Kurt Cobain’s Lindell Electric Guitar

This was Kurt’s first electric guitar. As the story goes, in 1981, on his 14th birthday, Kurt was presented with a question from uncle Chuck about whether he’d prefer a bicycle or a guitar as his birthday present. Kurt, of course, chose the latter. 

Ibanez Explorer?

Most people seem to think that Kurt’s first guitar was a 1976 Ibanez Explorer. This is most likely based on a photo of Kurt sitting with a guitar that resembles a Destroyer, taken sometime around late 1982 at his aunt Mari-Earl’s home in Washington. It is important to note here that this guitar was Kurt’s second guitar – the one he bought after taking lessons with Warren Mason, his first guitar teacher.

Kurt Cobain's with his second electric guitar, 1982.
Kurt Cobain’s with his second electric guitar, 1982.

Lindell?

According to kurtsequipment.com, which is probably the oldest source online on Kurt’s gear, Kurt’s first guitar was a Lindell. As their sources, they list a Guitar World article published in 1997, and Michael Azerrad’s book Come as You Are. But, it seems that neither of those mentions the guitar being a Lindell specifically, so take that part of it with a grain of salt. Kurt only ever mentioned that he thought the guitar was a Sears.

I don’t think it was even a Harmony, I think it was a Sears.

Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Michael Azerrad

In Charles R. Cross’ book Heavier than Heaven, it is mentioned that the guitar was a Japanese model, not much better than a Hawaiian acoustic that Kurt used prior. Not much is known about Lindell as a guitar company, but it is true that most of their guitars were in fact manufactured by Teisco – which is indeed a Japan-based company. So, that part at least fits the story.

The guitar Chuck bought him wasn’t much better: It was a cheap, second-hand Japanese model. It often broke, but to Kurt, it was the air that he breathed.

Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography of Kurt Cobain

However, it still remains unknown who and when first stated that the guitar was a Lindell. So, until we find the actual source of that information, keep in mind that this all could be false, and just another internet tale re-told over and over again.

Meat Locker Story, Guitar Destroyed

In Michael Azerrad’s book Come as You Are, Kurt tells a story of how he met with two other kids, Scott and Andy, in order to jam at an abandoned meat locker out in the woods. After the first jam, Kurt decided to leave the guitar at the meat locker, thinking they would play again there soon. But, apparently, the two boys postponed the practice for months, and Kurt’s guitar remained there since nobody would drive him so he could pick it up. In the meantime, he used a guitar that belonged to a kid that was staying at Cobain’s house, after losing his mother.

When Kurt finally managed to get someone to drive him to the meat locker, he found that the guitar was in pieces, and missing the body.

Eventually, Kurt got a friend to drive him out to the woods where his guitar was and they found it in pieces—just a neck and some electronic guts. Kurt painstakingly made a new body in wood shop, only to find that he didn’t know the correct proportions to make it stay in tune.

Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Michael Azerrad

This whole story almost reads like a teenager’s fantasy, something Kurt would perhaps tell other people just to mess around with. It would be very nice if there are indeed Scott and Andy somewhere out there, and they end up reading this and confirming the story.

It could be true, but it seems that Warren Mason, who taught Kurt and helped him get his second electric guitar, would at least mention that the guitar had a body made by Kurt. According to Warren, it sounds more like the guitar was actually nice-looking, but was just hard to play.

The first thing Warren had to deal with was Kurt’s guitar—it was more suited for showing off at school than playing. Warren found Kurt an Ibanez, for $125.

Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography of Kurt Cobain

In any case, if you know any other source that mentioned this story, and any details within it, including Scott and Andy, the meat locker, and the kid staying at Cobain’s house, please do leave it in the comments. Also note that at this point, since we don’t know what the guitar actually looked like, the image used here is only a placeholder.

Feedback

GroundGuitar counts on your criticism and feedback. In case you notice anything wrong with the information posted on this page, or you have knowledge of something that you would like to share, be sure to leave a comment below.

If you notice a piece of gear missing, and you wanna add it yourself, you can do so on this page Add Gear to GroundGuitar.

In case you want to talk to me directly and privately, please use the Contact Form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. (Dan)