Jimi Hendrix’s 1963 Fender Stratocaster (Sunburst)

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Hendrix was seen using this sunburst Fender Stratocaster starting with late February 1967. Based on what can be concluded from photos and research on his other guitars, it is likely that Hendrix bought this guitar upon returning to London after a short North East tour during which a couple of his guitars went missing.

One of the first gigs that Hendrix did with the sunburst Stratocaster was in Chelmsford on February 25th. Fortunately, a video recording of this gig is still available, although it’ll probably be taken down by whoever owns the rights to it. In the meantime, you can watch it below.

As you might’ve noticed yourself from the above video, there was another sunburst Stratocaster sitting on the stage. At this point, it is suspected that this is the same guitar that Jimi burned at The Astoria on March 1st, 1967.

Establishing the Date of Manufacture

Based on the photos, the guitar has a veneer fretboard. This means that the Rosewood is arched on the bottom end and thinner in profile in comparison to the slab fretboard used up until around mid-1962.

The second thing to point out that the layout of the screws on the pickguard is identical to those on the models made from early 1963. Prior the this, the screw between the middle and the neck pickup was more or less exactly on the half point. In early 1963 it was moved closer to the middle pickup. [GuitarHQ – Vintage Stratocaster Info]

Third, the guitar has the old “spaghetti” logo on the headstock, which narrows the date of manufacture to between early 1963 and fall 1964. In mid to late 1964, the letters on the logo became thicker (now known as the “transition” logo).

Lastly, as pointed by Chaz in the comments, Jimi was seen placing this exact guitar in a blonde guitar case. Given that this was indeed the guitar’s original case, it means that the Strat was most likely a 1963 model, since in 1964 Fender changed the design of the case to a black tolex with no logo.

Usage

Jimi was seen using this guitar (or one identical to it – no way of proving it was one guitar all along) all throughout March 1967. Most notably, the guitar was used at the Marque Club on March 2nd, which later aired on German TV program “Beatclub”, and at the Star-Club in Hamburg between 17th and the 19th.

Jimi Hendrix at Marquee Club, March 2nd, 1967
Jimi Hendrix at Marquee Club, March 2nd, 1967. Source: Screencap YouTube

Astoria

The guitar was also likely used during the infamous gig at the Astoria theater on March 31 1967, during which Hendrix burned another guitar on stage – for the first time in his career.

To confirm that the guitar was used that night, if you look at a photo backstage that night [JIMI HENDRIX backstage at Finsbury Park Astoria on 31 March 1967 – Alamy], pay attention to how all the saddles are set up. The top five are pretty much all in line, while the bottom E saddle is almost hanging on the side.

Now take a look at photo of Jimi’s 1963 Fender Stratocaster taken at the Star Club, Hamburg on 18th March 1967. The saddles seem to be set the exact same way. The scratch marks also seem to match, although the more recent photo shows way more wear. This is obviously due to heavy use (and abuse) on stage.

Note the saddles arrangement and scratches.

This is of course not entirely conclusive, but there doesn’t seem to be any other guitars from around this period (or any other for that matter) that has the saddles set up in the exact same way.

The guitar that Hendrix burned at the Astoria Theater could’ve been the second Stratocaster in the Star Club photo (seen on the full size version of the photo above) since there were less than two weeks between the two gigs. The other theory is that Jimi used almost a brand new Stratocaster at Astoria, the one that was recently sold through auction.

The Walkers Brothers tour and Beyond

Unfortunately, there are not that many photos from the 1967 Walkers Brothers tour. On a few of them that are available online, Jimi does seem to be playing on a sunburst Stratocaster, but any attempt of identification is futile due to the very poor quality of the photos.

What could potentially give us a closure to the story of the 1963 Stratocaster is a video taken on May 11th, 1967 in Issy-les-Moulineaux (Paris suburb).

A still from the video showing the scratch marks on the body of the Stratocaster. Photo source: YouTube Jimi Hendrix “Wild Thing” 1967-05-11

The guitar that Jimi is seen using during the gig is most certainly an early 60s Strat, now showing some pretty extensive wear. You can clearly spot the spaghetti logo on the headstock, and all of the other details that we talked about when we determined the date of manufacture of this guitar.

Also, some of the wear does look exactly the same as on the photo taken at the Astoria. Particularly pay attention the two marks right next to the input jack, and marks around the bridge area. Interesting to point out is also the black tone knob and the pickup switch. If you look again at that photo of Jimi backstage at Astoria, you’ll see that two of the knobs were missing at that point. That could possibly explain why the guitar had a black knob few months later.

Be that as it may, the guitar disappeared from mid-May 1967 onwards, and Jimi started using a couple of red Fender Stratocasters instead.

Feedback

GroundGuitar counts on your criticism and feedback. In case you notice anything wrong with the information posted on this page, or you have knowledge of something that you would like to share, be sure to leave a comment below.

In case you want to talk to me directly and privately, please use the contact form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. (Dan)

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Lee
Lee
7 months ago

I doubt that Jimi “customized” his guitars – more likely the parts would break or get lost and Gerry Stickells would have to replace with whatever he could find. You didn’t note that on the sunburst Strat Jimi is holding in the photo with Cat Stevens, Walker, and Engelbert, two of the knobs (volume & tone) are missing… otherwise, I appreciate your sleuthing!

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

Some good information here, thank you. However, one major error: “the guitar has the old “spaghetti” logo on the headstock, which narrows the date of manufacture to between early and mid-1963”. This is incorrect. The spaghetti logo was used on Stratocasters from their introduction in 1954 until mid to late 1964, when the transition logo started being used. The guitar is either a 1963 or early 1964 model – without seeing the date stamps on neck, pots, pickups (if present) and body ( body stamps discontinued mid ‘63) it’s impossible to tell for sure. Serial numbers can’t be relied upon alone to date the guitar – the neckplates were stamped in advance with the number in a large batch and fitted fairly randomly when the guitar was assembled. The numbers aren’t consecutive. Although they generally fall within ranges by year, it’s not unusual to find a guitar whose component parts date it to 1963 for example but with a serial number which corresponds to 1964 (and vice versa). I’ve looked at a lot of photos of this guitar and compared them with photos of ‘63 and ‘64 Strats and it’s really not possible to be sure whether it’s a ‘63 or an early ‘64, given the available information.

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

“[No photo], unfortunately, shows the headstock in such detail that would allow the serial number to be read.” In 1963 and 1964 the serial number was stamped on the neckplate on the back of the guitar – it didn’t appear on the headstock until 1976. As below, the serial number on early Sixties Fenders cannot be relied upon to date the guitar on its own. The only way to be sure is to check the date stamps on the various components. For the time being all we can say with any degree of certainty is that it’s a 1963 or early 1964 Strat.

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

Thanks, Dan – and for sharing your diligent research!

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

Looking at photos from the Star Club it seems Hendrix used both the 1963/64 Strat and another sunburst one with the transition logo and what looks like the larger headstock, introduced in 1966. In this photo taken 18th March 1967 at the Star Club it looks brand new – possibly a ‘66 or ‘67 model?

comment image

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

Yes, I thought it was a transition logo too Dan at first but looking closely it appears to be a spaghetti one. This seems to have been his number one guitar at the time, and he exchanges it at the Star Club having broken a string for the more tatty Strat – apparently the same one he’s putting away in the ‘63 case later backstage.

Beneath the ‘63 case is a black tolex one – presumably for the better condition Strat, with the broken string. Assuming the cases are original (and Jimi’s putting them in the right ones!) this would suggest that the better condition one which he was playing to start with is an early ‘64 and the ‘tatty’ one is a ‘63. The tatty one with the scar arch on the back, seems to be the one burnt at Astoria (from your research elsewhere. Now modified and owned by Dweezil Zappa (I think you concluded, plausibly). I wonder what happened to Number 1 (possibly the ‘64 allegedly given to Leon – but I’m a bit wary of that story, though maybe?)

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

I also saw elsewhere a photo of the neck stamp on the Zappa Strat – November 1963 – so this would correspond with it being a ‘63 model (though as it’s late in the year there’s no certainty). The Leon one is clearly not the cleaner Strat as it has the transition logo (didn’t spot that!) – I’m not convinced it’s a Jimi Strat either. It would be interesting to find out more about the “tatty” Strat – I’ll look out for any updates!

I note in the Hendrix gear book a couple of sunburst ‘65 Strats are recorded and I wonder if these might in fact be the ‘63/‘64 ones we’re discussing (I’ve never seen any photos of Jimi with a ‘65 sunburst)?

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

So Jimi used the ‘63 Strat featured here at the Star Club in March 1967 together with what looks like a brand new 1966 or ‘67 model. This photo of Jimi putting the earlier guitar away in a case at the Star Club is an interesting one and certainly seems to confirm the guitar is a 1963 model and not an early ‘64 one: that’s a 1963 case – replaced in 1964 by a black tolex one with no logo.

https://images.app.goo.gl/Vncm97MZRahKMbPLA

Chaz
Chaz
4 months ago

I’ve not heard that the case change happened in mid-1964 – rather it may have been late 1963 if anything. Certainly my early ‘64 P-Bass has the black no-logo case, and all ‘64 Fenders I’ve seen have that case. Though as with anything Fender, there may be exceptions and this isn’t evidence as such – for that you’d need to see the stampings as mentioned – but for me the balance of probability now is weighted towards it being a ‘63 model.