Kurt Cobain’s 1969 Fender Competition Mustang

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This guitar is undoubtedly best known for its appearance in the music video for the song Smells Like Teen Spirit, filmed on August 17, 1991. Given that this is the first time chronologically that Kurt ever used it, it is likely that the Mustang was purchased approximately somewhere around that same time.

To try and get the more exact date – there’s a quote from Krist that states that Kurt got a left-handed Mustang, and wrote a bunch of songs on it.

If Kurt ever got a new guitar, he would just get infatuated with it. There’s like ten songs, right there! He would be playing it all the time, and it’s like – look at all these tunes, because he liked this new guitar.

We bought this left-handed Mustang, we went to this party at the Evergreen State College, and we bought it for like fifty bucks off this dude. […] So he was compelled, there was this drive, he had a gift as an artist, expressive, he was compelled to do it. Because he never like chores. If it was a chore, he’d have nothing to do with it.

EMP|SFM Oral History Live! series, Krist Novoselic

It is possible that Krist is referring to this exact Mustang in this quote, so that would mean that Kurt used this guitar to come up with most songs that were later recorded on Nevermind. It’s however also possible that he’s referring to the other Mustang that Kurt used on Bleach, since the origin story of that guitar is far from well established.

Be that as it may, the first time that Kurt used this guitar for an actual live gig appears to be at Beehive Music & Video store in Seattle on September 16, 1991, which was right after the band returned from the European tour and was about to release their second album, Nevermind, on September 24. After the release, the album slowly started climbing the Billboard Top 200 list, achieving #144 in the first week, #109 second, #65 third, #35 fourth, and then went #17, #9, #4, and finally hit #1 on January 11, 1992, losing a few rankings in between. At that point, the album was selling around 300,000 copies a week.

Nevermind tour, In Utero studio sessions

It seems that Kurt used the Mustang only occasionally during the Nevermind tour, as it was seen only on a few odd gigs early on – for example, at a gig played at First Avenue, Minneapolis, on October 14, 1991, and at Trees Club on October 19th. By early November, Nirvana went on a European tour, and it seems that Kurt didn’t carry the guitar with him, and relied mostly on his 1965 Fender Jaguar finished in sunburst.

The next time the Mustang guitar appeared on stage seems to be around October 1992 (see photos at Crocodile Cafe, Seattle, October 4, 1992), and it was used a few times around that period, ending with a concert played on April 9, 1993, at San Francisco’s Cow Palace (Bosnian Rape Victim Benefit). From what one can tell based on photos and videos, that was the last time Kurt was ever seen with the guitar.

But, before that, Kurt wrote most of the material for Nirvana’s next album, In Utero, which band recorded between February 12th and 26th, 1993 at the Pachyderm Recording Studio. Given that the Mustang was one of the guitars that Kurt favored at that time, it is highly likely that he used it at least to some extent during the studio sessions.

Kurt’s Favorite Guitar?

According to an interview that Kurt gave to Guitar World magazine in February 1992, this ‘Competition’ Mustang was his favorite guitar at the time, alongside his 1965 Fender Jaguar. The statement from Kurt also explains why we didn’t get the see the Mustang more often during the gigs – because Kurt didn’t want anything to happen to it.

Out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them. They’re cheap and totally inefficient, and they sound like crap and are very small. I (also) own a ’66 Jaguar. That’s the guitar I polish and baby—I refuse to let anyone touch it when I jump into the crowd. [laughs] Lately, I’ve been using a Strat live, because I don’t want to ruin my Mustang yet.

Kurt Cobain Talks Gear and More in His Final Guitar World Interview

Kurt’s Mustang was finished in lake placid blue with matching headstock and was equipped a black single coil pickup in the neck and a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge position. The only other custom thing on it appears to have been the Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge, which was allegedly Kurt’s favorite.

After Kurt’s Death

Allegedly, Courtney gave the guitar to a personal friend after Kurt’s death, and it was since then seen on a few different EMP/MoPop exhibits organized in Seattle.

Kurt’s 1969 Fender Mustang on display at the MoPoP in Seattle, WA. Photo by: prophead/Flickr
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Dr. Tinnitus
Dr. Tinnitus
1 year ago

It’s probably worth noting this guitar was used to smash a mixing board at the Trees Club.

Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

Is it posible that Kurt actually had another Blue Competition Mustang? I found a picture of him sitting next to what appears to be a right handed early 70s model. In the picture you can also see one of Krist’s Gibson Ripper basses. https://imgur.com/osi7VQJ

Dan Webb
Dan Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Leandro

It’s strung right handed though. Looks like circa 1993, maybe Pat Smears? I know he’s more of a Gibson or Gretch player, but he has been seen with fenders.

Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

Kurt also had another Mustang that was used in In Bloom’s music video (Geffen version), and also appeared briefly on Sliver. It was Daphne Blue, serial nº 207901, probably a 1967 model. https://imgur.com/WRToul2

Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

No, it’s clearly an all original mid 60s Fender Mustang in Daphne Blue, it wasn’t used live, just in videos. According to Ernie Bailey it was at Kurt’s house and it was pretty clean.

Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

Here you have another picture… https://imgur.com/eWZg9DB

Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

Unfortunately, the original source of that info is no longer available, kurtsequipment.com it refers to it like this “Chris Lawrence’s Equipment Tutorial which also contains information from Earnie Bailey, Kurt’s main guitar technician. Web address is: http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Towers/5890/kurtseq.html
 

Last edited 1 year ago by Leandro
Nick
Nick
1 year ago

 
*deleted*

Last edited 1 year ago by Nick
Alex Walker
Alex Walker
11 months ago

I think you just opened up a world of possibilities in finding information like this on dead websites! Thank you!

Last edited 11 months ago by Alex Walker
Leandro
Leandro
4 months ago

That quote from Krist Novoselic doesn’t refer to this guitar, we can confirm it is refering to the sanded down Mustang because it matches the story found on Kurt’s Journals, where he talks about how he got a “pre cbs mustang” in rough shape for only a few bucks. This quote is one more piece of evidence that proves the guitar is not a Greco, but a real Fender. You should add this quote on that article. nice find. Cheers!

João Borges
João Borges
1 month ago
Reply to  Leandro

I’m here because I just read this story in his journals and I wanted to know more about the guitar lmao

Bleach Stain
Bleach Stain
4 months ago

also it have a hot-rail in bridge.

Bleach Stain
Bleach Stain
4 months ago

Kurt smashed it in 1991 in Texas