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Mick Mars and the Fender Stratocaster

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.


Loud, Rude, and Aggressive Guitarist, Mick Mars

Robert Alan Deal is known across the world as Mick Mars. He is famously a loud, rude, and aggressive guitar player. He was a hero of mine in my youth. He's a hero of mine today too. I've been listening to this guy since I was in the sixth grade.

The guitarist of that motliest of crews, Motley Crue, he's filled the position since there was one. The band hasn't had a stable history, but for the biggest part of its history, the same four guys have held it together. The classic Crue quartet is a major money maker.

Motley Crue has been a motley musical entity since 1981, and over the course of time, they've sold over one hundred million records. They are one of the most successful musical acts in the history of recorded music.

There is an old adage about suffering for one's art. I'm not sure I can think of anyone who suffers more for it than Mick Mars. He's far past the point where others would retire. Mick rocks on, and he does it with a Fender Stratocaster.

Fender Player HSH Stratocaster

In this day and age, there are people with nothing close to a career and the level of success Mick Mars has, and they still have their own signature guitar. There is no Mick Mars signature Stratocaster, and this is most likely because Mick doesn't really care much about the idea.

Over the years, Mick has played a large assortment of six string instruments, but as time has gone on, he's become a guy who nearly always reaches for one of his many Fender Stratocasters. His main guitar is a Frankenstein instrument. It's pieced together from parts from '63, '64, and a 1965 Strat. This guitar is in an HSH configuration with J.M. Rolph pickups and a Floyd Rose vibrato.

These modifications, the addition of humbuckers and a Floyd Rose make Mick's main guitar, by definition, a Super Strat. These days, there's no reason, besides just wanting to, to have all that work done on a Strat. You can usually find something exactly like what you want, or at least very close to what you want straight from the factory.

This is a case of something being very close to what Mick uses. The Fender Player HSH Stratocaster is fantastic without modification. The Player Series is the brand new line out of Mexico, and is a pointed improvement over the Standard Series, which it replaces. What makes the Player Series better than the Fender Standard line before it?

Fender Player Stratocaster HSH

Fender Player Stratocaster HSH

New on the Fender Player HSH Strat

The first and foremost improvement of the Fender Player Series is the pickups. You can see this guitar is in the HSH pickup formation, the same that Mick Mars and others use. This is much more of a hard rock and metal sort of pickup formation than a three single coil Strat would be.

Though these pickups are passive, they are hotter wound than typical. They have a bit of a high output, and Fender describes them as medium output. These will drive you into distortion more easily than your typical Alnico II humbuckers. No need to go for the aftermarket pups Mick Mars uses.

The middle single coil pickup is a feature in the 2018 Fender Player Strats. This is an Alnico V pickup, and it absolutely provides the glassy spanky and quacky tones people expect from Stratocaster single coils. It represents an improvement over the Standard series single coils, and not an insignificant one. The single coil allows you to go from sounding like Mick Mars to Eric Clapton. That's some real versatility and utility in a guitar!

To truly have a Strat like the ones Mick Mars favors, you simply have to have a Floyd Rose trem, and the locking nut which goes with it. This new Fender Player HSH Strat does not have that, but let me tell you about the two point tremolo it does have. This is a totally non-traditional Strat trem system, it floats freely, and provides something much closer to what a Floyd Rose does than a vintage style Stratocaster trem system does.

Unless you are a big Floyd Rose dive bombing type of player, this new two point tremolo will likely satisfy your desires. If you need more, you can always get a Floyd installed later. These new Fender Player guitars are slightly more expensive than the previous Standards were, but I must say, it is money well spent as the new upgrades are very substantial.

Fender Player Series Stratocaster HSH Solidbody Electric Guitar Features:

  • Comfort-contoured alder body, gloss polyester finish
  • Maple, modern C-shaped neck (satin polyurethane finish)
  • 9.5"-radius fingerboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets. Maple and Pau Ferro fingerboards available
  • Alnico II moderate-output humbuckers are voiced dynamic and sweet
  • Alnico V center single-coil has all the quack, spank, and sparkle you expect from a Strat
  • Fender 2-point "Synchronized Tremolo" floating vibrato bridge/tailpiece
  • Fender standard cast/sealed tuning machines
  • Synthetic bone nut, width: 1.650"
  • 25.5" scale length
  • Chrome hardware
Motley Crue - Mick Mars, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, and Nikki Sixx.

Motley Crue - Mick Mars, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, and Nikki Sixx.

Motley Crue

Robert Alan Deal (Mick Mars) is originally from Indiana, a heartland boy, but his family would move to California before his teen years. Going for broke, Deal dropped out of high school to play the guitar. It was a make it or break it situation, and he most certainly did make it.

A major bit of trivia is that Deal once went by the stage name of Zorky Charlemagne. He's into original stage names. Mr. Deal, or Mars, would spend nearly a decade of finding precious little in the way of success. He'd been playing in a number of blues-rock bands, and none of it had amounted to much of anything.

He dyed his hair jet black, and went for a new approach. Punk music was in, blues-rock seemed to be on the way out. He changed his clothing style too, and posted an advertisement in The Recycler magazine, and described himself, very famously, as a loud, rude, and aggressive guitarist. The ad got the attention of Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx, and that trio has been collectively loud, rude, and aggressive ever since.

The four members of Motley Crue have been well documented for maintaining a hedonistic lifestyle. Of course there was nothing original in that. Star musicians and excesses in lifestyle are paradigms older than many hills. I must say, however, that when I was in about the sixth grade, and was starting to notice the opposite sex, the music of Motley Crue felt much to me like a boys club. A sound space for boys to be boys.

Shout at the Devil!

The early 1980s were a very different time. Things were so different, a teen of today would scarcely recognize the culture or the nation. Motley Crue was formed in 1981, and they promptly recorded Too Fast for Love, and then went on a tour of Canada.

Everyone in the band was a huge fan of punk rock music, and though their music wasn't really punk, as it was a tad more musically complex, they dressed like punk musicians. They'd be arrested at a Canadian airport for their studded leather outfits. They wore those to the airport where the clothes were considered weaponry. Vince Neil was also arrested for carrying a bag full of pornographic magazines.

Oh, the charges were real. The stunts, however, were later revealed to be entirely contrived for the purpose of public relations. A bad boy image was set into motion, and IT would be maintained. Next came a bomb threat, and being banned from Edmonton, Canada. They got covered in international press releases, and that seemed to prove it all rather wise.

Shout at the Devil was released in September of 1983. It would sell five million records, and Motley Crue would become one of the bands the growing Christian hysteria movement would focus on. People like Tipper Gore would talk about how the band and others were trying to introduce children to Satanism.

I assure you this only made the album more attractive to someone like me. I had no interest in Satan, and neither did anyone else I knew, but what we were interested in was music which we were not supposed to possess or listen to. To own Motley Crue cassette tapes was to be in rebellion against the parental order. I loved that album, and I still do.

Whiskey, Motorcycles, and Strip Clubs

Shout at the Devil was almost universally panned by critics. It was called a jumble of Aerosmith and Kiss cliches. One can see where that idea would be somewhat valid, but it missed the mark. Another person said the point of the thing was to provide cheap thrills to jaded teens. Okay, that's what it did. Motley Crue was not making music for critics, but for adolescents and young adults who wanted a bit of rebellion and something to party to.

Vince Neil would be arrested again, but this was not a stunt. He was involved in a car accident that took a life. Neil was charged with drunken driving and manslaughter. Theater of Pain was released, and the Crew were now full fledged glam rockers. It was hairspray heaven, if you will. Music to Crash Your Car To seemed like a bad title for a box set to me, but not to Motley Crue.

Girls, Girls, Girls was released in 1987, and Motley Crue was truly in their prime. I was 13 years old, and an album dedicated to whiskey, strip clubs, and motorcycles sounded like a good time. It sounded like everything I'd want to enjoy. The truth of the matter, however, was that all four members of Motley Crue were dancing with death.

Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars.

Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars.

A Number One Album

Everyone in Motley Crue would wind up in rehab. Everyone except for Mick Mars, who cleaned himself up all on his own. Nikki Sixx would be pronounced dead, but death didn't become him. He was legally gone for two minutes, and then a paramedic, who knew exactly who the body belonged to, stuck a couple shots of adrenaline into his heart, and Sixx came back around.

Here in capitalist America, we take what we've got, and use it to the best of our ability to turn a profit from it. That's exactly what Motley Crue would do with their drug and alcohol experiences. Dr. Feelgood would be released in 1989, and it would go straight to number one. Kickstart My Heart, a reference to Sixx's two minutes of death, would be the band's first number one single.

Critics still hated Motley Crue, but the new album managed to win a few of them over. Bob Rock produced the thing, and it was a pristine production. The members of the band, having a hard time dealing with one another, were encouraged to record their parts separately. It was one of the most memorable albums of my high school years, and the groove of the title track? That's what heavy metal music is supposed to be about.

Health Problems

I'd mentioned how Mick Mars suffers for his art. It's nothing new at all, but his condition is something which does not get better with time, but worse. For his entire professional career, he has had ankylosing spondylitis, a severe form of arthritis that affects the spine and pelvis. Mars had hip replacement surgery in 2004, and that is also legendary for being extremely painful.

Maybe Mars wasn't so into the drugs as the others, as he's had to use them for pain control, not for partying. His condition has led to scoliosis, and he is now three inches shorter than he was in high school. Yet he still gets on stage and performs for the fans. Oh, he's certainly paid well for all of this, but I do very much hope people understand the man is in pain when he's performing. I want people to appreciate that.


Decade of Decadence would be released in 1991, and it would make it to number two on the Billboard charts. The decadence of the decade of hair metal, or glam metal, was something which had wore thin on my generation. In fact, something big was about to happen, and bands like Motley Crue were not going to be a part of it.

The Grunge scene, more than anything else, caused the breakup of not just the original Motley Crue lineup, but many other bands from the 1980s as well. The decade of the 90s was full of a very different style of metal, with an ethos unrelated to what bands like Motley Crue were known for.

There would still be new Motley Crue albums produced, but the lineup was changed, and changed some more. The 90s would largely be a lost decade for the band, but as the long time fans were heading towards middle age, the original quartet would reunite, and enjoy some success again.

© 2018 Wesman Todd Shaw


Michael James on December 27, 2018:

@Wesman -The Player Series Strats are routed HSH from what I understand, though I have yet to take one apart.

Steven Dewayne Mask on December 26, 2018:

Motley Crew is and always will be the bad boys of Rock

Sam on December 26, 2018:

I enjoyed your read. In mid 50's now but still listen to them every once in a while,brings back memories. They will always be my favorite band.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on December 26, 2018:

Hey yeah, that was my theory - I don't know what those BC Rich guitars tend to weigh, but he probably had a really good and older Les Paul, one of the ones which weighed a lot. Probably was too much weight.

One thing I don't know, yet, about the Player Series is - are they like the Standard Series was in terms of routing under the pickguards.

The Standard Strats were all routed out HSH, regardless of what configuration they were sold with. So anyone could change out the pickups (except the middle one was always just a single coil) to HSH or HSS without having to do any woodwork.

Michael James on December 26, 2018:

I'm around your age, and Motley Crue was likewise a huge influence for me. Even with all they have accomplished, Too Fast for Love is still my favorite Crue record, and one of my favorite albums from that time period. I believe Mick played Les Pauls and BC Rich guitars during those early days, before his condition worsened. He still sounds awesome, no matter what he plays.

BTW, there is a Strat with a Floyd Rose in the Player Series, though it does have a single coil at the neck instead of a humbucker.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 24, 2018:

I had heard of Motley Crue, but your article fills in a lot of detail. You make an interesting point about the pain Mick musr endure while performing. This is a very thorough and well-structured article.