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.
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 in 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.
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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