Kurt Cobain’s 1970s Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3

access_time First seen circa 1986

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 one of the band ‘Dr. Know’ who played at Downtown Tacoma (around 2 hours drive from Kurt’s place) on September 27th, 1986, and another one of Meat Puppets and Black Flag. We also know that the picture was taken at his house in Aberdeen, WA, but not in his actual room but in the hallway connecting the rooms on the top floor (see Tour of Kurt Cobain’s Childhood Home). Kurt lived in that house from 1983 to 1984 when he was kicked out by his mom for dropping out of high school. He then went on to live with his friends until September 1986 when his mom loaned him money to move into another house with Matt Lukin from the band Melvins.

So although one can’t say for sure just from these clues, it seems that the photo of Kurt holding his Univox Hi-Flier was taken in late September 1986, in a room which was most likely set up as a temporary place for Kurt to sleep before he moved on.

About the Guitar and Usage

Kurt’s Univox was a model called Hi-Flier, and it was most likely manufactured sometime between 1974 and 1977. The main guide in determining these dates are the two humbucker pickups on the guitar which didn’t appear on this model until 1974, and the white pickguard which was replaced with a black one on sunburst models in 1977. This guitar was basically a cheap alternative to the Mosrite Ventures model, a guitar Kurt used later on in his career.

I really like Univoxes, and that’s what I play all the time. But they are hard to find because they are Mosrite copies that were made in the late 60 and the early 70s. You just have to find them by chance in pawn shops, and I’m just gonna keep breaking them every time I get one. [Nirvana – Interview 07/14/89. Interviewer: John Robb]

Kurt played this guitar presumably from around mid-80s to around 1988, which of course includes all of the early Nirvana gigs in 1987 (there are photos to prove this, but due to copyright, they can’t be displayed here; quick Google search should give you a few results though).

As can be seen on the photos shown above, the pickguard was painted pink at some point, probably with a marker, and Kurt had a ton of stickers on the body. It’s unfortunately very hard to tell what those stickers were, so if you happen to recognize any one of them, be sure to leave a comment below.

The Second Univox?

In 1988 Kurt was seen playing the exact same model of the guitar, but without all the stickers and with the pickguard being white again. Due to the lack of photos from that time period, it is unknown whether this Univox is the same guitar restored to its original condition or a different model that Kurt bought after the first one.

Photos from around 1988, showing Kurt with the Univox. Source: twitter.com/kcobaindaily

If we’re to guess, it seems more likely that this second Univox was actually the old guitar with the stickers removed. What seems weird however is that the stickers were only gone in mid-1988, and by October 1988 when the guitar was last seen (it was smashed on October 30, 1988, in Olympia), it again had a bunch of stickers on it – obviously very different from those seen on the guitar in 1986.

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 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 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 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 1990

1970s Gibson SG

Kurt played this guitar only for one or two gigs in early 1990, before he ended up smashing it beyond repair in Tijuana, Mexico on February 17, 1990. However, at that point, he already had the guitar with him for almost half a year. This Gibson SG originally belonged to Sluggo Cawley, the guitarist of the band The Grannie. Sometime around July 8th, Kurt gave him his 1973 Fender Mustang in exchange for this […]

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