Schecter’s Hot Rod History      January 2009


Things would be amiss if we did not put at least a little spotlight on the Schecter “super strats” of the 1980’s in this PG issue that features hot-rodded guitars! In the late 70’s, the David Schecter Custom Shop (not yet mass producing its famous Tele and Strat look-alikes) had an early hand in making hot-rodded guitars and providing a long list of high-quality replacement parts that allowed customers to beef up their own instruments.


In the early 80’s, the idea of the super strat had evolved into a strat that usually had one (or two) humbuckers, tapped pickups, and a locking tremolo system (with the now-oft-removed locking nut), allowing musicians to apply techniques associated with metal. David Schecter was an early player in this evolution, formally opening the Schecter Custom Shop in 1976, in Van Nuys, California. This repair shop put together a long list of replacement parts that stores and individuals could order, but did not officially offer custom-built Fender-style guitars until 1979. Many of the late 70’s Schecters that we see floating around the used market are often one-off guitars that could have been assembled by a local music store that purchased the parts, or, after 1979, as an expensive custom order from Schecter’s shop. Many of these featured exotic woods and had “Schecter” branded onto the neck pocket or neck heel. Tone Blaster single coil pickups (of which I could find little documented history) were usually associated with the late 70’s Schecter era; they now are the most coveted of the early vintage Schecter parts. At this time, Schecter supplied enough parts to custom build an entire guitar, with many options. Many of the parts were sold by Charvel as part of their mail-order business. Schecter is credited with being the first to sell black-chrome parts, a style feature that was popular through the super-strat era (until late 80’s). Tom Anderson got his start during the Schecter “parts era” and later went on to form his own company. Rockin’ Robin (TX), Valley Arts (CA), and Rudy’s Music (NY) are three of the more well-known music stores that ordered Schecter parts and assembled entire guitars. Following this ‘parts era’, in 1979, Schecter began their own assembly process and marketed their guitars to twenty retailers across the US.


That same year, the acquisition of a Schecter-built Tele, complete with a Fender-shape headstock, by The Who’s Pete Townshend proceeded to make the model famous. To date, a PT model is still offered as part of the Schecter Diamond series, although it is a mid-level Korean guitar that now sports the Schecter headstock. In the following year (1980), Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straits brought attention and lasting fame to a candy apple red Schecter strat-style guitar, also with the Fender-shape headstock.


Between 1980 and 1983, the history is sketchier with the development of 14 Schecter shops across the U.S and Canada, that focused on repairs, retail, and parts distribution. Through this era, Schecter could not meet the demand for their custom-built guitars, but continued to remain focused on their parts business.


In 1983, the Schecter business was purchased by a group of investors and the main facility was relocated in Dallas, Texas, where more emphasis could be placed on the mass production of the hot-rodded Fender-style guitars. The Tele model, dubbed the Saturn (now known as the PT), capitalized on the Pete Townshend endorsement. Yngwie Malmsteen was signed as an endorsee during this era and a number of signature models were produced, although this model, with a scalloped fingerboard, generates little interest today. The strat guitar of this era was named the Scorcher and often appears with the [Schaller] pickup configurations SSS, SSH, and HH. Around 1985, a Jimi Hendrix model was produced with a signature pickguard and reverse headstock. Budget models were introduced, including the Genesis and Strategy lines [these models most often used the same hardware as the upper models, and their parts can be harvested in the restoration of the more expensive models]. Although the Dallas company produced many fine guitars, their success was short lived. Falling sales and flagging enthusiasm for their style of souped-up guitars resulted in the sale of the company in 1987 to Hisatake Shibuya, a Japanese entrepreneur who also owned ESP Guitars. What followed that acquisition is a complex history of returning to high-level custom shop quality guitars, and then a return to South Korean production of mid-level instruments.


The model shown is from1985 and is a fine example of the so-called Dallas mass-production era (1983-1987). The woods and parts used in this era I find to be of high quality and compare favorably to any of the USA deluxe Fender products. Most of the pickups of this era I suspect are West German-made by Schaller (as well as the Schecter-stamped tuners), as many of the tooling markings and labeling are distinct to Schaller. The example shows typical hardware of the period, although gold was a rarity (chrome or black hardware were much more common). The Schecter-logo bridge was standard; it is a Floyd-Rose-esque bridge with fine tuners, highly adjustable, but without the vulgar mass of a Floyd. The Fender vintage style bridge was often used on Schecters prior to ‘83, but in the mass-production years I have only seen this standard Schecter-stamped bridge. High quality staggered tuners make a string tree unnecessary, even in the absence of the factory locking nut. The example shows a rosewood board, although sometimes ebony or maple were used. A painted headstock, double humbuckers (tapped), and mirror pickguard make this an interesting all-original example.


Among the many “sleepers” in the vintage market – models which are often undervalued – the 83-87 Schecter Scorchers and Saturns count as real sleeping beauties and make great pro-level players at a reasonable price…..real bargain HOT RODS!




BELOW -- The Epitomy of mid 80's Super Strats:  A 1985 Schecter Scorcher, made in Dallas, Texas. Chrome hardware, black pickups, Fender-style headstock, Schecter-logo tuners and bridge, and a locking nut were a few of the signature Schecter super strat characteristics.
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