Hendrix, Fender And The On Stage Fire!!


“The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix owned and used a variety of guitars during his career. However, his guitar of choice (and the instrument that became most associated with him), was the Fender Stratocaster. He started playing the model in 1966 and thereafter used it prevalently in his stage performances and recordings. An important part of rock history, the the black Fender Stratocaster was made famous after Hendrix set fire to it at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. He tricked fans into thinking he was burning his famous black Fender Stratocaster, but he had switched it for a cheaper instrument moments before the burning.

The original Fender Stratocaster Sunburst that Hendrix burnt onstage at London Astoria in March 1967 was restored by him and kept as a souvenir. The Fender Stratocaster burned on stage by Hendrix sold for £280,000 at a 2008 London auction of rock memorabilia.  The next year Hendrix subjected the guitar to fire again at the Miami Pop Festival in 1968. It was in Miami that a Hendrix roadie gave the guitar to Frank Zappa. Once in Frank Zappa’s hands, Zappa had it restored again and used it himself.

With the help of Paul McCartney, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was given a chance to perform in Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. It was their chance to crack the American audience. Hendrix ended his Monterey performance with an unpredictable version of “Wild Thing”, which he capped by kneeling over his guitar, pouring lighter fluid over it, setting it aflame, and then smashing it in to the stage seven times before throwing its remains into the audience.This produced unforeseen sounds and these actions contributed to his rising popularity in the United States.

Hendrix, whose best known songs include Hey Joe, All Along the Watchtower and Voodoo Child, had only been planning on smashing up a guitar at the end of his set at the 1967 concert in California. But having seen Pete Townsend of The Who shove the neck of his guitar into an amplifier earlier on at the festival, he felt he had to go one better. James Wright, a manager at Hendrix’s label, previously owned the original guitar and sold it for £237,000 at auction in London on Tuesday (November 27).  Speaking to The Metro, Wright explained the origins of the story and how Hendrix only set fire to the guitar to get one over on Pete Townshend of The Who, who had smashed up his guitar earlier in the day. “Jimi asked for some lighter fuel. He wanted to outdo Pete. At the time, it was his favourite guitar and he didn’t want to ruin it.”

Hendrix used right-handed guitars, turned upside down and restrung for left-hand playing.This had an important effect on his guitar sound: because of the slant of the Strat’s bridge pickup, his lowest string had a bright sound while his highest string had a mellow sound, the opposite of the Stratocaster’s intended design.Heavy use of the tremolo bar necessitated frequent tuning; Hendrix often asked the audience for a “minute to tune up”, as heard on many live bootlegs of his performances. In addition to Stratocasters, Hendrix was also photographed playing Fender Jazzmasters, Duosonics, two different Gibson Flying Vs, a Gibson Les Paul, three Gibson SGs, a Gretsch Corvette as well as several other brands.

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