Why Jeff Beck switched from a Les Paul to a Strat

Jeff Beck performs at Salle Pleyel on October 24, 2016 in Paris, France
(Image credit: David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns)

Electric guitar hero Jeff Beck was synonymous with the Stratocaster, using it as his primary six-string for the last 40+ years of his career. 

It wasn't always that way, though. In the early years of his career in the 1960s – both with the Yardbirds and his own band – Beck used, in succession, a Telecaster, a Fender Esquire and then a Gibson Les Paul.

It was only after Beck had cemented his place as one of rock's preeminent guitarists – with his groundbreaking Yardbirds tenure and revolutionary solo recordings like Beck's Bolero already under his belt – that he made the switch.

In an interview with Guitarist's Tony Bacon, published in the magazine's latest issue, the late guitar hero outlined when and why he began to feel limited by the Les Paul, leading him to the Strat.

“I think it was when we did the [1969] Beck-Ola album that I got fed up with the sound of the Les Paul,” Beck said. “In the studio, the Les Paul didn’t sound a lot different from the John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Lovely sound, but every track ends up sounding very similar. The Strat seemed to respond more to my aggressive playing than the Les Paul, which just sounds dreadful if you start hitting it.”

Mind you, the seeds of Beck's love affair with Leo Fender's preeminent creation were sewn long before his solo career, or indeed his career in general.

“The reason I left school was because of that guitar [the Strat]," Beck told Guitarist. "I mean, that is brain damage when you’re a kid of 14 and you see something like that. It’s just a piece of equipment that I dreamed about touching, never mind owning.

"The first day I stood staring at one in a London shop, I just went into a trance – and I got the wrong bus home, just dreaming about it," he continued. "It blew my brains apart, and it’s never been any different since. It’s taken me all round the world and given me everything I’ve got – just that Strat, really. So it is a particular favorite of mine.”

To read Guitarist's full tribute to Beck – featuring an extensive overview of his life, work and influence, interviews with Beck, and tributes to the man from his fellow guitar heroes – pick up a copy of the latest issue at Magazines Direct

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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