date_range 1988

Kurt Cobain’s 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]

The Guitar and its Reincarnations

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 sunburst, 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 chrome 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 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 – meaning that it was most likely that exact same guitar repainted, as opposed to a different one.

From then on the guitar didn’t see much stage light, and for the next couple of months, Kurt mainly used a maple neck Univox Hi-Flier instead. Many have assumed that the guitar was smashed on 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 Reincarnation 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 obviously fitted with a dark-colored pickguard which has a cutout for the neck pickup (a detail important to remember for later comparison).

After Kurt smashed the guitar in the above video, filmed on February 14, 1990, at Kennel Club, San Francisco, CA, 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.

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

The “Final” Final Reincarnation?

A guitar that looked suspiciously similar to this one appeared around early 1990, prompting many to suspect that this could be the final reincarnation of Kurt’s old Greco Mustang. There are however several issues with this theory.

Most famously, the guitar was featured on the alternative version of the In Bloom music video [Nirvana – In Bloom; YouTube]

First and foremost, the old guitar was obviously destroyed on the night of February 14th, and the second guitar was seen two days earlier, on February 12th. Next to that, the body on this guitar, although finished in the same color as the old one, had no cavity routed out for the neck pickup, and the bridge pickup, although the same model as the one used on the old guitar, has black plastic bobbins, while all of Kurt’s Univoxes (from which the pickup must have originated from) had white ones. Also worth pointing out, but less troubling since it’s fairly a simple thing to modify, the headstock was painted black on the “new” guitar.

So is it possible that Kurt left the guitar in Seattle in mid-1989, and then returned to it in February 1990, destroyed it, but then by April fixed it up again and filled up the neck pickup cavity, repainted the body again in the same color, replaced the control plate and the pickup? It seems highly unlikely, and it makes more sense that the “In Bloom” Mustang was a separate guitar.

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