A Celebration Of Fabulous Fenders

August 10, 2017

Fender guitars are iconic. They have a look, an aura of sleek refinement that says "Play me, play me loud, play me subtly and play me well." Our celebration of this unique instrument honours Clarence Leonidas 'Leo' Fender, the founder of the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, born on 10 August 1909.

For many people of a certain age, their first awareness of the Fender Stratocaster was on the cover of the 1957 Chirping Crickets album, on which Buddy Holly is clutching his guitar. Two years earlier, Buddy walked into Adair Music in Lubbock, Texas and traded his first electric guitar for a brand new Fender Stratocaster, which back then cost a shade over $300. That equates to about $2,600 today.

57-Chirping Crickets
Four years later on the cover of the first album by British instrumental greats the Shadows, Hank Marvin is holding (admittedly not as visibly) the Stratocaster he had bought after seeing Holly’s on the Crickets album. Ask just about any British guitarist that came after the Shadows and almost every one will admit to having been impressed with Hank’s red and white Stratocaster.

Before the Stratocaster there was the Telecaster, the first solid-body electric guitar; the initial single-pickup production model appeared in 1950 and was called the Esquire. It’s known for its bright, rich, cutting tone, referred to as the telecaster twang, as well as its mellow, warm, bluesy tone. It all depends on which pickup is used – "bridge" pickup for the twang and "neck" for the mellow tone.

In the early days, it was country musicians that favoured the Telecaster. James Burton, the guitar wizard who played with Elvis Presley and Rick Nelson, was one of its early stars. Eric Clapton played a Tele while he was with the Yardbirds and Blind Faith. King of the Chicago blues, Muddy Waters, was another who favoured the Telecaster, as did Albert Collins and Stax man and Booker T and the MG’s guitarist Steve Cropper. At the last ever live appearance by The Beatles, on the roof of the Apple building, George Harrison played a custom made Telecaster. Jimmy Page played one on the solo of Led Zeppelin's timeless ‘Stairway to Heaven.'

The Stratocaster came along in 1954 and, more than 60 years later it remains a mainstay of rock bands and just about every other kind of group. Today you can buy an Eric Clapton signature Stat, along with ones endorsed by Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Ritchie Blackmore and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

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As soon as you hear the opening notes of Dire Straits' 'Sultans of Swing,' played of course by Mark Knopfler, you know it’s a Strat. The tone gives it away, but you need to be a guitarist of Mark’s stature to make it sing so well.

Clapton used the Stratocaster he called ‘Brownie’ on the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album by Derek and the Dominos. Eric had bought Brownie for $400 at London's Sound City, while touring with Cream in May 1967. It has an alder body, two-tone sunburst finish, maple neck, skunk-stripe routing and black dot inlays. Manufactured in 1956 with the serial number 12073, it can be seen on the cover of his 1970 debut solo album Eric Clapton.

In June 1999, Clapton sold the guitar at Christie's in New York City to help raise funds for his drug and alcohol treatment organisation, Crossroads Centre. Brownie sold for $497,500, becoming the most expensive guitar ever sold at the time — only to be eclipsed by Clapton's other favourite guitar, Blackie, which sold for $959,500 in 2004. Brownie can be seen at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington.

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Another iconic Fender track is the Rolling Stones’ 'Little Red Rooster,' on which Brian Jones plays a Telecaster. In 1981, when the band played Hampton Coliseum, they encored with ‘(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.' With Mick Jagger draped in his Union Jack/Stars and Stripes cape, Keith Richards riffing and hundreds of coloured balloons showering down from the roof, a fan charges on stage.

Keith swerves, the fan comes back for a second pass and in an instant, the Stone whips off his Fender and smacks the guy around the head with it. The fan stumbles, security escort him from the stage and Keith carries on as though nothing untoward has happened. Despite the attack, the Telecaster stays in tune. According to Keith, “The damn thing stayed in tune, and this is the greatest advertisement for Fender that I can give you.”

We've put together a 60-track playlist in celebration of Fender and aside from what we’ve already mentioned, it features music from Pink Floyd, with David Gilmour memorable soloing on ‘Comfortably Numb’; Joe Walsh in his James Gang days, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, The Beach Boys, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower and Jeff Beck along with many other tracks, some well known, some not so well known. What do you think we’ve left out?

Follow uDiscover's Fabulous Fender playlist.

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100 comments

    1. Bill Puckett
      Reply

      Dude; the article NEVER mentioned Disraeli Gears. The album mentioned WAS Layla and Other Assorted Loved Songs. Did you actually take time to read the article.

  1. peter harding
    Reply

    being off a certain age [old] saw most of the groups in the early sixties ,seventys living only 30 mins walk from all the great venues in London ,rainbow,ak the Astoria finsbury park,astoria tcr,whisky, agog, 100club,ronnie sctts,lycium in the strand, the albert hall,plus all the pubs with a syage the size of a matchbox,off for that time & SOUND again

  2. Kevin Hough
    Reply

    Left out Jeff Beck….to me the innovative use of the Strat. A true Strat-Cat that is able to really stretch out a ton of sounds from that guitar.

  3. FredMan
    Reply

    Any song from Jimi Hendrix could be at the list, And what about Stevie Ray Vaughan and Rory Gallagher. Also very famous Strat players. Or Status Quo guitarists Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossie playing Tele’s.

  4. Nicholas Couch
    Reply

    John and George played brand-new Strats on Nowhere Man, creating possibly the most sublime guitar solo in the Beatles canon.

    1. Philip
      Reply

      BULLSHIT Jimi Hendrix took that guitar to new heights & miles ahead of everyone! If anyone would wake up to Jimi plying with his teeth the Star Spangle Banner at WOODSTOCK & put Bethel, NY on the map forever not one of the Stratocaster players could only follow behind him! Even Clapton never realized how good Jimi was until he had seen him play! Pete WHO? again was thrown aback once Jimi got on stage & I still believe he is a pedophile when the Piggies Caught HIM RED HANDED BY HIS CREDIT CARD ON KID PORN WEB-SITES! That being said I’m NOT sorry about posting The Who Guitarist is a sick Fucken Idiot! You people are on drugs or drinking too much because if you had a brain you wouldn’t know what it was for!

      1. Roy Pryer
        Reply

        I agree with you about Townshend the perv but Hendrix was also shit. With all his gadgets to make him sound better he could have been playing any make of guitar.

    1. Roger Hunt
      Reply

      Agree….I often wondered why The Outlaws didn’t receive more accolades for their guitar work…..Why Don’t You Stick Around For Rock and Roll…c’mon now!

  5. Becky
    Reply

    You asked what you left off the list, pretty much anything by Bruce Springsteen. He only plays Fender and his go to is a Blonde Telecaster. As for note worthy on the list Born to Run or Human Touch both showcase the fender sound and specifically Human Touch.

  6. Lucius Austin
    Reply

    Don’t forget Ernie Isley and Robin Trower.
    Remember Albert Collins and his trademark Tele.
    Steve Morse had a hybrid guitar made of a Strat neck, Tele Body, Fender/Gibson electronics.
    Frank Zappa had the guitar that was burned by Hendrix in 1968, and used it for years. When people saw Zappa play it, some said it look like it was still burning.

    1. Sam
      Reply

      Sadly Francis has retired his old green Tele.

      Rick’s Tele is still going strong though. Not bad for nearly half a century of gigging every night.

      1. Gary Rossington
        Reply

        Sorry but the guitar that Jimmy played on Stairway was a double necked Gibson SG, both o the recording and in every gig where he performed it. Jimmy mainly played ’59 Les Paul but did use other guitars occasionally, Telecasters and also a Danelectro on “Kashmir” I it’s earlist versions, but was basically a Gibson man

        1. David Parker
          Reply

          No way. It was a Telecaster. Every story I’ve ever read on the recording of the song says Telecaster — specifically a ’59 Tele through a Supro amp.
          I think he might have got the double-neck Gibson with the specific purpose of playing the song live, however.

        2. Bearpaws
          Reply

          According to Jimmy Page, Stairway was played on a Fender electric twelve. The twin necked Gibson was purchased after, to facilitate the song being played live. The solo on Stairway is indeed a Telecaster.

      2. Framus Jack
        Reply

        Sure as eggs is eggs the guitar used on Stairway was a double necked SG Gibson not a telecaster, in the early days Jimmy did use a telecaster but he also used a black Danelectro “Seal” guitar and used it again for Kashmir on Physical Graffiti. If I was to have to compartmentalise him to one guitar it would be the Gibson ’59 Les Paul which has always been his go to axe.

    1. Eric S
      Reply

      Jimmy played a Telecaster on “Stairway”. A Stratocaster on “Ten Years Gone”, and “For Your Life”.

  7. Lord Jock
    Reply

    Dont forget Rory Gallagher and his distinctive sound .He played that srat into the ground and more . I always thought the Shadows had Burns guitars before the Strat . Could be wrong but I remember the burns guitar and wanting one

    1. Chuck
      Reply

      Yes, you are right. The Shadows played Baldwin Burns guitars, but not before the Fenders, they played them besides them on some of their songs.

    1. Roy Pryer
      Reply

      Nevertheless Hank had the first strat in britain & it sounds like a strat should sound …..pure tone. He didnt need overdrive or distortion to make him sound better than he really was.

    2. Roy Pryer
      Reply

      Nevertheless Hank had the first Strat in Britain & had the pure Strat sound he didn’t need overdrive or wah wah or distortion to make him sound better than he was.

  8. Dwight D Thompson
    Reply

    What about some of the surf sounds. The Ventures version of Walk-Don’t Run featured Bob Bogle on lead playing a Strat. Don Wilson played a Jazzmaster. Later on Jerry Mcgee played Strats on most of their hits. And don’t forget Nokie Edwards who played a Tele on many, many Ventures hits and shows. Dick Dale plays a Strat on Miserlou, Let’s Go Trippin’ etc.

  9. Gregory Penney
    Reply

    How bout RY COODER!, LOWELL GEORGE, SONNY LANDRETH, ELDON SHAMBLIN,EDDDIE SHAVER,DUKE LEVINE, DICK DALE, RICHARD THOMPSON and yes somebody mentioned the Beach Boys but I’d like to be more specific and say AL JARDINE!

  10. Rob
    Reply

    APACHE by The Shadows should have been included, it was the 1st track to feature a British based guitarist,and the 1st Stratocaster in Britain.Bought and imported by Cliff Richard for Hank Marvin to play ,it is now “owned” by Bruce Welch(Shadows) who used it on the FINAL TOUR 2009.

  11. Will_Prince_PL
    Reply

    Jan Borysewicz from Lady Pank (Polish Rock band, but they had tours in USA in 1988) also played Fender Stratocaster.

  12. Warren Wolf
    Reply

    Ive seen pics from 65 and Brian Jones is playing a Telecaster at some live shows.Also saw a pic from Bill Wymans book that says “Little REd Rooster” recording session and Jones is playing his Telecaster.

  13. Gary Roberts
    Reply

    Wow…not one mention of Richie Blackmore…there is a live Lord Sutch and Friends album from I think ’67 with a very young Richie that just smokes like nobody’s business

  14. SEAN
    Reply

    Buddy Holly is mentioned, How about WAYLON JENNINGS? He played with Buddy and played a Fender Telecaster almost his whole life! We all know who he gave his seat too on that plane!

  15. JohnH
    Reply

    I hadn’t heard of Fenders until the Fendermen’s singles “Mule Skinner Blues” in the late 50s reached us here in the UK.

  16. Gary Rossington
    Reply

    Cinderella Man by Rush is included in this play list, Alex Lifeson at the time of this track was using Gibson Les Paul and or 355, Geddy was using a Rickenbacker bass although at many other times in his career he did play a Fender Jazzmaster or Precision bass. Let’s face it though it is not the guitar but the player that counts, for quite a while Hank Marvin used a Burns Bison and sounded just as good playing that as he does playing a Strat. I have had the pleasure of owning several different makes of axes and they all have their good (and bad|!) points. I love the sound of a telecaster but do think the “ashtray” on the bridge does look a bit like a middle school metal work project! For a while I worked as a guitar tech in the glorious days when top level guitarists went on tour with the contents of a whole guitar shop with them due to the limitations of amplification systems if they wanted a small change in the timbre of their instrument it meant using a different guitar for each change plus spares I case of string breaks etc.

  17. Gary Rossington
    Reply

    Surely Clapton was “Blackie” not “Brownie” and didn’t it set an auction record for an electric guitar a few years ago?

  18. Peter Thomas
    Reply

    Cliff Richard bought Hank Marvin a Stratocaster because they thought that James Burton played one, not knowing that he played a Telecaster at the time.

  19. Lee Hopkins
    Reply

    I join the chorus of English (I presume) fans asking for Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi from legendary rockers Status Quo (still gigging nearly 50 years later). Any of their hits would suffice.

  20. RIG AMORTIZ
    Reply

    YOU MORONS…..HOW CAN YOU LEAVE OUT THE MASTER OF THE STRAT AX ? JIMI HENDRIX ????
    AT LEAST YOU MENTIONED BUDDY GUY.

  21. Mark Kalina
    Reply

    Jimmy Page used single coils (Fenders) in the studios and for live performances he preferred the Gibsons with humbuckers for obvious reasons.
    Don’t forget Waylon Jennings’ Tele and Jerry Garcia’s Strat that was a gift from Graham Nash.

  22. Phil Lacasse
    Reply

    I haven’t looked at all the comments, but in the ones I did read, no one mentioned any of the many Country artists who use Strats or Teles: Vince Gill, Brad Pailley, Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, Keith Urban, Hank Williams Jr, and several others. Bonnie Raitt also plays a Strat.

  23. Jim Quinn
    Reply

    Joe Walsh never used a Fender guitar in his James Gang days – in fact he was pretty much exclusively a Gibson Les Paul man until he joined the Eagles.

  24. Jorge
    Reply

    Bill Gibbons, ZZ Top, is also known for playing various Fender guitars. During his stint in the Moving Sidewalks, Gibbons used a white 1963 Fender Jazzmaster and Fender Esquire.[3] A couple of Fender guitars were featured on the Tres Hombres album, including a 1950 Fender Broadcaster on “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and a hard-tail sunburst 1955 Fender Stratocaster on “La Grange” and “Apologies To Pearly”.

  25. Rick
    Reply

    He was mentioned in a couple of other comments, but in my opinion Rory Gallagher was the man who showed what can be done with a Stratocaster. RIP.

  26. victor
    Reply

    I was at Newport ’65 when Bob Dylan “Went electric” with a Fender Strat !! How about that. (Maggie’s Farm, etc.)

  27. nicolas gerino flores
    Reply

    I think Clapton first used a strat in the layla record,later on his first lp,a favourite of mine by the way.the article clearly says that clapton bought Browine while he was on tour.it doesn`t mention that he actually was using it with cream.
    he recorded layla with brownie and afender champ amp,same amp duane,but with a Les Paul.
    Ain`t no wonder he ended using a strat,just the same sunburst as Buddy Guy since he was a buddy guy freak.
    First was freddie king,later buddy,but I understand being myself a guitar hero,a genius never ends with one favourite artist,just never stops growing in every aspect.
    if drugs are involved,creativity dies in the long run,you just think bout the next fix

  28. Dave
    Reply

    I saw James Gang 3 times in 1969. Everytime I saw them Joe played a Gold Top Les Paul Deluxe which has mini humbuckers. I was sitting about 5 feet in front of him at one of the shows. I went out later that year and bought the same guitar at Master Music in Cleveland..

  29. Dave
    Reply

    the list also indicates The Band (Robbie Robertson) . yea he used a strat but it was a custom built guitar with 2 humbuckers. No single coil strat sounds from this guitar. check out numerous concert photos of the Band.

  30. John Culshaw
    Reply

    I think the first group to play all Fenders was Gene Vincent`s Blue Caps in early 1957. `galloping` Cliff Gallop , Gene`s astounding first guitarist (played gretsch ), left the band in 1956 to be replaced by the great Johnny Meeks on strat.

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  32. Alex
    Reply

    Don’t forget about Gary Moore he had the best strategy marshall sound period albums like Corridors of power and victims of the future are all recorded with a 61 salmon pink strat his sound is dark and thin at the same time and his start was stocked not a single humbucker on that guitar

  33. Amy Gdala Godiva
    Reply

    Syd Barrett’s ’62 Fender Esquire all over “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” and Pink Floyd singles from that period redefined the instrument.

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