Kurt Cobain’s 1950s Kay P4 Archtop Blonde
This guitar was featured in the music video for the song Come As You Are, released in 1992. The guitar belonged to Kurt, which is based on the fact that it was seen at Kurt’s home – but it was never really used live or in any other public setting. It was most likely just a guitar that Kurt found interesting and unique, and for the most part, just kept at his house.
Based on the video footage, the guitar seems to fit the specs of a 50s era Kay archtop. The slim (maple?) neck profile, pickguard position, the bridge setup, and the black stripe following the contour of the body are all present on the models made in this time period. One of these guitars, which seems nearly identical to the one Kurt used, recently appeared on Reverb.com [Kay Archtop 1950’s Blonde]
Based on the photos published in [original source needed], this guitar is currently kept at the secretive Kurt Cobain vault – an undisclosed place somewhere in Seattle that houses some of Kurt’s belongings, including a few of his old guitars.
On the photos (which hopefully will be availiable here at some point), the headstock is no longer attached to the neck on the Kay, which means that Kurt obviously smashed this guitar at some point.
The other Kay
At the filming of Come as You Are video, apparently, there were two Kays present. According to Joseph Uliano (info provided via email), who produced the video together with Kevin Kerslake, one Kay was left in storage after the filming was done and was kept there until recently.
I produced the video with Kevin Kerslake in the early ’90s and Kurt used this guitar in the video, even though, evidently he has another of that model. […] This could have been a prop as Kurt left it behind on set. Which is where I got it, from the art director.Joseph Uliano via email
Unfortunately, it’s unclear which Kay of the two was actually used during the recording. Some clues seem to point towards the same Kay photographed at the Kurt Cobain vault, while some other seem to point towards this newly discovered second Kay.
The first noticeable difference between the two guitars is the fact that the first guitar (from the vault) has Kay logo embedded on the pickguard, while the second one doesn’t. It’s important to point out here that the guitar used during Come as You Are, appears to have no logo, so the odds favor the second guitar as being the one.
At a first glance, it looks like a mystery solved, but when you go deeper and look at the pattern on the maple top, you begin to notice something rather interesting.
So it appears that the wood pattern of the guitar used in Come as You Are video actually matches pretty good with the guitar that was photographed in the vault. So the only thing that doesn’t match is the pickguard logo. Could’ve it been replaced? Maybe, who knows, but the mystery still remains.
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In case you want to talk to me privatly, please use the contact form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. (Dan)go back to the Kurt Cobain gear list