30 Years Of The Stratocaster
Our special supplement starts here.
The world was a very different place in 1954. All the more startling, then, to consider the effect that Leo Fender's stylish Stratocaster, launched early in that year, had on guitarists, other musicians, and, indeed, on the fledgling solid electric guitar industry.
Because solid electric guitars were very new. Fender had already proved himself the principal innovator here, having brought out the world's first commercial solid electric six years earlier, the Broadcaster. Gretsch had pointed out (perhaps not quite as politely as that) their use of the same name on a drum kit, and in 1950 the Broadcaster became the Telecaster. In 1951 Fender compounded his invention by coming up with the first electric bass, the Precision.
But the Stratocaster, quite obviously came from another planet; an apposite choice of name. And it shouted its revolutionary features at the baffled guitarists of 1954.
There were three pickups. Nobody could remember seeing a solid with more than two before. The treble pickup was slanted, like the Tele's, to accentuate high frequencies.
There was a tremolo arm which, by and large, worked. And worked simply. This was unusual.
The body wasn't the Telecaster's plain plank of wood — the Strat was contoured and curved to fit nicely next to the body.
The jack socket sat in a recessed metal panel on the front of the body, and the bridge had a saddle for each of the six strings.
The fact that the Stratocaster has changed so little over the years is a testament to the genius of Leo Fender and his collaborators. Over the next 20 pages we'll demonstrate what that genius means today.
Thirty years is a long time in guitar history. We'll see you again in 2014.
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