Another smash hit for Jimi Hendrix - the Fender Stratocaster for sale at £400,000

Steve Boggan
Wednesday 28 August 2002 00:00

If any of us found a broken relic with snapped strings in the cupboard under the stairs, it would be an old tennis racket. When Dweezil Zappa found one, it was a guitar played by the rock star Jimi Hendrix and is now thought to be worth at least £400,000.

Hendrix set fire to the Fender Stratocaster on stage at least once before smashing it as part of his act in 1968. The guitar passed into rock folklore after being restored and played by Dweezil's father, another music legend, Frank Zappa, for a decade.

Yesterday, the precious instrument arrived in London in anticipation of an auction next month that is expected to confirm it as the most expensive guitar in history.

The neck of the guitar, the electronics, pick-ups and knobs were replaced after Hendrix set fire to the Fender on stage first at the London Astoria in March 1967, then, experts believe, at the Miami Pop Festival in 1968. But even with just the wooden body remaining, charred and with remnants of the Sunburst colours that gave the instrument its name, it has become a collectors' item par excellence.

"Hendrix gave it to my dad after the 1968 performance and my dad restored it and played it throughout the Seventies," Dweezil, 33, a successful musician in his own right, said. "About 1990, I found it among lots of old junk under the stairs. I told my dad and he told me to keep it. I've played it since and enjoyed it, but I have lots of guitars, including lots of my dad's, so I thought that a collector might value it a lot more than I do and get more enjoyment from it.

"I never got the chance to ask Hendrix why he set it on fire – I wasn't born – but I'm sure it was intended to be an amusing spectacle. Whatever the reason, it's a part of rock'n'roll history."

The guitar is being handled by Cooper Owen's, the music memorabilia auction house that once sold John Lennon's piano for £1.5m.

The guitar was first auctioned, without fanfare, in Las Vegas several months ago, where the bidding reached $500,000. Dweezil withdrew it from sale after hearing from Ted Owen, one of the London auction house founders, who said it would fetch more in the UK.

Hendrix, recently voted the world's best guitarist, died aged 27 in 1970, and Zappa succumbed to cancer in 1993 aged 52.

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