A valuable guitar that Jimi Hendrix was seen to douse in lighter fluid, smash to pieces and set fire to on stage in 1967 will go on sale next week in one piece, and without any signs of scorching. It is expected to fetch £125,000.
Unknown to the crowd at the Monterey festival, outside San Francisco, Hendrix had switched his “favourite” black Fender Stratocaster for another instrument just prior to his dramatic display of flames and rage during a rendition of “Wild Thing”.
Not wishing to be outdone by The Who’s Pete Townshend who had performed first and smashed up his guitar, Hendrix opted to set his axe on fire so as not to be accused of copycat behaviour.
He requested some lighter fluid but couldn’t bring himself to destroy the Strat and so swapped it secretly for a less valuable instrument.
The Fender Stratocaster continued to be used on Hendrix’s American tour (his return to the States after moving to the UK in 1966 to make his fortune). It later fell into the hands of his record company managed by James Wright.
“When Jimi used to smash a guitar up you would try and rebuild it so he could use it again for that purpose. Pete Townshend smashed his guitar up and put the neck into the amp. Jimi was annoyed at this and asked for some lighter fuel. He just wanted to outdo Pete Townshend,” Wright told The Times.
“He played the black guitar for most of the act and then right at the end he swapped it for a repaired one that he set fire to. At the time the black Fender was his favourite guitar and he didn’t want to ruin it.
At the time of the stunt Hendrix was a big star in Britain but still relatively unknown in the States. A picture of him leaning over the burning instrument was used on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and the incident went down in rock ‘n’ roll history – helping to turn him into a legend.
The guitar is in relatively good condition aside from a few chips and scratches.The CBS era instrument with contour style solid body and original candy apple case dates from late 1966/67 with rosewood neck and black solid body and white scratch protection.
It will be sold by the Fame Bureau on 27 November in Mayfair, London.
It is 42 years since the man widely considered to be the greatest electric guitarist in history died in London aged 27.
Another Fender Stratocaster that Hendrix set fire to in 1967 at the Finsbury Astoria was auctioned by the Fame Bureau in January £90,000.