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"It's like Leo Fender, Leonarndo DaVinci....Leo's an artist, an original. The Strat is as sturdy and strong as a mule, yet it has the elgance of a racehorse. It's got everything you need, and that's rare to find in anything. The man made a work of art here."
The Fender Stratocaster is a model of electric guitar designed in 1954 by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavares. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has manufactured the Stratocaster continuously from 1954 to the present. It is a double-cutaway guitar, with an extended top "horn" shape for balance. Along with the Gibson Les Paul, it is one of the most often copied electric guitar shapes. "Stratocaster" and "Strat" are trademark terms belonging to Fender.
Stratocasters have been used in many genres, including country (the genre Fender intended for), rock, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, and even heavy metal.
The Early Years (Pre CBS) Edit
The earlier Fender Stratocasters had handwound pickups, an ash body, and a choice between a maple fretboard or rosewood fretboard attached to the maple neck.
The handwound pickups on these guitars made each one of them have a slightly different tonality. This was due to the improbability of two Stratocasters having the exact same pickup wind. Every neck pickup might have had around the same number of winds on its coil, but the exact wind pattern could never be consistently duplicated. These pickups were also only wired to a 3-way switch, unlike todays 5-way switch.
The ash body made every Stratocaster's weight vary. Some may be lighter, while others will feel like a brick around your neck. Fender started producing alder bodies in 1957, due to the consistent weight and availability. Alder has a much brighter tone as well.
The neck had a U-shape up until 1956. It was replaced by the V-shaped neck. The frets were also very small (by todays standards) and featured a 7.25" fretboard radius.
CBS Era Edit
In 1965 CBS purchased Fender and made a lot of drastic changes to the design. These were pretty dark years for Fender. These changes included cheaper materials for finishes and hardware, the large Fender Stratocaster headstock, and the 3 screw neck joint.
There are only 2 good things that came out of this era: the 5-way pickup switch and the vintage reissue series of guitars. Fender changed the headstock back to the smaller headstock in 1980. In 1985 the employees of Fender bought back the company and started making higher quality instruments again.
Post CBS Era Edit
After the employees purchased Fender back from CBS, there have been a great number of complete guitar lines: The Custom Shop series, the Standard Series (MIM), the American Standard Series, and the American Series Stratocasters. All have progressively gotten better sounding, feeling and durable each year.