Jimi Hendrix’s 1963 Fender Stratocaster (Sunburst)
Hendrix was seen using this sunburst Fender Stratocaster starting with late February 1967. Based on what we discovered in our research, 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 we suspect it will 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, we suspect that this is the same guitar that Jimi burned at The Astoria on March 1st, 1967. At the same time though, we have no way to prove it.
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]
Lastly, the guitar has the old “spaghetti” logo on the headstock, which narrows the date of manufacture to between early and mid-1963. In late 1963, the letters on the logo became thicker (now known as the “transition” logo).
Something we, unfortunately, couldn’t do is figure out the serial number. There are quite a few high-resolution photos available of this guitar, most of them taken at the Star Club on 18th March 1967 in Hamburg, Germany by Gunter Zint. None, unfortunately, shows the headstock in such detail that would allow the serial number to be read.
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.
The guitar was also likely used during the infamous gig at the Astoria theater, during which Hendrix burned a guitar on stage for the first time. This, however, was not the particular Stratocaster that was burned that night – meaning that Hendrix most likely switched guitars prior to the stunt.
If you look at a photo taken at the opening night of the Walker tour [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 [Jimi Hendrix switching guitars, Star Club – Getty]. The saddles are 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.
Embed from Getty Images
This is of course not certain, but we haven’t been able to find 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 be the second Stratocaster in the Star Club photo since there were less than two weeks between the two gigs. More on this however in the section dedicated to the Astoria Strat.
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).
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 (we probably will do a more precise visual comparison sometime in the future). Based on this, there is a possibility that this is still the exact same guitar that Jimi used in early February. Perhaps he took a liking to this particular Strat and continued using it despite the obvious wear.
Interesting to point out is also the black tone knob and the pickup switch (both changed from the original white). It may be a sign that Jimi worked on customizing the guitar in some way.
Be that as it may, the guitar disappeared from mid-May 1967 onward, and Jimi started using a couple of red Fender Stratocasters instead.