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.