Jimi Hendrix’s 1961 Epiphone Wilshire
Jimi got this guitar in 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 the 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 (Tortoiseshell?) pickguard, and dot fretboard inlays. The inlay on the 17th fret appears to cover almost the entire space between the frets. Whether this was a modification, a simple sticker, or something similar, is unknown.
The last thing to point out is that the guitar featured a Vibrola tremolo bridge – which is confusing. Based on GuitarHQ’s model history [Epiphone Wilshire model guitars 1959 to 1970], they fit the tremolo on the models made between 1959 and 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 explanation for this could be that the guitar was modified, either by the previous owner or by Jimi himself. Or it could be that 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] there is a story that Jimi allegedly painted the pickguard white at some point. Looking at the photos taken around this era, there is what seems to be a Wilshire with a white pickguard, black P90s, and block inlays. [Jimi Hendrix with the King Kasuals, Christmas 1962]
The thing to mention here is that there was never a production Wilshire with block inlays in the early 60s. So, Jimi did in fact paint not only the pickguard but also the inlays. The exact way in which he could’ve done this is something we’re having problems figuring out. A layer of white paint would come off in no time with strings rubbing against it. Carving out the fretboard and installing the block inlays factory-style seems even more unlikely.
The photo that shows Jimi’s Wilshire with a white pickguard and blocks inlays dates to late 1962. This means that all the other photos with the Wilshire featuring dot inlays and black pickguard were from a later date. To remind you, King Kasuals started performing in November 1962).
This would then mean that if Hendrix had painted his Epiphone pickguard and 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 before, 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. Furthermore, there are very few people out there who would have answers to some of these questions.
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