Kurt Cobain’s Fender (“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 take this piece of info with a grain of salt as there doesn’t seem to be an actual source behind it. Also, based just on the looks of it, it seems that this guitar is just something Kurt picked up possibly even for free and worked on it himself until he made it playable.

He often appeared onstage with other models, including a sunburst left-handed Greco Mustang copy that he bought from Guitar Maniacs. The Mustang copy allegedly was destroyed on July 9, 1989, but it may have experienced some form of reincarnation since a similar guitar is seen in photos of Nirvana on January 6, 1990.

Guitar World The Life & Genius of Kurt Cobain, By Guitar World

Furthermore, although there’s popular lore that Kurt did own a Greco Mustang, probably originating from the quote above, there’s really no telling whether the guitar was actually a Greco. More likely, this guitar was a Fender, or at least the body was, based on all the evidence (see comments). But the fact that the Greco myth does exist, and people are likely to search for the information on it, “Greco” will be left in the title of this page.

The Guitar and its Incarnations

On the oldest photos of Kurt with the guitar, dating to November 1988 (again, you’ll have to search for these yourself, due to copyright they can’t be displayed here), the Mustang appears to have been finished in either sunburst or a solid color, and it styled a rosewood neck with no visible branding on the headstock. The guitar also had no pickguard, and it only had a single pickup in the bridge, identical to those fitted on a Univox Hi-Flier 3 guitar, and the white control plate from that same model.

This means that most likely this pickup came directly from the Univox that Kurt smashed in October, and goes along with the theory that this Mustang is something Kurt pieced together himself.

Fast forward a couple of months, by January 1989 the guitar appears to have been sanded down to bare wood. Also, a Soundgarden sticker was placed just above the bridge, and Kurt cut out an old vinyl record and used it as a pickguard. Although photos available of this guitar are really blurry and it’s hard to say for sure, it seems that Kurt used a vinyl record of a Christian sermon dubbed Where Are The Dead? published by Thomas Road Baptist Church.

By April 7, 1989, the body seemed to have been painted light blue, and the improvised vinyl pickguard was replaced with a proper Mustang pickguard in white. The neck, the pickup, and the control plate all remained the same – if indeed this was the same guitar.

The guitar can also be seen on the cover of the Bleach album. Note that Jason Everman, whos on the right, himself had a vinyl record pickguard. In his case, it was a copy of Venom’s At War With Satan.

From then on the guitar didn’t see much stage light, and for the next few months, Kurt mainly used a maple neck Univox Hi-Flier instead. Many have assumed that the guitar was smashed sometime in mid-1989 and that that was the end of it. However, there’s no photographic evidence of this, which opens a door to another theory.

The Final Incarnation or a Separate Guitar?

It appears that a guitar similar to Kurt’s old Greco Mustang was seen on the footage from February 14, 1990 (see video below). The Mustang is at this point painted light blue and fitted with a dark-colored pickguard that had a cutout for the neck pickup.

After Kurt smashed the guitar in the above video, filmed on February 9, 1990, at the Pine Street Theater, years later, most of what was left of it ended up on display at the EMP (now Museum of Pop Culture) founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000. They themselves have posted a piece regarding the history of this guitar at – THE BRIEF, BEAUTIFUL JOURNEY OF COBAIN’S MUSTANG.

Kurt’s Mustang guitar on display at the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Seattle. Photo by: Davide Costanzo/Flickr

The guitar pictured above was obviously repainted at least twice. According to the article posted by MoPoP, it was painted white at some point in mid-1989, and blue later that year. However, there doesn’t appear to be a single photo in existence of this guitar painted in white, so that part of the story is far from well established.

What makes sense logically is that Kurt probably painted it light blue first (note the lighter shade of blue around the control plate), in April 1989. Then, around early 1990, when he painted one of his other guitars, a 1970s Gibson SG, he could’ve used the rest of the paint on this Mustang. The SG was smashed on February 17th, while the Mustang on February 14th. So as far as the dates, this story would make sense.

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Rych
Rych
10 months ago

Also if you look at the Smashed Mustang from display at the Experience Music Project/MoPoP, Seattle. It had the the whole for a Fender Vibrato Tremolo Plate. As Kurt’s Home Made Sonic Blue one Doesn’t have it….

the Fender Mustang was Originally Red with No Pickguard, and Kurt added a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker and the broken bottom half of the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Pickguard as the Control Panel. It also had a Soundgarden Sticker on the body.

Jan ’89 Kurt Fashioned a Pickguard from a Record of a Christian Sermon dubbed “Where Are The Dead?” published by Thomas Road Baptist Church.

By April ’89 the Mustang was Painted Light Green, Had a White Pearloid Mustang Pickguard added
but the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker, and the Broken Bottom half of the Univox Hi-Flier Pickguard used as a Control Panel stayed the Same.

it disappeared after April ’89 as in May 1989 Kurt used a Natural Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3, In June 1989 Kurt added some Red Spray Paint to try to make it look Sunburst, this Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 was used from 05/26/89 – 07/13/89 when it was smashed at Maxwell’s Hoboken NJ.

July 18, 1989 Kurt started using a White Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 which was used from 07/18/89 – 11/11/89 when it was smashed.

From that point Kurt used a Red Hagström II F-200 which was used until it too was smashed on 11/27/89 Rome Italy. For the last 5 shows 11/29/89, 11/30/89, 12/01,89, 12/02/89 and 12/03/89 Kurt used a Black and White Washburn Force 31 then it was smashed 12/03/89 at the end of the European Tour.

December 20, 1989 Kurt bought a Hondo 737 from Too Kick Jewelry & Loans, Tacoma, WA.

January 6, 1990 East Ballroom Husky Union Building University of Washington Seattle WA Kurt used the Gibson SG (he got from Sluggo from trading his 1973 Sunburst Fender Mustang July 16, 1989) which Kurt fixed up the Gibson SG after Returning home From Europe in 1989, Painting it Light Blue, adding a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker in the bridge and some kind of Single-Coil Pickup in the Neck Position. January 6, 1990 Kurt used the Gibson SG, the Hondo 737 and also had the Red Epiphone ET-270 which wasn’t used…. Kurt used the Hondo 737 from January 6, 1990 – January 12, 1990 when it was Smashed at Satyricon Portland OR.

Kurt used the Gibson SG on and Off along with the Epiphone ET-270 on February 9, 1990 Pine Street Theater Portland OR Kurt brought back the Fender Mustang that was last seen in April 1989, and it was smashed at the end of 02/09/90 Pine Street Theater Portland OR then Kurt had 3 Home Made Hybrid Mustangs the first one the Sonic Blue with a Black Pickguard and had a Jesus gethsemane picture on it that Mustang was smashed 02/14/90 Kennel Club San Francisco CA, the Shell Pink Home Made Hybrid Mustang was smashed 02/16/90 Bogart’s Long Beach CA, And the following day Kurt smashed the Gibson SG on 02/17/90 Iguanas Tijuana Mexico

Kurt used his Epiphone ET-270 from February 1990 to April 26, 1990 when Kurt smashed it at the Pyramid Club New York NY. For the next couple shows
04/27/90 – 04/30/90 Kurt used his 3rd and Final Homemade Hybrid Mustang which was seen in the “Sub Pop” In Bloom Music Video.

from there on Kurt Smashed his Sunn Beta Amps on May 1, 1990 the following day May 2, 1990 Kurt bought a Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp, Crown Power Base 2 Poweramp and the Aria Pro II Cardinal Series. Some time in August Kurt Bought the Mosrite Gospel Mark IV Guitar, which Kurt used as his Main Guitar and the Aria Pro II Cardinal Series as a Backup, Kurt Smashed the Aria Pro II Cardinal Series at the end of the 09/22/90 Motor Sports International Garage Seattle WA show. So Dave Grohl’s first show with Nirvana 10/11/90 North Shore Surf Club Olympia WA Kurt used the Mosrite Gospel Mark IV the entire show…. Before heading over to Europe to play a BBC Session and do a 6-Show UK Tour with L7 sometime in October 1990 Kurt Bought his very first Fender Stratocaster a White Made in Japan Fender Stratocaster that had a Black Slanted Humbucker in the bridge and the “K” Records Sticker on the top of the body. Which by now this White Fender MIJ “K” Strat became Kurt’s main guitar and the Mosrite Gospel Mark IV as a Back up.

the Last time the Mosrite Gospel Mark IV guitar was used was 02/09/90 when Kurt & Dave played with Slim Moon’s band Witchypoo.

From January 18, 1991 Kurt used the White MIJ “K” Records Strat the whole show except for Endless Nameless which Kurt used a Red Matsumoku Memphis Stratocaster with Matching Headstock this was smashed with a Hammer at the end of the show…by March 1991 Kurt bought a Black and White MIJ Fender Stratocaster that he also added a Black Humbucker. The White “K” Strat & the Black and White MIJ Stratocasters were Kurt’s main guitars from March – April 1991. (During the Nevermind Sessions in May 1991 Kurt broke the Neck off the Black and White Japanese Fender Stratocaster, in June 1991 Kurt started using a Brand New Fender MIJ Stratocaster with a 3-Ply Black/White/Black Pickguard and had a Black Humbucker installed this became known as the “Vandalism” Stratocaster which didn’t get the Sticker until August 1991. During the September Nevermind North American Tour Kurt’s Black and White Japanese Fender Stratocaster that had the neck smashed off at Sound City during the Recording of Endless Nameless at the Nevermind Sessions now has a New Fender Neck, Has a Metal Chrome Humbucker Ring around the Black Humbucker, And the Original Fender Bridge was replaced with a Gibson-Style Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stop Tailpiece (like on a Les Paul/SG) it was used during the North American Nevermind Tour 09/20/91 – 10/12/91 when it wasn’t seen again.

and the List of guitars from this point on is pretty much well Known…..

kurt lover
kurt lover
1 year ago

you forgot kurt strato acoustic guitar, heart shaped box guitar and the nevermind photo set underwater with a les paul

Rych
Rych
10 months ago
Reply to  kurt lover

It’s NOT a Strato Acoustic guitar Kurt had it was a 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Which has more of a pointy Headstock kind of like a Jackson Guitar) singe the Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic/Electric had a Neckplate Kurt just replaced the Neck on the Body of the Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic Electric Guitar (Most likely Kurt added a Fender Made In Japan (Fejigen) Stratocaster Neck as they are Short-Scale and More thin then American/Made Fender Stratocasters and plus since Kurt Smashed this Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic/Electric in April 92′ it makes more sense as it to be a Japanese Fender Stratocaster Neck as in 1991/1992 Those are the Only Models of Fender Stratocasters Kurt used… (Besides the Sunburst American Stratocaster used at the 1992 Reading Festival) 08/30/1992.
The “Heart-Shaped Box” Guitar is a 1977 Univox Hi-Flier Phase 4 White
serial # 037472. Used in the Heart-Shaped Box video. Purchased at a NYC pawn shop in the Chelsea district. It had vintage Schaller Tuners and a B.C. Rich Made Badass Bridge. It had different string trees than the one used in the video, it had black roller-type graphite string trees. It was used in the “Heart-Shaped Box” Music Video August 31 & September 2, 1993 and then on October 21, Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS Kurt Smashed the White 1977 Univox Hi-Flier Phase 4.

And the Last guitar you’ve mentioned wasn’t an original Les Paul, it was an Black Epiphone Les Paul which was used for (and probably only for) the “Nevermind” under photoshoot.

Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

I really don’t think this guitar is a Greco but a real Fender Mustang, if you read Kurt’s Journals you can check out a letter he wrote to Dale Crover where he tells him about a left handed Fender Mustang that he bought from a bunch of “greeners” for 20 bucks because apparently the guitar was in rough shape and he refers to it as a “pre cbs” mustang.

KC6794
KC6794
1 year ago
Reply to  Leandro

Leandro you are correct. There are photos of this guitar that show parts of it pretty close up. In one of those photos you can clearly see the Fender logo on the vibrato. There is also an interview from 1990 with Chad and Krist where Krist describes the guitar and how they attained it. He mentions several times that it was a “real Fender”. When they got the guitar it was missing all the electronics as well as the pickguard and control plate. The guitars above from the Kennel club and from the In Bloom video are not this guitar. They are 2 of 3 homemade Mustangs that Kurt and Krist built.

Last edited 1 year ago by KC6794
Leandro
Leandro
1 year ago

I hope KC6794 answers regarding that interview….in case you need it, here you have a few screenshots of the letter Kurt wrote to Dale Crover. https://imgur.com/IxNy8TV https://imgur.com/vbYqmMr

Rych
Rych
10 months ago

It’s not a Greco, it’s a Fender, Left Handed…

Make/Model: Fender Mustang, Left-handed.

Finish: Red, Sanded down, Nov ’88 Painted Light Green, April ’89

Pickguard: None, Nov ’88 Fashioned from a Record of a Christian Sermon dubbed “Where Are The Dead?” published by Thomas Road Baptist Church, Jan ’89 White Pearloid, April ’89

Fingerboard: Rosewood w/ dot inlays; 22 frets, Nov ’88 Rosewood w/ dot inlays; 21 frets, Feb ’90

Pickups: H-X (Univox Humbucker installed in the bridge position, neck pickup cavity left empty)

Other Distinguishing features: Control plate fashioned from a broken Univox Pickguard, Soundgarden sticker applied to front, Nov ’88

First Recorded Use: 11/23/88 – Speedy O’Tubbs Rhythmic Underground, Bellingham WA.

Last Recorded Use: 02/09/90 – Pine Street Theater Portland OR.

Cole
Cole
7 months ago
Reply to  Rych

It Defiantly was not a fender cause Kurt couldn’t afford one I really don’t know what brand it was.

Keva
Keva
9 months ago

I had a few Japanese Mustangs that were basically exactly the same as a Fenders but with truss rod adjustment at the headstock under a brand called EAGLE. I still have the body somewhere, and it was a multi-piece body out of what looks like mahogany. Very well-made instruments.

Rych
Rych
6 months ago

That entire “Section” that says He often appeared onstage with other models, including a sunburst left-handed Greco Mustang copy that he bought from Guitar Maniacs. The Mustang copy allegedly was destroyed on July 9, 1989, but it may have experienced some form of reincarnation since a similar guitar is seen in photos of Nirvana on January 6, 1990.

“I’ve talked to a Greco collector since the 1960s and Apparently Greco Never made any “Mustang” style guitars….And the Mustang that Kurt used from 11/23/1988 – 02/09/1990 which has gone through many changes as it was originally a Red Finish which was sanded down to brown, and had the Soundgarden Sticker on it and had No Pickguard or Neck Pickup it just had the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker installed in the bridge and the Control Plate was the broken half of the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Pickguard which still had the Toggle switch (if you look closely Kurt used Duct Tape to build a half a wall around it to block it from being hit, and it still had the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Vol, Tone and Input Jack on the Mustang which was a Fender Mustang (Kurts First Left-Handed guitar), as it was used on 11/23/1988 Speedy O’ Tubbs, Rhythmic Underground, Bellingham, WA which was the next show after the 10/30/1988 K208 (Dorm Party) The Evergreen State College Olympia WA where Kurt Smashed his Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Sunburst (smashed his guitar for the first time) and Kurt used that Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 from 1985 to 10/30/1988… So the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker and the Broken half of the Pickguard used as a Mustang Control Plate most likely came from that broken Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3. And then In January 1989 Kurt added the Home Made Vinyl Record Pickguard from the Christian Sermon dubbed “Where Are The Dead?” published by Thomas Road Baptist Church.

By April ’89 the Mustang was Painted Light Green, Had a White Pearloid Mustang Pickguard added
but the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker, and the Broken Bottom half of the Univox Hi-Flier Pickguard used as a Control Panel stayed the Same.

One Reason Kurt could of Removed the “Soundgarden” Sticker and the Home Made Pickguard made from a Vinyl Record could be because
Jason Everman, Also had the same exact Soundgarden Sticker under the Bridge of his Telecaster, and also himself had a vinyl record pickguard. In his case, it was a copy of Venom’s At War With Satan.

it disappeared after April ’89 as in May 1989 Kurt used a Natural Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3, In June 1989 Kurt added some Red Spray Paint to try to make it look Sunburst, this Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 was used from 05/26/89 – 07/13/89 when it was smashed at Maxwell’s Hoboken NJ.

The 2 MAIN parts where that “Section” is 100% Wrong is where it said He often appeared onstage with other models, including a sunburst left-handed Greco Mustang copy that he bought from Guitar Maniacs. The Mustang copy allegedly was destroyed on July 9, 1989, That Mustang that was Used for Only 2 Shows (07/08/1989 Club Dreamers, Chicago, IL and 07/09/1989 The Sonic Temple, Masonic Temple, Williamsburg, PA) that was Not a Greco, and was Not Left-Handed, that Mustang was a 1973 Fender Sunburst Mustang (Right-Handed) Flipped upside down and strung Lefty, and it had No Neck Pickup, and had a Piece of Masking tape covering the empty pickup cavity, and had a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker installed in the bridge… Kurt Smashed it at the end of the July 9, 1989 Show and on July 16, 1989 while in Watertown MA Kurt traded the Smashed 1973 Sunburst Fender Mustang for a Smashed 1970s Gibson SG from Sluggo Cawley, Guitarist from the Boston band Hullabaloo. It was Smashed into 3 or 4 pieces being held together by Duct tape, it’s the broken Mustang Kurt signed it for Sluggo saying “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.

which Sluggo 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.

And the Second thing that is Completely wrong is the “but it may have experienced some form of reincarnation since a similar guitar is seen in photos of Nirvana on January 6, 1990.”

As there was NO MUSTANGS used at the January 6, 1990 East Ballroom, Husky Union Building, University of Washington, Seattle WA show Kurt Mainly used the 1970s Gibson SG that Kurt repaired and painted light blue that he fixed by Adding a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker in the bridge and some kind of Single-Coil pickup in the neck (which is the Gibson SG Kurt got from Sluggo on July 16, 1989 after trading his Smashed 1973 Sunburst Fender Mustang for the Sluggo’s Broken Gibson SG) and besides the Gibson SG the other Guitar Kurt used was a Black with White Pickguard Right-Handed flipped upside down, Strung Lefty Hondo 737 that Kurt bought on December 20, 1989 from Too Kick Jewelry & Loans, Tacoma, WA.
The 1970s Epiphone ET-270 Red Burst was also there (but wasn’t used), the Hondo 737 only lasted 6 Days, as it was first used on January 6, 1990 East Ballroom Husky Union Building University of Washington Seattle WA and then it was Smashed at the end of the January 12, 1990 Satyricon Portland OR show.

So I figure I would just Correct that False Information……

auak
auak
4 months ago
kurt destroyed a guitar on pine street on 02/09. 
it looks like that guitar, but I'm not sure.
take a look there 
https://livenirvana.com/concerts/90/90-02-09.php
Last edited 4 months ago by auak