*don’t get excited lefties, $800,000 is the going rate for a Cobain guitar!
Ever wondered what guitars Kurt Cobain used for the majority of his career as to get the sounds he produced? Dave used any kit he could get, and Kris only ever had three basses. But a lot of attention has been given to the equipment Kurt used. And the strangest thing is Fender have never released replica versions in the Left-Handed style.
Kurt’s first guitar was most likely a Univox Hi-Flier electric guitar. They are cheap and affordable and come in Left-Handed form. From early footage, it appears he played a few of these Hi-Fliers in his early days. These include a sunburst model decorated with stickers, and a white one, given to him by his girlfriend at the time, Tracy, whom he wrote About A Girl for.
During the Bleach-era, Kurt used a bunch of half-working guitars. Kris tells a good story about him and Kurt wondering around looking for a Left-Handed guitar for that night’s show. The pick of his guitars used on Bleach and the surrounding tours would be a blue Gibson SG, which Kurt altered himself, and a Mustang, which went through at least two different reincarnations.
By the time Nevermind hit the shelves in September 1991, the money was flowing and Kurt was playing Stratocasters including the famous black model, decorated with a sticker reading “Vandalism”. For the album tour, he played a 1965 Fender Jaguar – which is the guitar that most people associate Kurt with. As we speak in 2022, this guitar is currently up for auction with the bid currently at $800,000. Your humble author bid $17,000, and in true Kurt fashion, I asked my boss Gai Waterhouse personally if she would buy it for me, but she said no. Around the same time, he also acquired a 1969 Fender Competition Mustang, which he used during the Smells Spirit Like Teen music video. This guitar has recently sold for five million dollars! There is a company in America doing replicas, so if you want one let us know and we will enquire as well as we can!
During the In Utero tour, Nirvana’s final tour, all of which is available on YouTube including their last Seattle show Live and Loud ,Kurt designed and was made four different Fender Mustangs, three of which were blue, and one of which was red. The red one he throws in this brilliant rendition of Drain You, in the build up to the last verse. It’s here we see Kurt as a frontman only. It’s the only footage apart from playing with the Meat Puppets on Unplugged, where you see Kurt as a frontman only.
All these Mustangs Kurt’s designed to his own liking. Unfortunately, Fender won’t release a left-handed range of these guitars. It’s like retiring a number of a champion player of a sports team. The remaindering three guitars were engineered with a full-sized humbucker in the bridge position (a Seymour Duncan JB) and a Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge.
Kurt regularly played a bunch of extra guitars in one off shows. The below Stratocaster, Kurt played on Lounge Act and Smells Like Teen Spirit when headlining the reading festival in 1992. Before Smells Like Teen Spirit Kurt hilariously starts playing the very similar riff More Than A Feeling where Kris and Dave start singing. The crowd think it is SLTS and start roaring before realising Nirvana are taking the piss. Kurt then cuts it short and kicks into SLTS...
Also, quite popular in the later years was Kurt’s Fender Jag-Stang displayed below…
And Kurt’s go-to acoustic options…
Harmony Stella 12-string (bought this guitar at a pawnshop for around $30) played on Polly and Something in the Way on Nevermind
1953 Martin D-18 “Grandpa”
Kurt’s then girlfriend bought him this guitar for the Nevermind tour.
Kurt purchased this beautiful right-handed Martin D-18E in1992 at Voltage Guitars in Los Angeles for $5,000 (Julien’s)... This guitar became one of his best known as it’s the guitar he used in Nirvana Unplugged in New York.
This particular Martin is an extremely rare guitar that was available for just one year in the late 50s; this particular guitar is thought to be the first Martins to feature electric pickups.
Kurt’s guitar, serial number 155864, was just number 7 out of 302, according to Julien’s. Also, the guitar originally came equipped with two DeArmond pickups.
Two years ago, this $5,000 Martin sold at auction for $6 million dollars.
So, if you’re a lefty like your humble author, you need to be very rich or a very famous rock star, because no matter how many times Fender have been lobbied, they will not produce a Left-Handed Fender Jag-Stang or a Left-Handed 1969 Fender Competition Mustang.
But the good news is only 1 in 9 people are Left-Handed, so only 11% of the guitar playing population is disappointed. But considering Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Tony Iommi, Kurt Cobain and me are all on the Left-Handed team of the Century, we can only hope that Fender sees the light one day.
In the meantime, at Volaris Music Centre we have a huge range of guitars, both Left and Right-Handed. The guitar above that Kurt played on Unplugged was Right-Handed and simply strung upside down… so it’s not all bad news for us Lefties.
Stay tuned for part two of Kurt’s equipment next week. In the meantime, check us out at…
Or come and see us at 372-374 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria 3056
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Blog by Dr. Zeb Armstrong (His / PS) PhD