Kurt Cobain’s 1960s Univox Hi-Flier Custom

access_time First seen circa 1992

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.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Continue browsing, or go subdirectory_arrow_leftBack to Kurt Cobain Gear Page
access_time 1991

1965 Fender Jaguar

This guitar is probably one of the most recognizable guitars used by Kurt, probably because it was used extensively during the ‘Nevermind’ tour. Although it’s impossible to say for sure just based on photos, it seems that Kurt didn’t use it live until the start of the European tour, circa mid-August 1991. It is however very likely that he acquired it at least a few weeks prior to this. I own a […]

access_time 1991

Fender Stratocaster “Vandalism”

This is perhaps Kurt’s most widely known and most recognizable Stratocaster. The first time it appeared seems to be sometime around June 1991, and at that time it was used alongside another black Stratocaster, but with a white pickguard. Given that this is the first guitar that Kurt played live following the Nevermind studio sessions, it is possible that he used it on the album to some extent. When the […]

access_time 1988

Greco Mustang

This Mustang first appeared in late 1988, and it directly replaced a Univox Hi-Flier that Kurt smashed on October 30, 1988, in Olympia. It appears to be the first left-handed guitar that Kurt ever owned, and one that he modified pretty extensively. Kurt allegedly bought the Mustang at Guitar Maniacs shop in Tacoma, WA. However, the shop’s owner is only quoted saying that Kurt bought a bunch of Univoxes from him, so […]

access_time 1992

Fender Telecaster "<3 Courtney"

This guitar first appeared at Hordern Pavilion gig in Sydney, Australia on January 25, 1992. It originally styled a 3-tone sunburst finish, but Kurt sprayed the whole body with blue latex paint and carved out a heart and Courtney’s name on it. It also originally featured two single coils pickups – but the bridge pickup was replaced with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails – something Kurt would often do on his guitars from this point on. Kurt played […]

access_time 1986

1970s Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3

This is one of the first guitars (likely the first electric guitar) that Kurt ever bought. To try and figure out when exactly Kurt acquired and used the guitar, we mostly have to draw clues from these photos, which unfortunately have no official dating, so we’re left to theory craft. Kurt Cobain’s Univox Hi-Flier On close inspection of those photos we see a few concert flyers on the wall behind Kurt; there’s […]

access_time 1991

1969 Fender Competition Mustang

This guitar is undoubtedly best known for its appearance in the music video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, filmed on August 17, 1991. Given that this is the first time chronologically that Kurt ever used it, it assumed that the Mustang was purchased somewhere around that same time. The first time that Kurt used the guitar for an actual live gig appears to be at Beehive Music & Video store in Seattle on […]

access_time 1993

Fender Mustang 'Oranj-Stang'

This guitar was first seen on July 23, 1993, at Roseland Ballroom, NYC. At that point, the guitar was completely stock, and it featured a fiesta red finish and had a red Pearloid pickguard with two white single coil pickups installed in it. Allegedly, this was one of the four Fender Mustangs that Kurt acquired prior to the ‘In Utero’ tour, with three of them being finished in blue. All […]

access_time 1991

Fender Stratocaster (Black, smashed during “Endless, Nameless”)

In early 1991 Kurt started playing a black left-handed Stratocaster with a white pickguard and a full-sized humbucker in the bridge position. The first time the guitar was photographed appears to be March 8, 1991, at Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Canada. Nevermind Studio Sessions Kurt had this guitar with him when the band entered the studio for the second time to finish up the album, in May 1991, during which they recorded most […]

access_time 1993

Fender Mustang 'Sky-Stang II'

This was second of the three blue Fender Mustangs that Kurt acquired sometime prior to the ‘In Utero’ tour, and one of the four Mustangs in total he used around that time – the fourth one being a red one. All four guitars were modified in a similar way sometime between July and October 1993 – with their bodies being routed out in order to fit a full sized humbucker […]

access_time 1992

Fender Stratocaster (Sunburst, Reading Festival)

This guitar was first used Reading Festival in Reading, England, UK, on August 30, 1992. Kurt started off the set with his 1965 Fender Jaguar but switched to this Stratocaster at around 30-minute mark, and played it for most of the gig, aside from a few songs on which he used another black colored Strat. The guitar was most likely brand new since it was the first sunburst Strat that […]

Interested in other artists? Check out GroundGuitar's subdirectory_arrow_rightGear Page