictures of this guitar with Roy in 1957 and a few years later which prove its provenance, but I didn't have the benefit of those pictures when I bought it. Here are a few important features of this 1957 Stratocaster which helped with the authentication process. If you'd like help authenticating a 1950s or 1960s Stratocaster then you can contact me here: Stratocaster authentication.

1950s Fender Stratocaster authentication
  • Fully painted neck pocket: The "paint stick" wasn't in use until 1963, so a fully painted neck pocket is proper for this Stratocaster from 1957
  • "WIDE NECK": The pencil mark on the back of the neck heel indicates the 1 3/4" custom order neck width for this Strat. The standard neck width for Stratocasters is 1 5/8" wide at the nut. 
  • Clear nail holes: Perhaps the most important part of authenticating this Stratocaster is the proof of the original Red finish. The "nail holes" here refer to the small brad nails that Fender used to support the body of the guitar while the finish was applied and curing. The nails were then pulled out of the body after the finish cured, so the holes should be free of paint just like we see them here.


1957 Stratocaster Red pickup cavities 1957 Stratocaster Red pickups
1957 Stratocaster Red desert sand undercoat 1957 Stratocaster red custom color 


There were so many great interesting features on Roy's 1957 Fender Stratocaster, but I suppose the most uncommon is the gold anodized aluminum tremolo cover plate. Examples of this feature are extremely uncommon, but rumors fly of two other examples. I was not able to find a picture of a gold anodized tremolo cover plate online, so here you go! This one has a factory ground wire going from the tremolo claw to the back cover. 

Gold anodized aluminum tremolo cover plate on 1957 Fender Stratocaster Red
Ground wire for anodized aluminum cover plate 1957 Stratocaster

Roy Lanham and this 1957 Stratocaster in original Red finish with gold anodized aluminum pickguard

Roy Lanham was a popular working jazz and country guitarist in the Los Angeles, California area in the 1950s and 1960s. One of my favorite books on vintage Fender guitars (Fender: The Sound Heard Round The World) by Richard Smith describes Roy as "... a close friend of Leo's." This red 1957 Stratocaster has so many custom order features that it had to have been made for a close friend of Leo's like Roy. The gold anodized aluminum pickguard is so rarely seen on Stratocasters but seems to pop up from time to time in the late 1950s. 

Perhaps the most rock solid provenance for this 1957 Stratocaster having been made for Roy Lanham is the picture on the back of Roy's 1963 album The Fabulous Roy Lanham. That picture clearly shows the large scratch on the bass side horn of the body as well as the very specific mineral streak on the fretboard. 

I am looking for more pictures of Roy Lanham from 1957 through 1963 which may show him playing this Stratocaster. Do you have any? Get in touch!

Roy Lanham 1957 Fender Stratocaster Red Gold Guard
John Shults

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