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EC's Blackie Strat - Grey Bottom Pups??

MRW55

Member
Messages
159
I've been on a Clapton kick recently; nothing really new about that for me, anyway. But the recent thread of his amazing version of Double Trouble in '85 and the searing tone he had on that, and the incredible quack tone he gets all over Just One Night got me to thinking about EC's Blackie strat.

I revisited this video when the Fender Custom Shop received Blackie before it built the Blackie Tributes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d0Du6RqdTs

I found it interesting how there was surprise when they flipped the pickguard over and found grey bottom pups.

Much has been made of the story how in 1970 Clapton bought a bunch of vintage strats for a song at Sho Bud in Nashville, gave one to George Harrison, one to Steve Winwood, and one to Pete Townshend. With the remaining strats, EC took what he considered the best parts and assembled Blackie.

Lore has it Blackie's body is a '56 and the neck is a '57. Obviously, strats of that era did not have grey bottom pups. If you watch the video closely, I think you can even hear Mike Eldred say something to the effect that (the pups) must have been changed at some point.

I'm not trying to cop the tone of Blackie. As a geezer, I'm just interested in this period, and how pups like this surprisingly ended up in this most famous of strats. There isn't much info about this out there on the web. Does anyone know anything about this?
 

MRW55

Member
Messages
159
Gray bottom pups are just that, they are pickups with the bottom made of a different gray material instead of the traditional black housing, and are most commonly seen today in Fender's aftermarket cs 69's. The thing of it is, gray bottom pups were generally found in mid to late '60's production, not the '50's kind of strats EC was said to be dealing with, and many gray bottom pups have plain enamel wire, not the heavy formvar wire most associated with vintage pups - the kind of pups thought to be in Blackie.
 

vanguard

Member
Messages
2,515
Gray bottom pups are just that, they are pickups with the bottom made of a different gray material instead of the traditional black housing, and are most commonly seen today in Fender's aftermarket cs 69's. The thing of it is, gray bottom pups were generally found in mid to late '60's production, not the '50's kind of strats EC was said to be dealing with, and many gray bottom pups have plain enamel wire, not the heavy formvar wire most associated with vintage pups - the kind of pups thought to be in Blackie.
yup. my '67 tele had gray bottoms. interesting he was probably using CBS pups in such a legendary guitar. FYI, those gray-bottom 67's were far and away the best pickups i've ever heard.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,689
Did not know that. Pretty cool how Clapton liked to do that stuff even way back then. The grey bottoms, they're amazing. I read all over the place how they always seem to be in the best vintage strats and '64 was the big year I guess when the planets had aligned for strats. My 66 strat has always been to ruin any other strat for me because nothing can touch it. A few years back I looked under the hood and saw it has grey bottoms dated in late '64 and early '65.
It's interesting because they read so low, as far as resistance. around 5.2K yet are real powerful in output without any funky mids you get from hotter pickups. A real musical, sweet woody kinda tone.

Here's an interesting homegrown read about them https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/526192

The '69's by Fender are probably close spec wise, but they're much sharper and twangy to me. And yes, I have had them in my '66 too for a comparison.
 

Guitarded25

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
141
Thats cool to hear about the grey pickups. I had always wondered about that. I was working at GC a few years ago when the $20,000 Blackie reissue was sold, my store sold 5 of them, and all 5 were identical in looking and sounding. And they were hands down the beat strats I've ever played...granted I'm a huge Clapton fan, but they are amazing guitars and sounded phenomenal.
 

MRW55

Member
Messages
159
Lee Dixon now sells repros for Blackie & Brownie. I'm very interested.
I wasn't aware of this, but I did some checking and it appears EC's long-time tech Lee Dickson is now selling "Black" and "Brown" pups with Mojotone (no affiliation). No specs, but pics of the "Black" ones are grey bottom pups with what appears to be plain enamel wire (the "Brown" ones look black bottom and formvar). You would also think that before a venture like this, Dickson probably would have sought EC's blessing.

It's all speculation, of course, but if those grey bottom pups were original to EC's build of Blackie, it would seem he used a '56 body, '57 neck, and the pickup assembly from a '64 or later strat. I just find it interesting how Blackie is accepted as a '50-ish strat (because of the maple neck), but the pups are from what we all consider a different era.
 

JackD

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,393
I have an all original '69 Strat with Grey bottom pickups. They sound and feel fantastic!!
 

big mike

Cathode biased
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
13,679
Who knows when...I remember talk that he had Seymour Duncan's In it at one time as well.
 

TerryOz

Member
Messages
41
I have a Dec 1962 L Series Strat that was obviously assembled in 1963. The pickups are "Gray Bottoms" with the dates written on them. Very early by my understanding. Sounds great and I think brighter than I am used to in comparing Strata from that era.
 






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