2014 represents the 60th anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster, and how better to welcome this milestone than with a blockbuster party at the Fender Showcase to kick off this year’s NAMM Show?
Ballroom E on the third floor of the Anaheim Convention Center was chock full of dealer representatives, media and superstar artists to celebrate the world’s greatest guitar.
The festivities began with a cocktail party, where everyone in attendance perused the breathtaking displays featuring not only the Stratocaster itself, but also Fender amps, Fender acoustics guitars, Fender audio, Squier’s gems and the unique offerings of the Fender Custom Shop.
But it was the Strat that stole the show once Fender Senior Vice President of Marketing Richard McDonald took the stage to address the crowd.
Flanked by two original 1954 Stratocasters —one of which was loaned by two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Stephen Stills — McDonald talked about the way the model has transcended time and style.
From the Beach Boys to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain to John Mayer, the Stratocaster has played an integral part in the way popular music has evolved throughout the years.
To mark the Strat’s significance with a giant highlighter, McDonald wondered aloud how it was that the two highest-grossing guitars to be sold at auction were Stratocasters (those would be Dylan’s Sunburst Strat he played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and Eric Clapton’s trademark “Blackie”).
Up next was Fender CEO Larry Thomas, who made a point to thank all the visionary artists in attendance. There was former Eagles guitarist Don Felder, the Cars’ Elliot Easton, Jim Root of Slipknot and Stone Sour, bassist extraordinaire Marcus Miller, Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Sean Hurley of Mayer’s band and Mana’s Sergio Vallin, amongst many others. Leo Fender’s wife Phyllis was also in attendance, offering to share Leo stories for those interested.
With so many luminaries in attendance, it was also an appropriate time to officially announce the debut of the 60th Anniversary 1954 American Vintage Stratocaster, which honors the Strat’s very first model in a limited-edition run of only 1,954 pieces.
In addition, the Fender Custom Shop booth held one of the only 100 tribute versions of the Nile Rodgers “Hitmaker,” a guitar that was singularly responsible for countless No. 1 hits (the most recent of which is Daft Punk’s summer anthem “Get Lucky”).
But Fender also kept an eye to the future, with the display of the brand-new TriplePlay Stratocaster HSS, Deluxe Stratocaster HSS Plus Top with iOS Connectivity, and American Deluxe Strat Plus and Deluxe Strat Plus HSS.
Each of those models use state-of-the-art technology to call to mind classic Strat players while looking towards the horizon
At the end of the night, it was tough to clear out the Fender Showcase, as many guests wanted to stick around and marvel at not only the new and exciting gear, but also the classic and vintage looks that were scattered throughout the room.
Watch our video recap of the night below.
Other notable moments included:
- The great Eddie Van Halen stopped by to chat with several product managers and other artists, including guitarist Paul Sidoti, Petersson and Root.
- The studious professors of the Fender Vaporizer demo video mingled around the ballroom. No word on whether they ran their tests on unsuspecting musicians.
- Hurley, drummer Matt Sorum and Easton spent a lot of time in the Fender Custom Shop booth, noting the exclusive guitars on display.
- Miller testing out the new Fender Rumble bass amps.
- Root passed one of the new signature basses of Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, and said that he absolutely had to have one.