If you know anything about rock and roll guitar, you’ve heard of the Fender Stratocaster, and you’ve probably got a pretty good idea as to the identities of the great stratocaster players. Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix usually top the list.
But, as great as these guys are, they’ve been discussed a lot over the last several decades, and sometimes it can be more fun to look a little off the beaten path and check out some cool players you might not immediately associate with the Strat.
1) Mark Knopfler
What’s Mark Knopfler doing on this list? Wasn’t he practically known for his iconic Strat tone in the late ’70s? Well, yes. One listen to “Sultans of Swing” or “Southbound Again” will instantly tell you exactly what Leo Fender had in mind when he built his first Strat in 1954. However, I’d argue that Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits had such a monster success in 1984 with “Money for Nothing”, which was famously played on a Gibson Les Paul – the anti-Stratocaster – that it obliterated his original tonal identity. Ask most guitarists today and they’ll tell you that Knopfler’s a Gibson guy.
2) Bonnie Raitt
Unlike Knopfler, Bonnie Raitt has been faithful to her Fender Strat (whether her newer blue signature model or her paint-stripped Old Faithful) for her entire career. However, she’s such an incredible singer and song interpreter that I’d wager 75% of her audience doesn’t even know she can play guitar. Too bad for them. Bonnie is one of the two wickedest slide guitarists on the planet, with a sultry, buzzy tone and enough taste to always play only the perfect lick in the perfect spot.
3) Ry Cooder
If Bonnie Raitt is one of the two wickedest slide guitarists on the planet, Ry Cooder is definitely the other one. Ry matches Bonnie’s levels of tone and taste, but probably one-ups her in terms of pure technique and assassin’s flair: check his intro to “All Shook Up” on Get Rhythm for a clinic on greasy bottleneck aggression. Ry’s main axe is a Frankenstein guitar with a custom neck and the pickup from a WWII-era Oahu lap steel guitar, which he chopped out of its original location and crammed into a sunburst Strat body. Run through a completely tricked-out rig that’s reputed to include a reverb spring floating in used motor oil, Ry’s Oahu Strat sounds like no other.