September 1, 2004

The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat
By Tom Wheeler
Packed with cool photographs from some of the greatest moments in Fender history, this 280-page hardcover book covers the evolution of the Stratocaster from its conceptual origin in 1951 to its formal debut in 1954 to its current status as one of the world’s most desirable electric guitars. Strat fans will revel in the huge amount of info presented here, as nearly every aspect of how the guitar was developed and refined over the last half-century is explored in painstaking detail. You’ll learn about how and why body woods and neck shapes changed, why the plastic on the earliest models cracked so easily, how custom colors came to be, and what it took for Leo Fender to create the synchronized tremolo that has stood the test of time as one of the mechanical wonders of guitar technology.

Excerpts of Wheeler’s interviews with Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton, Don Randall, Freddie Tavares, and Forrest White further highlight the effort that was required to design and produce such a revolutionary instrument. Even better, you can actually hear all of these people telling their stories on the accompanying CD—which also features 6-string savant Greg Koch performing his inimitable Fifty Sounds of the Strat. Wheeler has done a magnificent job of chronicling the history of the Strat from the drawing board through the CBS years and beyond, as Fender employees, under the leadership of president Bill Schultz, set about returning the Stratocaster to its former glory. We learn about Dan Smith’s “de-CBS” models of 1981-83, the ’57 and ’62 reissues, the Standard and Elite models, and the effect of the employee buyout of Fender in 1985, which led to creation of the Custom Shop and its line of fabulous vintage-style, Relic, Signature, and exotic Stratocasters. As you’d expect with a guitar that has had such a monumental impact on modern music, the Strat story is huge. Whether you’re a hardcore Strat devotee or simply want to learn more about Leo Fender’s greatest achievement, you’ll want to add this book to your collection. Hal Leonard.

—Art Thompson  

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