Man in black, the warlock, the dark wizard of the Olympus of electric guitars; call him what you like, but do not think that we’re talking of fairy tales and of spells that exist only in fables, but rather this gent named Ritchie Blackmore has earned all these nicknames because what he does with his guitar is real magic, the true kind that you can almost feel.
This absolute genius of the 6-string began his career with Deep Purple, not with a Fender as most people would think, but with a Gibson ES-335 he picked up at a shop near his home when he was just 17. At that age he didn’t know the many things that would happen in his life, like for example how, with this band, he was going to change the way rock music would be made forever, or that the guy who ran that music shop called Jim was going to become the builder of the most famous amplifiers in the world (surname Marshall) or that young clerk that sold him the guitar called Mitch Mitchell would end up playing drums with one of the few guitarists in history who would be a little bigger than him (Hendrix). Little did that young Blackmore know, but one thing he did know was that he wanted to be the fastest guitarist with the loudest sound in the world. And he did.
But to get there would take a few more years, just as the covers and the psychedelia in his beginnings were gradually left aside, his Gibson would have to make room for the guitar we all associate and will always attribute to the Brit: the Fender Stratocaster. The first one he ever got was bought from a friend, who was given the guitar by Eric Clapton himself. That’s right, but it wasn’t the legendary one he played for nearly 30 years in a row, but rather he chose Stratocaster bodies and necks that were brought to him and would become ‘frankenstein's’ made to measure. He did the same with the pickups on the neck and bridge, he never used the mid pickup at all while we can see that the other 2 positions (remember the Fender had originally 3 and if you take out the middle one, just 2 remain) were changed almost frantically.
Another of his character traits is that he’s one of the first guitarists who scalloped the fretboard, forming a U to get better adaptation and fingering for his left hand (a technique later copied and boosted by other ‘guitar hero’ like Yngwie Malmsteen).
Due to all the modifications it’s hard to know or speak about concrete Stratocaster models throughout his career. It’s likely that his first Strats were from ‘68 and later got some from ‘70. The one model we can talk about is his own Fender Ritchie Blackmore Signature made to his tastes to the millimetre, and as a novelty or more important difference from the rest of Stratocasters it has just one piece that joins the neck to the body, which is to say it isn’t screwed on.
To become the fastest he dedicated hours of practice, applying his knowledge and baroque scaling in his music, and to get that loud sound he went to his old friend Jim Marshall who convinced him with the 200 watt Marshall Major. It was much later in his career when he decided to endorse the Engl brand to have them make the heads to measure which he uses today which highlights the sound as good both on low or high volumes, something you can’t do with a Marshall that only saves its best for brutal volumes. Curiously for guitarists who are involved in the musical software world, it should be pointed out that a big virtual reproduction of this amp is in the Custom series of the Amplitube from IK Media.
So now you know some of the potions and spells of this black wizard who has a place of honour among the guitar giants of all time; and to leave the fables aside, just change the magic in those tales for pure talent, something this gent definitely does not lack.