Jimi Hendrix’s 1960s Danelectro Bronze Standard

Following the theft of his Supro, with support from his father, Jimi Hendrix acquired a 1960s Danelectro Bronze Standard guitar, marking it as his second electric guitar in chronological order.

Intriguingly, Hendrix himself claimed that the Danelectro was, in fact, his very first guitar. This raises the possibility that the Supro may have been a borrowed instrument. This theory is further supported by the fact that he was only documented playing the Supro on one occasion.

When I was seventeen, I formed this group with some other guys, but they drowned me out. I didn’t know why at first, but after about three months I realized I’d have to get an electric guitar. My first was a Danelectro, which my dad bought for me. Must have busted him for a long time.

Starting At Zero: His Own Story by Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix in the Army holding a Danelectro Bronze Standard guitar.
Jimi Hendrix in the Army holding a Danelectro Bronze Standard guitar. Photo credit: Unknown

The Color of the Guitar

In Steven Roby’s book, “Becoming Hendrix,” a captivating tale unfolds about the original color of Hendrix’s guitar. The story suggests that the guitar was initially green, but at some point, Hendrix himself painted it red and inscribed “Betty Jean” on it as a tribute to his girlfriend at the time, Betty Jean Morgan. Photographic evidence confirms “Betty Jean” written on the front of the guitar, but verifying the paint color change proves more challenging.

An early photograph of a youthful Hendrix features him donning a red sports coat and standing beside a red car, gripping what appears to be a copper-colored guitar. This particular shade was a standard and widely admired finish for this model. As of yet, no definitive sources have surfaced online to confirm whether green was even an available color option during that period.

Young Jimi Hendrix holding a copper-colored Danelectro guitar.
Young Jimi Hendrix holding a copper-colored Danelectro guitar. Photo credit: Unknown

In terms of specifications, there was initial speculation that Jimi’s guitar featured a single pickup. However, upon closer examination of a photograph from his army days (see below), it becomes evident that the guitar actually boasted two pickups. Taking into account the shape of the pickguard, it is highly probable that the instrument was a 1959 Danelectro Model 3022 Shorthorn, similar to the one below.

A guitar that looks pretty much identical to Jimi’s, which is interestingly pretty hard to encounter because most 1960s models have pickguards that are shaped differently. Photo source: Reverb.com

Army Days

A collection of photographs from Jimi Hendrix’s Army days (around 1961) features him with this particular guitar. Interestingly, earlier images depict the pickguard missing, suggesting that Jimi removed it, likely because it served no purpose for his unique upside-down playing style.

Subsequent photos reveal “Betty Jean” inscribed on the lower portion of the guitar’s body, a tribute to his girlfriend at the time, as mentioned earlier.

A letter penned by Hendrix in October 1961, published in the book “Starting at Zero: His Own Story,” requests that his father send the guitar to him while he was in the Army. This implies that he initially arrived without the instrument, but eventually felt compelled to reconnect with his musical passion.

p.s. Please send my guitar as soon as you can – I really need it now – it’s still over at Betty’s house.

Jimi Hendrix – Letter to his father, October 1961; Starting at Zero: His Own Story

Leaving the Army

Upon his discharge from the Army in July 1962, Jimi found himself with $400 to his name and promptly headed to Clarksville. There, he stumbled upon a jazz bar and spent the majority of his money, leaving him with a mere $16. Insufficient for his journey home and unwilling to ask his father for help, Jimi faced a dilemma.

Clarksville is the closest large city to Fort Cambell, at around 13 miles or 20 kilometers.

Compounding his indecision were his unresolved feelings towards Betty Jean, to whom he was engaged, and the prospect of returning home. Opting to stay, Jimi attempted to earn money by playing the guitar. However, he had sold his Danelectro to a fellow serviceman, leaving him with no choice but to borrow it back until he could regain his financial footing.

In the army I’d started to play guitar very seriously, so I thought all I can do is try to earn money playing guitar. Then I remembered that just before I left the army I’d sold my guitar to a cat in the unit. So I went back to Fort Campbell, found the guy and told him I just had to borrow the guitar back.

Jimi Hendrix – Starting at Zero: His Own Story

From that moment forward, Jimi Hendrix likely used the Danelectro for some time, performing local gigs in Clarksville and taking on odd jobs to make ends meet. It can be assumed that he eventually returned the guitar to its owner, but the story concludes there, with the instrument seemingly vanishing without a trace.

Should this iconic piece of music history ever resurface, it would undoubtedly command a staggering price at auction, potentially reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, given its significance during Hendrix’s formative years.

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Mark
Mark
2 years ago

Starting at Zero: His Own Story dated to October 1960, Jimi asks of his father to send the guitar. then in the gold colored box it says “Jimi Hendrix – Letter to his father, October 1961; Starting at Zero: His Own Story” . Which is correct? October 1960 or October 1961?

Donald Dunlavey
Donald Dunlavey
4 years ago

Doesn’t look like the bridge was corrected for left hand playing, the harmonic’s. Must have been frustrating for him.

Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor
5 years ago

Just want to say that JIMI Played Woodstock on 8/18/69…not 8/16/69..monday morning 9:00AM ✌