What can you tell me about Alex Lifeson's black CE 24?

I think I love this one of yours the most.

Never was a Rush fan but I do recall obsessing over the PRS ad with him holding the Maple top CE when I was a kid, I wanted that guitar so bad I bought one just like it.

93, Milcom, alder body maple top, HFS/VB and totally Bangin'. It's actually the last electric guitar I have bought brand new.
Sorry,,,can`t kick the bucket hard enough to get it to open.. No pics- must be a Dillion.
Rush has been my favorite band ever since I first heard "Chain Lightning" on a friend's walkman when I was in high school around 1992-3. The entire reason I first became interested in PRS guitars was because Alex Lifeson was playing them at that time. The first Rush album that came out after I became a fan was Counterparts, on which Lifeson used his black CE 24 almost exclusively. I have always loved that tone and I want to know more about that guitar. Help me do some sleuthing!

You can see the guitar in this video tour of his rig from a few years ago, right at the 3 minute mark, and if you look closely as the back of the guitar is shown, you'll see the serial number is 174136. Alex has stated in interviews that he got the guitar in 1991, and the serial number confirms that.

I am not entirely certain, but I think I have read that the guitar is entirely stock. That should make it easier to find the answer to my questions:

  1. What pickups are in this thing? According to the PRS Guitar Book, the switch from Standard Treble & Bass to HFS/VB was made in 1991. On the PRS model history webpage, it says this switch was made "by November 1991." Does that mean the HFS/VB were being used before November (but not exclusively), or was November the first instance? Is there a way to figure out which pickups are in Lifeson's guitar? If I had to guess I would says HFS/VB, as he clearly likes high-output pickups, but I'd like to be sure.
  2. Does this CE 24 have a maple top? We know it's an alder body, since PRS was using alder on the CE line until they switched to mahogany in 1994. The question is whether the whole thing is alder or if the top is maple. The video shows faux binding along the edge; doesn't that indicate a maple top? Or is it possible that was done on a solid alder guitar?
  3. You can see in the video that the guitar has the three-way toggle instead of the five-way rotary. It appears to have the original all-metal toggle switch, in fact. My question is, does it have a push-pull coil split, or not? The PRS Guitar Book refers to the Volume/Tone/3-way option as "McCarty Electronics," but the McCarty wasn't introduced until 1994, and didn't have a push-pull coil split until 1995. Did the CE 24 with 3-way toggle have a push-pull coil split in 1991?

Thanks for any help you guys can provide in figuring these things out. I've mentioned before that I'm looking to eventually pick up a vintage CE 24, hopefully on the cheap so that I can send it to the PTC for some customization. Lifeson's black CE 24 is the inspiration behind that. So any info you guys can provide is much appreciated.
Ah, very good sleuthing regarding the dates. You are obviously more obsessed than I about this. :)

I just sent Scott Appleton a message asking about the pickups in the black 1991 CE24. If/when he gets back to me, I will let you know what he says.

Alex started off the Presto tour with the same white Signature guitar company guitar that he used for Recording both albums Hold your fire and Presto. He used the Signature during the first leg of the tour until he had an incident when he tried to toss it to his guitar tech backstage and it fell and broke the entire headstock. Alex had 3 other Signatures during this time, one tuned for playing The Big Money which is a metallic black color, one dark red one, and another plain black one. He used these on the hold your fire tour a lot and you can also see these other ones in A Show Of Hands and the video for “Lock and Key”. He continued to use the same white guitar after a replacement neck was taken off his #3 backup signature and put on his main one. The company wasn’t doing so good at this point in 1990 and went out of business. Alex eventually switched to PRS halfway through the tour and started using the black CE Bolton retrofited with active single coils in place of the original hum buckers. Later he had the tobacco burst one made custom by PRS with an actual Signature pickup in the bridge position.( He can be seen playing this one on the song Time Stand Still during the Roll The Bones tour when he started using the PRS artist series with 2 humbuckers.
Newbie here- I've thoroughly enjoyed this thread! I bought a sweet translucent green CE off a guy cheap back in the mid-90's...it was one of the better playing guitars I've owned and one I should have hung onto. Like so many others, the fact that Alex played one was the main reason I was even interested in picking one up.

Hands-down still my favorite guitarist. :)
I realize that this forum is 5 years old, but I can't contain my excitement. After years of patiently waiting, I have finally purchased a black 1991 CE24. In fact, I have a black CE24 that is just 30 something serial numbers away from Alex's. I corresponded a fair bit with PRS before my purchase to be sure, but by all measure, this should be an exact clone/sister to Alex's preferred PRS. I have 6 other guitars that I enjoy for individual purposes, but this is without a doubt the purchase about which I am most excited!!!!! Had to share, haha.

Apologies for bumping such an old thread, but what was the verdict after coordinating with PRS? Do we know if his black CE24 has a maple top?
Just dropped by to say I love this thread. I'm a huge Rush fan and yeah, Alex got me into PRS stuff too. I still remember some concert footage of Rush doing an outdoor festival in Toronto, and he was playing that black CE. Thanks to this thread, I think I've learned more about 1991 CEs than I ever thought I would. Lol.
This might help...years ago...around 2000-2004, I was able to view the black CE I think you're talking about. The tuners on it were PRS phase 3's, with the slotted thumb screw on top. These replaced the winged originals. Great thread, BTW.

(Gratuitous boast: my 25 year old son's name is Alex)
Yupp that lines up with what Alex’s tech said . Now the only thing up for any debate is whether it has a maple cap or not. Hopefully we can find out soon :). I’m home from tour since it’s illegal now and started watching a bunch more rush **** and realized I’ve never played a CE24 but loved my CU24 I had in the past.
I can't add anything about the black one, but I did get to fondle this one!

So... Does anyone have any additional info on Alex’s red piezo equipped PRS used on the Test For Echo and Vapor Trails tours? Seems that I had info on this guitar from interviews around that time but having trouble locating info now...

Would it be safe to assume that that was the first PRS piezo equipped solidbody (not the P22)?
Yupp that lines up with what Alex’s tech said . Now the only thing up for any debate is whether it has a maple cap or not. Hopefully we can find out soon :). **** ...

I've got a 1994 black CE that appears to be alder/maple; it has tan natural wood showing all around the edge of the black top section, except on the cutaway.
Bumping this to see if it was ever determined if Alex's black CE-24 had a maple top or not. I have the Julien's Auctions catalog on order, but it won't arrive until next month. No idea if the black guitar is included in the auction or what level of details will be provided therein.