top of page

1954 "The Last Waltz" Bronze Strat

Serial# 0234

1954 "The Last Waltz" Bronze Strat

Most associated with:

Robbie Robertson
Born: july 5, 1943
Died: August 9, 2023

Current Ownership:

Robbie Robertson
Family Estate

Previous Ownership:

Norman Harris (Seller)
R&R HOF (On Loan)

You can write plenty of books on Robbie Robertson and his time with "The Band" that had a fantastic- but yet short career being a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan and eventually do their own career as simply "The Band" They were on the cusp of music revolution wave and fused blues with rock in a unique way with "Songs from the Big Pink" that broke grounds at the time.

When it eventually came to call it quits with a concert on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Fransisco. They decided to invite a impressive roster of guest to play with them like Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Joni Mitchell to name a few. The concert is considered historical and was filmed, edited and directed by Martin Scorsese.

When it comes to instruments featured in The Last Waltz, Robertson's 1954 bronze refinished guitar has become a thing for the storybooks.

This guitar started out as a refinished red (not fiesta red) Fender Stratocaster. He bought it from Norman Harris (Norm's Rare Guitars) in late 1973. Robbie was neither keen on owning a red Strat, nor was he even looking for a Strat. But when he picked it up, it just felt totally right on specs. The weight, the neck and the balance. It spoke wonders in Robbie's hands and he fell for it, So he ended up with purchasing it from Norm.

The guitar was used on a few Bob Dylan albums and their final "Islands" album with the original crew. The group had reached a threshold where their albums sold less, their venues grown smaller and with Robertson fed up with touring and wanted out. Then came the idea for The Last Waltz and the decision to put an end to the group. For The Band's final concert, Robbie got this (wild) idea to have the guitar dipped in bronze as a commemorative last hurrah! But it required them to find someone who did bronze plating, something that was not easy to do in 1976. But a crew member of the group knew someone who could do it. He brought it there to see if it was doable, and he came back with a finished coated guitar in brown bronze.

The work was done by a hobbyist who dipped baby shoes in Bronze. A tradition back then for parents to preserve memories by "immortalizing" the first shoes of their newborn

When Robbie tried it sitting down, it did indeed sound different, but the change was most noticeable when he strapped it on and stood up with it. - It weighed much more than before. The whole feel of the guitar was changed overall. The guitar ended up in the concert as planned, but due to its weight, he switched it out to another guitar half-way trough the show.

Some might think this is a HS Strat, but its still a SSS configuration.

The Pickup modification had probably been done some time before the concert, possibly earlier that year if im guessing. Robbie had normally found his niche playing Telecasters before he bought the Strat. Telecasters do not (normally) feature a middle pickup. So he decided to try have it moved down to the bridge pickup out of the way of his fingers. Many might think its a humbucker, but its just the middle stacked together side-by-side to the bridge. To make the pickups give an even output without giving too much volume, The two pickups are wired in series to a 3-way switch.

Today, doing such a thing would be lashed out as a crime and a sacrilege amongst collectors, but back then, Strats were not in fashion so much anymore (Not even Pre-CBS) and collectors barely existed. Besides, the guitar was refinished to begin with in a red color not offered by Fender.

After the concert, he simply kept it at home and saw no more use in the studio. Robbie would receive several offers to sell it, but he declined. It was still special to him. But in the 80's somewhere later he fitted a god-awful Washburn Wonderbar tremolo system on it. Then some years after that in 1995, he lent it to Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame for an exhibition who displayed it for a few years. On it's return, he gave it to Fender Custom Shop and Todd Krause who built a limited amount of replicas of it (luckily without the awful Washburn Bridge) For a long time, It was long believed that this was a 1958 Stratocaster, but Krause dated this to be a 1954 eventually.

On Display at Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame. With a few errors on the description card. Featuring a Washburn tremolo.

There is some debate on how this guitar was bronzed. If it was dipped, it must have been in a low melting mixture of bronze alloy. Pure bronze melts at almost 1000 degree Celsius. That would scorch the guitar (and baby shoes) to coal. Could be that several layers was added by hand, then they put a clear coat over. It is not certain how the process to paint this was done.

Robbie died in 2023, the guitar is still within the family estate, but it can be a possibility that his collection will once go up for sale sometime. Happens often.


Share Your ThoughtsBe the first to write a comment.
bottom of page