Fender, Stratocaster, 1955 - Bob Margolin


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The Story Behind

As a logical evolution Fender launched in 1954 a more refined guitar: the Stratocaster. The aim was to give the musician more comfort in playing the guitar. This was achieved by a new body design showing a more sleek and contoured body shape. The ash body (later also alder) presents now a double cutaway body with an extended top horn to enhance the balance of the guitar. The Fender Stratocaster was designed by Leo Fender and Freddie Tavares with involvement from musicians Rex Gallion and Bill Carson. The name was inspired by Leo Fender’s business partner, Don Randall. It was intended to be reminiscent of aircraft technology, and reflect forward thinking and modern design.

Also the sonic possibilities were enhanced by three single coil pickups, with the output originally selected by a 3-way switch, later changed to a 5-way switch to allow more tonal possibilities. Adding to the sonic range of the guitar was also the anchoring of the strings on a through-body pivot bridge on the back of the guitar. This bridge was in its turn anchored flat against the body by 5 springs. This was done to counter the pull of the strings in one direction and the springs in the opposite direction. By removing two of those springs musicians came up with the floating bridge allowing to modulate the pitch of the notes by using a tremolo arm.

Many players had minor modifications made to their instruments to suit his individual playing style. But no major changes occurred in the basic conception of the Stratocaster in the early years. With the take over by CBS in 1965 resulted some visible modifications with the large “CBS" headstock and (from the mid-1970s) the 3-bolt necked models (instead of the conventional 4 bolts) with the "Bullet" truss-rod and the MicroTilt adjustment system. The Fender Stratocaster had troubles to keep up with the music of the ’80 and ’90 and the boutique builders were better
equipped to serve the market. Fender tried to react to the emergence of the Superstrat catered to a different playing style. However, the blues-influenced artists adopted the original Fender Stratocaster as their main instrument, reviving the guitar's popularity.

Cult are also the colours used for the guitars. Fender offered a range of custom colours which were standardised in the ‘60, many of which were originally automobile lacquer colours from DuPont and associated with different US car brands like Cadillac, Oldsmobile, ….

Over the years the Stratocaster design was used as a platform to experiment with different technical enhancements to extend the sonic possibilities and the playability. Also the musicians explored the potential of the guitar and made it an icon in the history of Rock. Associated with this guitar are musicians like Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Buddy Holly, Eric Johnson, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, …

Fender Stratocasters are the most popular guitars and can be found in all conditions. Here is an early production model, but as with most of those guitars played by musicians, modifications were done to adapt the instrument to the musicians’ needs. 

Bob Margolin, aka "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin, is an icon in the world of electric blues guitar and has been for well over forty years. In 1973, he joined the Muddy Waters Band and was the mainstay of that band, with Muddy, throughout the entire decade. Right around the time he joined the band, Bob was given a 1956 Strat by a friend, and he has used it as his main guitar right up to this day. Over the years, it has been played on gigs by George Harrison, Keith Richards, Muddy his own self and more, played on stage with Eric Clapton too. It has been modified over the years (finish, pickups, etc.) to suit the needs of both Margolin and his predecessors; this is not to be considered a Strat that's original to the Fender company; it is a Strat that's original to Bob Margolin, a much revered musician, one of the great blues players of the great generation.

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