18 Greatest Fender Guitarists

If you’re on a quest to know which rock gods and guitar legends have jammed on a Fender, you’ve tuned into the right frequency. Fender, undeniably one of the biggest names in the guitar game, has been slung over the shoulders of countless legends across all genres.

From the roaring ’60s to today’s chart-toppers, many have chosen Fender as their trusty six-stringed sidekick.

So, let’s dive into the who’s who of Fender aficionados:

1. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix, arguably the most famous person to ever pick up a Fender Stratocaster. As a master of the Stratocaster, he turned the guitar world upside down. Hendrix, a lefty, made history by flipping a right-handed Stratocaster upside down and restringing it to suit his playing style. His unforgettable performance of “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock is a defining moment in music, showcasing his incredible talent and the expressive power of the Fender Strat.

2. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton, also known as “Slowhand,” is a monumental figure in the world of rock and blues guitar. Known for his mastery of the blues scale and his expressive vibrato, Clapton has a unique ability to convey deep emotions through his playing.

Blackie, Clapton’s favorite Fender Stratocaster, was born out of the combination of three different Stratocasters that Clapton bought in the early 1970s. He took the best parts from these guitars and assembled them into one, creating Blackie. This guitar became his main instrument throughout the 70s and 80s, playing a crucial role in albums like “461 Ocean Boulevard” and songs such as “I Shot the Sheriff” and the unforgettable “Layla.”

In 2004, Clapton sold Blackie at auction for a record price, with the proceeds going to the Crossroads Centre, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center he founded, highlighting not just the guitar’s musical significance but also its contribution to a cause close to Clapton’s heart.

3. David Gilmour

David Gilmour has been synonymous with the sound of Pink Floyd, and his black Fender Stratocaster is at the heart of that connection. This iconic guitar was pivotal in creating the ethereal and expansive solos that define albums like “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.”

Gilmour’s Stratocaster, known for its warm and emotive tone, was a key tool in crafting hits like “Comfortably Numb” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” where his meticulous use of effects and innovative playing techniques pushed the boundaries of the guitar’s sonic capabilities.

4. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan revitalized the blues genre in the 1980s with his intense playing style on a Fender Stratocaster named “Number One” or “First Wife.”

This heavily worn sunburst Stratocaster, with its customized pickups and strings, was a key to Vaughan’s powerful, emotive tone and his ferocious technique. Vaughan’s dedication to Fender Stratocasters underscored the instrument’s durability and adaptability to different music styles.

5. Kurt Cobain

Cobain’s raucous playing style paired with Fender’s gritty sound was a recipe for the grunge tone that defined a generation. Nirvana’s frontman was often seen with a Fender Mustang or Jaguar, especially during the “Nevermind” era. These guitars, known for their offset bodies and unique sound, complemented Cobain’s raw, emotional playing style.

While Cobain’s relationship with Fender might be less traditional, his impact on the guitar world is undeniable, making the Mustang and Jaguar synonymous with the gritty, unpolished sound of ’90s grunge. His preference for Fender’s shorter-scale guitars played a significant role in shaping the tones that defined hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are,” showcasing the versatility of Fender’s lineup beyond the Stratocaster.

6. John Mayer

John Mayer is known for his silky-smooth vocals and fingerstyle magic. Mayer started playing Fender Stratocasters early in his career and quickly became known for his bluesy sound on them. He got his own signature Fender Strat, known for its smooth tone, perfect for Mayer’s style of blending blues, rock, and pop. Mayer’s signature Stratocasters stood out for their unique tone, which he adjusted to fit seamlessly into both his blues and more pop-oriented tracks.

Mayer’s playing on songs like “Gravity” and “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” showcases the Strat’s range – from clean, mellow tones to more intense solos.

After parting ways with Fender, Mayer continued to use his Stratocasters due to their deeply embedded role in his musical expression, showcasing the enduring bond between artist and instrument.

7. Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt started playing guitar at an early age, drawn to the blues sound that would define her career. Her signature Fender Stratocaster, known for its fiery red finish, has been her companion in crafting hits and slide guitar masterpieces. It’s not just any Strat; it’s been modified to suit her slide-playing style, making her one of the few prominent female guitarists celebrated for their blues prowess.

8. Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly’s Stratocaster, a sunburst Fender Strat, became as iconic as his thick-framed glasses. Holly received his first Strat in 1955 from Adair Music in Lubbock, Texas, his hometown. This purchase was made possible through his older brother Larry, who loaned him the money. At that time, the Stratocaster was more commonly seen in the hands of country musicians, which likely appealed to Holly.

His finger-picking technique and crisp playing style were deeply rooted in his country and Western musical background. The guitar was central to the sound of hits like “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue”. Buddy Holly’s use of the Stratocaster played a significant role in popularizing the guitar among rock musicians. His integration of country playing styles into rock music opened up new avenues for the instrument’s use, demonstrating its potential beyond the country genre it was initially associated with.

9. Mark Knopfler

The Dire Straits frontman and his red Fender Stratocaster are the stuff of legends. Just listen to the fingerpicked intro of “Sultans of Swing” and you’ll get why he’s on this list.

10. Yngwie Malmsteen

Fusing classical scales with metal, Yngwie’s Strat has faced furious arpeggios and lightning-fast scales. His signature Fender Stratocaster even has a scalloped fretboard for his high-speed antics.

11. Jeff Beck

From The Yardbirds to his solo career, Beck’s been a long-time Fender enthusiast. His technical prowess and innovative playing style make him one of the most respected players in the guitar community.

12. Robert Cray

Cray brought blues to the MTV era with his smooth vocals and Strat-in-hand. Tracks like “Smoking Gun” solidify his place in the pantheon of Fender aficionados.

13. Ritchie Blackmore

Blackmore’s impact on heavy metal is undeniable, showcased through his skillful guitar work with Deep Purple. Using his black 1968 Fender Stratocaster, he crafted the iconic double-stop riff in “Smoke on the Water,” one of the most memorable riffs in rock history.

Blackmore is known for his unique style and pioneering approach. He was among the first rock guitarists to adopt a scalloped fretboard, which involves scooping out the wood between the frets into a concave shape. Additionally, he often eschewed the use of a pick, further distinguishing his playing style.

14. George Harrison

Though he played a variety of guitars, George Harrison’s rosewood Fender Telecaster holds a special place, especially since it was used during the iconic “Let It Be” rooftop concert.

15. Ry Cooder

When it comes to slide guitar, few can hold a candle to Ry Cooder. His modified Fender Stratocaster and Coodercaster (a custom Fender) have been key to his signature sound in tracks like “Paris, Texas.”

16. Tom Morello

Morello’s “Arm The Homeless” custom Fender is as iconic as his innovative playing techniques. From using the guitar as a turntable to his unique effects, Morello redefined what a Fender could sound like.

17. Dick Dale

His gold sparkle Fender Stratocaster and a ton of reverb gave birth to the surf rock sound. “Misirlou” is a testament to Dale’s wild, fast-paced style.

18. Albert Collins

Known for his unique tuning and capo use, Collins’ Fender Telecaster, which he affectionately named “The Iceman,” was essential in crafting hits like “Frosty.”