Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster (Woodstock)
This is probably the best-known guitar of Jimi’s. It was used at the Woodstock Festival on August 18, 1969. Before Woodstock however – things are somewhat unclear. It seems that the guitar was used from around the same time as Jimi’s black Strat, around October 1968, but have gone out of rotation sometime in 1969 in favor of a different white Strat that looked nearly identical.
The Woodstock Strat was used probably from late October or early November 1968. Based on the photos available, The Bakersfield Civic Auditorium on October 26th was played on the black Strat and one of the older white Strat with a rosewood fretboard, while the next concert on November 1st at the Municipal Auditorium Arena in Kansas featured a white Strat with a maple neck.
One is inclined to assume that this is the Woodstock Strat, although there’s no actual way to prove it. As is often the case with Jimi’s guitars, the only option is to speculate.
All of the gigs played from November 1968 to August 1969, were played on either the black Strat, the white Strat, or occasionally a few different Gibson guitars.
The white Strat seems to have been used most extensively during the 1969 North American tour, which included the performance at the Woodstock Festival. It probably continued being used in 1970, but this is where all the confusion begins.
Two Different White Strats?
The white guitar that Jimi used from around April 1970 had a notch on the body, clearly visible in photos against the plain white color of the guitar. The Strat that was used during Woodstock didn’t have this notch, but that doesn’t mean much since Woodstock obviously took place in August 1969, and more than a half year of use would allow for a few scratches to form on the body.
The thing that is confusing is that the Woodstock Strat is accounted for, and it’s currently sitting in the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP Museum) in Seattle. It has no notches where they are supposed to be. However, given how strong the line of ownership is behind the Woodstock Strat, there’s no reason to assume that it’s a fake. So there either had to have been two nearly identical white maple neck Stratocasters in 1970, or there’s something else at play.
Woodstock Strat at MoPoP
Just a bit on the subject of the legitimacy of the guitar currently held at MoPoP – a note from a different auction of one of Jimi’s guitars reads that two guitars were found in the Electric Lady studios by Jimi’s management around the time of his death – a sunburst Stratocaster that was the subject of the auction, and a white maple Stratocaster with the serial number 240981 (same as the EMP Strat) [Jimi Hendrix Rock and Pop Memorabilia – Christie’s]
This confirms that the EMP Strat did, in fact, belong to Jimi, but it raises the question of why the guitar possibly wasn’t used almost at all in 1970. Perhaps Jimi left it in Electric Lady Studios in late 1969/1970 when he was in New York playing Fillmore East and never bothered to pick it back.
If indeed this is the case, that there were two different white Strats in 1970, it means that the Woodstock Strat was not used in concerts from April 1970, until Jimi’s death. This is important to note because it is often mentioned in various articles and books that the Woodstock Strat was used on the last Experience concert at the Open Air Love & Peace Festival in Fehmarn, Germany on September 6, 1970.
All the photos from the gig show the white Strat with the notch on the body, meaning that it possibly wasn’t the Woodstock Strat for reasons already established (see this photo of Jimi at the Open Air Love & Peace Festival and compare the guitars yourself)
But, please note that this is just a hypothesis, based on that small scratch on the body. And we’ll discover, there’s could be some explanations for that notch.
One possible explanation
When the guitar was first discovered in 1990 and was in the process of getting ready to be auctioned, one very important mistake was made. It was completely cleaned. Below is the quote from the person who did the cleaning, explaining the state of the guitar at that point. To see the interview in full, check the source below the quote.
Embed from Getty Images
Cigarette burns were evident on the headstock; and there was staining from his shirt on the creamy-white finish. […] I cut off the strings and threw them in the bin. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? Today they alone would probably be worth £50,000 (with Jimi’s DNA all over them)!
Having cleaned the whole guitar and polished the frets the next step was to restring it and set the action. It was weird to realize that the last person to do this might well have been Hendrix himself, as there are well-known photos of him doing it backstage before a gig.Jimi Hendrix Week: “I played Jimi’s Woodstock Strat”
What’s worth noting here is that around the time Jimi started using this guitar, he also 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 those burn marks on the headstock. If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice that in the process of cleaning, those burn marks from the headstock were completely removed.
One could assume that if the notch on the body of the second Strat wasn’t really a scratch but just a stubborn piece of dirt from Jimi’s fingers, it could be that it too was removed when the guitar was cleaned.
It seems unlikely that a piece of dirt would be so stubborn to attach itself to a smooth guitar finish, and remain there for months, but it is a possibility. One that would make the story of this guitar a lot more simple.
The Woodstock Strat on Auction
Corbin from IconicAxes has done a great job of telling the story behind the auction of this guitar. We recommend reading it since it also contains a full transcript of Mitch Mitchell’s letter of provenance provided to Sotheby’s (the auction house). [Jimi Hendrix’s “Woodstock” Fender Stratocaster – IconicAxes]
In short, the guitar was given to Mitch Mitchell at some point in 1970 by Hendrix, who kept it in his possession until 1991. At that point, it was sold through an auction for £198,000 to Gabriele Ansaloni, Italian TV host, and music critic.
The guitar was sold once again after only two years to Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder for an undisclosed amount. From that point on, the Woodstock Strat is kept safe at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, founded by Allen in 2000.
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Is it possible that Jimi could have used two white guitars at Woodstock?
It could be, but I’ve never seen him switch guitars, nor did I see another guitar sitting on stage at that time.
I know someone who claims to have been at woodstock and a Stratocaster was thrown into the crowd by someone in his band or even Jimi he does not know who threw it. He still has the guitar and this person is trustworthy.
Bull crap..that Never Happened
Yes it did. My friend would not lie.
If you watch the long video of jam back at the house, during the drum solo you can see a strat in the background.
Hi Aaron. Sorry, had to wait a few days to get an HD copy of Woodstock. I checked the Jam footage, and can’t see the second Strat anywhere during the drum solo. Where exactly should I be looking? Dan.
https://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm20676321 07:04 in
Weird that that piece of footage is missing from the DVD release that I have. That guitar changes things somewhat, thanks for sending the video!
I suppose it could’ve been the black strat or the second white.
Don’t forget That ” Larry Lee” was there also..could of been his guitar you’re talking about.
The last guitar shown, which was given to Mitch Mitchell, has obviously been tampered with. I find it hard to believe that Hendrix would play that guitar with the nut being as is. Which from string to string is not spaced correct. So I assume someone redid it poorly. Being a Luthier and player over 40 years I would certainly know. These are the kind of things that make us wonder about the authenticity of these instruments.
“Woodstock Strat at the EMP Museum (left) and the Strat used at Woodstock in 1968 (right). The wood grain does seem to match quite well, meaning that the EMP Strat is likely the real deal.”
Or, and here’s a thought, just bare with me on this, They don’t match at all. Meaning they’re not the same.
What do you mean Jon, they match pretty well to me. Of course, you need to take into regard different exposure and contrast of the photos, and it just seems that a lot of details (wood patterns) are lost in the Woodstock footage. Saying they don’t match at all is a far bigger stretch, at least to me, than saying that they appear to match quite well. Dan.
If you watch the footage you may see that at 6:54 Jimi will appear on the left side of the screen for 2/10 sec. holding a cup of coffee. So it could be the whit EMP Strat lying behind Mitch when he I is drumming.
I took some detailed photos (and video) of the Woodstock Strat last year, showing all of the woodgrain, scratches, and other detail. I looked for the notch – One of many photos attached here. I see some evidence that there was a notch there at some point. Happy to share more if it helps solve the mystery!
I would love to see the video and the rest of the photos. You can send them to [email protected] if it’s easier for you. Cheers.
The only guitar tossed into the Woodstock audience was Pete Townsend’s 1968 cherry SG which was recovered by a crew member almost immediately afterward.
I saw a late 68 strat with 22xxx serial ….. how is it possible that the 240981 attributed to Jimi was built before November 68?!? do you think this serial is correct?
we must consider that the stain could also be dirt and not an abrasion of the paint …. Jimi rubbed it everywhere … 😌🙂
Hi Glen. According to my source, 1968 model is 210000 to 250000. I wouldn’t know if second number indicates how late in the year the guitar was made or not.
As far as the stain, it is visible on numerous photos, so it would indicate it is indeed a permanent scratch. It could be just a stain, but I think that’s less likely. Cheers, Dan.
The mark on the strat is from dirt on his finger tips as you will notice his hands strumming position and with a little research you can see in photos he clearly drops his fingers over that area when strumming all the time. It’s like a lightbulb finally went off.
Took me a long time to figure this out. Although I will agree there may have been another white strat through ‘69 and weather that was the one with the switched out tele neck who knows. Remember before it went to the EMP museum a tech actually cleaned the whole guitar and stated after that was a mistake.
I would agree… you can see the notches/ scratch marks that still exist match up but the strumming dirt mark on the front towards the bottom is cleaned off. You can see a bunch of pics in ‘70 but one of the easiest to see is a colour shot from Maui ‘70 with the dirt and this is supposed to be the EMP guitar all cleaned up. Dirt mark gone but same other scratch marks. Still other mysteries exist and why with this famous of an artist was nothing documented properly other that the few serial numbers that exist. I still can’t find the pictures they took when they disassembled the “Woodstock strat”.
What are they top secret or something??
I’m starting to think Jimi had no guitar tech to speak of and the guitars just went back into the cases after the gigs and any work done was by Jimi himself.
So when Jimi used them they may have been wiped down say as the strings got changed but not to any great extent so that would also mean nobody else was really going over the guitars too much and maybe that’s why so little details are known. Jimi was the one doing all the tweaks needed and unlike today, only he knew what was actually going on with the black and white ‘68 guitars, the ‘70 V, or how about the ‘69 sunburst V we hardly see mentioned ?
Hi Scott. I’ll have to go back and look if the two guitars overlap. If let’s say Jimi used the scratched Strat on one date, than picked up the Woodstock Strat, and then went back to the scratched one again, that would give some weight to the theory that they were separate guitars.
I agree. It’s too bad they did not take (or atleast publish) any photos of the guitar when they inspected it, and prior to the cleaning. I’m really hoping they actually did.
Anyways, I added a section about the guitar being cleaned, and pointed out the possibility that this was just a dirt mark. Cheers.
This may sound incredulous but during a visit to London in 1971, I was shown a white Strat by a British Roadie who told me that it was Hendrix’s and that he had stolen it while working at Woodstock. He was not trying to sell it to me and I was surprised that he would admit to stealing it.
The white strat with the dirt is the woodstock strat. He played the black syrat and the white strat at his last concert in fehmarn. There is a picture of him playing the white strat and the grain in the headstock is clearly visible https://www.google.com/search?q=hendrix+fehmarn&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwjh8NmpuMH3AhW-k_0HHeIgBWMQ2-cCegQIABAB&oq=hendrix+fe&gs_lcp=ChJtb2JpbGUtZ3dzLXdpei1pbWcQARgAMgUIABCABDIECAAQHjIECAAQHjIECAAQHjIECAAQHjoCCCk6BAgpEBM6BAgAEAM6CAgAEIAEELEDOggIABCxAxCDAToECAAQQ1DjFli9M2CMQGgAcAB4AYAB9AGIAesFkgEFMy4yLjGYAQCgAQGwAQXAAQE&sclient=mobile-gws-wiz-img&ei=KCJwYuG8Hr6n9u8P4sGUmAY&bih=741&biw=412&client=ms-android-samsung-rvo1&prmd=simvn#imgrc=S0NvST9Ue41h0M
If you check other pics you can see the dirt on the front.
If someone took the time to pick out the black carbon marks from the cigarette burns, is it not also possible that they had the notch painted over? Seems a shame that someone modified this guitar, though I’m sure the intentions were noble.
On another note, I went to the EMP in 2016 and the Stratocaster was not on display. I did see some of Hendrix’s handwritten work and one of his acoustic guitars, but alas. No Strat. Would’ve died to see it.
That’s a good point, it could be the case. Yeah, it’s a shame that someone removed the cigarette burns, it’s such a nice detail. Just look at Clapton’s Blackie, the guitar still has those marks and in my opinion, that makes it look a lot more authentic.
I think it was in 2016 when the guitar was on loan Kenny Wayne Shepherd, so maybe that was it. You can look up a video of him playing it on Jimmy Fallon.
Joshua– I am not positive but I think you may have missed the boat. I went to EMP right around 2016 to see that strat along with Clapton’s “Brownie” Strat he used to record Layla and many other hits. I was dumbfounded when not only could I not find the guitars but the young folks who worked right in the information booth had no idea what I was talking about when I started talking about the history of these iconic guitars….one of them said to me- Ya, I dont man, sometimes they dont display all of the items we have in the storage warehouse.But I didn’t give up, I kept looking and wanting to puke seeing that they had given more importance to Pokemon…than why Paul Allen had that place built for in the first place-for Jimi…any way I found them (Thank god) when I walked through a door that looked like the entrance to a Janitors closet. There they were next to each other and also Duane Allmans Les Paul. I will see if I can attach a picture I took that day. I did make some Asian tourist laugh when I got on my hands and knees and started chanting— I am not worthy I am not worthy….LOL
In the Video ‘the Road to Woodstock’, Jimi takes off his white strat and disappears behind the drums, the camera cuts to the audience, and then Jimi returns to stage carrying his white Strat and tunes it before breaking into ‘Hey Joe’.
I bet that thing would go for a million on pawn stars.
A very interesting discussion.
I can’t see that mark visible on the white Strat at Berlin ’70. Perhaps that is the Woodstock Strat?
Why the ‘tele’ neck?
My 2 cents:
If you’ve ever scraped your guitar neck along the front of an amp or mic stand (as I have), you’ll know that this results in tiny notches in some of the frets.
String bending gets stopped-dead.
This means you have to file the frets until the strings no longer catch/get stopped by those notches.
Perhaps Jimi (known for scraping his strats along the mic stand/speaker cabinets) needed a neck in a hurry, so a tech slapped the tele neck onto a strat that Jimi liked.
Until a replacement strat neck was found (or the frets were filed down), the tele neck remained.
Edit: I just read the story about the neck being broken…..and roadies replacing with a tele neck.
I was open to the hypothesis in the double White Strat … but I always thought that that mark on the body could have been simply dirt .. probably when Jimi was rubbing his guitar on the dirty tolex of some amp … nothing easier…
Didn’t Jimi have a Hagstrom 8-string Bass? http://www.rockmine.com/Jimi4.html
I actually touched the headstock on the woodstock strat at EMP in 2000, I also noticed it had a roughly 6 inch scrape on the top of body above the pick guard(would be below pick guard for Jimi because he played it upside down.) The last 2 inches of the scrape angled abruptly at about a 20 degree angle. The scrape scratched the finish but did not go through to the wood.The color was a bit brighter cream yellow than what I expected. Other than that it looked almost new.
maybe someone might be interested:
Sorry Glen, I missed your comment. Yeah, I’ve come to agree with your point of view. At first, I posted the guitars on separate pages to see if some more information will resurface about this potential second Strat, but all the information that did come to light just confirms that this is the same guitar. I’ll merge the two pages and add a section here regarding the “notch”. Cheers