Strat® King of Europe…
Earlier this year, we invited everyone
in Europe to enter our most exciting competition ever. The
rules were simple: we asked you to record yourself playing
your Strat® and send the finished results in to us. The
response was overwhelming, and after listening to every single
track, our expert panel of judges selected six players to go
through to the finals of the competition.
And so, on Sunday 29th August 2004, the stage was set.
Against the picturesque backdrop of Arundel Castle in
England's beautiful Sussex countryside, these six guitar
gladiators did battle to see who would be crowned Fender®'s
Strat® King of Europe and walk away with the most unique
prizes we have ever offered.
The one eventual winner would go on to win an American
Deluxe 50th Anniversary Stratocaster® AND a '57 Twin Reverb®
Amplifier and be presented with a one-of-kind Strat® trophy!
The lucky winner would then be invited to join some of the
world's most famous Strat® players at London's famous Wembley
Arena for the Miller Strat® Pack concert, celebrating 50 years
of the Fender® Stratocaster®.
The Six Contestants
Before we find out who the European Strat® Player of the
Year is, let's find out a bit more about our six exceptional
The first player to step onto the
Arundel stage in front of a 1,000-strong audience was 34
year-old left-handed Hungarian, Miki Birta. Miki's career
began in musicals and progressed through tours and sessions
with many Hungarian pop groups until he found his niche in
Jazz-Fusion, which enabled him to play with the likes of Mike
Stern and Bill Evans. After a stint in New York , Miki now
teaches jazz guitar and theory professionally and has released
two solo CD's.
On the night of our competition, Miki impressed both the
judges and the crowd with his faultless performance, set
against a backing track called Center Street taken
from his second solo album.
Miki was followed by 37 year-old
Prague-born German contestant Marcus Deml. Prior to the
competition, Marcus spent time learning his guitar playing
skills in America, Germany and Austria. Marcus, now a resident
of Hamburg, has played on albums by Saga, Rick Astley, Nena
and Kingdom Come. Amongst his album releases are Thoughts
In The Past Future, with Earth Nation and his solo
Marcus stepped onto the stage in his wide-brimmed hat,
clutching his '57 Reissue Stratocaster® and gave an
entertaining and theatrical performance, playing one of his
own songs, The Dealer.
Our second left-handed guitarist,
Olivier was born in Marseille in 1971. He started guitar at
the age of 12 and turned professional at the tender age of 16.
He has done TV, studio and club work and his influences are
very diversified, from BeBop and Jazz rock, through to blues
and rock. Nowadays, in between the courses he gives in Paris
and a heavy gigging schedule, Olivier is currently composing
songs for his new album.
On the night, Olivier gave a spirited, emotional
performance on his 1994 American Standard Stratocaster®. His
chosen track was the self-penned, Stratified.
4. Paul Rose
Next up was England's own Paul Rose.
Born in Newcastle in 1966, he started playing guitar at the
age of eight. He played his first gigs when he was just
fourteen, and has since released a number of CD's that have
won much critical acclaim.
Paul's track of choice on the evening was one of his own,
entitled Rise and Shine. This gritty Blues Rock
number was deftly handled and proved to be a real crowd
pleaser. This raucous tune was performed on Paul's trusty '62
Born in 1970, Pontus has been a
freelance guitarist for the last ten years. He has worked with
many of the most famous Swedish artists during this time, and
is also an accomplished singer and keyboard player. Last year,
Pontus released a CD with his band Simson DuPont. The album
spawned a number one single in Sweden; testimony to the
quality of his writing and playing.
Pontus chose a track from his band's album, called Kom
(‘Come' in English). Halfway through his track, the
heavens opened and the rain came down in thick sheets, sending
the crowd scrambling for umbrellas, ground sheets and trees to
stand under! Pontus remained unruffled, and like a true
professional he played immaculately despite the downpour.
The final contestant, Thomas Blug is a
very well known guitarist in his native Germany and has
appeared with countless ‘name' acts including Percy Sledge,
Snap! And Hazel O'Connor. Born in 1966 he has racked up a
staggering amount of live performances, including appearances
at Music Trade Shows all over Europe. His choice of axe for
the evening was his faithful 1961 Stratocaster®, which has
accompanied him throughout his colourful career.
given his cue by the evening's compère, TV personality and
former Bond girl Helene Hunt and gave a confident performance,
showing great control which won him praise from both the crowd
and the judges. (©Photo by Mike Eddowes)
After a short interval, the Arundel
crowd were treated to a show by international recording artist
Paul Carrack. Paul has had a successful career spanning four
decades and is best known for his hits How Long (with
his group Ace, reaching number 3 in the U.S Billboard Charts),
Tempted (with Squeeze) and his Mike and the Mechanics
collaborations Over My Shoulder and The Living
Years. He has also collaborated with artists such as The
Pretenders, The Smiths, The Undertones and Elton John. (He
played on the latter's Candle in the Wind '97 single,
which still holds the record for being the biggest single of
Paul and his band gave an outstanding performance which got
the crowd on their feet. Songs such as The Living Years,
Harvest For The World, Over My Shoulder and Tempted
set the crowd up for the triumphant finale - an
electrifying rendition of How Long.
Paul Carrack's official website here.
For the final part of the evening, the judges' decision was
announced. The glamorous Ms. Hunt assembled the nervous
contestants on the stage and announced that the winner was…
THOMAS BLUG of Germany! Thomas was presented
with his Strat® trophy by the Managing Director of Fender
Europe Martin K Brady and the Fender Europe Marketing and
Promotions team and was crowned our European Strat® Player of
Thomas will be joining our gathering of Strat® legends at
Wembley Arena on September 24th 2004. Make sure you don't miss
here to find out how to purchase tickets.
(©Photo by Mike
Fender® would like to say a huge thank you to
Thomas Blug, Miki Birta, Marcus Deml, Olivier Wursten, Paul
Rose, Pontus Borg, Paul Carrack and his band, Helene Hunt and
of course everyone who entered our competition.