Jimi Hendrix’s Reverse Headstock Stratocaster

Jimi Hendrix died at the young age of 28, and therefore had a relatively brief career as musician. Nonetheless, he was able to leave a huge imprint on the industry and the other rock and rollers of his time. The Fender Stratocaster was his guitar of choice for live performances throughout his years as a showman.

Jimi loved music as a young boy and would often use the household broom as a “guitar” that he strummed while he sang. His father gave him a ukulele that he found while cleaning out a garage and Jimi used that to create tunes until he finally purchased an acoustic guitar for $5 from a family friend at the age of 15. Two years later, Jimi’s father bought him an electric Supra Ozark. It is said that the teen immediately began spending about eight hours a day in practice, and he kept that habit throughout his lifetime. Jimi had a terrific ear for music and could pick up nearly any song or chord just by listening to it. In fact, he never did learn to read music notation, but performed his whole career completely “by ear.”

After playing with a variety of bands in small venues around the southern US, Hendrix finally had the opportunity to make it big when he met London producer Chas Chandler. He went to England, formed a group known as the Jimi Hendrix Experience and produced three top ten singles in the UK with his first album in 1967.

About this time, Hendrix bought his first Stratocaster and used it for stage performances almost exclusively from that time forward. Because he was left-handed and didn’t care for the traditional setups for lefties, Hendrix simply turned his Strat upside down and restrung it. He put his bass strings in the usual position at the top of the neck, but the Strat’s slanted bridge pickup made the lengths of his strings completely different from the way they were originally designed. Jimi’s low notes had a bright, tight sound, while his high notes were much mellower and rounder than most. Holding his Strat in the upside-down position also made it easy for Hendrix to reach the control knobs, and he was known for adjusting his sound in the middle of a song.

Two of Hendrix’s Stratocasters achieved special fame. The first was the one he used at the Montery International Pop Festival in 1968. This concert was the first time Jimi became widely known to US audiences. Video of him smashing and burning his Strat at the end of the show was inserted in a documentary and shown in movie theaters around the country. Hendrix later said the gesture was meant to indicate his willingness to sacrifice for his music. He said he loved his guitar, and destroying it was a sacrificial act for him.

The second famous guitar was the white Strat Hendrix used for his frenzied performance at Woodstock in 1969. The crowd was brought to its feet by his screaming rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, which became an overnight sensation and symbol of the 60’s counter-culture. The Fender Corporation has produced several Strats in tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and many of them are popular even today.

No matter what your favorite sound might be, you can benefit as a guitarist by using some top-notch guitar lessons. Learn and Master Guitar is the best DVD-based series you can find, and GuitarTricks ranks as the top online course. If you hope to be a lead guitar guy, try Metal Method, which focuses on soloing. So, if you want to sound like Jimi, improve your skills with some lessons and practice, practice, practice.