This guitar is documented in Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek's book Electric Gypsy in the section entitled Jimi's Guitars, 1966 to 1970 as Make: Fender, Model: Stratocaster, Serial: 244458, Year: 1968, Colour: Sunburst, Neck: ?
The accompanying document was discovered in 1981 and lists studio tapes and equipment that were in Electric Lady Studios around the time of Hendrix's death. The document is believed to have been compiled by Hendrix's management and lists two Fender Strats, 1 Sunburst, 1 White... together with their serial numbers - this one and the white Stratocaster played at Woodstock, serial number 240981. The "Woodstock" Stratocaster was originally sold at auction in 1990 for £198,000 - it now resides in the Experience Music Project Museum, Seattle.
This guitar has been examined by Richie Friedman who has confirmed that, in his opinion, this guitar shows characteristics consistent with other Stratocaster guitars owned and played by Jimi Hendrix. Most importantly, the nut appears to have been removed at some point, one of Hendrix's trademark modifications to his guitars. When a guitar is restrung for left-handed use, the nut through which the strings pass from the neck to the headstock will be the wrong way round as the thicker strings will not sit in the narrower slots made for the thinner strings. Therefore, Hendrix would either file down the slots or, as with this guitar, he would remove the nut and reverse it to allow the strings to sit correctly. This modification was also seen in the white Woodstock Stratocaster sold in 1990. Similarly, the back plate has been removed, another trademark of Hendrix's - he would remove the back plate and would occasionally pluck the revealed springs of the vibrato system to create unusual sounds and effects.
The guitar appears to be in original condition throughout, the present owner having stored the guitar, without playing, prior to loaning the instrument to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. The vendor met The Jimi Hendrix Experience during The Isle Of Wight Festival where his own band were hoping to play - the vendor became friendly with the band and purchased this guitar following Hendrix's death.
This guitar was probably purchased in mid-1969 by Hendrix for use in the recording studio. Apparently, Hendrix favoured rosewood necks in the studio as he liked the way they sounded although he preferred maple necks for stage use. He favoured black, white and sunburst finishes and occasionally played a red Strat - apparently, he chose to use black and white Strats on stage as he liked the way they looked. Towards the end of his career, he favoured his 1968 Black Stratocaster and his 1968 White "Woodstock" Stratocaster, both with maple fingerboards, and used them consistently on stage from October, 1968 until his death.
The Fender Stratocaster is the model most closely and famously associated with Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix's first Stratocaster seems to have been a white finish purchased at Manny's in New York and following that, he purchased his first Sunburst model, which is probably the guitar that he brought with him to England in 1966. From then on, the Strat became his guitar of choice throughout his life and career. In 1967, he said of the Strat: The Stratocaster is the best all-around guitar for the stuff we're doing. You can get the very bright trebles and the deep bass sound...
Christie's would like to thank Richie Friedman for his assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Stevenson/Rex USA.