Fender celebrates its flagship's anniversary with a quartet of knockout editions
By Marty Paule
Never a man to rest on his laurels, in 1953 Leo Fender began thinking about how he could up the ante on his revolutionary Telecaster introduced two years earlier. Starting with the same slab-built concept that had set guitardom buzzing with the Tele's introduction, his new Stratocaster featured a curvaceous, body-hugging profile with deep cutaways and a trio of sizzling single-coil pickups. An innovative tremolo bridge allowed radical whammy effects while retaining rock-solid tuning. A handful of prototypes put to the test in Southern California nightclubs proved the design's worth. A few tweaks later the Stratocaster went into production in 1954 topped with a sweet sunburst finish. By 1957 the Strat was fully evolved, and though many subtly different models have appeared over the years, Fender's current instruments still embody the essential bloodlines of the original.
It's unlikely that Leo fully comprehended what he'd unleashed on the world. In the six decades since, the Stratocaster has been on hand for some of modern music's most pivotal moments. Here are just a few of them:
1957: Buddy Holly appears on CBS TV's The Ed Sullivan Show wielding a Strat on "That'll be the Day" and "Peggy Sue." Music stores are inundated by guitarists hot to get their hands on Stratocasters.
1962: The Beach Boys' LP Surfin Safari and Dick Dale's monster hit "Misirlou" unleash a wave of surf music that will be forever associated with the Stratocaster's single-coil sting.
1965: Bob Dylan with a Strat in hand goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, a controversial move among folkie purists.
1967: Jimi Hendrix sets his Strat afire at the Monterey International Pop Festival then beats it into submission generating waves of ferocious feedback.
1970: Eric Claptons masterwork, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is released and features soaring melodies and a twin-guitar attack with the Strat's signature sound prominent in the mix.
1971: Ritchie Blackmore's Strat-fueled riff on "Smoke on the Water" becomes the Holy Grail for garage band guitarists everywhere.
1979: Featuring two of David Gilmour's most inventive solos on the songs "Comfortably Numb" and "Another Brick in the Wall," Pink Floyd's The Wall is a huge international hit.
1983: With his masterful solo on David Bowie's single "Let's Dance," wunderkind Stevie Ray Vaughan singlehandedly reignites the electric blues.
1987: The Edge's Strat is a huge component in U2's sound as the Irish band serves notice on the world that it's a new force to be reckoned with upon the release of their album The Joshua Tree.
1991: Grunge becomes a riveting presence in the musicscape when Nirvana releases Nevermind with Kurt Cobain's slashing Strat underscoring his intense persona.
1999: John Frusciante's feverish Stratocaster helps shape the Red Hot Chili Peppers signature sound that propels Californication into the stratosphere.
2006: Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys with his facile Strat playing helps turn the band's LP Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not into the UK's biggest hit in years.
Fender Releases Four 60th Anniversary Models
To celebrate its six-decade milestone, Fender has unveiled four special-edition Stratocasters. Ranging from a super-affordable Squier Classic Vibe edition to a historically accurate American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster, there is a model to thrill every player and collector who reveres this iconic guitar.
60th Anniversary American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster
Fender took apart three exemplary vintage 1954 Strats to create this meticulous reproduction of the original. With just 1,954 of these beauties to be built and sold worldwide, it is sure to become a highly collectible instrument
In creating the top-of-the-line 60th Anniversary American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster, Fender luthiers dissected three flawless vintage instruments to replicate all its era-correct details.
In this exclusive Musician's Friend video, Justin Norvell of Fender unveils the fabulous American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster.
60th Anniversary American Standard Commemorative Stratocaster
The custom-engraved neckplate, headstock ingot, and gold hardware identify it as a part of Fender's commemorative lineup of Stratocasters. A special case and commemorative book are included.
With its special 60th Anniversary appointments and special design '54 single coils, the American Standard model is bound to appreciate in value over time.
In this exclusive clip, John Dreyer of Fender walks us through the cool cosmetics and sweet playability of the American Standard commemorative model.
60th Anniversary Classic Player '50s Stratocaster
A subtle Desert Sand nitro gloss finish with gold hardware and anodized pickguard give this commemorative edition visual distinction. And it's got all the trademark Strat sound and playability you expect from Fender.
The 60th Anniversary Classic Player model combines '50s-era looks with legacy sonic bite and includes a tweed hard case and special commemorative book.
John Dreyer of Fender puts the Classic Player '50s Strat through its paces in this Musician's Friend exclusive video.
Squier Classic Vibe 60th Anniversary Stratocaster
Go for the gold with this ultra-affordable Squier commemorative edition finished in gleaming Aztec Gold with matching hardware. It's priced so even the most budget-strapped Strat fan can get in on the 60th Anniversary celebration
The Squier Classic Vibe version's bargain price makes it accessible to the Strat fan lacking deep pockets.
For much more about the history of the Stratocaster and a complete rundown on models in production today, read our Stratocaster Buying Guide.