The Crazy Life of Jimi Hendrix & Guitars

Jimi Hendrix is an electric guitar legend and hero. Even though his mainstream career only lasted four years, he is easily recognized as one of the most iconic and influential electric guitarists in the 20th century. Learn about what made him a legend, his life, and his guitars.

What's Jimi Hendrix's story?

​Born as John Allen Hendrix in Seattle 1942, he was raised by his mother while his father was fighting in World War II. When his father returned, he divorced John's mother and renamed him James Marshall. He didn't become "Jimi Hendrix" until arriving in 1966 when he arrived in London.

When Hendrix was 15 years old his father bought him his first guitar. It was a $5 acoustic. At 16, he purchased his first electric guitar, a Supro Ozark 1560s (similar photo below) in Seattle for $89.


Image courtesy of Premier Guitar

​In 1959, Hendrix dropped out of high school to enlist in the Army. He was a trainee paratrooper. This didn't last long, because he was medically discharged for breaking his ankle on a parachute jump.

The Supro Ozark 1560s was stolen in 1960 at The Birdland Club. To replace it, Hendrix bought a copper-colored Danelectro. He named it "Betty Jean" after his then girlfriend.

Two years later he traded the Danelectro in for an Epiphone Wilshire. He used this guitar with the band King Kasuals.

Hendrix got his first Fender in 1964, the Fender Duo-Sonic in Dessert Sand, to be exact. He played this guitar with the Isley Brothers.

In early 1965 while Hendrix was on tour with Little Richard, he was seen playing a sunburst Fender Jazzmaster.

​Hendrix began working in the big leagues, towards the end of 1965. He had several acts with Ike And Tina Turner, The Isley Brother, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke. He soon broke away from being back-line guitarist to being the lead guitarists. He formed Jimmy James and The Blue Flames.

In 1966, Hendrix set foot on English soil at Heathrow airport. All he carried with him was his guitar, a change of clothes, plastic hair curlers, and a jar of acne cream.​ In the summer of 1966, Hendrix bought his first Stratocaster with a white body. Jimi then preferred to play on a Strat, it's said that he would carry over 13 different Stratocasters on tour with him.

What about Hendrix and his guitars?


Image courtesy of the Telegraph

Jimi Hendrix is famous for his outrageous stage presence and guitar tricks.​ He would play with his teeth or behind his back. The first guitar hendrix burned on stage was a 1965 Fender Stratocaster, he became famous for this guitar burning gesture. This guitar (below) was later sold for $575,000 at auction.

If you want to refresh your memory with a video of Hendrix playing with his teeth, watch the video below and fast forward to minute 1:33.

Hendrix referred to his music as the "electric church," because he believed music was his religion. He was born left handed but would play his guitar upside down, so he could strum with his left hand.​ His father thought his left-handedness was the sign of the Devil.

hendrix electric guitar

Image courtesy of Gibson

Jimi Hendrix's 1968 Stratocaster is one of the most expensive guitars ever sold. In 1998, Paul Allen of Microsoft bought the guitar for $2 million dollars.

Hendrix had an untimely death on September 18th, 1970. His death has been surrounded by a number of conspiracy theories, which can be partially attributed to the confusing statements given by his then girlfriend, German ice-skater Monika Dannermann.

His autopsy revealed that he had overdosed on Monika's powerful German sedatives, Vesparax, and choked to death in his sleep. This was the end of his iconic, but incredibly short music career.

Below is a video of Hendrix performing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969. This song wasn't a symbol of American pride, but rather an attack on America's occupation in Vietnam. This performance became an important part of American history.

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