Rock and pop legends prepare a star-spangled 50th birthday for the ultimate electric guitar

When Jimi Hendrix electrified the Woodstock festival with his blazing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner", it was a Fender Stratocaster guitar he was playing.

When Jimi Hendrix electrified the Woodstock festival with his blazing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner", it was a Fender Stratocaster guitar he was playing.

A decade earlier, Buddy Holly had been the first rock and roll star to let rip on its curvaceous body and Pete Townshend was a later fan though it did not stop him smashing a fair few to pieces during the heyday of The Who.

Eric Clapton even has a mass-produced model named after him, made in the image of his favourite, known as "Blackie".

In the annals of pop and rock history, probably no other instrument has enjoyed a bigger starring role. Invented in 1954 by Californian radio repairs man Leo Fender, What Guitar? magazine recently named it the world's greatest electric guitar.

And now some of its biggest fans are being brought together to celebrate its 50th birthday and raise funds for the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy centre in London which uses music to help disabled children.

From David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Joe Walsh of the Eagles through to Johnny Marr of the Smiths and the singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, all will gather at Wembley Arena on 24 September to play homage to the guitar.

Other confirmed performers include Hank Marvin of the Shadows who was the first person in Britain to own one, Mike Rutherford and Paul Carrick of Mike and the Mechanics and Paul Rodgers of Free.

The event was launched at the legendary 100 Club in London last night with a performance from the latest Strat recruit, Leah Wood (daughter of Ronnie), in the presence of the very first Fender Stratocaster ever made, worth a reputed £1 million and now owned by David Gilmour.

Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, said it was an instrument that "just takes you to another place". "Imagine you're a youngster in the 60s and turn on the telly and Jimi Hendrix appears making it sound like something you've never heard in your life - that's what happened to me. You run towards the television and you want to jump in there. You can't believe what you're hearing.

"Each generation has been able to take the Strat and do something extraordinary. It shows off the particular decade. When you see it strapped around Buddy Holly and around Jimi Hendrix, you see what it stands for, culturally, socially."

In his own case, ditching his Gibson 335 guitar was a requirement for him joining Roxy Music. "They said, 'That just isn't right, but if you get yourself a Strat you can join the band.'" His first, visible on the band's debut album cover, was bought for £60 from fellow band member Brian Eno who had bought it for £30 from his milkman.

The idea of getting to play with some of his guitar heroes is a thrill, Manzanera admitted. "Guitarists always like to have a jam with other people. David Gilmour has been one of my heroes for ages. And Hank Marvin - there's a number of Shadows records that we all bought and copied."

Amy Winehouse, whose third-hand Strat was her first ever guitar, said she "can't wait" to take part in the anniversary concert. "It's my favourite guitar. It's classic, it looks good and it sounds beautiful. It really lends itself to anything. It's such a warm sound, something you don't get with a cold instrument like the piano or keyboards."

Like Manzanera, she admitted drooling when she visits guitar shops although she has no particular guitar heroes - "apart from people like Jimi Hendrix that everybody looks up to whether you're a guitarist or not".

The Fender Stratocaster developed out of work that Leo Fender began in his radio shop in California in the 1940s, making custom guitars and amplifiers. In 1951, he introduced the Broadcaster, the prototype solid-body guitar (as opposed to the hollow guitar of the Spanish/ classical model) that would eventually become the Telecaster and by 1954, the Stratocaster.

It became the instrument of choice for generations of musicians right up to Radiohead, the Strokes and Alanis Morissette today with the rarest examples - in unusual colours such as Sonic Blue or Green Foam - commanding thousands.

Although Leo Fender sold the business to the giant corporation CBS in 1965 because of poor health, it was sold on 20 years later to a small group of employers and investors who continue production today. Interest is rising with more than 60,000 expected to be sold in the UK this year compared with 50,000 only two years ago.

Barrie Cadogan, of the Vintage and Rare Guitars shop in London which has just sold a good condition 1956 model for £18,500, said the point of the Strat was that it had proved itself over many years.

Although in the 60s it lost some ground to the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar, the arrival of Jimi Hendrix, and later Eric Clapton, got sales soaring again.

"Guitars do come and go out of fashion, but it's been popular throughout the decades," Mr Cadogan said.

"It's very well-designed and it has a very versatile range of sounds. Yet Leo Fender couldn't actually play. He relied on feedback from musicians. That's what made his guitars so different."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Arts and Entertainment

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment