Few instruments in the world of electric guitars are as revered as the Fender Stratocaster. Below, we take a quick look at the interesting history of the iconic guitar along with a few famous players that have used the Stratocaster as one of their main instruments of choice.
First sold in 1954, today the Strat is widely acknowledged as being one of the most important influencers of modern music. But the road to its untouchable reputation was not so clear in its early years. The original instrument had significant problems with low gain, background electrical noise, a slightly long fingerboard scale and more. It certainly didn’t take off immediately, and was subject to highs and lows over several decades, until it finally started to come into its own after the late 70’s.
There wasn’t much technology around in those years to help it overcome its drawbacks. There were no pre-gain-equipped amps, built-in noise gates and the like to help players get a better sound. It was plug in and play, and the drawbacks were hard to overcome.
But the Fender had a trick, and the original three-way switch was to hold the secret of their future success. Guitarists discovered that if you could jam its three-way switch between click stops, where it wasn’t supposed to stop, the two pickups operated together, and it produced a tone unlike any other commercial guitar. A substantial portion of the Fender Strat’s unique sound had been missing until then.
In 1977, the jury-rigged five-way switch gifted its remarkably full-bodied sound to new generations of musicians in the genres of funk and disco, and when Fender finally added a 'real’ 5-way switch to the Strat, it was the start of Strat’s rise to stardom. Not even Fender’s Telecaster could reproduce the sound. Many of today’s guitar legends discovered that unique sound by themselves, and judging from the records; it gave them the edge they needed to play their way into the history books.
Famous Fender Stratocaster Players
He was an early adopter of the 'new and improved’ hybrid switch, and he has described his preference for the Stratocaster in terms of the ease with which a player can show his true colors, rather than the abilities of the instrument. The 'Black Strat’ is a nickname for a 1969 Fender Stratocaster that first appeared with him at the 1970 Bath Festival. Gilmour purchased the guitar, repainted black to change the original sunburst color in New York. He still uses it in performances and the instrument has attained sufficient fame to have its own WikiPedia page.
Ry Cooder is a multi-instrumentalist best known for his slide guitar work as well as his effortless pursuit of the most varied genres including blues, gospel, calypso, country and blues. His first work with Taj Mahal was done with a '67 Daphne Blue Fender which he reportedly chose for its color, a light blue. Later, his main bottleneck and blues guitar was a '60s Fender Stratocaster which just happened to be a Buddy Holy reproduction
His signature red Fender line could be considered a sentimental throwback to his first Fender, a 1961 Fender Stratocaster which he bought secondhand just before the release of Dire Straits’ first album in 1978. The guitar was stripped down, so he had it painted red to look like his dream Guitar, Hank Marvin’s red Stratocaster. He has a large guitar selection with many Fenders with which he regularly plays on tours.
He is much younger than the average rock legend and was influenced by Stevia Ray Vaughan, who was a Strat player himself. Mayer’s first main guitar was, in fact, a Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster that he bought using the money he earned working at a gas station. He owns over 200 guitars, but the fender Start has been a mainstay throughout his career and often switches guitars during sets, for example using his own Mayer Signature Stratocaster, 'the Black One’ and the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster.
He is well-known for the incredible demand he puts on his instruments and his most famous guitar is a 1972 blonde Strat, nicknamed “Play Loud” a.k.a. “The Duck”. He purchased it in Sweden when he started out and has been with him ever since.
As you can see by the quick list of players above, the Stratocaster has been a workhorse instrument for a variety of players in a variety of genres. Today, it remains as one of the most popular instruments in use today.
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