Listen to “Strato-Master” Hank Marvin’s Quintessential Stratocaster Tone

Photo of Tony MEEHAN and Jet HARRIS and SHADOWS and Bruce WELCH and Hank MARVIN; L to R Bruce Welch, Jet Harris, Tony Meehan (holding Fender Stratocaster guitar), Hank Marvin - posed group portrait, c.1960
The Shadows (L-R): Bruce Welch, Jet Harris, Tony Meehan, and Hank Marvin (Image credit: RB/Redferns)

Happy 80th birthday to Hank Marvin!

The Shadows’ “King of Twang” was the U.K.’s first electric guitar hero. Synonymous with the Fender Stratocaster, Marvin’s iconic guitar – a Fiesta Red custom color instrument with a maple neck and gold hardware – is believed to be the first Strat to land on U.K. soil.

Though Fender released the model in 1954, U.K. government restrictions on imported goods meant that American-made guitars did not become easily available across the pond until the 1960s.

The Shadows; L to R: Jet Harris, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Tony Meehan, posed, group shot, backstage, c.1960/1961

The Shadows (L-R): bassist Jet Harris; lead guitarist Hank Marvin; rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch; and drummer Tony Meehan. (Image credit: Paul Naylor/Redferns)

Marvin’s first Fender Stratocaster was acquired in 1959 when his band, the Shadows, were backing “British Elvis” Cliff Richard. Meanwhile, the group simultaneously released their 1960 number one smash hit “Apache,” unexpectedly knocking Richard off the top spot.

After that, demand for Strats – particularly Fiesta Red ones – went through the roof as Marvin became a bona fide electric guitar hero.

Hank Marvin performs live with Cliff Richard and The Shadows at Ahoy on November 10, 2009

Hank Marvin performing live with Cliff Richard and The Shadows in 2009. (Image credit: Mark Venema/WireImage)

“That first Strat made an appearance in 1959,” Marvin told Guitarist magazine back in 2014. “My Antoria had a horribly bent neck, so Cliff wanted to buy me a good guitar, and we decided that the Fender was the way to go, because we’d seen Buddy Holly with one on the Crickets album cover, and it was pretty cool. It was great looking, and we liked the sound of it, and we’d heard that James Burton used a Fender, so we got a catalogue from the States.

“It came in a tweed Fender case with the red plush lining and this magnificent-looking thing was just lying inside. It was like something from space, really, it was so futuristic in its design. The three pickups, the white scratchplate, the red guitar, the beautiful birdseye maple neck and all the gold plating, it just looked sensational.”

In this incredible clip from the last year’s The Shadows at Sixty documentary Marvin tells the story of “Apache” while demonstrating his quintessential Stratocaster tone and technique – the timeless sound that made him a star and inspired countless others to pick up a Strat.

And here's the complete footage of "Apache" in all of its early '60s glory...

Check out this awesome line-up of Fiesta Red Strats at Guitar Center.

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.