1965 Fiesta Red Stratocaster
60th Anniversary of the Stratocaster
Has it been 60 years already? Break out the Cristal and pop the cork! Better idea! Grab that bottle of Don Julio 1942 that you’ve had squirreled away and pour yourself a snort. This is an occasion to celebrate. Well, I don’t actually need a landmark anniversary to give me a reason to drink fine beverages, but 2014 marks 60 years since Leo Fender introduced to the world that most iconic of iconic “stuff”……The Fender Stratocaster.
I would be difficult to imagine the complexion of today’s rock’n’roll and most music in general sans the Strat (as us guitar aficionados like to call it). It has stood the test of time, not only for its unique single coil sound, but for its classic design which has only had a few cosmetic changes over the decades. It is almost unbelievable that, in fact, Leo Fender could not play a guitar himself.
Originally, Fender had intended his Stratocaster for use as an electric guitar for country/western music. But some lanky, horn-rimmed spectacle wearin’ dude from Lubbock, Texas took a fancy to Leo’s guitar and almost instantly turned the Stratocaster into the weapon of choice for every up‘n’comin’ rock’n’roll guitar slinger. How did he accomplish this? He simply appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957 with a 2-toned sunburst Fender Stratocaster playin’ a couple songs he wrote………. “That’ll be the Day” and “Peggy Sue”.
Guitarists playing in nearly every genre of music have used Stratocasters since Buddy Holly helped shine a spotlight on this truly versatile instrument. Strats provide a unique sound to surf music, rock, soul, heavy metal, and most definitely blues. Try to imagine Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock with any other guitar other than a Strat……Stevie Ray would torture his “Number 1” Strat on “Texas Flood”. Imagine him playing a Gibson SG instead.…….It can’t be done. And furthermore, IT JUST AIN’T RIGHT!
Dick Dale’s Pipeline wouldn’t sound like Dick Dale’s Pipeline with a Gibson Les Paul or a Mosrite guitar, would it? Dale’s guitar HAD to be an Aztec Gold Stratocaster!
The Ventures, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Richie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, Ike Turner, Coco Montoya, Bonnie Raitt, Rory Gallagher, and Stevie Ray all bent more than their share of strings on Stratocasters.
Hank Marvin helped popularize the Stratocaster in the UK in the late 50’s and early 60’s with his custom colored Fiesta Red Strat. Most of the red Strats at that time were shipped to England because red guitars were difficult to sell in the United States. Many players in the states shied away from purchasing a Fiesta Red Stratocaster so they would not be remotely associated with a “communist” color. It was not unusual for Fender to repaint unsold Fiesta Red Strats another color. This is evident when you see instruments from that era that have had the topcoat of finish worn away revealing a Fiesta Red under layer.
Some Fender Stratocasters even took on a life of their own. Jimi set a few of his Strats on fire! The Strat that he used at Monterey Pop is one “burning” example. David Gilmore owns the Fender Stratocaster bearing serial #0001. Eric Clapton’s treasured Strat, “Blackie”, was actually pieced together from the best parts of 3 different Strats. “Blackie” was sold at a 2004 Christie’s auction to benefit Clapton’s Crossroads Center for a fat $959,500!
I actually had the rare opportunity to get up close and personal with SRV’s #1…….I gotta say, that Strat was beat to death! There was NEXT TO NOTHING left of the fret board and how the frets were able to remain seated in what was left of the rosewood is a mystery to me. I DO NOT understand how this Strat was remotely playable; never mind how it was able to hold a tuning! But, it surely was one remarkable “tone monster”!!!!!
When #1 was in Stevie’s hands, it was magical!
FYI……Stevie told me that #1’s body was a 1959 with a ’62 or ’63 neck (he could not remember!) He bought that guitar used from a shop in Austin for a few hundred dollars.
I can’t imagine existing in a world without those scrumptious Stratocaster tones pumped through a stack of Marshalls. Strats were the tools that helped achieve musical nirvana in soaring, classic guitar solos such as those that Jimi laid down in “All Along the Watchtower” or “Foxy Lady”. It was rock legends like Jimi who gave us such great music. But it was Leo Fender who designed and produced the vehicle that made this musical journey possible.
So, Happy 60th Anniversary rock’n’roll fans! Raise your glasses! Let’s drink to Leo!