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60 DAYS OF STRAT: Ask blues guitar master Kenny Wayne Shepherd what he likes about Fender Stratocasters, and he'll tell you without a moment's hesitation: "Everything. The design, the sound, the feel – every inch of the guitar is perfect.
"A Stratocaster truly feels like an extension of my body. It’s very comfortable. The contour where your arm rests on it is just right on. Other guitars have sharp edges that can irritate your forearm, but a Strat is nice and smooth where it should be. The pickups and the five-way switch are very versatile. You can get all the sounds you want with a Strat. Everything is in the right place and works beautifully."
As MusicRadar celebrates the 60th anniversary of Leo Fender's enduring classic, we sat down with Shepherd to talk about his lifelong passion for what he calls "the ultimate instrument."
How old were you when you knew you wanted a Strat?
“I knew I wanted a Strat when I was five years old. There was something about the shape of it, the look of it and, of course, the sound. Really, from the time when I started looking at pictures of guitar players, that Strat stood out: ‘That’s the guitar I want.’”
“I’m a car guy. I love beautifully designed car. To me, the same aesthetics that are important with automobiles extend to guitars. You look at a Stratocaster, and there’s not a wrong inch on it. Plus, so many of my heroes played Strats. From Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan – the list goes on and on. They all played Strats.”
You were so young. Did you see the guitar on album covers or in magazines? Most little kids don’t usually pick up on that stuff so soon.
“Well, you know, I’ve always been a blues guy, so I’d see photographs of Buddy Guy playing a sunburst Stratocaster, and there'd be Jimi Hendrix photos – for some reason, the Hendrix pictures stood out the most. Jimi had such an incredible persona. His outfits, his hair, his stage presence – whether it was on film or in photos, he made a strong impression. I’d be in my bedroom making believe I was Jimi, and pretty soon I wanted to play the same guitar.
“There’s so many others, too: Buddy Holly, Jeff Beck, Clapton, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson in his early days – they were all playing Strats.”