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 photos available, it was likely first used at Saville Theatre on May 7th, but it is possible that it was used at an earlier date.

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.

Interesting to note that this is the first-ever maple neck 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 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.

 Hendrix Seville Stratocaster
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 on the photos taken on May 27th in Germany (link to them is available a few paragraphs above). This detail, as well as the color of the body, and the fact that the Saville guitar had a maple neck, pretty much confirms that this is actually the same guitar.

The Saville / Sgt. Pepper's Stratocaster from the front
The Saville / Sgt. Pepper’s Stratocaster from the front. Photo credit: Jason Camhi/Flickr

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). At this time, we don’t know the story of how the body parts were collected after the concert and kept safe to this day.

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8 months ago

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


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