The Fender Stratocaster guitar is one of the most recognizable icons of rock - it’s been 61 years since Leo Fender snagged a patent for the legendary axe on this day in 1956, and there’s plenty of talent out there who, within that time, have given us some great riffs, shreds, and…well...smashes to enjoy.
On that note, the Strat has been lit on fire and obliterated to splinters by Jimi Hendrix; bestowed upon George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Pete Townshend and by God…also known as Eric Clapton; and, its likeness has even been used and licensed for a music-oriented video game (Rock Band 3) as a controller. Its saga continues in the hands of younger musicians like John Mayer and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys.
A former radio repairman, Fender integrated part of a 1951 Fender Precision Bass to better conform to the human torso. Three pickups and a vibrato (just imagine the unique opening riff to Clapton’s “Layla”) gave the “tremolo” effect that makes the guitar so recognizable to this day.
Longtime personal owner to the world’s most famous Stratocaster, “Blackie,” Clapton recalled the history with his own cherished instrument, one the he actually molded himself, in a Guitar Center interview in 2004 before donating it for charity:
“A guitar like Blackie comes along maybe once in a lifetime. I played it for 12 years non-stop on the road, and it's still got it. The action is perfect even though the neck is quite worn down and narrow. All you've got to do is pick it up and it sort of plays itself. I developed a lot of trust and security with that instrument.”
If you manage to get good enough on the strings, investing in a Stratocaster may just lend you enough courage to go after the seemingly impossible solos, chords, and bridges that so many before, have strived toward and achieved.