Kurt Cobain’s Fender Jag-Stang

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Sometime around early 1993, Kurt came up with an idea to make his own guitar, or more precisely, to produce a completely new model of a guitar. The first drawings were done by Kurt himself (these were later published in the book “Journals”), with the design being based on a mix of a Mustang and a Jaguar model.

The Design

Based on the photographs published in “Journals”, Kurt seemed to have figured out the shape of the body quite quickly – but struggled somewhat with the headstock, eventually ending up with a standard Fender shape. He came up with the body shape by taking a Polaroid picture of a Mustang and a Jaguar, and cutting them so that the lower portion of the body was basically Jaguar, while the upper and the lower horns were from a Mustang.

What I did is I took a picture of a Mustang, a Polaroid picture of a Mustang and a picture of a Jaguar and then cut them in half and glued them together and told them to build that. So that’s what it is. It’s the Jag-Stang.

Nardwuar vs. Nirvana pt 3 of 3
Kurt’s used a polaroid photo of a Mustang during the design process. Photo source: Journals by Kurt Cobain

The pickguard shape, control layout, and the tailpiece were all taken directly from a Mustang model.

The earlier design of the Jag-Stang included a Dean-esque headstock, which Fender likely had to avoid using. Photo source: Journals by Kurt Cobain

Chronology, First Prototype, and Tryouts

Based on a quote from Larry Brooks, a Fender Custom Shop master builder who worked on the guitar, Fender sent out a prototype to Kurt which he used for a while, before sending it back with a request to change some of the stuff.

It was his concept, and we detailed and contoured it to give him balance and feel. He was really easy to work with. I had a chance to sit and talk with him; then we built him a prototype. He played it a while and then wrote some suggestions on the guitar and sent it back to us. The second time around, we got it right.

Cobain’s Brainstorm: The Jigsaw Story of the Jag-Stang

It is, however, unknown whether this prototype model was the exact same guitar used later by Kurt, just modified, or a completely different guitar. Based on photos, each time Kurt used the Jag-Stang between December 1993 and March 1994, the guitar was always exactly the same. Based on this, the former seems more likely, otherwise, we would obviously see some changes on the guitar.

So, whatever this first prototype model was, Kurt likely didn’t use it live. He did however at least try it, which was likely sometime in the summer of 1993, which would give Fender enough time to finish the final prototype and ship it to Kurt by November 1993, which is the first time the guitar is ever mentioned, chronologically looking (more on this later).

Specs

As far as specs, the final prototype which Kurt used himself featured light blue finish on an alder body, and a 24-inch scale maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. The neck pickup was a single-coil Fender Texas Special, while the humbucker bridge that was originally shipped with the guitar was a DiMarzio H-8.

There has been some confusion related to the model of the humbucker, as Fender’s director of artist relations, Mark Wittenberg apparently made a mistake in one of the interviews. Furthermore, all of the photos of the guitar clearly show a Seymour Duncan JB pickup,

Mark Wittenberg stated somewhere that Kurt’s JS came stock with an H-3, but it was actually an H-8. I swapped it out for a white Duncan JB the day before the did “MTV Unplugged”, along with Kurt’s other blue Japan Mustangs.

DO YOU HAVE ANY INFO ON THE DIMARZIO H-3 OR H-8? – Jag-Stang.com
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Bassman
Bassman
6 months ago

The H-3 humbucker from the DiMarzio custom shop has a ceramic magnet, and it is most similar to the stock Evolution neck pickup. However, the pickup which was originally installed in the prototype was lower in output, similar to vintage Les Paul pickups, or a SD 59. He did not like the sound of it, and he never touched the neck single coil. He only started to enjoy that guitar after the SD JB was installed. I read this in an interview with Earnie Bailey a few years ago.

Diego Ambrósio
Diego Ambrósio
2 months ago

I have two questions to which perhaps, someone might know the answer.
01) COLOR. Why blue and red if Kurt Cobain specified “green” on the draft? 02) HEADSTOCK. why was the big one used instead of the “small” one specified on the draft?
PS: “small” means “middle one”, otherwise it would be the Telecaster headstock which I believe it is not what Kurt Cobain meant.

Esteban Bardi
Esteban Bardi
1 month ago

You can see this guitar on the REM vídeo, what’s the Frequency Kenneth, Peter Buck playing that jag-stang…also the recording of the track “let me in” was Made with that guitar.