Is the Fender Stratocaster the defining electric guitar design? It's a timeless and iconic design, even in the wider world of engineering. So it's very little surprised that since its birth in 1954, the Strat has attracted some truly remarkable musicians with its sultry curves and unmistakable but hugely versatile tonality.
In celebration of the Strat, here's ten heroic moments from its history. We're looking forward to many more being created in the future…
1. Couldn't Stand The Weather – Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble (Couldn't Stand The Weather, 1984)
For arguably his best guitar solo, blues firebrand SRV set his battered Number One Stratocaster to stun, put it through a Tube Screamer, Marshall and Fender amps and a Leslie speaker cabinet, and reminded the early 1980s what a guitar should sound like.
Its Sunburst finish was already worn when Vaughan bought it from Ray Hennig’s Heart Of Texas Music shop in Austin, and though he’d refer to it as a ’59, only the pickups were from that year.
2. Walk On Hot Coals – Rory Gallagher (Irish Tour, 1974)
The blues is about pure emotion, and if you want to hear a Strat player giving their all, Irish Tour is a must. Rory’s – said to be the first Strat to arrive in Ireland – was worked almost to destruction.
Rory took a Tweed Fender Twin on the road for this famous tour, with a Vox AC30 and Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster Treble Booster: a key element to add bite to the Vox.
3. Far Beyond The Sun – Yngwie Malmsteen (Rising Force, 1984)
Following his hero Ritchie Blackmore’s lead, neo-classical shredder Yngwie scalloped the frets on his Strat for bigger bends.
Named the ‘Duck’ (originating from the Donald Duck sticker and its yellowish hue), it featured two DiMarzio HS-3 pickups and a Fender single coil in the middle position for his landmark debut album, before Yngwie later replaced them with his signature DiMarzios.
4. Layla – Eric Clapton, Derek And The Dominoes (Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, 1970)
Clapton bought the Sunburst, maple-necked ‘Brownie’ in 1967, while he was still with Cream, and it was used on his solo debut and throughout the Layla album.
Its most tonesome moment is arguably with a Fender Champ on the title track, which finds Clapton’s Strat in equal billing and harmony with the late Duane Allman.
5. Nowhere Man – George Harrison, The Beatles (Rubber Soul, 1965)
Harrison and John Lennon acquired Sonic Blue Strats as The Beatles were recording Help!. Though also used on You’re Going To Lose That Girl, here’s probably the most overt example of a Strat on a Beatles recording.
George and John are playing their Fenders in unison, with Harrison’s ringing solo; his Strat would have a psychedelic makeover and become known as ‘Rocky’.
6. Little Wing – Little Wing (Axis Bold As Love, 1967)
Hendrix’s greatest Strat tone? It’s timeless. The sensitive approach and composition of this ballad is majestic and compelling. Which is why so many other great players (SRV, Santana, Satch, Eric Johnson) can’t resist attempting it.
That watery warmth to the solo tone is because it was fed through a miniature Leslie speaker built by an Olympic Studio engineer.
7. Under The Bridge – John Frusciante, Red Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991)
He may have played his ’62 Jag for the video, but those tones speak Strat. And Frusciante’s reliance on his ’62 Sunburst Strat when he returned to the band later shows how much the Hendrix fan values the model.
The intimate intro here utilises the neck pickup with what could be an MXR compressor.
8. Nadia - Jeff Beck (Live At Ronnie Scott's, 2008)
Fender Custom Shop Signature Stratocaster
The players’ player proves just how versatile and surprising the Strat can be in his hands, here playing fingerstyle Indian slide on a Nitin Sawhney composition.
With masterful control from the guitar, he ran through a relatively clean Marshall JTM45. Effects are minimal, though he did use the lusted-after Klon Centaur.
9. My Sharona – Doug Fieger, The Knack (Get The Knack, 1979)
Doug Fieger allegedly played every Strat for sale in LA before settling on his Sunburst ’72 – its finish and maple neck inspired by the late frontman’s admiration for early Strat icon, Buddy Holly.
It certainly makes its mark here alongside co-guitarist Berton Averre (with an incredible solo from the latter too that is always tragically cut whenever its played on the radio).
Fieger delivered a monster hit for his band here; with the Strat bite and chime punching that infectious riff through a Vox AC30.
10. Powerslave – Dave Murray, Iron Maiden (Live After Death, 1985)
Murray’s Strat was previously owned by his hero, Free’s Paul Kossoff (see it in action with Kossoff in the video below before the original white was refinished in black). It would become Murray’s main guitar through a superb eight-album run for Maiden.
“I paid about $1,400 for it, which in 1976 was quite a bit of money," Murray says. "But I didn’t care. I just sold everything I had so I could get it. And I used it from then on. It just felt like I was holding a piece of magic, because he used this guitar”
Vintage purists might wince at the addition of DiMarzio Super Distortions but Murray made magic with them, and his tone was pretty pure here by his own reckoning: 50-watt Marshall with an MXR Phase 90.