To say the Fender Stratocaster is the world's most popular electric guitar, while undoubtedly true, is far too simplistic of a statement. It does not do justice the tremendous impact the Stratocaster has made, not just in the limited world of guitar manufacturing, but upon the popular music of our modern era.
Introduced by Fender in the spring of 1954, the Stratocaster was an instant success. Why it became the guitar of choice for so many of music's renowned guitarists, such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Eric Johnson and many more, is certainly no surprise.
Because it was originally based on the feedback of professional musicians, the Stratocaster meets the necessary delicate balance between comfort, playability, and sound. The modern standard Fender "Strat" features a design that has remained almost exactly the same as the original model. After all, it is difficult to improve upon perfection. And the Fender Stratocaster is as close to perfection as anything any person could ever hope to produce. Most all other solid body electric guitars aspire to one day grow up and be a Stratocaster.
Unique to electric guitars at the time of the Stratocaster's release was the inclusion of a third single coil pickup. This enabled the guitar to produce a wider possibility of tones than previously possible. Another key feature was the vibrato, or tremolo bridge. By allowing the guitarist to bend the strings, a new level of creativity could be added to their playing. While originally intended to mimic the sound of a pedal steel guitar, nowadays one can hardly imagine a hard rock or heavy metal guitar solo without the use of this "whammy" bar.
Widely copied but never improved upon, the Fender Strat shows no sign of its popularity fading. So much so that similar guitars by other manufacturers are casually referred to as a Stratocaster or "Strat." But a true Stratocaster is always a Fender. A quick peek at Fender.com shows that throughout the years the Stratocaster family has grown to nearly 100 different versions, not counting custom artist guitars!
It is an intriguing dichotomy to be a classic and yet remain modern. Every industry has its gold standard. In the world of guitars there is no doubt who occupies that sacred spot. No other guitar has been able to challenge its position. The Fender Stratocaster remains king.