The Guitars of Jimi Hendrix

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Guitar Articles

To most people the truth about when he Jimi Hendrix got his first guitar and what types of guitars he played throughout his career is somewhat of a mystery. Although, he was unarguably the greatest guitar player ever, and with his fertile musical mind, perhaps the greatest composer of our generation or ever for that matter. No disrespect intended, putting Jimi in company with Bach, Beethoven and the likes. True Genius.

The path that will be described here is what I would consider the most accurate, after a lot of research and a little voodoo-magic. Realistically though, boiling down the mixture may leave some people to disagree with me, and I welcome the input.

The evidence and consistencies suggest that his first guitar was a cheap acoustic his dad gave to him, as early as eleven years old. The story goes as such, that even at a young age of six years, his school teacher mentioned to his dad, ” Jimi obsesses over having a guitar so much that it may be contributing to some mental health issues”. Not to discount todays teachers, but that was a very perceptive statement at that time.

His first  electric guitars were bought from Myers Music in Seattle in 1959. Professed to be a white, single pickup Supro Ozark. The next axe that Hendrix played was a red Danelectro single pickup Silvertone, nicknamed “Betty Jean”. In ’62, while doing some gigs with the King Casuals in Tennessee, he traded his Danelectro for an Epiphone Wilshire, which had dual pickups and a glued on mahogany neck with a solid mahogany body, as opposed to the bolt on Fender Stratocaster guitar necks.

In 1964, Jimi would play rhythm guitar for the Isley Brothers. During this nine month gig, he finally got his first Fender guitar, a blond ’59 Duo-Sonic. He next played with Little Richard in ’65, and briefly played a Fender Jazzmaster. However, he switched back to a Dou-Sonic when he played with Curtis Knight and the Squires. Even though Jimi later returned to the Jazzmaster.

A point of interest is that none of the gigs he had with the bands mentioned above lasted very long, because Jimi’s guitar work stole the show. His unbelievable guitar abilities were noticed by all immediately, which took the focus away from the musical-icons he worked for.

Jimi purchased his first Strat from Manny’s Music in New York in ’66 in the summer. Early on he would use a variety of CBS Strats with rosewood fretboards. While he was staying in Greenwich Village in late ’66 and ’67 he narrowed down his choices to ’60’s era Reverse Fender Stratocasterblack or white Fender Strats using maple fretboards. Which, most likely is the reason the Fender Stratocaster is the most important guitar in the history of guitars and music.

From then on he played Fender Stratocasters with large headstocks. One of his many unusual playing techniques was to play a right handed guitar backwards, or in the left handed position, obviously because Jimi was left handed. In order to do that one must reverse the strings and (bone) nut so the low E was still on the top. My understanding was that he preferred the controls on the top of the guitar. Apparently he could work his magic easier with the voluminous amount of tricks he performed, partly by messing with the volume control knob. Jimi was not much on tone controls or guitar setup. Mostly Jimi spent the bulk of time modifying his tremolo to do things like lower the pitch more than usual and create trem sounds otherwise unheard of.

Naturally Jim Hendrix had purchased and played a tremendous assortment of guitars in his lifetime. During my fact finding mission, this is the list of the other guitars Jimi most likely owned and played; a Gibson ES-330, a Gibson Firebird, a Mosrite electric resonator guitar, a Guild 12 string acoustic, a Black Widow Spider acoustic, several Rickenbacker’s including a bass Rick, a double neck Mosrite, a Hagstrom 8 string bass(it was the on played on “Spanish Castle Magic” from the ‘Axis Bold As Love album)”, a ’67 Gibson Flying V, a ’67 Gretsch Corvette, a lefty Guild Starfire Deluxe, a Hofner electric, a ’55 Gibson Les Paul, a Gibson Dove acoustic, a Martin acoustic, a ‘68 Gibson SG Custom and a black lefty Flying V. Wow!

It is not surprising that Jimi owned so many guitars. The depth of knowledge and pure unadulterated playing style was not limited to just electric guitars and Stratocasters. His unique abilities allowed him to play any guitar with the deep soul jarring vibes that were all his. It would be unrealistic to think he was limited to one style of guitar. Or for that matter, one type of music. Jimi’s interest in music extended to the world of classical music as well.

Lost to many, is the fact that Jimi was one of the best rhythm guitarists ever, most folk know him for his lead and solo guitar work, he was also an adept bass player too. And last, he was a master at the acoustic guitar, using chords in a manner unknown to mankind at that time. This combo of skills and abilities produced the man who will be forever the patron saint of rock guitar.

A long article to read indeed. Guitar Players Center enjoyed putting the info together. It turned out to be a long path to find the truth. We hope you enjoy it. If there is inaccurate info or you have more to add, please do so. Hopefully, this will help solve one of the many mysteries about Jimi Hendrix. Enjoy more articles, reviews and upgrades at GPC.

41 Responses to The Guitars of Jimi Hendrix

  1. Jimi really was a legend. Considering some of the most gifted guitar players are/were left handed the lefties don’t always get an easy ride of it!

  2. Great article, Danny. I had no idea Jimi played an Epi, or that he played with the Isley Brothers. Keep up the good work!

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  4. I had heard those legends about his first guitar….

  5. Great article Danny, Is it really true that when playing acoustic Hendrix used chords in a previously unknown manner? That seems a little over the top, but I am not an expert on Hendrix at all, and I can tell you are. Are there some recordings available now in which one might hear an example that?

  6. Thanks for your comment Adina, Jimi was a voddochild. His mastery of chords may never be duplicated again. Go to you tube and find a video of Jimi playing an acoustic guitar. You will see what I mean.

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  9. I don’t get it; there’s this perception that he was the greatest ever. I have played his songs…I would say Hendrix should be remembered as a potential musical genius, but considering how short his career really was, we may never know for sure. So I base my arguments from what we have of his work. As a guitarist I would say he was good, but as a musician and performer I would say he was legendary, but not guitarist. In other words, if Jimi Hendrix had picked up a paint brush instead, he would be remembered as well for painting…he was an obsessive, and an artist. And that is not unique, plenty of souls before him shared this, Michael Angelo, Bach, even Bruce Lee all had unending amounts of pure passion and all were good at conveying such in their chosen mediums. Confining Hendrix to the category of guitarist is actually stifling his true commitment and obscures his passion.

    Favorite song of his, “One Rainy Wish.”

    The chord comment is simply ludicrous; all chord arrangements that are not dissonance had been discovered long before Mr. Hendrix came about. Could you imagine someone being able to make a similar statement about a guitarist who has yet to be born….no, I think not. You might as well claim he

  10. discovered a new scale or mode. It’s simply ridiculous and distracts from what he actually gave to world of music. Could it be that there exists a guitarist today that discovers something that is so fundamental to the academics of music? No, I don’t think so. There are limitations that not even Jimi Hendrix can overcome and one is rewriting the history of musical theory and or engineering. Give him what he deserves; he implemented a sound that was unheard at the time and is difficult to replicate…because we are not Jimi.

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  12. Eric Erickson

    Don’t forget the occasional Sunburst.
    I remember J.Hendrix 3/2/67 playing the Marquee Club w/ a Sunburst strat.

    Check the “burning guitar” sequences. Jimi “quick-switched” guitars just BEFORE the song prior to “the burn”. He’d never burn any of his favorites !

  13. Eric Erickson

    In mentioning to : check the “burn sequences” … I meant to specify the MAJOR festival guitar destructions.
    At the Marquee Club 1967, at the very worst; he lit a “j” !!

    Sorry !

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  16. I was told jimmy play a goya rangemaster
    what year was it, and modle of guitar

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  19. Hollywood Joe

    Hello to all, Randy California a guitar player…a performer…. a rock and roll man….a songwriter…..!….And was really a key figure in the career of the great musician Jimi Hendrix…Many times throughout history stories were told and portions of the reality of the story were left out…thus with my writings I applaud Randy California…he was there with Jimi Hendrix at a time when Jimi was really developing his uninque guitar and vocal style… as well as the mysterious and unbelieveable song writing that would later catch the eardrums of the world…Randy California is a key figure in the development of Jimi Hendrix and his career….Hollywood Joe

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  23. @AD: You sound frustrated that no one recognizes *you* as a musical genius. Don’t try to detract from other players because you think you are better than them.

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  25. Jared Kitchen

    What happend to his guitars after he died i found one is on display in londen and one the guitar player from the scropens has is that true? and what about his many other guitars?

  26. stephen martin

    I still do not know why Hendrix, who never WROTE left-handed, was to go to try to learn to play left-handed.

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  29. just been given a right handed mexican strat but im left handed, is it just a matter of reversing the strings and the bone nut [or fit a left handed bone] to convert it,,,any advice would be a great help . cheers Rob

  30. what did jimi name the guitar ?

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  33. Jimi Hendrix is considered one of the best guitar players of all time. It is nice to read something that tells the story of his guitars. This article is a very great resource especially to those Jimi Hendix fanatics out there. Thank you for posting.

  34. Wanna know more about Jimi’s early career? Then read about a couple of relatively unknown musicians that had a profound effect on the development of the Jimi Hendrix the world would later come to know. Google “johnnie jenkins”, then google “arthurlee love”.

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