Is the “Stratocaster”, Leo Fenders concept of a “working man’s” instrument, the ultimate electric guitar? Just consider the roster of players: Buddy Holly, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and that’s just a tiny number of “names”. So Why nearly sixty years since it’s introduction is the Fender Stratocaster still the most popular electric guitar in the world? (And the most copied!)
The Origins of the Strat are well known, it’s inventor Leo Fender couldn’t play guitar but had an inate understanding of the needs (and the problems) of working musicians. Leo had already introduced the Broadcaster/Telecaster in 1949/1950 and it was dismissed in some quarters as an “electric plank!” Leo was undeterred by the elitist attitudes of many and its initially poor sales.
The popularity of the instrument soon began to grow, it’s space age look and name, it’s blend of traditional and new materials were all major factors but it’s subsequent enormous popularity is harder to pin down. It was a classic case of zeitgeist where mass production, innovative design and the parallel rise in the popularity of rock n’ roll all came together, the Strat was no longer a tool but perhaps also a cultural weapon! It was cool, sexy and ever so slightly phallic (all factors that did not escape Jimi Hendrix!)
The truth is the Fender Stratocaster was and is hugely iconic, it oozes Rock N’ Roll cred. More, much more then the right haircut, shades or a leather jacket the “Strat” endures!