date_range 1968

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 16, 1969. Before Woodstock however – things are somewhat fuzzy. It seems that the guitar was used from around the same time as the black Strat, around October 1969, 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 the old white Strat with the rosewood fretboard, while the next concert on November 2nd 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 case with Jimi’s guitars, the only option is to speculate.

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All 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 fuzziness starts.

The Woodstock Strat in 1970

The white guitar that Jimi used from around April 1970 had a notch on the body, clearly visible on 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 of year of use would allow for a few scratches to form on the body.

This is a still from a concert played at the Berkeley Community Theatre on May 30, 1970. The scratch is clearly visible on the edge of the body. For more images of the scratch see this gallery.

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. The only logical explanation is that there were two identical white maple neck Stratocasters in 1970.

On the subject of the legitimacy of the guitar – 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 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.

The Woodstock Stratocaster on display

The Woodstock Stratocaster on display at the Museum of Pop Culture/EMP. Photo by: Justin Masterson/Flickr

This does, however, change some things. It means that the Woodstock Strat was not used on concerts from April 1970 and until Jimi’s death. 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 couldn’t have been the Woodstock Strat for reasons already established (see this photo of Jimi at the Open Air Love & Peace Festival and compare it to the one above, of his Woodstock Strat).

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.

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 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.

What’s worth noting 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 burn marks on the headstock. Today however, those burn marks are gone, but the damage done to the lacquer can clearly still be seen.
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