The Fender Stratocaster is the quintessential electric guitar—a worldwide archetype; the basic form that leaps to mind at the very mention of the phrase electric guitar even among those who don’t play. Maybe that’s because it was so well designed to start with that it has existed largely unchanged for 60 years now, allowing it to become an ingrained form in the minds of successive generations.
Ubiquitous and essential, the Stratocaster has transcended its original intended purpose as a tool (a stylish one, at that) to become such an archetype. It has risen above its everyday function to become a cultural symbol for creativity, individuality, artistry and more than a little exuberant rebelliousness. Been that way for quite a while now.
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But it wasn’t always like that. The Stratocaster had to earn its place, and it happened neither easily nor overnight. It took quite a while, in fact, because if it’s true that the guitar was so well designed from the start that it has basically remained the same for six decades, it’s also true that it was so well designed that it was ahead of its time by at least a decade. Indeed, for about its first 10 years or so, the Stratocaster patiently bided its time while the world caught up with it.