Though considered a music instrument icon today, the Stratocaster had a rather inauspicious birth in 1954. That year’s Fender catalog (image on the left) was a simple two-color, one-sheet, multi-fold that while primitive compared to today’s zesty advertising, highlighted the instrument’s main innovations: its “comfort contoured body”; the Fender-designed tremolo bar; a special tone control circuit; “a new surface mounted plug receptacle” (to quote the catalog); and the addition of a third pickup compared to the Telecaster’s two and the Esquire’s one.
1954 Stratocaster Specs: Small headstock (normally with soft edges), two-tone sunburst finish, one-piece maple neck with skunk stripe and 7.25″ fingerboard radius, 4-bolt neck attachment with serial number (very early instruments have the serial number on the tremolo cover), “bakelite” pickup covers and control knobs, tremolo cover has round string holes, round string tree, 8-screw single layer white vinyl pickguard, “spaghetti”-style headstock logo decal, two-piece tremolo with adjustable saddles stamped with “Fender Pat Pending,” Kluson tuners with no name on them.
Notes: First year of the Fender Stratocaster. Expect some variation in contours due to hand finishing. Early models will have slightly different volume/control knobs called “tallboys” (taller and thinner than the subsequent “bakelite” knobs).
The photos below are courtesy of Jeff Burnham