Fender Master Builder Carlos Lopez Talks the Eric Johnson ’54 Virginia Strat

by Daniel Corey

In the Fender NAMM 2020 showroom
with Carlos Lopez and the Eric Johnson Strat

It was Day 1 of Winter NAMM 2020, and I was ready to get the event rolling. After picking up my badge, the first place that I visited was the Fender showroom. As always, Fender had many wonderful wares on display, and you can read my overview of their NAMM 2020 offerings here.

I had previously met Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Carlos Lopez at the 2019 Fender Road Show at Guitar Center in Hollywood, where I had the chance to play a beautiful Thinline Telecaster that he had built. Carlos is an amazing talent and super-nice fellow, so I was happy to run into him again by the Limited Editions display. I asked Carlos what he was excited about at NAMM this year, and without hesitation, he started to tell me about his latest creation, the Eric Johnson ’54 Virginia Strat.

At the 2019 Fender Custom Shop Roadshow
with Carlos’ Custom Thinline Telecaster

Specs: 3-Tone Sunburst finish,
Herringbone binding, Lollar pickups,
Fender Custom Shop RSD bridge

Daniel Corey: Daniel Corey of DangerKatt Central, here, at Winter NAMM 2020. I’m in the Fender showroom with Fender Master Builder Carlos Lopez.

So, Carlos, what is this special guitar that we’re talking about, here?

Carlos Lopez: Well, we’re talking about the ’54 Virginia, the guitar that we recreated for Eric Johnson. Eric had taken it to a tech to get it cleaned up, and when he got it back, all of his modifications had been cleaned out. He was mad about it, so he sold it. It wasn’t the same guitar.

Eric came to us, saying, “I want you to recreate this guitar to my specifications.” So, every little detail, to the flat washer, to the Graph Tech nut, his wiring, his pickups, the certain pots that he used–we put it all into this guitar. It’s in a lush, classic finish, so it has some checking in it. It’s a sassafras body, offset seam to the bass side. It has a 4A flame neck, flat, 12-inch radius, 6105 frets. So, this is his guitar.

The Fender Certificate of Authenticity
for the Eric Johnson Strat

The cool thing about it is that I made for him, he got it right out of the case, and he hasn’t stopped playing it. He’s touring with it. So, for him to take out a guitar like that–if you know Eric Johnson, he’s a really, really picky guy. To get the guitar and start touring with it, it says a lot about the guitar.

Daniel Corey: Oh, absolutely.

Carlos Lopez: If it wasn’t for the team that made it easy for me to build, it couldn’t have gotten done the way that it did. Having a good team around you makes everything easier.

Daniel Corey: Well, it’s very nice of you to give credit to the team, as well, so good for you.

Carlos Lopez: Thank you.

The Eric Johnson ‘54 Virginia Strat
built by Carlos Lopez

Daniel Corey: This is a limited edition, then?

Carlos Lopez: We’re doing a 50-piece run. Eric has one; this is the second one that I’ve made. Whenever the orders come in for the next 49, I’m gonna make them.

The cool thing about this one was, you know, it was so intimate, because all of the wood that we got for these was sassafras. We had pallets of it, and I would have to go through all the pallets to get the lightest pieces. Every slab that we got was hand-picked and weighed by me. So, it just makes this guitar more personal.

Daniel Corey: Nice.

Carlos Lopez: Yeah. It’s one of my babies now, and I’m proud of it.

Buy an Eric Johnson Virginia Strat at the Fender website.

And check out Eric Johnson’s musical offerings at Apple Music.

Happy music-making, DangerKatts!

  • Daniel Corey