Jimi Hendrix’s 1964/65 Fender Stratocaster (Saville Theater / Sgt. Pepper’s Strat)

This is the second of the two red Fender Stratocasters that Jimi used around May 1967. Based on the photos available, it was likely first used at Saville Theatre on May 7th (this is an earlier gig played at Saville, it’s not the one during which he smashed the guitar), but it is possible that it was used at an earlier date.

The Saville / Sgt. Pepper's Stratocaster guitar seen from the front. Photo credit: Jason Camhi/Flickr
The Saville / Sgt. Pepper’s Stratocaster after Jimi smashed it at Saville Theater on June 4th, 1967. Photo credit: Jason Camhi/Flickr

This red Strat was mainly played just during the short European tour in May 1967. By the end of the tour, it developed a crack across the body, from Hendrix smashing it at a gig in Copenhagen on May 21st.

I was playing in Copenhagen, and I got pulled off stage. Everything was going great. I threw my guitar back onto the stage and jumped back after it. When I picked it up there was a great crack down the middle. I just lost my temper and smashed the damn thing to pieces.

Starting at Zero: His Own Story – Jimi Hendrix

The guitar was however seen at a later date, on May 27th (see Hendrix in Deutschland – 27. Mai 1967; Starpalast, Kiel). Based on this, it is possible that it was somehow put together since it is highly unlikely that there would be two identical Strats around this time with a crack across the body.

CBS-era maple Stratocaster?

Based on the photos, the guitar sported a transition-style logo, and it had a small headstock. This means that it was made before late 1965, most likely sometime in 1964. By that time, almost all of the guitars were shipped with rosewood fretboards, although Jimi’s Strat had a maple one. At the time, this option was available for special orders, so overall – these guitars are pretty unique and hard to come by nowadays.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience performing at the Culture House in Helsinki on 22 May 1967. Photo by Marjut Valakivi. Note the transition style logo, and the dark body finish.

Interesting to note that this is the first-ever maple fretboard Stratocaster that Jimi was seen playing. Until he picked up this Strat, he was exclusively using rosewood Strats, although later on in his career he definitely leaned more towards maple necks.

Saville Theater, June 4th, 1967.

Although the Monterey Pop Stratocaster is definitely the better-known of the two guitars hand-painted by Hendrix, the Saville Strat was chronologically looking the first one. It was finished by June 4th, 1967, when Jimi took it on stage once again at the Saville Theater. Also to note – this was a sort of a farewell concert because Hendrix had to leave London due to his work visa expiring soon after.

Hendrix painted the guitar with white paint partially on the front, and completely on the back of the body. Also on the back, he wrote a poem, reading —

May this be love or just confusion
Born out of frustration
Wracked feelings
of not being able to make true physical
love to the universal gypsie queen of
true, free expressed music
My darling guitar, please rest in peace.

The body of the Saville Stratocaster is currently kept safe at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. This is the view from the back. Photo by: David Williams
The body of the Saville Stratocaster is currently kept safe at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. This is the view from the back. Photo by: David Williams

The front was decorated with Jimi’s own design, similar in style to the one on the Monterey Pop Stratocaster. A view of the front also reveals that the guitar was originally painted in a darker shade of red – officially known as the Candy Apple Red finish by Fender.

Also, note that the guitar was split at the exact place where the crack was seen in the photos taken on May 27th in Germany. This detail, as well as the color of the body, and the fact that the Saville guitar had a maple neck, pretty much confirms beyond reasonable double that this is actually the same guitar.

The state that the guitar was around late May 1967, before it was decorated. Note the big crack on the bottom, below the bridge.
The state that the guitar was around late May 1967, before it was decorated. Note the big crack on the bottom, below the bridge.

According to witnesses (no actual recording of the gig exists) Hendrix destroyed this guitar at the end of the second set (the band played two shows that day). The parts were, of course, collected by random people from the audience.

According to one of our visitors (see comments below), the two main body parts were collected by two different people. Only years later, they connected through a plea on the radio and auctioned the parts together. They are now owned by the Mo Pop museum in Seattle.


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3 years ago

It’s actually called the “Saville” Theatre. Seville is a city in Spain… ;)

Linzie Levey
Linzie Levey
2 years ago

My mother caught the right side of this guitar at the gig(looking at the poem side). She put a plea out on the radio about 30 years ago looking for the other half of the guitar. A man came forward with the left side and they auctioned it off together

5 days ago
Reply to  Linzie Levey

The man who had the other half was called Robin Box who was a working guitarist in the 60s and 70s most notably with the band, White Plains.

1 year ago

I wonder about this guitar. There is a picture of Jimi recording at Olympic Studios using a maple neck Strat, apparently recording Are You Experienced, it looks black in the picture but it’s black and white photo so it may be this one. I’ve always wondered how much he actually used rosewood vs maple fingerboards when recording with the experience…

Last edited 1 year ago by Dan
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan

Btw, it was used on May 4th for Top of the Pops

1 year ago

Same guitar in Sweden, Stockholm May 24, 1967 TV studios,
The Wind Cries Mary & Purple Haze

1 year ago

You’ve used a picture of a different strat than the black/white one used at Monterey and talk about “….this strat” which steers me away from reading the rest.