The best Stratocaster players of the 21st Century
Albert Hammond Jnr,
He's no virtuoso, but that didn't stop Albert Hammond Jnr. becoming the torchbearer for the Stratocaster at the turn of the century as The Strokes kick-started a new revolution in guitar music.
Making the Strat achingly cool for a whole new generation, Hammond Jnr.'s spikily melodic guitar lines were an integral part of The Strokes phenomenon, and made an entire generation want a white Strat of their own.
Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)
“We're Arctic Monkeys... Don’t believe the hype.” These are the words Alex Turner spoke in the live video for I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.
Within weeks, Turner, his band and his fittingly Arctic White Standard Strat had rocketed to the top of the charts, clocking up the fastest-selling debut album in UK history.
Often preferring 50s-style maple necks using the bridge pickup, Alex and his Strat tones have reinvigorated the spiky sound of indie-rock guitars, incorporating punk, 50s-inspired twang and surf, even drop-tuned riffing. These days, Alex tends to flit between Fender Broncos, Les Pauls and various Gretches, but it all started with the Strat!
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
One of the key bluesmen of the post-SRV period, Kenny Wayne is a Strat man through and through, like his idol.
A prodigious talent, he found his holy grail guitar at the age of 16 when he and his father visited Los Angeles and spied the ’61 Sunburst Strat he fell for. Kenny returned a year later to buy it and it’s barely left his side since.
If it felt as if the Tele had been lording it over its younger brother in the 2000s, that’s probably because the Strat seemed to have fallen out of favour with modern indie bands.
Except, that is, one of the biggest British breakthroughs of the last 20 years. Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil even goes as far as reviving Hank Marvin’s Fiesta Red finish on his Strats, which create the massive tones that have made Biffy such a live force.
“You need a big loud guitar sound to make a Strat sound full and heavy,” he says, “as it’s naturally very bright and undistorted, bright and jangly. I run it through my pedals of doom and try to make it sound like a volcano erupting! I love the shape of a Strat, too, I feel so comfortable with it.”
Fittingly, and not just because it was priced within reach of the young fans he is inspiring, Simon was awarded with his own Squier signature model in 2010. "My very first guitar was a Squier, so it's come full circle," he says.
With chops evoking the spirit of Hendrix and SRV and boutique tone to match, John Mayer is a true modern guitar hero, and he achieved it all with the help of the Fender Stratocaster.
John has a large collection of Strats, including his Sunburst SRV signature model, the iconic battered ‘Black 1’, and a host of Jimi-inspired guitars.
“I have a prototype 1979 Hendrix Tribute Strat: white with a reverse headstock, with a contour on the front, and a prototype Hendrix Monterey Strat that [San Francisco artist] Pamelina painted in 1997. I’m a big fan of prototypes! I have a ’68 Strat, black, big headstock, classic Band Of Gypsys, and I have a ’69 Olympic White Strat with maple cap neck, which is the Woodstock Strat.”
Then there’s his own signature model, of course. The John Mayer Stratocaster has some unique features – string trees placed towards the end of the headstock to allow for more leverage when bending behind the nut, a thick C-shaped neck, and perhaps most crucially, John’s ‘Big Dipper’ pickups.
These have a scooped midrange, further accenting John’s Fender-ish tone when pumped through his Two-Rock and Dumble tone machines.