Greatest Hits of the Stratocaster

November 15, 2012

By Daniel Brooks

The Fender Stratocaster debuted in 1954 to become one of the most popular electric guitars ever. Three years after the release of the Fender Telecaster and the Precision Bass began turning heads and earning admiration, designers Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavarez sought to improve the electric guitar even further with radically innovative design recommendations from the musicians who used them.

The specifics are familiar to everyone who has ever picked up a Stratocaster. A comfortable, contoured double-cutaway body (based on the Fender P-Bass) allows players to reach every note on the fretboard with ease. The synchronized tremolo adds an extra dimension of expression to the player who can fluidly modulate the pitch of every note. Three single-coil pickups provide a broad range of clean, well defined sound, from the rich, dark neck pickup to the bright bridge pickup and the well-balanced middle pickup, and although the Stratocaster came with a standard three way switch (which was finally changed in 1977), guitarists quickly discovered additional tonal possibilities by carefully positioning the switch between the 1st and 2nd (bridge and middle) positions or the 2nd and 3rd (middle and neck) positions, to create an utterly unique “out-of-phase” sound from the interaction of the two selected pickups.

With such expressive versatility, easy comfort and playability and its own unique, sinuous beauty, it is no wonder that the Stratocaster immediately became one of the most popular guitars of all time and has remained so for nearly sixty years. The roster of artists who have relied on their beloved Stratocaster to provide a sonic palette worthy of their most inspired creations represents as good an introduction to rock and roll history as anything. Here are a few we think worthy of special notice.

Dick Dale might not have been the first to pick up a Stratocaster, but he certainly pushed the guitar to its limits. Known for his percussive staccato picking, on an upside-down guitar with ultra-heavy strings (.016 -.058) and a loud amped drenched in reverb, Dale combined the sensibility of surf music with the exotic musicality of his Lebanese, Polish and Belarusian heritage to create the beautiful mayhem of songs such as Miserlou.


Chicago Blues’ influence on Rock history is well documented. Like his contemporaries Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Otis Rush and so many others worth your time and attention, Buddy Guy lit the fire for many of Rock’s greatest guitarists and tirelessly continues to inspire generations of listeners with his showmanship and his Stratocaster.


Jimi Hendrix is, of course, considered by many to be the greatest guitarist ever. A completely inspired original who created a whole new vocabulary for music. And while he certainly did play other guitars on a few notable occasions, he is best known for the restrung, right-handed, upside-down Stratocasters he used to redefine the creative possibilities of the guitar. Of his many outstanding masterpieces, one that best illustrates his use of the Strat as a sonic paintbrush to create an almost visual aural landscape is Machine Gun.


One of the most important acts to evolve out of the psychedelic sixties was Pink Floyd. When original guitarist and songwriter Syd Barrett lost his way in a haze of psychedelic drugs and mental illness, the remaining members recruited guitarist David Gilmour to help carry on to a new incarnation of greatness. For many, the next and highest peak of their creative genius found its voice in their Progressive-rock masterpiece, Echoes.


With an enormous sound and an abundance of soulful inspiration, Robin Trower kept the fires lit for many who longed for the sound of a Strat played through a Marshall amp. Trower’s rich, guitar-oriented palette often inspired and invited comparisons to Hendrix, but he was and continues to be his own artist. Here is one of his many great moments, Bridge of Sighs.


With an easy, graceful mix of country, jazz and rock and roll influences, and rock solid songwriting, Mark Knopfler used that in-between, out-of-phase Stratocaster tone to put Dire Straits on the map with Sultans of Swing.


Right around the time Punk, Disco, and far too many synthesizers had left what seemed to be an indelible mark on Rock music, along came Stevie Ray Vaughan to remind us why we still needed a Stratocaster. His all-too-short life and career as a bluesman ended tragically in 1990. But he left us with a whole new appreciation for the blues, for the guitar and more than a few truly great songs, among the best is this one he wrote for his wife titled, Lenny.


Few guitarists, few artists of any kind, for that matter, continue to redefine their greatness in ever-expanding terms as the years unfold. But then again, few guitarists could have filled the vacancy left behind by Eric Clapton’s departure from the Yardbirds as well as Jeff Beck, and then gone on to even greater accomplishments. For those who thought Jeff Beck’s reinvention of Stevie Wonder’s Because We’ve Ended as Lovers was perfect when he first released it in 1975, here is perfection improved upon


Of course, there are many other songs by each of these artists, and others left unmentioned, that are certainly worthy of your respect. Half the fun is hearing what you would have put on the list of greatest Stratocaster songs (So far).


  1. Alberto says:

    Rory Gallagher played was what reputed to be the first Fender Stratocaster in Ireland!  He is was a legendary musician and is often overlooked, but his customized and abused guitar is an integral, and some argue indispensable part of his awesome sound.  Check out his Live in Europe album.

    posted on November 15, 2012 at 10:20 am
  2. Jay Wilson says:

    A couple of these vids aren’t available outside of the U.S.


    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:26 am
  3. Gus Gomez says:

    What about EC????

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:28 am
  4. Ty says:

    I’m surprised not to see Clapton in this list. Strats are still one of my favorite “go to” guitars. Hendrix, Clapton, SRV…  the list goes on. I just love the tone of a Strat on the neck position. I happened upon this overdrive pedal by Mercy Seat Effects and it sounds AWESOME with a Strat. It’s spanky but still warm. Check it out.
    Thanks for the article!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:32 am
  5. TomCat says:

    Noticed the number of maple fretboards?
    Strats only sound good with maple fretboards. Thx for proving my case :-)

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:37 am
  6. Kley says:

    A bit nitpicky on my part, but my understanding is that the 2 and 4 positions on the strat’s pickup selector would technically be the two pickups wired in parallel and in phase - not out of phase.  Out of phase sounds much more thin and nasally.  The only example in music I can think of is Peter Green.

    I have accidently switched ground and hot leads when wiring my strat and the notch positions end up sounding really bad.  As I understand this is out of phase - and this is a different tone than the classic strat quack of the 2 and 4 positions we all know and love.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:37 am
  7. David Moore says:

    That sure is a funny looking trumpet (or funny sounding saxophone) in that Misirlou video!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:43 am
  8. frank d DISTEFANO says:

    clapton only came to strats in his middle career. he was most seen with es and sg gibsons in his early days.  fender pays him to use strats now…

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:43 am
  9. peter says:

    what not clapton? nothing from the layla album? hmmmmmmm

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:44 am
  10. FooQuah says:

    What! Yngwie!?!  :)

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:48 am
  11. frank d DISTEFANO says:

    “layla…” makes great use of the strat, but the artists in this list are known as strat players throughout their careers. (except for beck, who started on teles; still fender, though)

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:49 am
  12. eddie knuckles says:

    Great songs above, but What?

    No ZZ Top - “LaGrange”?

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:49 am
  13. James Crisan says:

    If this is a list of guitarists that have contributed to the iconic sound of the Strat, you cannot leave out the great Nils Lofgren.  I’m glad Alberto’s call on Rory is the first comment - I can’t see or hear the word Stratocaster without thinking of him.  And finally, for a perfect example of the Fender Stratocaster sound, check out the video of Derek and the Dominos on the Johnny Cash show playing “It’s Too Late”, with EC playing Brownie.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:50 am
  14. Paul Provost says:

    Chris Rea has played a strat for the better part of his career. Road to Hell is an obvious favorite.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:52 am
  15. frank says:

    billy gibbons has used strats only as one tool in his vast array of guitars…Guitars

    Billy Gibbons’ choice of electric guitars has primarily been Gibson. His first guitar was a sunburst 1962 Gibson Melody Maker.[1] He became a Gibson player in 1968, when he purchased a sunburst 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar from a farmer in Houston, Texas for US$250. The guitar was named “Pearly Gates”; this guitar has become the foundation/benchmark of every ZZ Top album since the group formed in 1969.[2]

    Gibbons continues to play Gibsons with ZZ Top, owning various models including an early-‘50s Les Paul Goldtop, a 1958 Flying V, and an early model of the Gibson SG, made in 1961 with a cherry red finish.

    Along with Gibson, Gibbons 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”. He used a sunburst 1958 Les Paul for the slide guitar in “Just Got Paid,” as well as a 1955 Gretsch Roundup on “TV Dinners” from Eliminator. He has also famously used an extremely rare “Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird” given to him by Bo Diddley. The use of this guitar (beginning with the 2003 ZZ Top album “Mescalero (album)”) inspired a signature production model, the “Gretsch Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird.” For the “Mescalero (album)” Billy Gibbons also relied heavily on Ulrich Teuffel’s futuristic Birdfish guitar, claiming it was second only to his 1959 Les Paul Sunburst Standard, affectionately known as the “Pearly Gates.” According to Gibbons, “It really shines on Mescalero because of that dirty, raunchy tone. I defy any other instrument, besides these odd-ball things, to get that crazy.“[4]

    Gibbons has also used a number of custom creations by luthier John Bolin[5] since the late 1970s. Many of these guitars are custom renditions of classic Fender and Gibson designs. Most of Gibbons’ guitars are set up with pickups wound to his specification by Seymour W. Duncan or Maricela Juarez in the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. Gibbons also uses TV Jones Power’tron Plus bridge pickups (a hot rodded Gretsch Filter’tron style pickup).

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:54 am
  16. Kwestking says:

    HIGHAY STAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:57 am
  17. Kwestking says:

    OOps!!! HIGHWAY STAR!!!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 2:59 am
  18. Mark says:

    Dick Dale!?!?  lol….. Can he even play a chord? The rest I gotta agree with they are hefty Strat magicians!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:04 am
  19. Mike says:

    Richie Blackmore. That is all.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:08 am
  20. Mark says:

    Ritchie Blackmore!!!!!!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:09 am
  21. alepav says:


    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:10 am
  22. Flemming says:

    Yeah?!??!?  its a nice list of strat users - bu WHO mad Knopfler pick it up, who made Pete T of the Who pick it up - who made EC look for a strat?  no other than the genius who is Hank Marvin - its a fine list - but please do some research before you make all of theese lists..coz he was the first man to pick a strat in the UK - and nomatter the “taste” of music this is SOLID fact - rock on!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:11 am
  23. Gman says:

    I realize that you were trying to not be obvious but Layla should be #1 on the list
    and everyone know it.
    The list is titled “Greatest hits of the Stratocaster” not “most famous lifelong Strat players”

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:13 am
  24. Hafiz feshal says:

    8 is not enough, for strat hits, it should have at least 20.
    There is
    Eric johnson
    Richie blackmore
    Yngwie malmsteen
    Rory galagher
    Eric Clapton
    And more

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:17 am
  25. Xerocky says:

    Big Star had the best strat tones of all time.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:22 am
  26. BC says:

    No greatest strat player list is complete without Rory Gallagher’s name on them. Needless to say most greatest strat player lists are ever complete.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:23 am
  27. Reid says:

    The first time I picked up a Strat and fiddled with the toggle switch, I immediately heard Sweet Home Alabama when I got to the bridge/middle setting. That song won’t sound right on any other guitar for the intro and middle solo especially.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:25 am
  28. David Moore says:

    For your consideration, I submit the following:

    I’m talking about Sonny, not the guy in the shorts, though he’s a pretty capable player as well.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:27 am
  29. Ray says:

    “Dick Dale!?!?  lol….. Can he even play a chord? The rest I gotta agree with they are hefty Strat magicians!”

    Dick Dale can play about 10 different instruments, thus, I suspect he can play a chord or two.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:57 am
  30. David says:

    I seemed to remember Beck playing a Les Paul on the Blow By Blow album, or at least on the album cover.  No consideration for metalheads, I guess.  If you don’t include Ritchie Blackmore, you’re not going to include Yngwie Malmsteen.  “Black Star” set a bunch of kids (including me) back to the woodshed.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:59 am
  31. Danno says:

    Definitely another vote for Ritchie Blackmore.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 4:00 am
  32. Steve says:

    Buddy Holly was the first famous strat player!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 4:16 am
  33. Sime says:

    Gee some people get misted up over lists.

    It is a short list. If the list was longer, all the ‘misplaced’ names would be on there too.
    It’s then just a matter of order. and .. that .. is simply personal opinion.

    yep , I’d like to have seen Rory on there too. But I liked the article, and I cab still maintain my own listening list. Clapton in Strat era is a long way down mine. Earlier Gibbo playin’ Clapton?  .. Epic

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 4:25 am
  34. D-man says:

      Come on ,guys the article is about strat driven songs, the pre-emptor of all strat songs ,That’ll be the day,gets my vote.Just consider how many artists were influenced by Buddy Holly,and I rest my case .And to the gentleman,dissing Dick Dale,Dale brought exotic scales and melded his heritage with the guitar,he is a multi- instrumentalist and completely self-taught.If memory serves me,his first instrument was clarinet ,just try playing that without making it sound like a dying goose.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 4:42 am
  35. Angel Tejon says:

    Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock…1969. best stratocaster playing ever!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 5:31 am
  36. Howard Forton says:

    Excellent stuff. Echoes is floyd at their best and the album Meddle is the link between Syd and waters era floyd. Perfection. Listen to gilmour and wright on the “remember that night” DVD for a more hi-fi but stunning version. I saw this live at the royal Albert hall. Strat brilliance.  What about hank marvin? He influenced gilmour and knopfler and made the Strat cool with his trem work.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 5:50 am
  37. CJB says:

    I will second Alex Chilton/Big Star and Buddy Holly. As far a strat songs/players go - any 80’s U2? What about Where the Streets Have No Name? New Year’s Day?

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 5:57 am
  38. James Crisan says:

    I see a few of you who suggest that EC’s best playing days were spent with his Gibson SG and ES 335.  Maybe this will cause you to reconsider: Groanin’ the Blues on a white strat in 1994…

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:59 am
  39. Jim h says:

    I’m with eddieknuckles…La Grange by ZZ Top is one of the most badass Strat workouts ever. And I believe Jeff Beck played the original of Because We’ve Ended as Lovers on his famous Les Paul Standard.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 7:47 am
  40. Andrew Z says:

    @ eddie knuckles

    Billy Gibbons has never to my knowledge used a Strat. He’s used just about everything under the sun but I’m almost certain that La Grange is the Bo-Diddley / Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird
    Or at best a Telecaster.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:04 am
  41. George says:

    Yes eight is definitely not enough.

    My choice in no particular order are:

    1. Clapton
    2. SRV
    3. Knopfler
    4. Jimi Hendrix
    5. Hank Marvin
    6. Buddy Holly
    7. Richie Blackmore
    8. Jeff Beck
    9. Yngwie Malmsteen
    10. Robin Trower
    11. Buddy Guy
    12. Dave Gilmour

    For what it’s worth that’s my dirty dozen.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:14 am
  42. George Brianka says:

    Check out the solo the enormously underrated Buck Dharma plays on his 70’s Strat in this song:

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:36 am
  43. Michael Fisher says:

    And Apache by The Shadows!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:42 am
  44. Cliff Gausden says:

    What no Gwyn Ashton??? Awesome blues guitarist with his 63 well used Fender Stratocaster. If you get the chance check out Gwyn Ashton. Wont disappoint.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 9:00 am
  45. D-man says:

    Billy Gibbons,never using a strat?? Sorry Andrew z,check out “Squank” ,” Drive my Chevrolet”, and other ZZ Top songs.Gibbons is a guitar collector,junkie .The strat has always been in his arsenal and he has one that Hendrix gave him,as he and Jimi jammed on several occasions.By the way,Mr. Hendrix stated the Reverend Billy Gibbons was one of the best guitarist he had ever heard.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 9:24 am
  46. JohnCarter says:

    Hank Marvin!!!
    Ritchie Blackmore
    Buddy Holly

    Serious omissions!!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 10:14 am
  47. Leo says:

    PGS, oh my! Y’all are great, but this list is sorely lacking in many many ways which others have already pointed out. I can only think maybe your intent was to incite some healthy debate.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 11:02 am
  48. Mike says:

    Hey guy’s - we’re all Guitarists here and criticizing is what we do best!! Everybody has their favorite Player’s and nobody’s wrong when it comes to their own personal tastes! The poor dudes at ProGuitars are probably hidin under the bed because theire choices didn’t suit everybody here! Lol!  Loosen up and add some links to your favorite “Strat” Tunes and player’s and let’s educate each other. It’s impossible to use only 8 tunes to define the Stratocaster anyway!
    The Jeff Beck rendition of Ended as lovers in particular - I would sure prefer the Bass Player over anyone else in the Band - especially on my face!!!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 11:48 am
  49. Dave says:

    Robbie Blunt playing on Robert Plant’s Big Log is my all time favorite but that’s the beauty of art….no right or wrong answer here. I also really like the sounds on Back to the House Love Built by Tito & The Tarantulas.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm
  50. Cliff Gausden says:

    Gwyn Ashton - Hot in Here __

    Gwyn Ashton & Band of Friends/ Rory Gallagaher Tribute -

    There ya go a few You Tube links

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm
  51. Sydney Simon says:

    Ah….Ritchie Blackmore and Rory. THAT IS ALL !

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  52. Dennis mohr says:

    Jimmy Messina and Angry Eyes!!!!  My all-time Strat player!!

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm
  53. vyler says:

    John Frusciante - Red hot Chili Peppers

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm
  54. Peter Fretter says:

    Eric Johnson plays Fender stratocaster guitars…he`s got some cool songs.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm
  55. fendermack says:

    hello everyone
    i miss some people here
    bo winberg frondman of the spotnicks
    and hank b marvin frondman of the shadows
    these guys are my heroes

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm
  56. mark says:

    what about the stat playing the strat. goes up to 11. very spinal tap. god bless metal.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm
  57. iwouldkillyou says:

    i f*ck my stat, yeeeeeyeeeaahhhyyyhhh

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm
  58. David Axelbank says:

    Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers played a Stratocaster on lots of the great early LPs and EPs. And let’s not forget Curtis Mayfield. Oh, and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze. And on and on…

    I think its a great list from ProGuitarShop. I can live with the omissions. After all, its only an attempt at a short list - obviously there are many more.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:56 pm
  59. god says:

    i hear obama likes to play with himself as much as blair did, omg lets start a fartition.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm
  60. Brent says:

    I think that is Knopfler’s Red Schecter in the Dire Straits video, so technically it isn’t a “Stratocaster” ;)

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 9:27 pm
  61. Leo says:

    Jeff Beck - “Where were you?”.

    posted on November 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm
  62. John says:

    No Clapton?  Blackie sold for million bucks at auction!

    posted on November 17, 2012 at 1:16 am
  63. Rick says:

    I agree with others they truely forgot some one the most important and influential strat players..(Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, Eric Johnson) Many of these would be much higher on the list then the ones they chose.

    posted on November 17, 2012 at 3:08 am
  64. Bruce Wallace says:

    Gotta love the camera shot of the sax player, when the trumpet solo starts, in “Miserlou”!

    posted on November 17, 2012 at 4:08 am
  65. Paul F says:

    Richard Thompson.

    posted on November 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm
  66. Charles says:

    Hank Marvin from the Shadows made me want a Fender Stratocaster (with a 3-way switch at the time) in the 60s…ask Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton….

    posted on November 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm
  67. Jason says:

    I’d say most of Claptons best work was done on a Les Paul or SG..!? But I agree with Rory Gallagher and Eric Johnson.

    posted on November 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm
  68. Paul says:

    Thanks for giving Robin Trower his due. He’s my all-time favourite guitar player, with Rory Gallagher coming a close second. I think Rory’s Strat, along with SRV’s, are the most distinctive and readily recognizable in guitardom.

    posted on November 19, 2012 at 9:45 am
  69. marcus says:

    THX for not including EC.
    Please do more fun lists like this.

    posted on November 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm
  70. marcus says:
    forgot this!

    posted on November 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm
  71. Phill Torres says:

    I think there are about 9.992 songs missing….

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 2:47 am
  72. TerryAre says:

    Where’s Eric Johnson? Where’s eric Clapton?

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 3:39 am
  73. Jack Gould says:

    How about including a somewhat obscure tune, Like A Rolling Stone, on your list? Surely Mike Bloomfield and Bob Dylan’s twin Strat attack deserves a mention.

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 3:42 am
  74. Michael Moore says:

    Tommy Bolin .... for Christ’s sake!

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 3:45 am
  75. JohnK says:

    No CLAPTON ?!  Why even publish a list ?

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 4:08 am
  76. CJB says:

    Well… here’s who Fender has signature models for…®&series=Artist&subBrand=Fender+Electric+Guitars&pg=2

    I believe the custom shop had Rory Gallagher model…and a Buddy Holly recently. I guess the endorsement on Richie Sambora’s ran out. I remember that one…stars for fret markers! :p

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 5:47 am
  77. Me*yoko says:

    Buddy Holly should have been first on that list.

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 6:29 am
  78. Ian says:

    I’d like to see Buddy Holly get some credit. His playing isn’t necessarily a guitar showcase, but he was one of the first and greatest ambassadors of the strat. Also, if you insist on leaving Prince off of this list, then Gett Out of my Little Red Corvette, Darling Nikki, because no longer do I Wanna Be Your Lover. You can walk home in the Purple Rain. In conclusion, Batdance.

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 11:33 am
  79. D-man says:

    Prince plays a Tele,dude.

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 11:48 am
  80. Ian says:

    Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? He shreds either way.

    posted on November 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Leave a Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.