10 Famous Guitars


10
Jimi Hendrix's 'Black Beauty'
A Fender Strat that Jimi Hendrix famously burned went up for auction in 2008 and again in 2012, selling for nearly $500,000 and later for $290,000, respectively. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The Monterey Pop Festival, 1967. Jimi Hendrix is waiting backstage while The Who play their set. Hendrix intends to finish his performance with a grand gesture by smashing his guitar to pieces. But his plans are foiled when — to his intense irritation — he sees Pete Townshend not only destroy his guitar, but also shove the broken instrument's neck into an amp.

Frantically searching for a way to top Townshend, Hendrix manages to get his hands on some lighter fluid. Soon after, he's tearing up the stage like no other with the sheer virtuosic brilliance of his playing. At the end of his final piece, "Wild Thing," Hendrix pours lighter fluid over his instrument and ignites it. It's a moment that goes down in rock history — the day Hendrix sacrificed his beloved guitar to the gods of music. Or had he?

In 2012, it emerged that Hendrix had actually swapped out his favorite black 1968 Fender Stratocaster for a near replica moments before the burn. The real one, or one reported to be real, sold at auction for £250,000 ($289,562) in 2012 [source: Yaqoob]. Four years earlier it sold to a U.S. collector for nearly $500,000 [source: Lawless].

But maybe the buyers were duped. By 2017, doubt was cast on the authenticity of the legendary guitar when it was put up for auction again with other Hendrix memorabilia at Heritage's Summer of Love auction in Beverly Hills, California. Experts examined the instrument and were concerned it might not be the same guitar Hendrix played at the Monterey event.

In any case, the Monterey guitar wasn't even Hendrix's favorite instrument. That label belongs to his famous "Black Beauty," which he loved so much he was even reluctant to use it during performances. Since Hendrix's death in 1970, the whereabouts of "Black Beauty" remain mysterious. How much is it worth? Hard to say, but another of his iconic guitars, the "Black Widow" has been valued at nearly a million dollars.

More to Explore