Kurt Cobain’s Hondo 737 Les Paul Copy
Based on a receipt that was recently auctioned through Julien’s Live, Kurt purchased a Hondo 737 on December 20, 1989. The guitar was purchased at a pawnshop in Tacoma, WA called Top Kick Jewelry & Loans for $140.
Around the time Kurt purchased this guitar, the only other guitar that he had was a janky Gibson SG, which was barely playable. It seem then that the Hondo was purchased out of necessity, and based on photos, used only three times, between January 6th and January 12th – when Kurt smashed it at the Satyricon, Portland (see LiveNirvana for photos).
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January 6, 1990 East Ballroom Husky Union Building University of Washington Seattle WA Kurt used the Gibson SG that he got in a trade from Sluggo by giving him Kurt’s Smashed 1973 Sunburst Fender Mustang which was smashed on July 9, 1989 at The Sonic Temple Wilkinsburg PA. Kurt traded the Smashed Fender Mustang for the smashed Gibson SG with Sluggo on July 16, 1989.
At the January 6, 1990 East Ballroom Husky Union Building University of Washington Seattle WA show Kurt used the Gibson SG which was now painted Light Blue with a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker in the bridge position and some kind of Single-coil Neck Pickup, it also had loads of black Duct tape holding the bottom half of the body together… Kurt also used the Hondo 737 (but Kurt’s was Black with a white Pickguard) Kurt also had the Red 1970s Epiphone ET-270 but it wasn’t used.
Kurt only used the Hondo 737 from January 6 1990 East Ballroom Husky Union Building University of Washington Seattle WA to January 12, 1990 Satyricon Portland OR which he Smashed at the end of the show.
The old Fender Mustang which was sanded down to brown and had a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Humbucker in the bridge position,
And a Control Panel made from the Broken Half of a Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 Pickguard which had the Vol/Tone/In-Put Jack which was originally on the Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 that Kurt smashed on 10/30/1988 Dorm K208, The Evergreen State College Olympia WA and a Pickguard made from a Vinyl Record of a Christian Sermon dubbed “Where Are The Dead?” Published by Thomas Road Baptist Church. And also had a Soundgarden Sticker on the body.
By April 89′ Kurt removed the Soundgarden Sticker, and the Vinyl Record home Made Pickguard and added a White Pearloid Mustang Pickguard and painted the body Light Green, it was last seen in April ’89 (as in May of ’89 Kurt started using the Natural Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 which in June he added some Red Spray Paint to try to make it look Sunburst, Kurt used this Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 from May 26, 1989 – July 13, 1989 when it was smashed at Maxwell’s in Hoboken NJ. Then Kurt started Using a White Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3 from July 18, 1989 Pyramid Club New Music Seminar New York NY to November 11, 1989 Ecstasy, Berlin West Germany
Then Kurt used the Hagström II F-200 from 11/05/89 – 11/27/89 when it was smashed at the Piper Club, Rome Italy.
For the last 5 shows November 29, 1989, November 30, 1989, December 1, 1989, December 2, 1989 and December 3, 1989 Kurt used the Washburn Force 31 (which Kurt smashed at the end of the 12/03/89 show).
Jan 1990, Kurt used the Gibson SG, and the Hondo 737 the Hondo 737 lasted January 6, 1990 – January 12, 1990. Then Kurt used the Epiphone ET-270 & the Gibson SG and then in February 1990, on February 9, 1990 Pine Street Theater Portland OR Kurt brought back the Fender Mustang from April ’89 and Smashed it at the end of the 02/09/90 Pine Street Theater Portland Oregon show. then Kurt had these Home Made Hybrid Mustangs the first one a Sonic Blue Mustang with a Jesus gethsemane picture Black Pickguard which was used and smashed on February 14, 1990 Kennel Club, San Francisco CA Kurt had a Shell Pink Mustang that just had a Maxon Humbucker, a Schaller Non-Tremolo Bridge, a Chrome Mustang Control Panel with a Gold (Les Paul) Volume knob, Kurt had the wire from the Humbucker go over the outside of the body to the Vol Knob, then it went underneath the Control Panel the “Tone” Hole was empty, And then it went to the In-Put Jack. This Shell Pink Hybrid Mustang was used and smashed at the end of February 16, 1990 Bogart’s Long Beach CA, the next day February 17, 1989 Kurt smashed the Gibson SG at Iguanas Tijuana Mexico. Kurt then Used only the Epiphone ET-270 from the end of Feb ’90 to April 26, 1990 at the Pyramid Club New York NY when he Smashed the Epiphone ET-270, then next few shows 04/27/90, 04/28/90, 04/30/90 (and maybe 05/01/90) Kurt used his third and final Homemade Hybrid Mustang which was Surf Green and built Exactly like the Shell Pink Mustang. On May 1, 1990 at the end of the Cat’s Cradle Chapel Hill NC Kurt destroyed his Sunn Beta Lead Head Amps and the next day May 2, 1990 Kurt Bought the Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp, Crown Power Base 2 Poweramp and the Aria Pro II Cardinal Series CS-350 guitar… Which was his guitar until August when Kurt bought the Mosrite Gospel Mark IV, and then in October Kurt bought his first Fender Stratocaster which was the White Made in Japan, Fender Stratocaster with a Black Slanted Humbucker in the bridge position and the “K” Records Sticker on the top of the body…..
Based on photos from livenirvana, specifically January 6th and 12th 1990, this was a proper left handed guitar (Hondo did make them) in a dark red or black finish, with dot inlays instead of blocks- much like this persons’, who also says his has the “737” numbering. Hondo Les Paul | My Guitar Buddies
The photos Charles Peterson took from Jan 6th show it a couple of times hanging out stage left, and the third from the last in that set show Kurt actually playing it, while the SG and the Epiphone are chilling. I figured it was odd even for Kurt to buy a Les Paul if it was right handed, considering he’d sooner just buy pretty much any other guitar he could more easily flip over, so I did some snooping.
While I’m here, I’ll point out some other stuff: the “Greco” Mustang was indeed a proper Fender. You can easily tell by the distinctive routing for the bridge/tailpiece setup, especially when you compare it to the rather, well… crude bodies and necks Krist and Kurt later made in 1990 using the Fender as a template. It was from the late 70’s and from accounts was likely originally “wine” as in wine red. It originally looked like this but with a rosewood fretboard. Photobucket | 1978FenderMustangLeftHandedTransRed051.jpg
Kurt sanded it down and used as you pointed out, a record for the pickguard, and the pickup and controls from his smashed Univox, even using part of its pickguard to cover the control cavity. Had to have those humbuckers. And that’s the guitar you hear on Bleach.
Considering the background of that left-handed Fender Mustang apparently being bought in a shop, by deduction the other left-handed Fender Mustang, the SLTS Mustang, was bought off “a dude” for $50 after a party at Evergreen State College, likely in early 1991. According to Krist a number of songs came out of that guitar, which probably ended up being half of Nevermind. Also considering Butch Vig has said that a Mustang, along with his newly acquired Jaguar, his Mosrite, “a couple of Strats” (likely the white “K” Strat and the Black Strat, which after smashing during Endless Nameless, the studio guitar tech likely literally screwed back together with the Gibson style bridge and stop tailpiece) were ALL used on the record. The Mosrite was apparently used most, BTW.
So chronologically speaking, the SLTS Mustang and the 1965 Jaguar would go after the “Endless, Nameless” Strat, but before the Vandalism Strat, which was aquired during or after the Nevermind sessions, and used in conjunction with the “Endless, Nameless” Strat when they did the West Coast tour opening for Dinosaur Jr.
Speaking of the Jaguar quickly, considering it’s now known the guitar was acquired in LA, and that it was indeed on the record, that would put its’ acquisition time around the end of April 1991, probably while they were in town rehearsing. Also, it was likely actually originally a ’66 with block inlays, and it didn’t go through 3 necks. I’m not sure who or how it was dated a 1965 considering the factory date stamps on the original neck and pots were long gone by the time it was examined, but Fender started putting block inlays and binding on their Jaguars, Jazzmasters, Jazz Basses and other higher end instruments in the summer of 1966. Jaguar and Jazzmaster production started ramping down pretty quickly after 1967, so that gives Kurt’s guitar a pretty tight window of production.
Likely just a mistake, but you have the Ferrington Mustang listed as acquired in 1991, but in the write up you have it correctly as 1992. It should be listed just before the sunburst Reading Strat.
The “<3 Courtney” Telecaster can be seen in it’s original Sunburst briefly in the “Come As You Are” video.
The right handed Competition Blue Mustang from 1993 wasn’t Kurt’s. It’s Steve Turner’s from Mudhoney. They opened that show.
One cool guitar you missed was an Ibanez “Non-Reverse” Firebird that Kurt had during the rescheduled Bleach tour in 1989. You can see it leaning on the amps behind Kurt at the footage of them at the Metro in Chicago. It looked like this, but blue: 19669.jpg (350×855) (ibanezcollectors.com)
You’re right, the Hondo is definitely a solid color and not a sunburst, based on the photos from January 6th. I’ll have to change the image that I used here.
Regarding the “Greco”, I only decided to keep that in the title because there’s popular myth that it was a Greco, but I agree that it’s more likely a Fender – as is pointed out on that page. I will definitely add that this was likely the Bleach guitar though, which I’m only guessing from the dates. I don’t believe there are any photos or statements that would make it a sure thing – correct?
1969 Fender Competition Mustang – do you know the origin/source of that story – it being bought at the Evergreen State College?
Jaguar – do you remember where Butch Vig said that it was used on Nevermind, alongside those other guitars? I’d love to have that quote on the website. Also, I changed the date of acquisition to April, that does make sense.
Ferrington date is fixed – it was a mistake. 1991 instead if 1992.
Tele – yeah, I even received a very good photo of the guitar recently, from the filming, but didn’t get around to updating the article. Will do it soon.
Second Comp. Mustang – same thing, just didn’t update the page yet, but it has been pointed out to me that it belonged to Steve. I’ll fix it right now.
Ibanez – thanks, I’ll check out the footage and add the guitar.
On the “Greco” being the Bleach guitar- As far as “definitive” proof, you are correct there is no visual reference of the actual sessions that I know of. But knowing the timeline, you can look up “Nirvana 1988” on youtube and there’s multiple instances of footage of the band playing/rehearsing live specifically in December 1988 in Seattle, in Hoquiam, and in Krist’s Mom’s house in Aberdeen, and the Mustang is in all of them. Educated guess, but a guess nonetheless. You can also consider it was likely the only guitar he had at the time.
1969 SLTS Mustang- Krist mentions it here around the 2 minute mark: Krist Novoselic on Kurt Cobain – YouTube
Jaguar- livenirvana’s write up on the sessions (May 2-28, 1991) references a number of articles, but the lineup of guitars seems to cite Jim Berkanstadt and Charles R. Cross’ Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind ca.1998. I do know there are photos of those sessions out there (I’ve got a great shot of the smashed black Endless Nameless strat just after destruction sitting on the Neve board) so perhaps those will come out soon (30th anniversary this year?).
Hi Carlo, Krist mentioned a left handed sanded down Mustang bought from some college guys a interview with Grant Alden in 1990, which is listed on LN equipment guide, so it was not the competition blue Mustang. There are some evidences that indicates that neither the Jaguar, the comp Mustang and the Vandalism were actually used in Nevermind. Probably was just the K Sticker, the TOM strat and the Mosrite, plus an unknown guitar.
Yeah, I agree now that he was probably referring to the original Mustang that he acquired just before they recorded Bleach. It makes sense. They played a dorm party at Evergreen State on Oct 30th 1988 where he smashed his original Univox, the same place that Krist said they bought a Mustang “at a party”. It seems likely they had just bought the Mustang or were about to, which is why Kurt felt he could smash his old guitar. That tracts.
As for the guitars used on Nevermind, I cited my sources (and in LN’s case which also cited theirs’), but I’m all ears if you’ve found something. At that point I don’t think it would’ve been unusual for Kurt to hold onto guitars he found and considered special like his Jaguar, Mustang, or Mosrite and keep them from seeing live use, but pulling them all out for recording.
If you’re a LN member, there’s an explanation with sources in the music equipment live guide thread, although not definitive. As Butch’s memory is a little fuzzy after 30 years, possibly the only way to confirm this would be if a receipt of the comp Mustang surface. I think there’s a chance the Jaguar could be present, but the Mustang most likely it was not. If I had to guess, it was bought just prior to the STLS video, as it was all stock then.
Let me reiterate: This wasn’t a recent revelation. I believe the Butch references in the LN Nevermind recording write up date from the late 90s, so it wouldn’t have been to far from his memory at that point. I also tend trust that considering he claims to remember specific pre amps, microphones, and outboard gear that recalling guitars would be easy for him. As a producer remembering signal chains for future reference is a very valuable asset. Many producers will use logbooks or even have detailed drawings representing microphone placement within the room for potentially recreating sounds for later clients, so key observations like “he mostly used his Mosrite through his Crown/Mesa setup for the main passes” generally don’t come out of thin air. So if Butch remembers a Mustang, I’m gonna say he had the Mustang.
That’s the first suspicious point (there’re others), Butch never said anything about the Jaguar or the Mustang, only referred to the Mosrite in his quotes. The Jaguar and Mustangs were possibly inferred by the authors of the book and articles, based on what Kurt was using at the time. If he had said anything about these two guitars, he probably would have been in a direct quote, just like the Mosrite. If you happen to know an article other than the GW 97 or the Classic Albuns book (which are the LN sources) that he mentioned these guitars I’d be happy to read.
I see now. I’d always understood the article as from a larger conversation had with Butch, only directly quoting him in certain specific instances to better articulate the information in the written form. Whereas directly quoting him (” “) would be first hand information and obviously the most trustworthy- the article, while by that logic second hand, doesn’t seem speculative to me. And quite frankly I don’t see what they’d have to gain from lying about it.
And this is just me, but seeing as his Mustang from its’ earliest appearance as just a video guitar- well before it was reluctantly pulled out for live use- already had a SD Hot Rail and a Tune O Matic bridge upgrades, someone at some point previous apparently saw fit that would make the guitar more “playable”. Maybe it was Kurt or Butch getting the guitar set up for suitable use in the studio (notice how the “Endless, Nameless” Strat came out of the sessions professionally modded with its’ own Tune O Matic & Stoptail, or how Dave had a RIMS isolation mount on his 15″ rack tom after the sessions?), or maybe he once again, happy accident, already bought it modified- like the Jaguar.
There are photos of the sessions, taken by Krist I’d presume, a few of which are circulating online. Perhaps one day there will be unseen photographic evidence of Kurt actually tracking this stuff to salivate over. Right now, I can say those articles at least got the drum mics right. Maybe in another 10, 20, 30 years we can gleam some sort of enlightenment from this.
Kurt had another unknown Les Paul Copy in 1990. Lefthanded, Dark Finish, Humbuckers installed, white Binding at Neck and Body, Block Inlays. You can see it on the Photos, taken at the Dalmacia Hotel in London, 24th of October 1990. Kurt, Krist and Dave are sitting on a Bed, while Dave is playing around with the Guitar. It’s definitely a lefthanded Les Paul copy, strung up for a lefty Player. Difficult so say, what kind of brand it is.
Photos can be found in the Book of Steve Gullick / Stephen Sweet: Nirvana. Winterlong or on Google.
Is this the photo in question? Any others that show the guitar in more detail?
It’s mentioned on KurtsEquipment as a Univox Les Paul copy gifted to Kurt by a UK journalist.
Just to Let you Know the Hondo 737 Kurt bought on December 20, 1989 was Black with a White Pickguard (Right-Handed) flipped upside down and strung Lefty. You can see pictures of Kurt using it Live on January 6, 1990 East Ballroom Husky Union Building, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (along with the 1970s Gibson SG) but the Hondo 737 only lasted for 6 days in 1990, as it was first used on January 6, 1990 – East Ballroom Husky Union Building University of Washington Seattle WA and was Smashed on January 12, 1990 – Satyricon, Portland OR.
the Hondo also is lefty guitar
What pickups were under these chrome covers? This appears to be the 1982/3 updated version of the H-737 deluxe with real humbuckers, but it is unclear what is under these covers. The original 1981 version of the H-737 deluxe had single coils housed in chrome covers, but we can tell that this is NOT that version, because of the sticker (deluxe).
If anyone can help, that would be appreciated.