The most iconic Fender Stratocaster players and their unique Strats

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


The most iconic Fender Stratocaster players and their unique Strats

fender stratocaster players
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Signature Fender Stratocaster players who've ensured their personal touches produce something iconic

The Fender Stratocaster has become ubiquitous with modern music. Since its inception in the late ’50s, the Stratocaster has been a go-to for some of the most unique guitar players in history, spawning an endless amount of unbelievable Fender Stratocaster players.

What’s more, the Stratocaster was designed as a more dynamic instrument than the Telecaster, with three pickups instead of two, and a five-way switch to toggle between the pickups or select multiple at once. It features two tone knobs, a master volume and a tremolo for more expression, tone sculpting, and customisation with wiring.

Building on the customisable nature of the tone itself, Fender prides themselves on being supremely customisable, from simple pick guards colours to push/pull pots, different caps, pickups, and saddles to name a few easy swaps. Fender Stratocaster players throughout the decades have pushed the limits of these customisations and created their own incarnations of the Strat that blends form and function into entirely new and unique beasts. 

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.


H.E.R. is a newer artist compared to some of the players on this list, but is by no means creating any less of a legacy. H.E.R.’s unique blend of rhythm ‘n’ blues, neo-soul, jazz, and funk, make the Stratocaster an easy choice, offering both warm, full sounds, and poppy, syncopated notes where needed.

What makes H.E.R.’s Strat unique is the anodised pick guard – available coupled with the Chrome Glow finish that moves and sparkles like a rainbow after drizzle. The anodised aluminium guard gives a little more bite and attack, brightening up the sound that bounces back into the pickups.

Eric Johnson

On the opposite end of the tonal spectrum is Eric Johnson’s Thinline Stratocaster, the chambered body and F-hole bringing a richer midrange than the rest of the solid body range.

An F-hole doubles as something for extra resonance to bounce around in, making an acoustic quality present within a more traditional sound. 

Ritchie Blackmore

Speaking of tradition, it’s difficult to go past Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame.

It’s become a rite of passage, a tradition, for guitar players starting out to learn ‘Smoke on the Water’. The iconic, seemingly simple riff was written by Blackmore after watching the smoke from a fire drift across Lake Geneva in 1971.

Blackmore’s lead playing is somewhat overlooked because of the legacy that the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff leaves behind, but his experimentation with scalloped frets speak to his prowess at higher frets as well.

Blackmore’s signature model features a graduated scalloped fretboard, with a mild concave between the frets instead of a flat fretboard, allowing the player to really grab ahold of notes per se. 

Yngwie Malmsteen

If you want to talk about scalloped frets though, it’s difficult to look past Yngwie Malmsteen.

Yngwie’s neo-classical shred is the stuff of legend. Inspiring whole genres alone, Yngwie is well-known for playing a classic Buttercream Strat with an entirely scalloped fretboard, bringing the Strat tones into the world of heavy metal and shred. 

Jimi Hendrix

Yngwie, however, wouldn’t be much without the influence of Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix is one of the most famous guitar players of all time. Famously left-handed, his Strats were right handed models – far more affordable at the time, strung upside down.

What this did was flip the headstock for different resonances above the nut on the lower strings, while also flipping the angle of the bridge pickup, adding more twang to the low strings and warmth to the high strings.

Hendrix inspired countless players, from Nile Rodgers to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Tash Sultana.

Tash Sultana

Tash’s unique Strat features a simple but effective modification: a humbucker. Single coils can be noisy and thin, and a humbucker bucks the 60-cycle hum while adding extra girth and punch to an already great tone.

Tash’s Strat also features a custom red colour with gold hardware to offset the pearl pick guard.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a prodigy of the blues, and worked harder for his notes than anyone else, thanks to the .13 gauge strings (and beyond if you believe everything you read!) commonly found on his Strats.

These provided a particularly punchy and bassy tone, while the uncommon (at the time) pau ferro fretboard on his Strats offered the clarity and attack of ebony.

Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers wrote some of the most iconic music in disco and funk, having penned parts for Chic, Sister Sledge, and David Bowie.

Nile’s famous Strat was a 1960 hardtail Strat that he refinished himself in Olympic White. It featured a ‘59 neck and a slightly smaller alder body than a traditional Strat, and more contoured grooves.

Cory Wong

While Nile Rodgers paved the way for what we now call disco, players like Cory Wong continue to push the boundaries of the funk genre, while blending others into it.

Possibly inspired by Nile Rodgers, Cory Wong’s signature Strat is a ’70s-style Strat with a slightly smaller body shape and contour for maximum comfort.

Howard Reed Jr. H.A.R. Strat

While it’s easy to discuss all the new and exciting modifications – where did all that start? Possibly with one Howard Reed Jr. of Gene Vincent’s backing band, the Blue Caps.

Ordered in 1955, Howard Reed Jr.’s Strat was all black with a white pick guard, a colour unheard of before then, the Strat only having been commercially available for one year, and mostly in two-tone-sunburst.

Reed also embellished his customised Strat with his initials H.A.R. so the audience would know who he was.

So there you have it, 10 Fender Stratocaster players who’ve pushed the boundaries of music with their customised and refined Strats.

It’s not to say that a Strat alone isn’t enough to do plenty, but unique sounds take a unique approach, and sometimes custom hardware, pickups, and even colours can elevate the instrument to something truly unique and truly yours.

Head to Fender to surf for more Strats from your favourite Fender Stratocaster players.