Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster “Black Beauty”
Hendrix started using this guitar in mid-October 1968, and it represented a shift away from rosewood and towards maple fretboard 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 a few occasions when he picked up a Gibson. This photo shows him with all three, taken sometime in late 1968. In the photo, we see a white rosewood Stratocaster, which soon became replaced with one with a maple neck – 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 a 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.Embed from Getty Images
It seems to be impossible to find one single 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 in 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.Embed from Getty Images
The Strat remained in Monika’s possession until her death in 1996. At the time of her death, Monika was married to Uli Jon Roth of the Scorpions. Many seem to assume that Jimi’s guitar is now with Roth, but Uli explained in an interview with The Metal Voice that the guitar now belongs to the Dannemann’s estate and that there are still absolutely no plans to sell it.
A lot of people were after that guitar. Paul Allen, the number two in Microsoft, I remember one day he offered like a million dollars, but Monica turned it down. There was one guy I remember who called me one day said it was like some kind of Arab dealer or whatever, offered like seven eight nine million dollars. I said well tell me a good
reason why we should sell this guitar, You know the guitar should stay with the paintings.
it’s not my guitar, it belongs to the Dannemann’s estate, but it’s in a vault. There were too many people after it but one day I think it’s going to be exhibited as it should, you know, it should be exhibited with Monica’s paintingsUli Jon Roth (ex Scorpions) Interview-Talk News Album, Jimi Hendrix & Music Today-By Neil Turbin
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One thing to be noted, Eric Clapton had bought as a gift for Jimi a left-handed stratocaster and meant to give it to Jimi on September 18, 1970… sadly Jimi died a few hours before he could ever give it to him.
Yes – Clapton bought it on impulse having seen it in a shop window – I think in Denmark Street? – as it was the first left handed Steat he’d ever seen. He and Jimi were supposed to be attending another act’s gig, if memory serves – sitting opposite each other in theatre boxes,like rock royalty. I’ve always wondered what happened to that guitar.
I have Clapton’s autobiography sitting somewhere. Will check if there’s any mention of the guitar.
Edit: Found the quote from Eric. Will likely add the guitar on a separate page once I found more details about it.
Thst’s from his autobiog “Survivor”, isn’t it? Think that’s where I read it too.
I got it from his autobiography published in 2007. I believe “Survivor” bio is from the late 80s, but it could contain the same piece of info regarding the Hendrix guitar.
Clapton gave the left hand Strat to Jimi’s father Al Hendrix, I’ve no idea what happened to it or where it is now?.
Several years ago, I heard a rumour that this Strat was called Electric Lady and the white one was called Isabella. Is there any evidence that this is the case?
You’re right about “Isabella”, but … Black Beauty!, not “Electric Lady”.
The string tree is in a different place on the top picture as compared to the one Jimi is holding.
Don’t mind that. The thumbnail photos I often make myself in photoshop, because I can’t always find the photo of the guitar itself from the right angle. Sometimes I miss incorporating those small details.
Something I’ve noticed with both the 1968/large headstock white & black strats…
Notice the location of the string trees on both guitars.
They’re both much closer to the nut than on most other strats I’ve seen.
The purpose of the tree is to create more of a downward angle (from the nut) for those strings.
So it seems an amazing coincidence that Jimi (who reverse-strung his guitars) would come to possess 2 strats where the different location of the tree would insure that his 2 heaviest strings would remain snugly in their nut-slots. Important considering his heavy use of the tremolo bar.
Hope that makes sense…..
Good eye, Mike!
God do I hope you see this post.
You’re right, it must have been custom ordered by Jimi. His Woodstock clone build in 2002 is for sale and I contacted the guy. Got some photo’s, and guess what? Neck stamp shows a C with nut. Custom ordered and extremely rare. I’m fairly certain he ordered black beauty and Isabella at the same time with a very wide nut and much higher placed string trees
I’ve read that the Woodstock strat was purchased at Manny’s in NYC. Don’t know where he acquired the black ‘Fillmore/Machine Gun’ strat. I guess it’s possible that Jimi ordered the Woodstock strat from Fender, to be delivered to Manny’s.
Damn shame that no one ever sat down with Jimi and interviewed him regarding the specifics of his amps, axes, fx pedals, string gauges, etc. Just sit-down with him and go over all of that guitar-nerd stuff…….
Those maple fingerboard Strat are really rare. He also had a sunburst one with a maple fingerboard that he used in the studio. Velvert Turner had it and then sold it to Ritchie at We Buy on 48th st.
The ‘Velvert Turner’ strat actually has a ‘skunk stripe’ at the back of the neck. So, it’s not a 2-piece neck like the white and the black strats mentioned above. Still a cool axe, I’m sure.
Oh wow I can’t remember. There was a sunburst one without the skunk stripe that a guy would pawn to Joe at the Chicago store in Tucson. That is the only one I found myself. There are photos of Hendrix playing a red one circa ’65 with a maple neck and small headstock.
I have an interesting Guitarist magazine from 1995 where Monika Dannemann allowed them to inspect the guitar and write this article. Please delete if it causes copyright issues.
Apparently the files are too big to upload here. I can email if interested.
Hi Alan. Yeah,there’s a 2MB limit set on uploads. Please email it to me at [email protected] and I’ll check it out.
I don’t understand how Monika was allowed to just keep it. She was nothing to him legally, just a crash pad. So if I take my guitar to a girlfriend’s house, and then I die, she get to keep my guitar and give it to her future husband?
..interesting point…especially with Janie running Jimi’s Estate with an iron fist. You’d think at some point she demanded custody of it….
So apparently property law in England is, if you happen to die in some tart’s apartment, she gets to keep your favorite guitar, even if at the least she contributed to your death. That’s fucked up!