Yamaha's Tele - Mike Stern

Yamaha's Tele - Mike Stern

Lick Of The Week with Stevie K

Drone tone depicting the beautiful Key of D and flowing through the key unobstructed.

Staccato or Legato: 1 2 4,  1 3 5,  1 3 4

The Yamaha Guitar Development (YGD) facility opened in North Hollywood in 1989.

The design team, headed by Rich Lasner formerly of Ibanez, was given the freedom to modify and customize existing Yamaha models and create new ones. 

They kind of had an open door policy and relied on extensive feedback from L.A. musicians.   

By far the most popular model to evolve from this group was the double cut Pacifica, some of which were made in the USA in the early days. 

However, the first one they delivered was the Weddington (Custom, Classic, & Special).  Yammi’s original play on the Les Paul but with a more sophisticated circuitry. 

Arguably borrowing from the upper half of the Weddington shape eventually came Yamaha’s Pacifica t-style in 1994 which consisted of both hot-rodded shredder models (trem and humbuckers) and more traditional single coil appropriations.  

The higher end production models were built in Japan and assembled in Taiwan. The less expensive models were made in Taiwan.   

The absolute fanciest t-style of the bunch, the USA-1, was built in North Hollywood and came out in 1995.

These early Pacifica models lay the foundation for an eventual deal between Yamaha and jazz guitarist Mike Stern.

Mike was a Tele player and before the collaboration his main guitar was a Tele he bought from Danny Gatton who had gotten it from Roy Buchanan. That guitar was stolen at gunpoint in a Boston bus station and thereafter Mike was playing a partscaster.   

In the early 90s Yamaha approached Mike before about a signature guitar, but being a self-described “one-guitar guy” he remained satisfied with the partscaster.  Around 1995 Yamaha presented the idea to Mike again and this time he was game.  

The result was the PAC1511MS and it debuted in 1997. Built exactly to his specifications including matching the weight of the partscaster his original had a Seymour Duncan ‘59 in the neck and a Duncan Hot Rails in the bridge.   

Otherwise it’s a straightforward guitar, ash body, maple neck, and 3-way pickup selector.

Notes: The latest model number of this guitar from Yamaha is the 1611MS.  The difference being Yamaha’s “Initial Response Acceleration” wood treatment finish.  And about the same time Cornell Dupree had a signature t-style guitar with Yamaha in a SSH pickup configuration. The budget version of Mike’s guitar is the 311MS, made in Taiwan, and was cataloged from 1999-2004.



I have played and loved a Pacifica. Now I have seller’s remorse. Never again I tell ya! Yamaha does good. I must brag about seeing Roy Buchanan at Fitzgerald’s in Houston Texas back in the day. What a show! Danny Gatton is one of my influences and have video of him performing. Those two are part of the reason I play. They gave me something to reach for.

Keith Amyx

Steve, with regard to your nomenclature, what do you mean by 1 2 4? In the video, when you play what you have deemed the 1 2 4, it looks and sounds as though you are playing 5 or 6 notes (not 3). Same for the 1 3 5 and 1 3 4. Anyway, wonderful lick of the week! Thank you in advance for replying to my question regarding it.

Scott Thompson

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