date_range 1989

Kurt Cobain’s 1973 Fender Mustang

Kurt was seen playing this guitar only on one occasion, at The Sonic Temple, Wilkinsburg, PA on July 9, 1989, which of courses raises many questions such as – where was the guitar before this, why was it never used, and when did Kurt actually acquire it in the first place. To remind you, prior to using this guitar, Kurt had played a maple neck Univox Hi-Flier, which according to most sources, he destroyed on July 13, 1989 – which was Nirvana’s next gig chronologically looking.

So it appears that the Fender Mustang was used on July 9th just so Kurt could have something to destroy at the end of the gig. It is, however, unknown why he didn’t just use the Univox, since he ended up trashing that guitar just a few days later, and ended up not having a guitar to play on during Nirvana’s gig on July 15, 1989, in Boston.

The band’s first Hub gig was at Green Street Station on July 15, 1989, a show notable in its own right: Cobain, who broke his guitar the night before, performed the entire nine-song set without one. [Boston remembers Kurt Cobain]

What is slightly troubling about this theory is that both the source above, and Sluggo Cawley, with whom the Mustang ended up with, claim that Kurt destroyed it the night before he played in Boston, which would be July 14th. However, according to most sources, Nirvana played no gig on the night of 14th. This means that either the theory is somewhat wrong, or that Cawley got the dates mixed up. To remind you, most sources agree that on July 14th Kurt destroyed his maple neck Univox.

Kurt asked me if he could have the smashed Gibson SG I had hanging on my wall. (..) So I said, “Sure, but now I won’t have one for my wall.” Kurt replied, “I’ll be right back.” He went out to their van and presented me a 1973 Fender Mustang that he deemed beyond repair. He had smashed it at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey the night before the Green Street show with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth watching. In sort of mock guitar hero worship, I asked him to sign it for me.

He wrote, “Yo Sluggo, thanx for the trade. If its illegal to rock and roll, then throw my ass in jail. NIRVANA.” He also wrote “vox pick-up” with an arrow, but I have lost that piece of the pickguard. There are also two of his flowers he liked to draw on things. The guitar has a serial number on the base of the neck – 4900 1853. It is in three or 4 pieces held together by duct tape. [FEATURE: Kurt Cobain: Still Taking Care of His Friends]

But even more troubling is Kurt’s statement from an interview on July 14, 1989, in which he said that Tracy (his girlfriend at the time) had sent him another Univox from Seattle, and from what was said, it is obvious that he had the guitar with him at the time of the interview. So this whole thing about Kurt not having a guitar to play on July 15, 1989, in Boston seems pretty confusing.

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. Luckily, Matt brought me another one from Seattle that my girlfriend bought for me, and I made sure I had the new one in my hands before I break this one. [Nirvana – Interview 07/14/89. Interviewer: John Robb]

Be that as it may, as already stated, the 1973 Fender Mustang ended up with Sluggo Cawley on July 16, 1989, and Kurt got Sluggo old Gibson SG in exchange. Cawley kept the guitar with him for decades, until he decided to sell in late November 2008 to Adam Sender, a New York Investor with a large private art collection for $100,000. If you’re more interested in Cawley story of how he came to own the guitar, it is highly recommended that you read FEATURE: Kurt Cobain: Still Taking Care of His Friends.

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