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Ultimate Hentor Sportscaster Fans Discussion

Hentor Strat Pork Grace Pictures Signals Gear 80s Windows Waves

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#1 TheSpiritOfLerxst

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Posted 16 September 2020 - 09:57 PM

This topic is being created to be the ultimate collection of information and discussion for my fellow "Hentor Sportscaster" enthusiasts out there. There have been various discussions over the years, for those looking to build their own replicas of Alex's customized Strats, and not only do I want to put all the info in one place, but there are some newly discovered details on those guitars, that haven't been discussed in the forums before! :) There have also been some misconceptions passed along over the years, so this will be sort of a definitive, accurate collection of information for those interested. :)

For those who don't know, Alex was mainly playing Fender Stratocasters on the road from the early to mid eighties. Three of these guitars were heavily modified over the years, and have developed a cult following of their own. By Power Windows, he was also playing a few stock Strats, Elite Strats, Strats with Kahler tremolos, etc, before switching completely to Signature Guitar Co. In this topic, we're focusing on the three modified Strats. A white one, a black one, and a candy apple red one.

The white one:
This is the "Hentor Sportscaster." There was a misconception for a while, that all three of these guitars were called "Hentor Sportscasters," but only the white one is called that. For a long time, it was believed that all three of these were 1977 Strats originally, but the white one was a 73 (Or at least it was acquired in 73 by Alex, he scratched that year into the plastic tremolo cover). All three of these Strats began as stock Fenders with the big fat CBS headstock. The white one was first modified by putting a Gibson humbucker in the bridge position, and replacing the usual Fender blade switch with a Gibson style toggle switch on the lower horn. The guitar was used in this configuration to record "The Spirit of Radio," and is seen in "Exit... Stage Left," still with stock Fender tremolo. It is also seen this way in the video for "Countdown." By Grace Under Pressure, he had replaced the stock tremolo with an early non-fine-tuner Floyd Rose, with no locking nut. He had also replaced the necks on all three of these guitars with an aftermarket neck made by a company in Ottawa called Shark. This neck was quartersawn maple, ebony fretboard, 21 frets, mother of pearl dot inlays, strangely positioned black side dots, bullet-style truss rod nut, and the headstock was thinner than a "CBS" headstock, but still wider than a traditional Strat headstock. Though these strats were originally 3-bolt style with micro-tilt, the aftermarket necks were mounted with 4 bolts. Because the new neck had no Fender logo, as a joke, he dubbed it the "Hentor Sportscaster" as a sort of knock-off sounding name, and applied a new logo with Letraset. "Hentor" was a reference to Hentor, the Barbarian, their nickname for Peter Henderson, the producer for Grace Under Pressure. He had also added a Bill Lawrence L500L pickup by this point, and DiMarzio single coils. It is unknown what model the single coils were back then, but this guitar CURRENTLY has DiMarzio FS-1 single coils. He had swapped pickup colors back and forth over the years. He had cream/white pickups in the live Grace Under Pressure video, but the guitar now has all black pickups. On the Power Windows tour, this guitar was tuned up to play The Big Money, and was used to record many of the solos on Hold Your Fire. It was also used in the recording of Show Don't Tell.
At some point in the late eighties, the non-fine-tuning Floyd Rose was replaced with a Floyd Rose with fine tuners and a locking nut, but it is unclear exactly when this happened. The Bill Lawrence was also replaced with a black DiMarzio Super Distortion at some point, but after being restored by luthier Freddy Gabrsek, it sports a Bill Lawrence L500L once again. It also now has a 42mm L-shaped brass block, and stainless steel frets.

The black one:
This guitar is called the "Porkflapsocaster," and currently resides at the Canadian Museum of History.
This guitar with its original maple neck/fretboard, was outfitted with a Non-fine-tuning Floyd Rose WITH the locking nut, and a Gibson Humbucker, like the white one, and used this way in the Limelight video. Like the white guitar, the neck was replaced by the time of Grace Under Pressure, and he did not keep the locking nut. While the aftermarket neck for the white guitar has an ebony fretboard, this one was rosewood. He also replaced the Gibson humbucker with a Bill Lawrence L500L, but unlike the white guitar, he mounted the Bill Lawrence with a mounting ring over top of the pickguard, in stead of getting a new pickguard made. The guitar appears this way in the video for Afterimage, and in the Grace Under Pressure live video. At the time, Alex cited this as his main live guitar. Again, having no Fender logo on the new neck, Lerxst got creative and added "PORKFLAPSOCASTER Protected by tents in England" to the headstock, with Letraset.
Here's where it gets interesting! Based on what we know about the white "Hentor Sportscaster, and how the mods on these guitars were done the same and at the same time, it was long assumed that the non-fine-tuning Floyd Rose was replaced by a "Floyd Rose Original." In fact, this guitar is equipped with a Schaller Floyd Rose II, non-recessed. While the tremolo is chrome, the locking nut is black with mismatching black and chrome pads, and a black string retainer. The Bill Lawrence mounting ring is still present over top of the pickguard.

The red one:
The one that doesn't have a name, often referred to as the "D.E.W." guitar for its appearance in the Distant Early Warning video. This guitar is seen in an early 80s magazine cover, candy apple red with matching, fat CBS headstock with bullet truss rod nut, mirror pickguard, stock tremolo, Gibson SG knobs, Gibson humbucker, and otherwise modded the same as the others. You can see photos from the Signals tour with this guitar outfitted with a Bill Lawrence pickup and non-fine-tuning Floyd Rose. Interestingly, in the video for Distant Early Warning, you can see that he has gone with a full fine-tuning Floyd Rose, but still NO locking nut. This guitar was never given it's own knock-off name, because the stock Fender neck was never replaced. It is unknown whether or not he ever added a locking nut.

Other details and clarification:
The Shark necks had no finish on them, bullet style truss rod nuts, and the headstock shape is close in shape to the CBS era, but slimmer. The white "Hentor Sportscaster" has an ebony fretboard, and the black "Porkflapsocaster" has rosewood. The neck on the black guitar is held on by a gold colored 4-bolt neck plate. A small detail that most of you reading this are probably already aware of, is that the jack plates were inverted on all three of these guitars. It was also assumed for years that these guitars had alder bodies. I can't speak for the black or red one, but the Hentor Sportscaster has an ash body.
As far as the neck specs, Alex replaced the stock necks to make them feel more "Gibson-like." The scale length on these guitars is still 25.5, so by "Gibson-like," he must be referring to either the radius, or the back profile. I would assume it's the radius, 10" like a Gibson, or maybe 12". A Floyd Rose Original today ships stock with a shim under the 4 inner saddles to give it a 10" radius, and without the shim, it's 12". For my replicas, I chose to use 12" radius necks, to match a Floyd Rose perfectly without a shim.

Did I miss anything? :) Let me know if you have any questions!
I hope this topic comes off the right way. I'm deeply grateful for this forum and the friends I've made here, and I've learned a lot about the band's gear over the years. I was one of many aspiring to replicate some of my favorite Alex Lifeson guitars based on false specs and guesswork details, and I wanted to share what I've learned over the years. I gathered most of my information from combinations of interviews from magazine articles in the Rush Library over on Cygnus, pictures and info from historymuseum.ca, and from obsessively following Freddy Gabrsek's updates on his restoration and replication of Alex's ACTUAL Hentor Sportscaster. :)

Maybe the next chapter will be Signature Guitar Co... ;) Now THERE'S a lot of misinformation!

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#2 TFEman

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Posted 13 December 2020 - 11:33 PM

Awesome thread so far, hopefully we can culminate all the various thread info to one place. I believe that the Gibson-like feel refers to both radius and shape of the shark necks, seeing as that I really doubt Shark or any companies would try to serve the extremely niche market of Gibson scale fender replacement necks. The Mirror Strat kept the stock fender Trem through the GUP tour believe it or not, and I believe that and the Black one switched from Gibson PAF to the L500L AFTER the Signals tour. There is pictures of the Black Strat on the Signals tour with the PAF. So After that tour he got the L500L in those two plus switched the Hentor single coils to white and used the Hentor to open shows and mainly relied on the Porkflapsocaster for the bulk of shows. Not sure what he used the Mirror Strat. for, maybe alt tunings like Between the Wheels or something like that. For the Power Windows tour he still was using the Black Strat and as far as we can tell used the Hentor for The Big Money and the mirror Strat as a backup of some sort. He also had a Strat elite that had the weird covered single coils and push in pickup toggle switches which I think he used either for The Big Money or possibly as a backup for his Tele? Maybe? I know he used the tele for New World Man and Manhattan Project but I digress. As far as recording stuff goes I have no idea besides Show Don't Tell.

Last important note is that the switching isn't confirmed to be identical on all 3 so we know the Hentor is Neck. Neck/Mid, Bridge and uses a Gibson L style 6 (or 7) pin 3 way switch. Not sure if the other 2 are the same or not, and if that made a difference.

#3 TheSpiritOfLerxst

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Posted 14 December 2020 - 10:55 PM

Thanks for the compliment! As far as the stock Fender trem on the mirror strat, the official music video for Distant Early Warning shows it with a fine-tuning Floyd Rose (but still no locking nut). I don't know when that video was made relative to the GUP tour, though. And you're probably right about the PAF pickup AFTER the Signals tour, I don't remember what I had wrote in the original post about that detail, but I know the white one can be seen still with the PAF pickup in the official music video for Countdown.

#4 TheSpiritOfLerxst

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Posted 26 December 2020 - 04:15 PM

Having re-read some of my original post, I realized I was getting pretty tired halfway through and may have left some things out. I don't know if I mentioned this, but at some point early on with the red Strat, when he still had the stock Fender tremolo on it, Alex said in an interview that he had all 5 springs in it, and they were tightened all the way down. If I remember correctly, he used it in that configuration to play 2112 live for a short period, but I don't have a direct reference to the source handy at the moment. But it's all available in the Rush Library over on the Cygnus site.
I also forgot to mention that you can see pictures of the black "Porkflapsocaster" in it's current condition on that Canadian museum website. There's actually a lot of Rush stuff you can see there, such as a couple of Alex's Marshall 4140 Club & Country combo amps, Geddy's red-finished Minimoog from P/G, and much more! And apparently someone at the museum thinks that the tremolo arm is supposed to plug into the output jack...





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