Getting your own signature model Stratocaster is the equivalent of getting signed by Nike or winning the Super Bowl but in the guitar world. John reached that peak of the mountain and after some years decided the partnership was not meant to last. So why did John Mayer leave Fender?
Why did John Mayer leave Fender? John Mayer left Fender because he had ideas for more than a signature model with the goal of freshening up the electric guitar. Fender rejected John’s ideas, prompting John to leave Fender and take his ideas to PRS.
Continue reading to learn more about his big decision to leave Fender and pursue other avenues.
John Mayer’s Signature Fender Stratocaster
Like many of us, especially those that are obsessed with the blues, Fender is the top of the mountain in the guitar world. On top of the Fender mountain stands the Stratocaster. Blues legends swear by it as the best and most versatile guitar on the market for generations.
Introduced in 2005, John Mayer’s signature Stratocaster was made available in two colors. These were Olympic White and Sunburst. Fender also released limited runs of a few other colorways.
In terms of specifications, his signature model was loosely based off the signature Stevie Ray Vaughan Strat which John purchased in 1996. The big differentiator for this Fender Strat when comparing it to standard models is the Big Dipper pick ups. These pick ups were based off the SRV Stratocaster Signature model which are weaker then normal Texas Specials. This gives the guitar a “scooped sound”. Meaning the Big Dipper pickups focus on the high and low frequencies and roll back on the midrange. This combined with Fender Blackface amps gave a truly unique smooth sound and tone. These pick ups are not for everyone. Guitarists have voiced their concerns, especially those in bands. Saying that they accentuate their ‘hollow’ feel and percussive quality making it difficult to cut through in a band situation.
Find out How John Mayer Learned Guitar here!
The signature model was discontinued in 2014 when John and Fender parted ways. Almost instantly this caused a mass hysteria to 1. buy his Fender model before they ran out and 2. jump to conclusions on the reasons for their split. There were tons of rumors swirling around from a Fender guitar tech dissing John’s then girlfriend Jessica Simpson, to Fender telling John he can only use Fender equipment on stage no matter what. Well the truth came out, continue reading to learn more about what actually happened.
Why Did John Mayer Leave Fender
John Mayer left Fender because his ideas to modify and alter the Stratocaster to create a modern guitar were dismissed. John had an idea for a guitar that was the future of the classic design. Fender was not going to be able to bring this vision to life. Because of this, he left for PRS.
When Mike Eldred was let go by Fender, former head of the custom shop, John remarked how that was an end of an era for Fender where artists had someone to truly talk to at the company. John Mayer is an innovator and he wanted to improve / freshen up the electric guitar for all to benefit. He went to Fender and told them he has an idea for more than a signature model. They dismissed his idea.
John wasn’t necessarily mad at Fender, he simply wanted a company to listen to his ideas and work with him to freshen up the electric guitar. After all, the main structure of electric guitars have not changed much since the 1950’s and each signature model only introduced slight changes at a micro level.
John took these ideas to PRS, Paul Reed Smith. In PRS he saw a company and an owner who truly loved what they do and had a strong desire to innovate. That resonated with John. Leo Fender, creator of Fender, was an innovator and would have been extremely receptive to John’s ideas. Although, Fender is currently owned by the massive corporation Servco Pacific and the receptiveness to new ideas is not there.
In 2014, John Mayer famously tweeted “Heads up to anyone thinking about owning my signature Fender Stratocaster, they’re no longer being made and I’m no longer a Fender artist.” The tweet is below for your viewing pleasure. Shortly after the below tweet, John mentioned how he still loves Fender guitars and will continue to play them, but the fact is that the company as it is today isn’t the same as the one he started with.
Which Guitar Does John Mayer Play Now
John Mayer plays the PRS Silver Sky which he helped to develop with Paul Reed Smith. John designed the PRS Silver Sky with some of his favorite vintage specifications but with revamped technology and a fresher aesthetic.
It was the ideas that Fender rejected that birthed one of the top contenders to the Fender Stratocaster. John calls this guitar a reboot of the electric guitar.
Paul Reed Smith has been known to never settle and to continue to improve every instrument he creates. Check out this video of John showcasing the PRS Silver Sky.
John Mayer mentions how this guitar is not to revise history as it can co-exist with Fender and Gibson. Telling his audience how it is okay to play the Silver Sky through a Fender amp.
With all that being said, he does not always play a PRS. He has the freedom to choose what guitar he wants to play. Since 2014, he has played a Strat still and he very occasionally plays a Gibson. His go to acoustic is a Martin. The Martin and his PRS are his more played instruments now.
Besides my acoustic, I typically only buy Fender guitars. This isn’t because I dislike other manufacturers. It is simply because that’s what my favorite guitarists play and the guitars I feel most comfortable with. I also enjoy the sound and versatility of the Strat more then any other guitar I have played. That being said, I have not truly spent hours playing a PRS Silver Sky and I am sure itching to. Thank you for reading Why Did John Mayer Leave Fender and please subscribe if you would like to be notified when a new article is posted.