Jimi Hendrix’s 1960s Danelectro Bronze Standard

After his Supro was stolen, with the help of his father, Hendrix bought himself a 1960s Danelectro Bronze Standard guitar, making it his second electric guitar chronologically looking.

However, Hendrix himself stated that the Danelectro was actually his first guitar, so it is possible that the Supro was borrowed. After all, he was only photographed playing it one time.

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

The guitar

According to the story from Steven Rody’s book Becoming Hendrix, the guitar was originally green, but Hendrix himself painted it red at some point and wrote “Betty Jean” on it. While the latter part is certainly correct and some photos do show “Betty Jean” written on the front of the guitar, in honor of his girlfriend at the time Betty Jean Morgan, the part about the paint is somewhat harder to confirm.

The earliest photo of Jimi holding the guitar shows young Hendrix wearing a red sports coat and standing by a red car. The guitar, however, seems to be a copper-colored one. This was a standard and popular finish on this particular model at that time, and there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive sources online saying whether green was even an option back then.

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

As far as specs, although initially speculated by many to be a single-pickup model, a closer inspection of a photo from Jimi’s army days (scroll down) reveals that the guitar actually had two pickups.

Based on that, and the way the pickguard is shaped, the guitar was most likely a 1959 Danelectro Model 3022 Shorthorn.

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

There are several photos of Jimi with this guitar dating back to his Army days (circa 1961). The earlier photos show the pickguard missing, meaning that Jimi removed it likely because it served no purpose since Jimi played the guitar upside down anyways.

Jimi Hendrix in the Army holding a Danelectro Bronze Standard
Jimi Hendrix in the Army holding a Danelectro Bronze Standard. Photo credit: Unknown

The latter photos also show “Betty Jean” written on the bottom portion of the body of the guitar, which as explained previously, was in honor of his girlfriend at the time.

In a letter published in the book Starting at Zero: His Own Story dated to October 1960, Jimi asks of his father to send the guitar to him in the Army. This means that he probably went there without the guitar, but eventually felt the need to pick it up again.

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

After being discharged from the Army in July 1962, Jimi found himself with $400 in the pocket and went straight to Clarksville. There he found a jazz bar and ended up spending most of the money, apart from only $16. That wasn’t nearly enough to get back home, and asking his father for money was out of the question.

One can also sense some indecision from Jimi regarding Betty Jean, with whom he was actually engaged, and the whole prospect of going home. He decided to stay and try to earn some money by playing the guitar. The problem was, he sold the Danelectro to a guy in the Army, so the only thing to was to go back and borrow the guitar until he could stand on his own.

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 point on, most likely, Jimi Hendrix used the Danelectro for a while playing locally in Clarksville and doing odd jobs on the side. One would guess that he then returned it to the owner, but the story ends there, and the guitar loses all trace.

If it ever resurfaced, it would probably fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars on an auction, being the most important guitar in Hendrix’s early years.

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Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor
1 year ago

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

Donald Dunlavey
Donald Dunlavey
1 year ago

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

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