“The Strat With the Lightning Strap”: The Story of Rivers Cuomo’s Warmoth Strat

The original “Blue” Warmoth Strat

Every so often a guitarist or songwriter comes around who matches a signature instrument with their signature style. Historically, examples like Angus Young’s SG, Keith Richard’s “Micawber”, and David Gilmour’s Black Strat have sent guitar lovers rushing to the store to buy copies and replicas. However, less attention is often paid to the guitars of more recent idols. Starting here with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Guitars For Idiots is going to break down the iconic guitars of musicians from a more recent generation of rock. Players like Billie Joe Armstrong, Dave Grohl, and Dave Keuning will soon follow.

The Origin and Design of Blue

Ordered as parts from Warmoth in the summer of 1993, Rivers Cuomo was looking to build a guitar based on a red Fender Strat owned by original Weezer member Jason Cropper. By this point in the band’s history, Jason was back to playing guitar, meaning he needed the Strat, and it was incredibly beat up and unreliable. While Rivers’ didn’t actually use the Strat to record the Blue Album, instead using Ric Ocasek’s collection of Les Pauls, he arrived home from recording to find the guitar ready and waiting for him.

Jason Cropper’s Red HH Stratocaster

After finally getting his hands on it, Cuomo simplified the electronics so that he only had a volume tone and a pickup selector for the two humbuckers. The bridge humbucker was a black Seymour Duncan TB59B1 or “Trembucker 59”, the same featured in Jason Cropper’s red Stratocaster. The neck was a cream colored DiMarzio that was most likely a Super Distortion model. One last mod done was the unconfirmed addition of a special capacitor that kept the tone of the guitar thick and distorted, even as you turned the volume on the guitar done. This is thought to be how the quiet, but still crunchy, sounds of “Say It Aint So” were performed live.

Touring and Blue’s Fate

For the next several years of the band’s life, almost every live gig was played on Blue and it took quite a beating. In fact, Blue went on to the be his main stage guitar all the way up until 2000. When it came to the studio however, he often opted for Ric Ocasek’s Les Pauls, especially on the Green album. After all the abuse from the constant touring, Blue finally suffered an onstage accident that split the body clean through and down the middle in late 1997. The guitar remained in use until 2000 when the condition continued to deteriorate. However, Blue still lives on, with all the pickups, hardware, and the neck removed and placed onto a new blonde Warmoth body. Named “Blonde”, this Strat has continued to a part of Rivers’ arsenal throughout every tour and album, even if he didn’t always use it on stage or in the studio.

“Blue” lives on in “Blonde”

Rivers’ Current Guitar

While Rivers still owns a number of Warmoth Strats, including “Blonde” and “Black”, another sticker covered HH Strat he loves, he has recently made a Sea-foam Green version his #1. Also covered in stickers gifted by fans, this Warmoth creation is “The Strat with the lightning strap” he alludes to in “Back to the Shack”, the first single from their return to form album “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” from 2014. After years of using Gibson SG’s, Explorers, and even a period where he put down the guitar, many fans were delighted to see him return to a Strat. Their career has largely been on the upswing once again since that well received album with the “White Album”, “Pacific Daydreams”, and now the “Black Album” doing fairly well in the charts.

Published by Matt Dunn

Guitar and music journalist for Ultimate-Guitar.com and Guitarsforidiots.com as well as a contributor for Guitarniche.com and Stringjoy.com. Reach out to talk about guitars, commission a partscaster, or ask for a review.

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