Of Leo Fender’s great musical inventions none have had the staying power of the Fender Stratocaster. It has been duplicated often, but none hold a candle to the original. A History of the Fender Stratocaster. The Tale of an Iconic Instrument that Made Rock & Roll Famous.
California is the birth place of Fender Guitars and also the home of its namesake, Leo Fender, who began making custom guitars in a radio shop of his (then called Fender’s Radio Service) in the 1940’s. He sought to improve on the modified hollow body (acoustic) guitars jazz musicians were using to get their sound up over the timbre of trumpets and saxophones. Early electrified hollow-body guitars gave off a great deal of feedback when played at high volume, Leo thought he could improve on this.
In 1951, Fender introduced the Broadcaster, more of a prototype solid body electric that would lead to the design of the Telecaster, an electric guitar that has become synonymous with the Fender name. The Fender Stratocaster would follow the Telecaster in 1951 and cement the Fender as one of the most popular guitar makers of the modern era. Leo fender did more than improve the electric guitar. He practically put it on the map. The company has had its up’s and downs, from a sale to CBS, artistic limbo, and eventual to creative writing of the ship, Fender has weathered enough storms to show its made of the right wood.
The Fender Stratocaster
Often referred to as the Strat, is a model of electric guitar designed by Leo Fender , George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares in 1954, and manufactured continuously to the present. It is a double-cutaway guitar, with an extended top horn for balance while standing. The Stratocaster has been used by many leading guitarists, and as such can be heard on many historic recordings. Along with the Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, and the Fender Telecaster, it is one of the most common and enduring models of electric guitar in the world. The design of the Stratocaster has transcended the field of music to rank among the classic industrial designs of all time; examples have been exhibited at major museums around the world.
The Original Instrument Design
“In its original form, the Stratocaster was offered initially in a 2-color sunburst finish,” writes the authors of wikipedia.org, “together with a solid deeply contoured ash body, a one-piece maple neck with 21 frets, black dot inlays and Kluson machine heads until 1957, when Fender started making bodies made from solid alder. There was also a set of available custom colors that wasn’t standardized until 1960.”
These custom colors were mostly automobile lacquer colors made by Dupont and were available to the player for an extra 5% cost. The single-ply, 8-screw hole white pickguard was a unique concept that allowed all of the guitar’s electronic components (except the recessed jack plate) to be mounted on one easy-to-remove surface. Subsequent Stratocaster designs (by both Fender and other imitating companies) have ostensibly improved upon the original in usability and sound, but vintage Fender models are still often worth large amounts of money and some prefer the timbre of older models.
The Stratocaster has been widely copied; as a result, the term “Strat,” although a trademark of Fender Musical Instrument Corporation, is often used generically when referring to any guitar that has the same general features as the original, regardless of manufacturer.