The History of the Fender Stratocaster

Created in 1954, the Stratocaster became the most famous guitar in the history of music. At first, Telecaster had its design stabilized and was a commercial success. This design, however, was (as it continues to be) somewhat rigid and  Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavares presented a more versatile model - with a rounded and contoured body, therefore more comfortable, and the revolutionary double-cutaway that allowed unlimited access to the acute sections of any part of the scale. 

Also, the tremolo and the three pickups provided the guitar with a sea of ​​sonic possibilities, while the strings-through-body system added flexibility to the bridge. One of the greatest legends of music was born - the Fender Stratocaster.


Currently, there are Strats with woods and finishes for all tastes. The first models had an ash body and a maple neck with 21 frets. In 1956 solid bodies in alder appeared. Between 1959, models with single-piece maple necks were discontinued and the standard became a rosewood scale glued to the maple. From 1964, both the rosewood of the scale and the maple of the arm received a pretreatment to form the radius of the scale, making the arms even more round and thick.


Meanwhile, CBS bought Fender and also introduced a new type of model, in which the maple neck had a glued scale, also made of maple, but laminated. Only in 1969 did the "original" arms return. Still, in 1965 there was another change in the Strat. In December, the production of the models inserted the design of the headstocks of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar, to standardize and make profitable the production in the factory or to try to help the commercial performance of those (only later they would become mainstream models) and Strat got that "head". Still, concerning the scale, in 1989 ebony became another option.


Originally (long before the HSS models appeared), guitars had three single-coil pickups with a 3-position switch. But it was discovered that by changing the circuit between 1st and 2nd position, it was possible to use the bridge and middle pickup simultaneously, the same occurring between 2nd and 3rd position - for several years this became a trick loved by many guitarists until, in 1977, Fender started producing the guitar with a 5-position switch. 

The original Stratocasters had 5 springs to hold the bridge to the body. Guitarists like Jeff Beck removed 2 of these springs to allow greater buoyancy to the bridge, allowing the vibrato lever to be used up and down in a more meaningful way - in fact, Jeff Beck's technical style became a bulwark of this type of performance while Eric Clapton became a fan of other specifications. The “Slow Hand” even used a wooden wedge placed between the bridge and the cavity of the tremolo in its models, this stabilized the tension of the bridge springs and made the guitar much less likely to detune.

A timeline of notable Stratocaster events

  • 1954 - Fender introduces the Stratocaster.
  • 1957 - Strat first appears on television. The Crickets, led by "Buddy" Holly, play "That’ll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • 1962 - Strat's fame rises with the guitar “surfing” on the Beach Boys' debut album, “Surfin’ Safari” and the thriving instrumental “Misirlou" by Dick Dale.
  • 1965 - Strat takes an active role in rock history when, on the 25th of July, at the Newport Folk Festival, in Rhode Island, Bob Dylan is booed “offstage” for first appearing in public with an electric guitar in the hands.
  • 1967 - Jimi Hendrix leaves his 1965 Stratocaster and sets it on fire at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival.
  • 1970 - Eric Clapton begins his "marriage" with Stratocaster, falling in love with a 1956 model that he nicknamed "Brownie". It is with this guitar that he records, with Derek and the Dominos, the classic “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”
  • 1971 - Montreux Casino, on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, is on fire. From a hotel window, Deep Purple watch the destructive fire, and Ritchie Blackmore, with a Strat, creates the most famous guitar riff ever.
  • 1983 - Stevie Ray Vaughan, in the antechamber of his solo ascent, records “Let’s Dance” with David Bowie.
  • 1987 - David “Edge” Evans catapults U2 to the top of the world with the riffs of “With or Without You”, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For”.
  • 1991 - “Nevermind”, the most successful album of the modern rock era, is recorded with Kurt Cobain holding a Strat.
  • 2005 - On November 17th, a Stratocaster signed by Bryan Adams, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Ray Davies, Liam and Noel Gallagher, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, Mick Jagger, Mark Knopfler, Brian May, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Angus and Malcolm Young, Ronnie Wood, and Sting, become the guitar to reach the highest value in an auction of 2,7 million dollars.
  • 2014 - Stratocaster celebrates its 60th anniversary.
  • 2018 - The first semi-hollow Stratocaster ever appears, with Eric Johnson's signature.
  • 2019 - Gilmour's Black Strat has become the most expensive guitar ever.

Final words

During the almost 70 years of its existence, the Stratocaster became the best-selling guitar and the most copied model - practically all manufacturers (small or big) have one or more copies or variations of the Strat format. Among many others, Pink Floyd, by the hands of David Gilmour, immortalized the guitar, Ritchie Blackmore [Deep Purple], Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Zappa, Mark Knopfler, even the Beatles (in various themes of “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver”), everyone on Iron Maiden, etc.

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