People outside the industry always ask me if rock and roll artists help sell gear like guitars, distortion pedals or guitar amps. The truth of the matter is….yes and no.
What is important to remember is that Stevie Ray Vaughan never played a SRV Strat.
The overall marketplace that gear manufacturers are trying to tap into when developing a signature guitar or amp is usually a less sophisticated marketplace. That isn’t meant to be a slam but a descriptive statement. In my opinion, anything that can help get a young person to pick up a guitar and play it is a good thing.
Getting back to artists selling gear. The absolute top artist responsible for selling guitar gear is without a doubt, Jimi Hendrix. 40 years after his passing, Jimi is still the holy grail of tone for those chasing a signature sound. The difference is that there is really no specific guitar or amp that carries the Jimi Hendrix name (if you forget Gibson’s aborted attempt last year). Jimi Hendrix sells gear that guitarists generally associate with his overall sound.
The influence that Hendrix has had on gear sales is huge. The fuzz pedal in all its glory has Jimi to thank for its popularity. Of course, David Gilmour and more recently Jack White have helped to popularize fuzz, but Jimi is the founding father. Other guitar effects that Hendrix is associated with include the Octavio (listen to the octavy leads in Purple Haze for example) and the Uni-Vibe (Band of Gypsys).
You might not realize this but the Fender Stratocaster was an afterthought guitar in the mid to late sixties until Jimi picked one up and figured out the nuances of the single coil. Nowadays, the Strat is the single biggest selling guitar and tons of single coil guitars, by many different makers still reach for that Hendrixian wail.
Notice the placement of the bridge single coil pickup. Seem reversed? Credit Jimi Hendrix and his use of a right-handed Strat played upside down as the influence on that small but highly important detail.