The Blue Stratocaster

As most guitarists will know, sometimes a guitar will catch the eye, you buy it, you gig it, it’s just another guitar. However, every so-often there is that guitar that ends up with a story behind. A story that many will never know. And so, as a serving member of the RAF with two very large military based events coming up over the next week, I would like to share the story of the blue Stratocaster.

Back in 2011, there was a trawl for volunteers on the RAF main internal website. The RAF theatrical association were looking for a Guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and brass players to become the pit band for a musical. At this point in my life, I’d left any hope of joining a band back when I joined the RAF in 2000, but I was asked to audition and then offered the job!

At the time, my kit was definitely rated as “bedroom player” but one of the things I wanted to do was to get myself a guitar that matched the performance. It would of course be on show, but just stage left of where the cast were performing!

I bought myself a Squier Bullet Stratocaster on special offer at Argos in Salisbury for £80. Then armed with a swatch of material the acting cast would be wearing, I hopped over Southampton Road to Halfords and picked up what I thought was the perfect colour match… Peugeot Kingfisher Blue.

The guitar was dismantled and sanded down (with any “lines” blended out). It got a couple of coats of grey primer, Metallic blue, laquer, the special touch of an RAF roundel and Voila! The guitar was set.

After many months practicing at home, and rehearsals with the band and cast, the week long run of the Return to the Forbidden Planet was over……BUT, I’d caught the bug again for playing in a band!

On the set! Obviously didn’t sit there for the show…. At The Junction, Cambridge

In the winter of that year I answered an advert from a band looking for a guitarist. That led on to become Break Cover…. From dusting off playing guitar; to my first proper band: this guitar has seen it all.

Being in the military, deployments are part and parcel of the job. So, when I found out I was going on a 4-month tour of the Falklands, there was no question of what guitar would come with me! The Blue Stratocaster was the cheapest guitar I owned. If it was to get broken in transit, it wouldn’t have been a major loss. During those 4 months, the guitar was played at Jam nights, when bored in my room, when letting off some steam in the music club or as part of 3 different bands playing at over 15 gigs, including two high profile events with the Island’s Governor in attendance. In the years following, this guitar has travelled with me on numerous operational deployments and exercises. It has racked up a distance of more than twice around the world in air miles and even had some time in a Chinook…

The Poppy Ball at Stanley Town Hall, The Falkland Islands

After being played in numerous practices, jams, and gigs on 4 different continents, it has definitely outlived it’s “Argos Starter Guitar” label, and is by far one of the most comfortable guitars to play. Although this might have something to do with the hours and hours and hours it has been played for! This guitar has definitely “lived” with me through the last 8 years in the RAF. And despite still being the cheapest guitar I own; its sentimental value is priceless. So, it seems only fitting that the blue Strat is the guitar of choice at the RAF Benevolent Fund event on Monday and the Armed Forces Day gig on Friday.