The estate of Jimi Hendrix is suing an Arizona guitar shop owner for the return of a guitar once owned by the rocker, claiming it was stolen by an erstwhile member of the group Earth, Wind & Fire.
According to a court filing, Experience Hendrix, the company responsible for Hendrix’s estate, alleges that Harvey Moltz, the owner of Rainbow Guitars in Tucson, is not the rightful owner of the Acoustic Black Widow guitar.
Mr Moltz says he bought the instrument for $80,000 (£52,000) in June 2014 from Brian Patterson, who acquired the instrument from Sheldon Reynolds, the ex-husband of Hendrix’s adopted sister Janie Hendrix and the CEO of Experience Hendrix.
The company claims the Black Widow was in fact stolen by Mr Reynolds, a sometime singer and guitarist for Earth, Wind & Fire, who is also a former member of The Commodores. He now performs with Elements of Fire – an Earth, Wind & Fire covers band. When he died in 1970, Hendrix’s effects – including the disputed guitar – went to his father, James “Al” Hendrix, who formed Experience Hendrix in 1995 and died seven years later, leaving Janie in control of the estimated $80m estate.
The lawsuit values the instrument at up to $1m but Ms Hendrix said it was “priceless to our family”. She added: “It is one of the few guitars that came home after Jimi passed away. We just want our guitar returned safely and back where it belongs.”
Experience Hendrix, which is based in Seattle, the late musician’s birthplace, said it realised that the guitar was missing last year after a Los Angeles auction house contacted the company to check that the instrument was authentic when Mr Patterson tried to sell it.
Mr Moltz’s lawyer, Todd Jackson, says his client was shown a letter by Mr Patterson, stating that Ms Hendrix gave the Black Widow to Mr Reynolds while they were married. According to Experience Hendrix, Mr Reynolds claims to have acquired the guitar when the couple split, either as part of a divorce settlement or via Ms Hendrix’s teenage son. Those claims are false, the company says.
“My client purchased the guitar in good faith from a private seller, without knowledge of competing claims of ownership,” Mr Jackson told the Arizona Daily Star.
He said that Mr Moltz “has no interest in acquiring or retaining stolen property”. Mr Moltz has also said that he will not sell the guitar until the court battle in California is concluded.
The case continues.
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