Jimi Hendrix’s 1961 Epiphone Wilshire
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Jimi seemed to have acquired this guitar around early 1963, around the time he began performing with King Casuals at Club Del Morocco.
The King Kasuals
Hendrix moved from Clarksville to Nashville sometime around late 1962, after Billy Cox got discharged from the army. In Nashville, the band that two formed landed a gig at a place called Club Del Morocco. This was Hendrix’s first regular job as a musician, and he likely used the Epiphone for the most part of that era. [Jimi Hendrix and the King Casuals – The Official Biography of Legendary Bassist Billy Cox]
Jimi’s Epiphone had a solid-mahogany body finished in red, two P-90 pickups, a black (possibly Tortoiseshell?) pickguard, and dot fretboard inlays. Interestingly, the inlay on the 17th fret seems to have been modified as it appears to cover almost the whole space between the frets. Whether this was indeed a modification, or just a simple sticker or something similar, is, unfortunately, unknown.
The last thing to point out is that the guitar featured a Vibrola tremolo bridge – which is somewhat confusing. Based on GuitarHQ’s model history [Epiphone Wilshire model guitars 1959 to 1970], the tremolo was fitted on the models made between 1959-1961, and between mid-1962 and 1963. Jimi’s guitar fits the description of the model produced in 1961, which as you might guess – didn’t come with a tremolo.
The possible explanation to all this is that the guitar was modified, either by the previous owner or by Jimi himself or that simply there was a model in 1961 that featured both the black P90 pickups and the Vibrola tremolo.
Pickguard painted white?
In the book Jimi Hendrix Gear [Jimi Hendrix Gear, Michael Heatley – p.34] it is mentioned that Jimi allegedly painted the pickguard white at some point. Looking at the photos taken around this era, there is indeed what seems to be a Wilshire with a white pickguard, black P90s, and surprisingly – block inlays! [Jimi Hendrix with the King Kasuals, Christmas 1962]
The thing to mention here is that there has never been a Wilshire with block inlays in the early 60s, so it seems that Jimi did in fact paint not only the pickguard but also the inlays. The exact way in which this could’ve been done is something we’re having problems figuring out. Surely, a layer of white paint would come off in no time with strings constantly rubbing against it, and carving out the fretboard and installing the block inlays the way it would’ve been done at the factory seems very unlikely.
The photo that shows Jimi’s Wilshire with white pickguard and block inlays dates to late 1962, which means that all the other photos with the Wilshire featuring dot inlays and black pickguard were taken at a later date (to remind you, King Kasuals started performing in November 1962).
This would then obviously mean that if Hendrix had painted his Epiphone pickguard and (presumably) the block inlays, he would’ve done so early on, meaning that the paint had come by the time the rest of the photos were taken. This goes somewhat well with what was said previously, but it is important to point out that it’s only a theory. The true history of this guitar is likely to remain unknown given how much time had passed, and how very few people would have an answer to some of these questions.
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