With all due respect to guitars developed by Rickenbacker, Gibson and Les Paul himself, the Fender Stratocaster is probably THE guitar that people generally think about when the words “electric guitar” are mentioned.
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And for that reason, the year 2014 is important because it is the 60th anniversary of the Strat.
The Stratocaster didn’t appear out of nowhere nor was it a serendipitous creation. In 1953, having successfully developed the Telecaster and Precision Bass guitars, Leo Fender consciously decided to develop a more ergonomic, possibly easier to play, better-sounding guitar. The successful Telecaster had a reputation as being heavy and hard to wield by some guitar players. “Slab” is a common term used with it.
Aided by Fender employees George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares along with local Western Swing musician (and later Fender company executive) Bill Carson, Fender spent months tweaking a design and having it tested in local clubs (ironically Fender couldn’t play guitar well).
Fender salesman Don Randall already had a name for the guitar long before it was finalized. Taking advantage of the word/prefix “strato” coming into vogue (the B-52 “Stratofortress” was being flight tested at the time) and remembering the successful use of “tele” with the Telecaster a few years before, he christened the expected guitar — Stratocaster.
Sometimes everything just comes together. Cool shape (officially called “Comfort Contour Body”), cool action, cool electronics, cool finish (also courtesy of Randall) and a cool name, the Stratocaster arrived in October 1954 (though preproduction models were shown as early as April 1954). It would take a few more years before the Baby Boomers were old enough to want a guitar but the die was cast.
Original price for the Stratocaster: $249.50 (with vibrato) and $229.50 without.
Not surprisingly, Fender has a few celebratory events scheduled for this year.