The ‘Salmon Pink’ Myth

Few things in the vintage guitar market are as confusing as the custom guitar colour often referred to as Salmon Pink.  To understand why, you have to go back to Fender’s paints of the 1950s and 60s and realize they were also the automobile paints of the time.





In that era of American pop culture, rock ‘n’ roll and cars had more influence than anything else.  Fender’s 1960 colour chart reveals they often used the exact same shades of DuPont nitrocellulose lacquer as Ford and General Motors … including a Fiesta Red, shown here on a 1956 Ford Thunderbird.





Fender’s guitar spraying methods weren’t consistent.  Sometimes they used an undercoat … sometimes they simply sprayed colour directly on to bare wood, or over a previous colour that hadn’t worked out.  But they always finished off with a top coat of clear lacquer (which was also nitrocellulose based).  But as this clear lacquer aged, it yellowed significantly and distorted the shade of the original base colour.

Not only that, Fiesta Red itself turned out to be an unstable colour that was highly-reactive to the UV in sunlight and fluorescent light.  Fender’s colour charts from 1960 to present show there was never a colour called Coral Pink or Salmon Pink.  What is often called ‘pink’  is aged and faded Fiesta Red, where the red pigment has deteriorated towards pink or orange.





In early 1960s’ Britain, due to the popularity of the Shadows, the Stratocaster guitar and the Precision bass were the guitars of choice.  History has it that the various importers (Jennings, Selmer and Arbiter, in turn) found there was more demand for guitars that looked like Hank Marvin’s red Strat than for the standard Sunburst version.  So a lot of Fenders are believed to have been re-sprayed on arrival in the UK. It’s said that the lacquer used by the importers was slightly pinker than Fender’s factory colour.





When I bought the used Fender bass that I went on to use with the Attractions, it was in a sorry state — stripped back to the bare wood and fitted with a white pickguard.  I bought a tortoiseshell replacement plate and then took the bass to Andy’s Guitar Shop in Denmark Street, in London, and asked him to respray it.  I distinctly remember asking him to do it ‘Salmon Pink’ … a term I’ve always used for faded Fiesta Red.  So, if I’ve unwittingly added to the myth of Salmon Pink, then good … because I’ve now made it the official colour of my new signature model Profile Bass.



Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

15 Responses to The ‘Salmon Pink’ Myth

  1. Kevin Plumley says:

    Can you help? Have a ’68 P-Bass here that the owner says was refinished by the Knight Brothers. Would this be Dick Knight who I understand did refinishes for the Fender importers of the day? Apparently it arrived at Selmer then was given an Olympic White refin then sold to the customer. I know the music biz is filled with rumour, myths and heresay but any info would be appreciated. Thank you Kind regards Kevin. ps. Thanks also for your superb playing on Lipstick Vogue

    • Bruce says:

      It sounds plausible, Kevin. In the early 1970s, Dick Knight used to do all my guitar work — I used to go to his house, which if I recall correctly was somewhere in Essex. He was quite an old boy even then, so I’m sure he’s no longer with us. Selmer did import and refinish Fenders — and did quite a few of them the more-popular Fiesta Red over the stock Sunburst. What is interesting is that it might be Dick Knight who sprayed them that lighter shade and so fuelled the “Salmon Pink” myth. You can always take the neck out of a P-Bass a look at the date stamp on the heel of the neck, by the truss-rod adjustment screw, as I’m sure you know. But there’d be no reason to doubt his story on the evidence so far — with these things you also have to use your intuition! (And thanks for your kind comment).

      • Bill Bain says:

        I’m sorry my Strat was definitely Salmon Pink it was like Hank’s not Fiesta Red which has no white in if red fades it doe’s add white plus our Strat’s were new not faded old ones. When I met you guys in Rhodesia in early 60’s Hanks was the same as mine.

      • Bruce says:

        I accept all of that — I would simply point out that there has never been an official Fender colour called ‘Salmon Pink’.

  2. Chris Bailey says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Amazing after all this time to stumble upon your website, a true pleasure and an informative joy!

    Had to smile at the biographical-break between the Tremors and The Roadrunners, i.e that little remembered sojourn into a band called The Machine, for which I recall you designed the promo-card whilst on the 3rd floor of the Evening Gazette. As you may recall, I ‘got your job’ at the Evening Gazette (where you were Brian Langford’s ‘blue eyed kid)after you went ‘pro’ with Messrs Moody& Rodgers in ’67.

    So, if I ‘d like to say anything in this little missive it’s “Thanks”. A) for leaving the Ev. Gazette and getting my foot on what might be termed the first rung of my career ladder from Art College. and B) for dragging me to W.H.Smiths record-department, one Saturday afternoon in early 1966, where you’d found an L.P in the discount-rack by an unknown U.S. band called ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’.

    Stange ‘innit’ , but you probably don’t recall the latter occasion, but it was that L.P and the ones that followed that I did my 10,000-hours on and probably why I’m still playing harmonica today!

    Yeah, still banging it out with a few Blues-bands via a Fender Bassman amp, a Lone Wolf overdrive and a Shure 545SD, or a Pepper-box mike. Still trying to compress that sound into being a ‘dirty’ Oboe, or even a Cor Anglais…with just a hint of echo. It’s all about the new ‘design’ of the sound of a harp, rather than the ‘way back when’ stuff for me.

    Ok Bruce, I’ll leave it at that, good to write-up a fairly cathartic email message at this time of our lives.

    Sincere regards,

    Chris Bailey

  3. In the year 1999/2000 i bought a Fender Stratocaster built in Mexico serial number
    MN9391803 Hank Marvin signature in Salmon Pink, i was told there were only 300 in the UK, but i cannot find any information as to how many in total were made and their value today, as i have never seen one since, i understand that Marvin,s first strat was this colour and my one is a re-issue of this, please can you confirm this?
    I look forward to any info you can find for me
    Thanks Colin

    • Bruce says:

      Sorry, Colin I don’t know any more than you about that. It sounds as if your Hnak signature model is a reissue of the original Strat — just as Eric Clapton’s and Jeff Beck’s were. you could e-mail Fender Customer Services and see if they have any records. Sounds cool though.

  4. Joe B. says:

    I saw you with the attractions in detroit MI during the All This Useless Beauty tour (circa 1996). You gave me one of the picks you used that night. Best concert I have ever been to and your playing was the reason. Thanks for that memory. I was wondering if you could tell me whatever happened to the Wal bass used on Punch the Clock and why you only used it for that record. Did that particular bass influence the playing on that record because it seems so different sonically and stylistically than bass lines recorded with the precision. Also, was yours a treated maple top? Thanks again.

    • Bruce says:

      I can’t for the life of me remember what happened to that Wal bass — but I don’t think I ever started giving guitars away along with picks! The sound of it certainly had a big bearing on the basslines on PtC as Wal basses had such a distinctive sound, very of their time — and then they suddenly disappeared, like JDs, Status, Steinbergers and Alembics. I think you’re right about the maple — it was bird’s eye maple front and back, if I recall, dyed darker, with a different wood core.

  5. Mike Miller says:

    Since you’ve noted the modifications you did on your lost Precision, maybe a sharp-eyed fan will spot it somewhere. Never know, it may find it’s way home as did Frampton’s Les Paul!

  6. Jim McLachlan says:

    Actually you are mistaken, Fender did make some Strats that were finished in “Tahitian Coral Pink” in the early 60’s It was originally a Chrysler car paint from 1958 – Colour code 000

    • Bruce says:

      You’re quite right. This non-standard color was not mentioned in any Fender catalogs. (The closest official Fender color at the time was Shell Pink, listed from 1960–1963). To the best of my knowledge, Tahitian Coral Pink was known to be offered as a dealer refinish (outside of the Fullerton factory) to new customers. Only 2 original models have ever been uncovered of these custom-ordered, genuine, factory-produced, pre-CBS model Strats. An undercoat of Desert Sand was used with Tahitian Coral Pink. Actually, it’s such a nice colo(u)r, I’m wondering whether to have some Profile basses finished in it. Thanks for your input, Jim.

  7. John Biscuti says:

    Excellent info Bruce. Would love to see a good photo of your old bass AFTER it was re-sprayed if you have one. Seems to be a shortage of them on the net! I can’t find a single good one.

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