‘A magical guitar for me’: After a long journey, hitmaking Hall and Oates instrument is back

Remember the video for “I Can’t Go For That”? It’s there. Live Aid? There, too. Early TV performances of “Rich Girl” and “Sara Smile”? Yep. But whatever happened to John Oates’ modified ’58 Strat?

It was, for a time, a standard element of his songwriting and performances ever since he purchased it “in 1972 from a drug dealer for 125 bucks.” Oates fiddled with its set up at the turn of the 1990s, though, and something changed in the way it made music. He ended up retiring the instrument, but he never forgot that original guitar — one that had a weird one-of-a-kind modification.

“I don’t know why I did this; it was a kind of a weird thing to do,” Oates tells Fender. “I converted it to Gibson Humbucker pickups. I took the original Strat configuration out, and I used it that way all the way through the ’70s and ’80s. That was my main guitar. If you see me playing guitar from 1974 until basically the end of the 1980s, that was the guitar I played.”

That return back to the original Strat configuration happened (as luck — or the fates? — would have it) just as Hall and Oates’ amazing run of hit song after hit song after hit song ended, too. Coincidence? It’s hard to say, but rest assured: Oates has the old guitar set up back now.

Seymour Duncan, who actually sparked the switch when he asked Oates about his classic axe, did the re-modification work. “I brought it back out of retirement,” Oates adds. “It’s one of those guitars where, when I grab it, I don’t even have to look at it. It just falls into my hands. It’s, without a doubt, a magical guitar for me.”


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  • Rob

    spoken like a true fender loyal John Oats. Great stories!