On the evening of November 25, 1976 at San Francisco’s famed Winterland concert venue, the lights dimmed, and a hush fell over the crowd as The Band took the stage for one last time before they dissolved into the annals of history. This historic farewell concert was documented for posterity by filmmaker Martin Scorsese, but guitarist Robbie Robertson—the man who used his trusty Fender to back up Dylan when he went electric—thought the moment deserved more commemoration. He had his favorite guitar, a red 1954 Stratocaster, dipped in bronze to commemorate the life-changing moment. He proceeded to play this now one-of-a-kind instrument during the course of the concert, cementing its place in legend.
The Last Waltz Stratocaster is a rare, unique glimpse into the history of guitar modifications, specifically ones commonly performed in the ‘70s. During this time period there was no such thing as a valuable vintage guitar—there were only “old” guitars that were the perfect platform for experimentation. Pickup swapping, wiring modifications, hardware replacements—nothing was sacred, and everything was tried.
Master Builder Todd Krause replicated this classic instrument as closely as possible to the state it was in when the concert was filmed. From the NOS tone capacitors and knobs with the same tension as the original, to the airbrushed headplug and “wear beneath the wear” on the back of the neck, every element was reproduced as meticulously as possible.
The pickup configuration reflects Robertson’s own idiosyncratic style. Originally a die-hard fan of the Telecaster, Robertson discovered the Stratocaster’s middle pickup got in the way of his picking stroke, so he simply replaced it with a left-handed pickup and relocated it adjacent to the bridge pickup.
The Last Waltz Stratocaster’s gleaming bronze finish was applied “Old World-style”; the guitar was actually dipped into the bronze instead of the contemporary process of forming the bronze around it. The result—a thin coating that penetrates the body wood, revealing the wood grain through the bronze
Not only did Krause precisely replicate the Last Waltz Stratocaster’s unique neck profile and headstock shape, he even matched the “wear beneath the wear” on the fingerboard of the neck. “Wear beneath the wear” means that the neck had been refinished at some point in its life and then absorbed even more playing miles, requiring a multi-step process of finishing/aging, refinishing/aging. Every dent and ding was reproduced as meticulously as possible, even down to the headplug that was airbrushed at the factory to cover a manufacturing flaw.