Kurt Cobain’s 1960s Univox Hi-Flier Custom

This guitar was first seen on October 3, 1992, at Carver Gymnasium in Bellingham, Washington. Given that the band wasn’t performing much around this time, compared to late 1991 and early 1992, it is likely that Kurt purchased this guitar and worked on it himself in his free time, doing all the mods, with the goal to make something the would fit his needs perfectly. To remind you, Univox Hi-Flier is the first known electric guitar that Kurt ever owned, so it makes sense that he would buy another one now that he had money, and try and make it better.

Specs, Mods

The guitar featured sunburst finish, rosewood fretboard, and a red tortoiseshell pickguard and truss rod cover. Based on the specs, the raised plastic “Univox” logo on the headstock, and the two rocker switches – this was a Phase One Custom model, that was originally shipped with two P90-style pickups.

Kurt (or whoever did the mods) replaced with stock pickups with Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Bridge and SH-1 59 Neck pickups and installed the Ibanez Gibraltar bridge (vintage version with mounting studs, similar to Gibson’s Tune-o-Matic) instead of the original. The the two rocker switches used for pickup selection were also taped over, likely to avoid accidental toggles.

A replica of Kurt’s Univox (left) compared to a stock model (right). Photo source: Reverb – Univox Hi flier custom 1968 Kurt Cobain mod / Reverb – Univox Phase One Hi-Flier Custom – 1968/69

Usage

Given the time period, this guitar was used, it is highly likely that Kurt recorded some of the stuff from ‘In Utero’ on it. However, there are no photos available from those studio sessions, so this is for the most part just a guess.

As far as using the guitar for live performances, Kurt had it with him for the couple of shows he did in Brasil in October 1992, and then picked it up again in 1993 and used it during the band’s second Saturday Night Live appearance on September 25th. That was also the last time the guitar was ever seen.

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