When Fender’s Stratocaster was first released in the spring of 1954, one of the outstanding features of its futuristic design was its vibrato unit.
Today, of course, everyone knows about the ‘spring tension vs string tension’ balancing act that went on to make some of rock ’n’ roll’s classic guitar moments and many have tried to overhaul and improve on Leo’s initial design.
But for many, only the original will do and it’s a system that has become synonymous with both the look and sound of the instrument for decades. So, perhaps it was a surprise when, in March 1955, the first non-vibrato models began to appear on the market, Fender perhaps wisely figuring that, for some players at least, the twang wasn’t necessarily the thang after all.
We don’t have the exact figures for how many hardtail models were made at the time, but, even today, they are comparatively rare. When you add in the appeal of a vintage model such as the 1956 Sunburst example we have here, you’re talking about a very rare breed.
The non-vibrato Strat has quite a devout following, its disciples maintaining that a perceived difference in tone (more focus, less shimmer) and the lack of fuss when tuning - anyone who has restrung a Strat with a vibrato will know only too well how cantankerous the device can be - only enhances what is, for them, the perfect electric guitar.
The example we have here is remarkably clean - just look at the lack of wear to the fingerboard, and the body looks like it has been in careful hands all its life, too.
It all adds up to being a very rare beast indeed and, who knows, it might just convert someone to the subtle charms of hardtail Strat ownership sometime soon! With thanks to the New Kings Road Guitar Emporium for sharing this fine example with us.