10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars

7th Oct 2009 | 10:53

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Richie Sambora
Richie onstage circa 1993: Strat? Check. Bandana? Check.

After celebrating the iconic Fender Stratocaster with a list of the 35 best players who’ve championed it over the years, we asked you who we’d missed. And you told us, in your droves… some we’d never heard of. Some we’d overlooked. But all were unsung stars, and this is a gallery of the top 10. First up: Richie Sambora.

Being a celebrated solo artist and, well, being in Bon Jovi, hardly makes Richie Sambora an ‘unsung’ star of anything. We just kind of forgot to include him in parts 1 and 2. So here he is…

As well as various models by Kramer, Jackson, Charvel, Hamer, Gibson, Zemaitis, Ovation, Taylor, Martin, ESP… we could go on - Sambora has been known to pick up a Strat from time-to-time. In 1991, Fender awarded him a signature model with Floyd Rose, DiMarzo PAF Pro humbuckers and two Fender Texas Special single-coils.

Your votes

“You missed Richie Sambora.” (From @spawai via Twitter, thanks)

“We need Mr. Sambora in this list man! He is one of the best guitar players of all time.” (Thanks, Paco7800)

“Still no Sambora? Surely one of the tastiest Strat players of the last 30 years.” (Thanks, Sickstring)

Next: Sonny Landreth

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Sonny Landreth
Sonny at the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, 2007

One of the masters of slide guitar and a regular here on MusicRadar’s tutorial channel, Sonny’s list of playing and recording partners reads like a veritable who’s who: John Mayall, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Buffett and Eric Clapton to name but a few.

Indeed, old Slowhand himself once described Landreth as "probably the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced, and it puts me to shame.”

Your votes

"You have to include Sonny Landreth - he's a Strat-playing legend in my book." (From skylark via email, thanks)

“Sonny Landreth.” (Thanks, Stratoblogster)

"Two words: Sonny. Landreth." (From Paul via email, thanks)

Next: Lowell George

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Lowell George
Lowell posing with guitars in 1979

Another slide guitar virtuoso, Lowell George achieved his greatest success with blues rockers Little Feat – a band he formed (with keyboardist Bill Payne) and fronted for 10 years beginning in 1969. Preceded by a short spell with Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers Of Invention.

Unfortunately, Lowell died of a heart attack in 1979, aged just 34. Acoustics aside, you’ll be hard-pushed to find any footage of him playing any other electric than a Fender Stratocaster during his relatively short life.

Your votes

“Lowell George.” (Thanks, Stratoblogster)

"+1 for Lowell George - it's easy to forget how good he was." (From Mark via email, thanks)

Next: Kenny Wayne Shepherd

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing on the Experience Hendrix Tour 2008

In 1997, our friends at Guitar World ranked Kenny Wayne Shepherd as the third most-popular blues artist, after only BB King and Eric Clapton! Still relatively unknown in popular music circles in the UK, Shepherd has sold millions of discs Stateside and still holds the record for the longest running album on the Billboard Blues Charts with Trouble Is…

The modern blues master was honoured with a signature Fender Strat last year, based on his own 1961 model. Featuring three custom-voiced Kenny Wayne Shepherd pickups, rosewood fretboard with a bend-friendly 12-inch radius and 21 jumbo frets. Not to mention the racing stripes…

Your votes

“We've all forgotten Kenny Wayne Shepherd.” (Thanks, Stratoblogster)

"Kenny Wayne Shepherd - anyone with a signature Strat must make the cut, surely?" (From Simon via email, thanks)

"Kenny Wayne Shepherd." (Thanks, Chris)

Next: Fast Eddie Clarke

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Fast Eddie Clarke
The 'classic' Motorhead lineup circa 1980 (Fast Eddie left)

Along with Lemmy and Phil Taylor, Fast Eddie Clarke was part of what is considered by many as the ‘classic’ Motorhead lineup. High praise indeed – and you don’t get the word ‘Fast’ tacked on to your name for being slow.

He is indeed a nimble-fingered guitarist - which perhaps also explains the name of his next project, Fastway, with UFO bassist Pete Way.

Your votes

“Fast Eddie Clarke?” (Thanks, MrGawain)

"Good 'ole Fast Eddie Clarke." (Thanks again, Chris)

Next: Ronnie Wood

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Ronnie Wood
Ron (left) and Keith Richards (right) jamming backstage before a gig in 1979

Yes, Ronnie Wood was, and still is in The Rolling Stones. Not ‘unsung’ by any stretch of the imagination. But he has, after all, had to stand in the shadow of Keith Richards for 34 years and was relegated to bass guitar behind Jeff Beck prior to that!

As well as playing the odd bit of pedal steel guitar or his own ESP signature model, you’ll often catch Ron doing what Keith Richards describes as the "ancient art of weaving" (a style of interchange between guitarists that blurs the boundaries between rhythm and lead) on a Fender Stratocaster.

Your votes

"Err, hello? Ronnie Wood? Because he was in The Rolling Stones? Geeez. In fact he still is!" (thanks, matey)

"...and have you overlooked Ronnie Wood?" (Thanks, Paul)

Next: Richard Thompson

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Richard Thompson
Richard and Linda Thompson at The Roxy, 1998

This unsung British star won a Orville H. Gibson award for best acoustic guitar player in 1991 and the prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award, but it was with Fairport Convention that Thompson honed his electric skills with a Fender Stratocaster.

Style-wise, Thompson is known for championing the hybrid-picking technique: “he plays bass notes and rhythm with a pick between his first finger and thumb, and adds melody and punctuation by plucking the treble strings with his fingers.”

Your votes

“Richard Thompson.” (Thanks, Stratoblogster)

“Richard Thompson - the guvnor!” (Thanks, Guitarbug)

Next: Thomas Blug

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Thomas Blug
Performing with the Thomas Blug Band, Strat in hand

German blues fusionist Thomas Blug was named top of Guitar Techniques’ 18 Great Guitarists You Should Know feature earlier this year. And for good reason: “Thomas is definitely one of the most versatile modern guitarists treading the boards these days… he has a quite remarkable tone with a wonderful dynamic control, expression and delivery.”

Weapon of choice? A ’61 Strat.

Your votes

“I'd just wanted to add Thomas Blug to Your list of Strat heros. Possibly one of the best Strat players around!” (From Jan via email, thanks)

"Thomas Blug is a bit of whizz kid, and a Strat player." (Thanks, Shaun)

Next: Chris Rea

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Chris Rea
Chris Rea in concert at The Zenith, 1993

Having sold over 30 million albums worldwide, Chris Rea is another suspect ‘unsung’ entry, but he’s in because so many people associate that raspy voice with Driving Home For Christmas, rather than blues rock and slide guitar.

Our friends at Guitarist magazine caught up with Rea back in 2005 on the eve of his monstrous 11-CD Blue Guitars boxset release: “My favourite slide player of all time is definitely Blind Willie Johnson,” recalled Rea. “Somebody said that I play his kind of notes as opposed to the Robert Johnson kind.”

Your votes

“What about Chris Rea? He's had that battered pink Strat for years...”(Thanks, ross4973)

“+1 on Chris Rea.” (Thanks, guitargeek62)

“Also forgot to mention Chris Rea. You cant forget him!!” (Thanks, bbcoz)

Next: Adrian Belew

10 unsung Fender Stratocaster stars
Adrian Belew
Adrian with Strat

Adrian Belew has fronted prog rockers King Crimson since 1981, but has famously sessioned for Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nine Inch Nails. The guitarist is now quite heavily involved in instrument design for Parker Guitars (he has his own Fly signature), but is also a well-known Strat player.

Not much of Belew’s output escapes without being processed through synths and effects. In fact, he composes music specifically with amp FX and distortion in mind.

Your votes

"Can I recommend Mr Adrian Belew. A fine guitarist with an edgy sound every time." (From Tim via email, thanks)

"Adrian Belew is good." (Thanks, Ben)

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