Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 Gibson Flying V (Left-handed, Black)

Although Jimi was no stranger to Flying Vs, this was the only one specifically made for him to be played left-handed. The guitar was first seen on April 25, 1970, at the Los Angeles Forum, and subsequentially on May 8, 1970 at the University Of Oklahoma Field House, Norman [Norman (Field House, University Of Oklahoma) : 8 mai 1970 [Premier concert]] From then on it was used a number of times until Jimi’s death, most famously of course at The Isle Of Wight on August 30th.

Jimi Hendrix's Gibson Flying V
Jimi’s Gibson Flying V on display in London’s Hard Rock Cafe. Photo by: dtsomp/Flickr

Jimi’s left-handed Flying V was finished in plain black and featured a white pickguard, gold-plated hardware, and a Vibrola tremolo. The guitar also had some unique features, such as the fully bound neck with split diamond inlays, as opposed to simple dot inlays that were standard on models made around this period. Next to that, it also had a plain black truss rod cover reading “Custom”, identical in shape to the truss rod covers installed on Les Paul Customs.

Lastly, the Gibson logo on Jimi’s Flying V was inlaid on the headstock, while the standard models all had the logo printed on the truss rod cover. Based on all this, and also coming from few different sources, the guitar was likely a custom ordered by Jimi himself or something Gibson built specifically for him – with or without his knowledge.

According to Walter Carter, author, and a Gibson historian, the serial number on the guitar (849476) was not logged into Gibson’s shipping registry in 1969, but other models made in that year did have serial numbers close to Jimi’s. From this, it is assumed that Jimi’s guitar was made in late 1969, but because of the custom feature was not finished early to mid 1970 when it was shipped to Hendrix. [Gibson Flying V – Zachary R. Fjestad, Larry Meiners; p.23]

Jimi’s Flying V Today

The guitar is currently owned by the Hard Rock International (see video below, skip to 3:15 minute mark). According to some sources, the previous owner was Eric Barrett – Jimi’s road manager.

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Edward Marlowe
Edward Marlowe
4 months ago

The split diamond arrowheads, I’ve been told, were a reference to Jimi’s Native American heritage, one of his grandmother’s having been full Cherokee.

During one period of the HRC’s ownership, the company had quite a liberal approach to the bits of its collection held in the ‘Vault’, an old bank vault in the basement of its London merchandise store, which is the only bit of the HRC empire where you can actually touch any of the exhibits. At this time, 2005/6, I had the opportunity in there to sit on a bench once owned by Hendrix, and not only handle this exact guitar, the Black Angel as he repoutedly called it, but to actually play it. Sadly not plugged in, but still! I managed my rendition of Pirple Haze (which hopefully didn’t make Jimi turn in his grave!), and for the hell of it Wild Thing and a couple of Ramones numbers. It felt fantstic to play. Im’ not a big one for pointy guitars in general, or even much Gibsons with humbuckers in particular, but this guitar has something special in it. Fretting those notes on the Purple Haze intro that he must have played many times on that guitar just felt….. right, somehow. Like they were stored in the guitar, maybe there was a wear pattern that just masde them feel right, something I couldn’t see, but certainly could feel.

Alas, since then the policy haschanged, and I would no longer be able to play andhave my own snaps taken. Nowadays, they let you hold the guitar long enough to pay for a photo with it. This makes my experience feel all the more special. As a lefty, it’s not often you can play anyone else’s guitar, let alone one that belonged to one of your heroes!

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