The Best Players of the Most Iconic Instrument...
The Fender Stratocaster is the most famous and influential electric guitar design of all time. Released in 1954 after Leo Fender received feedback from the players of the telecaster, it became the most popular guitar of its day and over fifty years later it still remains one of the most common guitar designs in the world. Its trademark body shape and striking curves helped to catch the eyes of the guitar community, while its versatility ensured that it never went out of fashion.
Many legends have associated themselves with the Stratocaster at some point, from the lightning fast Yngwie Malmsteen to Dire Straits star Mark Knopfler. The guitar first received the attention of the masses when it was used by Buddy Holly, and shortly after Hank Marvin with The Shadows. Hits like “Apache” and “Kon Tiki” solidified the Stratocaster’s place as the ultimate electric guitar of its day.
Nile Rodgers with Chic cemented the Stratocaster’s place in the Funk world with the massive platinum-selling hit “Le Freak”, while other acts like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck showed off its bluesy tone and punchy sound.
Later on, acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest showed the world that this iconic guitar could be just as good for metal as it was for other genres. Even Eddie Van Halen played a uniquely decorated Stratocaster-style guitar that has since become an icon of the rock world in its own right.
From metal to funk, from rock to jazz, this instrument has done it all. Here’s a list that’s been narrowed down to just five brilliant players of this instrument – people that are often thought of to be the greatest Stratocaster players of all time.
5. Ritchie Blackmore was the guitar player for Deep Purple, one of the best-selling rock acts ever. If you’ve ever walked into a guitar store you’re bound to have heard a beginner player carving out their first version of the classic riff “Smoke on the Water” – indeed, there isn’t an electric guitar player who doesn’t know it.
After his stint with Deep Purple he decided to form the band Rainbow, in which he had the freedom to really show off his abilities. Songs like “Stargazer” and “Man on the Silver Mountain” allowed Blackmore to brilliantly blend his rock and blues soul with excellent classical-style sections, forming seamless compositions that still stand up to technical scrutiny just as well as they did over thirty years ago.
4. Stevie Ray Vaughan first came to the attention of the masses in the early eighties. Heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Albert King, he was a true master of passionate blues soloing and song writing. The incredible “Texas Flood” was his chance to show the world what he could do, while his cover of Jimi’s “Voodoo Child” remains one of the best versions of the song to date. It could be said that SRV managed to channel the roots of his idol better than anyone else.
Staying true to his roots while adding his own unique style to the blues allowed him to become extremely popular in the guitar community, gaining fans from all over the world. Addiction haunted him throughout 1985 and 86, but he was soon back on his feet and producing some of the best material of his career. Always pictured with his famous beat-up Fender Stratocaster he was (and still is, despite his unfortunate death in 1989) one of the most famous and influential advocates of the instrument.
3. Eric Clapton is responsible for one of the greatest guitar songs of all time – Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”. With massive hits like “Layla” and “Bad Love”, Clapton has managed to maintain his career through incredible personal difficulties, such as drug and alcohol addiction. His Stratocaster is a vital part of his image, persona and tone, and helped him to rise to the very top of the guitar world – often being thought of as the greatest guitar player of all time.
His song writing was also excellent, helping him to become popular with the general public as well as with guitar players. The ultra-smooth tone of Clapton’s guitar is an extremely important part of his sound, and one that is instantly recognisable across all of his immense back-catalogue of hits.
2. Hank Marvin was the first man in the United Kingdom to receive a Fender Stratocaster. The Shadows became instantly associated with Fender, and Hank’s trademark red model with gold hardware is still the guitar he uses to this day. Apache’s galloping rhythm and prominent melody helped to solidify him as one of the greats of the guitar world, and his influence even stretched to Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
1. Who else for the number one spot but Jimi Hendrix? He hit the scene in the 1960’s and changed the face of guitar playing for ever – using effects such as wah and the iconic Roger Mayer Fuzz Face. His unique sound was entirely different to anything that was going on at the time, and his influence was immediately noticeable. Pictured in front of a huge stack of Marshall guitar amplifiers in his trademark poncho, hair wild and rebellious, with his upside-down Stratocaster casually strung around his neck, he was an image that everyone at the time was intoxicated with.
Songs like “Purple Haze” and “Fire” gave him the chance to show what he could really do with a guitar, while his excellent backing band were the ultimate foundation for his crazy lead guitar skills. Onstage antics also helped to propel him to the top; setting fire to his guitar on stage and playing guitar with his teeth were just two parts of his bag of tricks. It is often said that the legacy of Jimi Hendrix is responsible for maintaining the popularity of the Stratocaster throughout the ages of rock – indeed, the inimitable Yngwie Malmsteen (often cited as the fastest guitar player of all time) would not have even begun to play were it not for seeing a video of Jimi Hendrix on TV.
So there you have it – the top five! If you’ve got anyone else you think deserves a mention, post them in the comments below!