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Fender Stratocaster: The 50th Anniversary

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News Flash!!! : The “Fender Stratocaster” is celebrating the Big FIVE-O this year. In related news: Over indulgent wanking on a Stratocaster is 49 years, 11 months and 29 days old. Just kidding. Sort of…

Back in 1946, Leo Fender opened Fender Guitars in what was once a radio repair shop in Fullerton,CA. at the corner of Santa Fe & Pomona. After introducing “The Broadcaster” line of guitars (changed to the more familiar name ‘Telecaster’ due to a dispute with Gretsch who had a line of drums out under the same name) in 1951, Leo Fender introduced the Stratocaster in 1954.

Due in equal parts to its durability, bright sound and to the fact that as a solid body its feedback quotient was much easier to control than a hollow bodied axe, its popularity soared.

An early advocate of the “Stratocaster” sound was Buddy Holly. His usage of this guitar brought it to the attention of many would be Rock N Rollers the world over. Check out Buddys appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” as an example. Across the tracks, blues greats such as Hubert Sumlin and Buddy Guy were also using the “Stratocaster” to equally devasating effect.

Into the 60’s: Surf guitar demi-god Dick Dale made the Stratocaster the weapon of choice for countless Surf bands up and down the California coast, as well as in many places where the closest and only surf may have been the local swimming hole /gravel pit /canal. As the legend would have it, Jimi Hendrix was inspired in in part by Dick Dale to start playing a Stratocaster. I seriously doubt this to be the gospel truth though. As Jimi had been gigging incessantly through the South and the Chittlin’ Circuit scene, most certainly he was exposed to the numerous R&B guitarists (amongst them Ike Turner, who Jimi backed in The Ike and Tina Turner Revue in the early 60’s) who were playing Fender guitars.

Digging on the sound and look of the Strat he probably latched on to its appeal long before he saw Dick Dale. Mr. Dale is known to be a bit of a self important kind of guy (he likes to lay claim to having invented Heavy Metal amongst other things). Just so we’re still on the same page here, I’m talking about Dick Dale the ‘Surf’ guitarist not long time Lawrence Welk accordionist: Dick Dale. Jimi helped to revolutionize the appeal of the Stratocaster.

It should be noted here that while Jimi is famous for playing a right handed Fender Strat upside down, it was only one of several guitars he used during his too short career. Other guitars used by Jimi include the Gibson Les Paul and Flying V.

Other players using the Strat around this time to great effect were Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Bob Dylan at his groundbreaking 1965 Newport show, used one as he and his band went electric for the first time to a very confused crowd and to a subsequently very mixed response.

In 1965 due to health concerns, Leo Fender sold the company to CBS who would own it until it was bought by William Schultz in 1985. Owning only the name, some leftover parts and the patents, Schultz and a group of investors decided to build, rebuild I should say, the company from scratch. The current US Fender plant was built in Corona, Calif. on 19 acres of land and is approx. 177,000 sq. ft. They also have a large plant in Ensenada, Baja California and plants worldwide including those in Japan and S. Korea.

As popular today as ever, the Fender Stratocaster remains a top choice for guitar players of all genres the world over. Happy B-Day Fender. Here’s to fifty more years of great music!!!

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About CoolH

  • http://blogs.msdn.com/seangep.net Sean Gephardt

    Happy 50th Anniversary to the whole Fender crew, keep making the real original electric guitar…

  • Eric Olsen

    Very nice job HW, thanks. I’ve always been a Gibson man myself, but there’s no beating a Strat when the Strat sound is what you want, or something like that.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    I’ve always been a Gibson man myself

    …i’ll try not to think less of you.

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    I actually like them both myself. To me the ideal
    Rock’n’Roll sound is a beat up old Gibson Melody
    Maker or Les Paul Jr thru a pair of Fender Twins.
    Best of both worlds.

  • Eric Olsen

    I always loved my old SG (long gone), no question about the Gibson/Fender mix: ideal.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i really should be so snotty, since i own two gibsons myself: an epiphone shariton (an es-335 knock off) and an beautiful es-175.

    but my main rock guitars are strats and tele’s.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    My cherry red 64 re-issue Strat is sitting right over there and humming “hmmmm”. Yes, hmmmm. (Yngwie Malmsteen autographed it, but he did it on the plastic wrap, doofus).

  • Gary

    I’ve been a guitarist for over 40 yrs, and have always gravitated toward Les Pauls, or other Gibsons. Finally one fine day I was in Mannys’ Music store and decided to try out a 50th anniversary Stratocaster…I have always loved the sound of the Strat and the Tele, but they had single coil pickups and didn’t sound as good as a Les Paul cranked up through a Marshall or whatever, and this is the type of music I played back in the days…mostly anyway. Also the Gibsons were much easier to play with their shorter scale length and jumbo frets. But that day in Mannys’, when I plugged the 50th anniversarry Strat into a Peavey Classic 50, I heard bells and overtones , and such a beautiful clean sound spectrum emanating from the speakers, I couldn’t resist. It was a sound you could never get with a Gibson..(without a lot of EQ and PU changes etc.)..and it still wouldn’t sound the same. Needless to say I purchased the Strat and now I have the best of both worlds. The Fender isn’t better, it’s different…I still have the ‘Paul for those heavy harmonically enriched power chords and Les Paul “crying ” leads..ala Mick Taylor etc. etc….Buying the Strat opened a whole new world of sound and playing to me..Wish I was able to afford more than one “Good” guitar when I was younger. Now if I could only get the Strat to sound like a Tele!!!!!

  • Malicious Matt

    I’m both a fan of Fender and Gibson. I dont see any need to choose, as they’re both so different. What one guitar doesnt do the other one will, so I like the variety. I love the clean sound of the Strat though, and have great respect for the design and functionality of the instrument. For clean sounds I’d choose Fender, no competition. When I want to get heavy I’ll pick up the Les Paul or SG. I got the 50th anniversary deluxe Strat, and she’s a beautiful instrument!

  • Matt McC

    I was playing around with my amp about fifteen minutes ago. I wanted my strat to sound like a tele and then remembered the drive button which most of the time when I press it makes abig loud noise but I decided I’d turn down the drive volume. The sound I got was the rocky sound I wanted from a tele. It’s best if you set it to the first or second pick up.

  • bill

    I LOVE MY (PERFECT CONDITION) STRAT!(50th Ann. Ed.) Sunburst/maple neck/ rosewood fret-board.
    I belive it’s a 2004 or 2003 model. What’s it worth? I may have to sell it!