By Jonathan Graham
If you think of a guitar that’s closely associated with Jimi Hendrix, it has to be the Fender Stratocaster. Yes, Hendrix often would use a white Gibson SG Custom for “Red House” (and a Flying V at the Isle of Wight performance), but when you think Hendrix, you think Strat.
That said, is there one guitar in particular that would have been overly special to Jimi?
The strongest candidate would have probably been his 1968 maple-neck “Black Beauty” Fender Stratocaster, a guitar that rarely left his side later in his career. However, even this instrument (the current location of which is unknown) was very much just a stock Strat. Hendrix seemed, first and foremost, to use his instruments as tools to allow him to express exactly what he wanted to say, and if that included smashing them or setting them on fire, so be it.
Although he attained so many instruments (more than 30 documented) during his brief career, it seems that not many of them stayed with Jimi for more than a year. However, a 1951 Epiphone FT79 acoustic (Serial No. 62262) might be the exception—and it’s for sale.
The guitar was purchased for around $25 in August 1967 during the Experience’s first tour of the U.S. and subsequently brought back to England later that month. Jimi owned the Epi for a three-year period (longer than any other documented Hendrix guitar) that could be considered his artistic and creative peak. Unable to use an amp in his Upper Berkeley Street flat in London (due to noise complaints from neighbors), the acoustic became his go-to instrument for a time. He used it to write riffs and arrangements, including his reworking of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
The guitar was still regularly used following Hendrix’s move to 23 Brook St. in London around the time of Electric Ladyland and can be seen in photographs taken at the flat. Jimi was even captured on film playing the distinctive guitar on at least one occasion, most notably performing Elvis’ “Hound Dog” (which can be briefly seen at the 30-second mark in the video below) at the after-show party following the Experience’s Royal Albert Hall concert of February 18, 1969.
Check out the video clip below at the 20:30 mark to see some up-close shots of the vintage Epiphone FT79 filmed last week inside Jimi’s 1960’s London flat (now the Handel & Hendrix Museum).
Unfortunately, these days, you’re not allowed to touch any part of it except for its (non-original) hard case. However, for the price of a reasonably sized home in the north of England, it can be yours through Bonham’s London on December 15.
For more information on the upcoming auction, head here—but please note that the full catalog has not yet been released. Look for details within the next two weeks.
Jonathan Graham is an ACM UK graduate based in London studying under the likes of Guthrie Govan and Pete Friesen. He is the creator of ForgottenGuitar.com, a classic-guitar media website, and is completing his debut album, Protagonist, due for release in 2016. Updates also can be found at Graham’s YouTube channel.