Kurt Cobain’s 1960s Univox Hi-Flier Custom

This guitar was first seen on October 3, 1992, at Carver Gymnasium in Bellingham, Washington. It was given to Kurt by his guitar tech, Ernie Bailey, that same night, backstage just before the gig, and Kurt apparently liked it so much that he decided to use it right away.

To remind you, the Univox Hi-Flier is the first known electric guitar that Kurt ever owned, so it makes sense that Ernie would choose this exact model as a gift.

Specs, Mods

The guitar featured a 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.

Ernie 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 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 in which 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 Argentina 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.

Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box (SNL Rehearsal)

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Elias
Elias
6 months ago

Does anyone know what happened to that hi flier?

Brady
Brady
1 year ago

Ernie Bailey talks about showing up at the Bellingham WA show excited to give Kurt a new guitar he had set up for him. Kurt liked it so much (there’s pictures of him being presented with it from Ernie) that he immediately went out on stage and used it

sdf
sdf
9 months ago
Reply to  Brady

can you post that picture please?

Adam
Adam
8 months ago
Reply to  sdf

You can see Kurt talking to somebody here backstage on October 3, 1992 and you can see the univox headstock at the bottom. As said above Earnie gave it to Kurt that night and he went up and used it during the show and part of night after as well as in Argentina at the end of October.

F10693B6-DC49-4BC9-886B-D76D92732EA3.jpeg
Bleach Stain
Bleach Stain
2 years ago

Interesting fact: This is the guitar which was using while recording “You know you’re right”

Ruddle
Ruddle
1 year ago
Reply to  Bleach Stain

The ykyr guitar was owned by Ernie Bailey, kurt turned up to the session with no guitar.

Roderick
Roderick
2 years ago

The SNL picture appears to show the pickups with single pole pieces, so would he have switched out the Duncans or was this a different guitar?

Javier Miralles
Javier Miralles
2 years ago

Nirvana played in Argentina on October 30th, 1992. Kurt used this guitar on this show. They played at the Hollywood Rock Festival in Brazil on January 1993

William
William
2 years ago

No thats a phase 2 phase 2 got a white pickguard and 1 redd turtoise.

Javier Miralles
Javier Miralles
2 years ago
Reply to  William

I wasn’t talking about the guitar. I was talking about the shows…