Ok, so we know that Jimi Hendrix had limited (if no) choice about using left handed guitars so he restrung a standard right handed strat so he could play left handed – with his left hand strumming and his right hand on the fret board.
We also know that in his short time at the top of his game he wrote and played some of the most innovative electric guitar music of all time – largely changing the course of rock music.
Ever since his untimely death (in what many describe as suspicious circumstances on 18th September 1970), guitarists have tried to emulate his style and tone with the help of his signature instruments of choice ~ Fender Stratocaster, Marshall Plexi, Vox Wah, Fuzz Face and Univibe.
Some have even gone to a greater level of analysis pondering the effect of his guitar being strung upside down reversing the string length to the machine heads, reversing pickups, changing the angle of the bridge pickup, and reversing the tremelo block. This has led to a series of Hendrix Tribute stratocasters from Fender over the last 30 years or so, usefully summarised in this article.
Of the seven versions illustrated in this article you can see the gradual shift to incorporate all of the elements higlighted in the previous paragraph in a guitar strung for a right handed player, probably best demonstrated in the most extreme form with the 4th in the series – the 1997- 2000 Hendrix Tribute Stratocaster. It just so happened that one of these turned up in my teaching studio last week shown on the left in the following photo…(mine’s on the right ~ unfortunately!!!)……..but first a little background about the new owner ~ Ryan Jackson aged 11.
I first met Ryan about 3 years ago when he started his guitar lessons with me when he was 9. My first impression was that he had “been here before” in terms of him being old for his years. Maybe this has something to do with the range of achievements he has managed to squeeze into his young life including :
Various PADI Scuba Diving Certificates including Open Water, Dry Suit and Adventure Diver with a host of dives at various exotic locations including The Red Sea / Egypt, Indian Ocean / Maldives, Gulf of Mexico / Mexico, Mediterranean / Corfu, North Sea / Holy Island / Scotland.
Brown belt in Karate…
Busy with the Scouts….
Grade 2 Electric Guitar with Merit, plus Live performances at local clubs with these and various other performances now on Youtube
All this and time to attend his guitar lesson every week and to build up a rather tasty collection of both electric and acoustic guitars.
It just so happens that, being a bit of Hendrix nut myself, I have a Fender 60’s Reverse Headstock Special Strat ~ Mexican but with USA pickups. Not quite in the same league as Ryan’s though I’m afraid…… A 1997 unplayed Hendrix Tribute Stratocaster with all original paperwork including purchase receipt shown at the bottom of the following photo.
As it had been unplayed the strings were a little corroded and so it needed a restring and set up to be playable. Fitted with new Fender Bullet 3250LR .009s and a few minor adjustments this beauty was ready to sing.
Assembled at the Corona California plant, this guitar captures the essence of the ’69 Woodstock Strat perfectly. A very, very nice guitar that Ryan has promised me he will give me first refusal if he ever decides to sell it – somehow I don’t think that will ever happen!!!
All of the above has only been possible due to the ongoing support of Ryan’s parents Carl and Amanda and his Grandad who brings Ryan for lessons in the school holidays. Ryan knows how lucky he is and will no doubt find a way of paying his family back in the future.
Finally a couple of lesser known facts about Jimi Hendrix and his “tone”……
He wrote and painted using his right hand, so his “strongest” hand was used on the guitar fretboard……………
There is quite a bit of speculation about the guitar used on early recordings on the “Are You Experienced” debut album including the fact that on “Fire” and “Hey Joe” Jimi actually used a Fender Telecaster borrowed from Noel Redding!!
Throughout his career in addition to Stratocasters, Jimi was also photographed playing Fender Jazzmasters, Duosonics, two different Gibson Flying Vs, a Gibson Les Paul, three Gibson SGs, a Gretsch Corvette he used at the 1967 Curtis Knight sessions and miming with a right-strung Fender Jaguar on the Top of the Pops TV show, as well as several other brands. Jimi used a white Gibson SG Custom for his performances on The Dick Cavett Show in the summer of 1969, and the Isle of Wight film shows him playing his second Gibson Flying V. While Jimi had previously owned a Flying V that he had painted with a psychedelic design, the Flying V used at the Isle of Wight was a unique custom left-handed guitar with gold plated hardware, a bound fingerboard and “split-diamond” fret markers that were not found on other 1960s-era Flying Vs. The funny thing is that whatever guitar you hear him playing he still sounds like…………Jimi Hendrix!!!!
So when you are figuring out how to get the best possible tone out of your guitars, amps and effects of choice don’t forget the most important and magical ingredient in achieving that elusive tone………………YOU!!!