Kurt Cobain’s Mosrite Gospel Mark IV
This was one of Kurt’s few actual Mosrite guitars, as all of the guitars prior to this were all cheap Univox knock-offs. According to info posted on the auction of the Mosrite decades later, the guitar was purchased by Kurt at Real Guitars in San Francisco in the fall of 1990 (no official page seems to be online, but you can search cached pages for source).
Apparently, aside from being Kurt’s guitar, this Mosrite is unique on its own for being the only Gospel with a Mark IV style body.
Kurt had only one Gospel, and this is beyond a rare guitar. Loretta sent me a nice letter (…) she had sent me some sales literature of another Gospel but could find no history of ever having made one based on the Mark IV guitar. Kurt’s Gospel had a letter from Mosrite with it, that was written to the person it was built for.kurtsequipment.com
Based on photos, Kurt’s guitar featured a sunburst finish, a white pickguard, two single-coil pickups, and a Bigsby tremolo. Kurt painted the markers on the fretboard himself, as the original guitar didn’t have dot inlays, and removed the Bigsby spring and replaced it with a wood screw.
It seems, based on photos, that the guitar was used from around when Nirvana returned to touring, after a short break, circa mid-August 1990. It was subsequentially seen on a few gigs that the band did in the UK later that year, and with the return to the States, and the beginning of 1991, the Mosrite basically disappeared (below – video of Nirvana’s rehearsal circa late 1990; Kurt playing the Mosrite)
The Guitar Now
Kurt, for some reason, ended up selling the guitar to a pawn shop in LA, presumably sometime in early to mid-1991. Coincidentally, the person who purchased the guitar from that same shop shortly after Kurt had sold it, has an account on Steel Guitar Forums and has made a post detailing his experience (below is a summary, please read the full post for more details).
In a very small pawn shop in LA I bought a six string Mosrite Gospel with case. The case was stenciled NERVANA and under some black tape it said “F**K ELVIS”. I paid $ 125.00 for it. (…) Then a good friend of mine asked if I would sell it to him as he wanted to give it to a good friend of his as a gift. I sold it for $ 150.., what I had into it. He GAVE it away, to his friend. His friend passed away a little while ago and the family asked for info documenting where I bought it, a condition I found it in, etc. Turns out this was the guitar that Kurt Cobain used on all his early stuff. I knew it was his, but who knew he would be the John Lennon of his generation…Those hidden pawn shop treasures – Steel Guitar Forum
Based on what can be found online, the Mosrite was sold at least two times. First in 2004, selling for $117,500 to the only bidder, and the second time in 2006, when the closing price was $131,450. The current owner of the guitar is unknown, but the guitar is accounted for and could’ve been seen as part of the EMP/MoPoP Nirvana exhibit.
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)
I was working in the repair shop at Real Guitars when he bought it. One of the two owners of Real, Chris Cobb, is who sold it. I don’t remember the price but certainly a good deal more than the $125 resale price. I’d think more in the $600+ range even then.
Thanks for sharing that David. Do you recall when this was – does mid/late 1990 sound right?
Hi Dan, yes, that sounds right. I was working there 1990-93 and it was towards the beginning of that time.
I always thought he played this guitar at Rio in January 1993. Which guitar was that??
Oh, I just realized that one is not on the list. Looks like an Univox, and I suspect it’s this one that I have a photo of, allegedly from the secret Kurt Vault. I’ll see what more I can find about it.
From pictures it also seems it was used at the roseland ballroom in July of 1993.
That is a phase 3 hi flier with a different humbucker,can’t remember what it is think its a Seymour duncan. The snl univox is also rare its a univox custom phase 1. They had a nailed in logo and rocker switches to change pups. I have one they’re awesome,so light and the pups scream.
I’d guess Kurt didn’t sell the guitar to a small pawn shop in LA in 1991 and say rather it was stolen from Kurt and sold to a pawn shop. The main piece of evidence is the Nirvana sticker on the case. Seems less like the owner of the guitar to sell that with the sticker on it instead of someone who stole it and wants its value to reflect that it was Kurt’s guitar. if Kurt just one day woke up and said I need some quick cash I’m sure if he had to pawn something at that point he’d have amps and pedals and less rare guitars available to unload.
What’s more likely is that the guitar was either stolen from an equipment truck on tour or from Kurt’s apartment in LA by some seedy character of which there were likely many in and out of that self-described “opium den” at that point in his life. This guitar is too rare, especially for a lefty who had it modified and in 1991 he got rich the main reason he owned this rare piece to begin with.
It was probably the same guy that killed him to cover his tracks! You’ve solved it!! You’re a bloody genius.
It sold later for $125… it was most definitely stolen.
Yeah it says on page 170 of his journals that the Mosrite was taken from him so I assume that you are correct and that it was stolen and sold at the pawn shop. Although I guess he also says his apartment was taken from him, which isn’t exactly something you can smash and grab, so maybe there was some other financial troubles from going broke while getting rich?
Would you mind quoting that part, or snapping a photo of it and posting it here? I have a translated version of the Journals, and can’t find that part anywhere.
Here’s a snap from the digital scans. It follows some anti capitalist screed and about how he is going to resist the music industry from within. So he might be struggling with his own materialism, frustrated at losing his guitar but feeling guilty about valuing property.
Also lol at all the Fender “replicas” of Kurt’s Jaguar. They are mostly right-handed, and as a left-handed person it irks me that everything from coffee mugs to golf clubs are just presumed to be righty.
Looks very similar to the guitar he played on SNL in 1993.
This is the SNL guitar – https://www.groundguitar.com/kurt-cobain-gear/kurt-cobains-1960s-univox-hi-flier-custom/ They are similar yes, but at the same time, very distinct from each other.
What year is the guitar?