Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster (Black, maple neck)
Hendrix started using this guitar in mid-October 1968, and it represented a shift away from rosewood and towards maple neck Stratocasters. Up until this point, almost every guitar that he played had a rosewood fretboard. This is understandable considering the fact that he mostly used early to mid 60s Strats, most of which were shipped with rosewood fretboards, at least up until around mid-1965.
The guitar was one of the two maple neck Stratocasters that Jimi started using around this time – the other one being almost an identical guitar but finished in white. While we’re still researching the possibility of there being two white Strats, there was most likely only one black Stratocaster with a maple neck. This guitar was not only used throughout 1969 but also in 1970 – up until Jimi’s death. In fact, the very last known photos of Jimi show him holding this exact guitar.
The guitar was first seen on stage at the Civic Auditorium in Bakersfield, California on October 26, 1968. [Hendrix concert in Bakersfield the stuff of legend -bakersfield.com] This was right in between the recording sessions at the TTG Studios in Los Angeles, and based on the photos taken by Ron Raffaelli at the studios, the guitar was used there as well (photos should be fairly easy to find with a quick Google search).
From then on the black Strat was seen most notably on the TV show ‘A Happening For Lulu’ in January 1969, Royal Albert Hall in February, Madison Square Garden in New York in May, Fillmore East in December, and Atlanta Pop Festival in July 1970 – just to name a few. To cut the long story short, from late 1968 to Jimi’s last gig in September 1970 it was either this black Stratocaster or a different white one – aside from few occasions when he picked up a Gibson. Photo below shows him with all three, taken sometime in late 1968. On the photo, we see a white rosewood Stratocaster, which soon became replaced with one with a maple neck, and the one he would eventually use at Woodstock.
The guitar was made in 1968, or three years later after CBS acquired Fender. Guitars made around this period are usually regarded as less desirable since CBS introduced some changes to the model that many did not approve of. The 1968 Fender Stratocaster came with a re-designed Fender logo and a new headstock. The new logo featured much thicker lettering in black with a gold outline (as opposed to gold with black outline used in the transition period between 1964 and 1968), and the headstock became larger in size in order to make space for the new logo.
Jimi’s black Strat had a two-piece maple neck. This means that it was made from two pieces of maple (fretboard and the body of the neck), glued together after the truss rod was installed in between them. In comparison, the original 50s Stratocasters had a one-piece maple neck, with a walnut “skunk stripe” on the back. This piece of walnut filled the hole that allowed the truss rod to be installed.
The third thing to point out is that Jimi’s guitar had “F” style tuning machines instead of the Kluson tuners used on the models from previous years. The new tuners were not made by Fender, but by Schaller.
Cigarette Burn Marks
Interesting to note is that looking at the photos of this guitar from a chronological standpoint, one can notice the slow increase of the burn marks on the headstock. It seems that in 1968, Hendrix started placing cigars in between the strings and the headstocks while playing, and while the cigarettes were often forgotten and burned all the way to the filter, they created burn marks on the headstock.
In our research, we haven’t been able to find one photo that shows the black Strat without the burn marks, or with fewer burn marks when compared to an earlier photo. This means that likely there was only one black 1968 Fender Stratocaster that Jimi used from 1968 to 1970, making it one of his most long used guitars overall.
The Final Days
The guitar was used all the way until the last gig that The Experience played together, at The Isle Of Fehmarn on September 6, 1970. During the concert, Jimi was mostly playing a white Stratocaster, although there are also photos of him playing the black one. Also, as noted previously, this is likely the last guitar that Hendrix ever laid his hands on, since it was seen on the photos taken just a day before his death.
After Jimi died, the guitar ended up with Monika Dannemann – his girlfriend at the time in whose apartment at the Samarkand Hotel, Notting Hill Gate, Jimi spent his last hours. [Monika Dannemann with the Jimi Hendrix Black Stratocaster – GettyImages] The Strat remained in Monika’s possession until her death in 1996. Based on the fact that Monika was married to Uli Jon Roth of the Scorpions at the time of her death, most seem to assume that Jimi’s guitar is now with Roth. To our knowledge, Uli had not made a comment on this, so it remains only a speculation.