Ian Moss is probably Australia’s greatest and best known rock guitarist, famous for his work in the band ‘Cold Chisel’ which first formed in 1973. Ian is also an extremely talented singer and has carved out a successful solo career since the mid 1980s.
Ian owns two Greg Fryer handmade guitars, the white/cream guitar built in 1989 and the black guitar which these days has the neck that I handmade in 1995-96 (as a replacement for the original 1960 neck broken in late 1995) and which in 2012 had a new swamp ash spearmint green body fitted as a replacement for the black early 1970s Fender alder body – which in itself was a replacement for the original 1960 pink/red Fender alder body. If you can follow that – you’re doing well!
Additionally, in mid-late 2019 Ian discussed with me the idea of having a maple neck version of my 1989 white guitar made. I had not made any guitars since 1997 and suggested that we consider the USA company Musikraft who are licenced by Fender USA and make very good quality guitar necks and bodies to custom requirements. In late 2019 the neck and body were made by Musikraft and were shipped to Australia, whereapon they were given final touches, and were painted and assembled by Sydney luthier Frank Grubisa. The completed guitar was nicknamed ‘Ruby’ after its colour. Details and photos are below underneath the Black Guitar section.
White Fryer guitar:
You Tube footage of Ian Moss playing the white Fryer guitar live with ‘Cold Chisel’ at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion in June 2003: ‘Bow River’
4th Oct 2015: Cold Chisel headlined the pre-match entertainment at the NRL Grand Final held at Sydney Olympic Stadium.
4th Oct 2021: Kate Miller Heidke and Ian Moss headlined the pre-match entertainment for the NRL Grand Final held at Lang Park, Brisbane. Nice to see Ian using the 1989 white guitar at this event.
Photos from 19th November 2014: reverse slant bridge pickup ‘Hendrix-style’ can be easily seen in these two photos and in the screenshot below.
The white guitar’s body does not have a beveled contour on its belly, unlike the vast majority of Stratocaster bodies. Instead it was made more slab sided like a Fender Telecaster on the back with no contour because Ian prefers the feel of the Tele body when playing. In the early 1980s the black guitar was modified by Rick Harper to be like this, with a wooden piece of oregon shaped and glued into the area of the beveled contour.
The more plank-style non contoured back of the white guitar can be seen in the following 3 photos:
Because of Ian’s large hands I felt it important to make the neck slightly wider than the classic L series or pre-L Fender Strat necks of the early 1960s, but to keep the back of the neck depth and shape very similar to the best of the old pre-L and L series Fenders. Many guitarists consider that the shape and feel of those old Fender necks has never been surpassed, and I would tend to agree. The white guitar’s fingerboard was made almost 1/16″ wider than the black guitar’s original 1960 neck – all the way down from the nut to the 21st fret.
Fingerboard radius was kept to the same as on Ian’s Black Strat old neck – its fingerboard curve had been modified and flattened in the early 1980s by Rick Harper at Rock Repairs to be almost identical (around 11″ radius) to the favorite fingerboard curve that I have used on many of my custom made guitars since the early 1980s. Fingerboard dot mix was my old favorite – an epoxy resin filler which came from my experience with sailing boats. White Epiglass Epoxy Resin Filler was mixed with a slight caramel colouring to approximate the look of the wonderful ‘clay’ dots of the Pre-L and L series Fenders of the early 1960s.
Ian Moss 1989 White Strat neck specifications:
Width of neck:
At nut: 1 11/16″ (-1/64″)
At 21st fret: 2 1/4″ (-1/64″)
Fingerboard curve: 11 3/16″ radius
Fingerboard material: Amazon Rosewood
Neck material: USA hard rock maple, slab sawn and very well seasoned
Depth of neck:
At 2nd fret: 20.45mm
At 5th fret: 21.80mm
At 12th fret: 24.0mm
Fretwire: Jim Dunlop 6150 or equivalent
Back of neck shape:
By comparison this is the back of neck shape of Ian’s Fender Eric Johnson Strat. Sometimes these profile gauge shapes can be deceptive because the steel wires tend to spring out on the sides under pressure when it is pushed down on a guitar neck – then will usually spring back in on the edges when pressure is released. Taking the shape in only one or two spots can also not be indicative of the rest of the neck’s profile, but usually will give a fairly good idea of the overall shape.
Ian Moss Black Guitar: (one could almost call this the red/black/spearmint guitar because of the many permutations that the guitar has been through)
The 1960 Fender Stratocaster neck was originally mounted on its factory made Fender pink/red body which was made from USA western red alder, and it was this guitar that Ian used most during the early Cold Chisel years. The neck had a Brazilian Rosewood ‘slab style’ fingerboard. This Stratocaster featured in its original form on the early Cold Chisel albums from 1978 to 1980.
When I first saw Cold Chisel in 1977 at Sydney’s Chequers nightclub, Ian was playing this guitar, and the Stratocaster body was recognisable due to the amount of paint near the right forearm area that was peeling off from to its night after night hard gigging life – not helped by the oceans of sweat that poured over the guitar each night during those many years on the road.
The screenshot below taken from the 27 August 1978 ABC video of Ian playing and singing ‘One Long Day’ live with Cold Chisel shows the guitar with its original pink/red Fender Stratocaster body, pickups and scratchplate. The peeling paint near the right forearm area of the body is evident, as is the cracked scratchplate at the neck pickup bottom E screw hole area. Cracking is a very common problem with the old 1960s Fender celluloid scratchplates which shrink with age.
The 2 videos below of ‘One Long Day’ and ‘Conversations’ were recorded by Bernie Cannon at the ABC Studios in Forbes Street Sydney on 27th August 1978.
Just an off the cuff theory, but I suspect that the Strat played by Ian Moss in this video (below) from January 1982 at The Playroom may be the 1960 neck (its identifying features look familiar to me) with the early 1970s body which at that time in 1982 may have been its original Fender colour, a slightly see through mid-dark brown colour which was fairly common on alder Fender Strat and Tele bodies in the early to mid 1970s. Someone will know what this Fender colour was called. Its just a theory and I must ask Rick Harper about this soon.
Below is a screenshot from the video of ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ Live at the Playroom January 1982 which shows the guitar neck. To me, this appears to be the black guitar’s 1960 neck and we can see in the screenshot that the fingerboard is reasonably thick and is a ‘slab’ type ie glued flat onto the flat surface of the light coloured rock maple. This was different in construction to the curved maple surface with thinner curved fingerboard glued-on style of Strat neck which was introduced by Fender from around 1963 onwards until around the early-mid 1980s. The neck appears to have the original Fender Stratocaster decal, although vision from the video is not very clear and its hard to tell. The original tuning heads have been changed for either Schaller or Gotoh heads – having done this myself at the time I remember that many people were changing their tuning heads from the original USA Klusons on Strats and Teles to the German made Schallers in the late 1970s, although the taller post Schallers required an extra string tree to be fitted on Strat and Tele necks for the D&G strings.
We can see the extra string tree fitted to the headstock in this screenshot below. Scroll further down to my photos of the broken black guitar’s 1960 neck and you will see the D&G string tree screw hole that I filled in 1987
By at least February 1983 the 1960 neck was fitted to the black body along with standard Stratocaster style right handed scratchplate (with standard slant of bridge pickup – not the Hendrix-style reverse slant that it would later have) and it was in this configuration that the guitar would appear at the Last Stand concerts in December 1983.
The photos below were taken by Richard Gibson at an outdoor daytime concert on 5 February 1983, and feature Ian Moss playing a white body and maple neck Straocaster which appears to have a Floyd Rose locking nut and tremolo bridge (made popular by Eddie Van Halen from 1978 onwards). I do not know what the white guitar is, and hopefully Rick Harper and Alan Rigg from Rock Repairs – who did the majority of Ian’s guitar repairs, modifications and building in the early 1980s – may be able to provide details of the white body/maple neck guitar.
However in Richard’s photos dated 5 February 1983, at side of stage we can see the 1960 Strat neck and black body on a guitar stand. The guitar has standard Fender style single coil pickups fitted in the standard right handed scratchplate.
Video from Cold Chisel’s Last Stand Concert 15 December 1983 where Ian Moss played the black guitar on ‘Georgia On My Mind’:
Ian and the black guitar also feature in Cold Chisel’s official video for ‘Bow River’ (below) although the footage cuts at times to Ian using a white guitar.
In the early 1980s the original 1960 neck was fitted to an early 1970s Fender alder Stratocaster body which was painted black. The black Fender body was modified by Rick Harper at Sydney’s ‘Rock Repairs’ who did all of Ian’s guitar work at the time. The early 70s body was made for the Fender ‘micro-tilt’ 3 screw neck attachment plate, and was then modified by Rick to suit the earlier (and more stable) 4 screw neck plate which the neck was drilled for.
Either at this time or possibly a few years later Rick shaped and glued a wooden piece of oregon which filled in the rear contoured section of the Strat body and this was painted black same as the rest of the body. The objective of this ‘add-on’ piece in the rear was so the back of the guitar would rest similarly against the body to how a Fender Telecaster rests because Ian preferred how the Telecaster felt when playing. The Fender Telecaster is more ‘plank style’ than the more stylish Stratocaster and does not have the Stratocaster’s chamfered contours of the top and the rear of the body which many players prefer for comfort.
Below is a photo from the National Film and Sound Archives, taken at Cold Chisel’s Last Stand Concert at Sydney Entertainment Centre 15 December 1983. It is difficult to tell from the quality of this photo whether the filled-in oregon piece had already been glued into the back of the Strat body, although to me it appears to be fitted. Alternatively this may have happened sometime after the final concerts when the band were no longer touring. I have several photos of the guitar body and neck taken from between 1987-1996 which I will try to find soon in my photo collection, and will also ask Rick Harper about this soon. Alan Rigg who ran Rock Repairs for several years would also likely know about these details and I will try to contact him soon about it.
Some time in the early-mid 1980s a new scratchplate was made for the black guitar which featured the bridge pickup set at the opposite slanted angle to how a Fender Stratocaster bridge pickup normally is. Ian liked the idea of obtaining the ‘Jim Hendrix bridge Strat pickup sound’ – where the G B and top E strings sound warmer than they would normally on a standard right handed Strat. (Jimi Hendrix was left handed and played a standard right handed Strat which was strung in reverse order for a left handed player ie. thick bottom E string where the right hander would have the thin top E string, and vice versa).
A set of EMG-S active pickups were fitted around this time in the early-mid 1980s.
This reverse slant bridge pickup can be seen in my 1996 photo, taken at my workshop after I made the new neck for the guitar.
In 1987 Ian first asked me to do repairs and setting up on his black guitar. At that time the neck was attached to its black 1971-ish Fender alder body but the guitar had been gigged really hard during its working life and had a lot of repair work and alterations done to both body and neck over the years. Some different bridges and tuning heads had been fitted at different times.
The fingerboard had been refretted several times and the fingerboard curve had been flattened to radius of approx 11″. The Fender decal on the headstock was not the original 1960s one and had been replaced when the guitar neck was resprayed satin clear during the Rock Repairs days around 1980. At one point the neck had a Kahler locking nut clamp which sat behind the nut.
The neck came to grief during an onstage fight in late 1995 between Ian and legendary ‘hard man’ bass player Ian Rilen. I seem to remember that Ian told me that this occurred at the Manly Warringah Leagues Club.
The headstock was completely broken off. Ian asked me to make a replacement neck for the guitar and this was made from USA rock maple and a Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard, and also featured one of my custom truss rods. The fingerboard was made a little wider than Frogs Legs 103’s original 1960 neck which Ian said he found a little too narrow at times.
Ian said he liked the extra width of the fingerboard on the 1989 white Fryer guitar, and we decided to make the replacement neck fingerboard almost as wide as the white guitar and use the same 11″ radius fingerboard curve of Frogs Legs 103 neck. The 1989 white guitar’s neck had also been made to this same radius that Ian liked. The 11″ radius is much flatter than the standard Fender 7.25″ radius. It gives a different feel to the guitar and makes the thinner strings G, B and top E sustain longer when the strings are bent compared to playing a standard 7.25″ radius neck.
The broken 1960 Fender Stratocaster neck FL 103:
The neck heel is inscribed with ‘FL103’ or ‘Frogs Legs 103’ as Ian once jokingly referred to it.
Black guitar with newly completed Fryer replacement neck in early 1996:
Video of Ian and the black guitar with replacement neck in the late 1990s playing at the benefit/tribute concert for great New Zealander singer Marc Hunter from the band ‘Dragon’:
In 2012 the black guitar body was replaced with a new swamp ash body. Frank Grubisa did the work of painting the body spearmint green and assembling the neck, body and parts – guitar now nicknamed ‘Minty’.
Pic of spearmint green body guitar coming soon as I can find one. Below is a photo courtesy of Ian which compares the Telecaster-like slab sides of Minty to his Fender Eric Johnson Strat which has the traditional beveled contour on the back/belly.
2020 ‘Smoked Ruby’ Musikraft USA custom made version of white Fryer 1989 guitar:
In mid-late 2019 Ian discussed with me the idea of having a custom Stratocaster version of my white 1989 guitar made, but one with a maple neck. I was very flattered that Ian said the white 1989 guitar is the one which he feels most comfortable playing. Because I had stopped making guitars in 1997 and obviously wasn’t in a position to offer to make such a guitar, I suggested that the USA company Musikraft would be good to ask about it. They have a good reputation for producing quality custom specification products and are also licenced by Fender USA.
Discussions commenced with Musikraft in late 2019, and after dozens of emails and phone calls back and forth, the guitar neck and body were made and then shipped to Australia for the finishing touches and assembly. Once the neck and body landed in Australia, they were given final finishing tweaks, were painted and assembled by Frank Grubisa of Grubisa Guitars in Sydney.
The guitar body was painted in ‘smoked ruby’ colour – closely matching the Indian motorcycle colour Smoked Ruby which Ian said he particularly likes.
‘Ruby’ debuted in February 2020 on the Cold Chisel ‘Blood Moon’ tour of 2019-2020, and Ian has told me that he is very happy with this new beautiful creation. Although Ruby is not a guitar that I personally handmade, nevertheless due of my involvement with its beginning and specifications I feel a close connection with it!
Ruby pictured in different light shortly after completion (photos courtesy of Ian Moss)
Please note: Fender®, Stratocaster®, Strat®, Tele® and Telecaster® are all registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and Fender Music Australia Pty Ltd. Greg Fryer/Fryer Guitars is not affiliated in any way with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation or Fender Music Australia Pty Ltd.