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Kurt Cobain Edit
Kurt played guitar left-handed, mostly using left-handed guitars, but sometimes using a right-handed guitar strung for a lefty and played upside down. If a right-handed guitar is mentioned in this document, it was being played this way. (www.kurtsequipment.com) A). Fender Mustangs. Kurt said that his favorite guitar was a Mustang (9).
1). One of the most note-worthy of the assorted lefty Mustangs he used was a 1969 Lake Placid Blue "competition" Mustang, serial # F 279651 (59). It was purchased around the same time as his Jaguar (discussed later), just prior to recording "Nevermind" (57). This is the guitar from the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video; however, Kurt had been seen using it often during shows (seen 2,10,15). Fender produced the Mustang competition series from around 1968-1973 and they are easily identifiable by the three racing stripes on the body. The "Fender Book" says that the competitions, quote, "sometimes" came with matching headstocks.(11). Kurt's Mustang was lake placid blue with matching headstock. It had two black, single coil sized pickups with a white mother-of-pearl pickguard; the bridge was replaced with a Stewart MacDonald Gotoh Tune-O-Matic (Kurt's favorite)(57) before the Argentina trip. Despite his babying this guitar, he trashed this guitar during the infamous Tree Club show (seen 2). As a result, it had lower edge damage and a broken neck joint (41). This guitar can also be seen on the relatively well-known "Hollywood Rock" festival concert footage shot in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1993 (seen 13, 10). This guitar remained in storage during the "In Utero" tour because Kurt really liked this guitar (57). The Australian Hard Rock Cafe claims they have this guitar, but Earnie Bailey says he saw a photo of the guitar they had and it was right-handed. "The photo said that it had come from Courtney. Either she or Eric had a right-handed one exactly like Kurt's, I'm not sure whose it was, but this is mostly likely that guitar." He goes on to say, "The Hard Rock Cafe does not own Kurt's competition blue Mustang. I recently worked on the real one and its preset owner allowed me to photograph it in detail. Courtney gave it to him a month after Kurt's death, and it is eaxctly as I remember it, ever nick, ding, and solder joint" (59).
2). The March 1995 issue of "Guitar World" magazine mentions Kurt sent out 4 new, stock, Mustangs to be routed for humbuckers (32). Three were sonic blue and one fiesta red (41). The way Earnie modified these guitars is as follows:
First, the nut had to be cut for heavier strings, then the neck shimmed for a better bridge angle with the cardboard backings from hotel stationery pads, and a Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge was installed. Earnie also had to modify the tailpiece to block the vibrato, which Kurt hated. He would remove the two springs for the vibrato bar, add washers to the posts beneath the bridge plate, which locked it down to the plate. Lastly, Earnie would flip the tailpiece around allowing the strings to feed directly through the tailpiece, not under, and the ball ends of the strings would fit in the tailpiece's recesses (41).
- Fiesta red Mustang (seen 1). Kurt received this guitar right before the first Roseland show. It came with a red swirl pickguard with white pickup covers. Earnie Bailey replaced the red tortoise pickguard with a white pearl pickguard from Chandler. It was used during the In Utero tour, most often seen with the white pearl pickguard. For the first Roseland NY show, Earnie switched the bridge pickup with a Seymour Duncan JB Hot Rails model in white, which is a fairly unusual pickup. When he received the Chandler pickguard, he decided black pickup covers would look better with the pearloid. This guitar was to be Kurt's first Japanese Mustang to get routed for a humbucker, the stock neck pickup only had the cover changed (59), and was fitted with a Seymour Duncan JB. Kurt later wanted all of his Mustangs routed for the JB., that is, except for the '69 competition (41).
- Sonic blue Fender Mustang with a full-sized humbucker in the bridge (seen 15, 7). There were three of these guitars, two of them set-up like below (41), one of them had the serial # 0 016988 (59). One had a red-swirl pickguard (seen 7), another a matte red pickguard. These two were sent out for the In Utero tour. The third one was never set-up or modified and stayed at Kurt's house. It never came out of its box because the "In Utero" tour people were waiting for the other Mustangs to be broken, which they never were. Earnie also never swapped out the 250k pots to 500k's when the humbucker was added as he didn't expect these guitars to last very long (59).
Courtney gave one of these guitars to a young man named Bobby Costello in Florida. Last I had heard, the family was looking to sell the guitar and supplied me these pictures: Note from Courtney, Pic #1, Pic #2, Pic #3.
3). Early 60's sonic blue Mustang, serial # F207901, no pickguard. It was used in Geffen's "In Bloom" video (seen 42, 43)(41)(59). Kurt picked up this guitar at the time of the video shoot in Los Angeles. Earnie saw it at Kurt's house and says it was really clean-- it had no body contours and stock hardware. It never toured (41). The Mustang is visible behind the mannequin in the "Sliver" video but with a single-coil pickup in the bridge (seen 36)(59).
4). Early 60's sanded-down Fender Mustang used when Jason Everman was with the band. Had no contours and no decal with unusual hardware. Had a Soundgarden sticker on it (41)(seen pgs. 95, 96 on (25)). Also said to be visible in the "Incesticide" cd insert, but I don't know if it is really the same guitar ("Incesticide" 44). Said to have a cut-up vinyl record for a pickguard (15). Another picture.
5). 1977 sunburst Mustang with black pickguard, serial # S 714567 (59), rosewood neck, and rusty parts(41). It got a Duncan Hot Rails upon returning home from Rio (59). Earnie Bailey tells me he is "fairly certain" this was used for the encore at the Rio show (59)(seen 13). On the video which many of us own, he plays a Univox for the encore and though there is confusion as to what the "Rio" show really was, most consider it to be the Hollywood Rock Festival, January 23rd, 1993 (41). Aneurysm and Dive from 'Live! Tonight! Sold Out!' were taken from this show (seen 16). However, the 'LTSO' book lists this as being in Sao Paulo, while "Come As You Are" says otherwise (25)." Here is what Earnie tells me, "[This guitar] was brought to Rio by Ron Stone of Gold Mountain Entertainment. We received it the day we arrived in Rio. I am fairly certain Kurt grabbed it for the encore. I am not sure if the encore is on the bootleg video. The guitar had a baseball bat neck and I didn't have a hot rails pickup with me in Brazil to install. I really thought he was going to smash it because it didn't feel or sound right yet, but he didn't" (59).
6). Poorly modifed Fender Mustang from the early days. Its control plate and weird bridge currently reside in a pink suitcase of Kurt's (15)(59).
Also, despite how many pictures appear, Kurt never used a white Mustang. The sonic blue tend to look white, especially with the crazy light show NIRVANA had during the "In Utero" tour. Jim Vincent's girlfriend did the lighting for the shows and also designed the sleeve for the band's first single. If any of you have any photos of the whole stage from the "In Utero" tour, please let me know! Jim has been looking for pictures of the stage for his girlfriend's portfolio.
B). Fender Jaguars
1). Kurt's main guitar during the Nevermind era was a 1965 sunburst (red faded out) Fender Jaguar (41), serial # 95747 (59). Had a red-swirl mother-of-bowling-ball pickguard (seen many 15), 2 volume knobs,1 tone knob, and a black chrome Schaller bridge (57)(41). There was tape covering (what used to be) the on/off and phase switches. These three switches were replaced with a Gibson-style toggle switch (15)(59). Full-sized humbuckers reside in both the bridge and neck positions, the neck being a DiMarzio PAF and the bridge a DiMarzio Super Distortion (57)(41) until the In Utero tour when it was replaced with a black Duncan JB. This guitar was purchased (already modified) through the "L.A. Recycler" (info on source at 45) around the time prior to recording "Nevermind" (57). The Jag had an incorrect decal under the lacquer. It had an anvil-type flight case for a while. This wasn't the guitar Kurt claimed to baby. According to Earnie Bailey, Kurt never polished it. To quote Earnie from Chris' FAQ, "He NEVER polished the thing! It was disgusting. "Lithium" video it hits the stage hard (seen 46). In Rio (seen 13) it gets soaked in cantaloupe juice and seeds (thrown by Earnie), then dropped onto the camera rails when Kurt is spitting on the camera" (41). It looks like this guitar actually had 3 strap buttons, the odd-placed one being on the other horn (15). The straplocks on this were Schallers, but initially they were rubber washers from Grolsch beer bottles. "A lot of bands use this old trick," says Earnie (59). The Jaguar was especially seen on tours circa 1991 (seen 19, 22, 10). It was also played by Eric Erlandson in Hole's "Doll Parts" music video (seen 23)(41). Pic #2 (note the toggle switch), Pic #3, Pic #4.
2). 60's sunburst Fender Jaguar, dot neck, lefty, bad reproduction pickguard (41), serial # L83660 (59). Kurt had another Jaguar but it wasn't the same as his '65. It had DiMarzio pickups which were returned to stock pickups by Airline Vintage in Texas where the guitar was purchased in the Fall of 1992 for about $500 (41). (^ back to top ^)
C). There were occasional Fender Stratocasters (Japanese preferred, because of availability and smaller frets (57)).
1). Two all-white Fender Strats with 3 white single-coil sized pickups. The stock pickups were replaced with Seymour Duncan Hot rails, white or black at any given time because these pickups damaged easily. Both guitars also had various necks (41). One was used at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1992 for "Lithium" (seen 47) and had the serial # K 039704 (59). This Strat was trashed at the Seattle Center in 1992 and the other one, serial # K 039702 (59), at Argentina (59)(41).
2). White Fender Strat with 2 white single-coil sized pickups and tilted black bridge humbucker. Had the "K" sticker (seen 37 and also quickly in two of the segments in between "Sliver" and "On a Plain" in (16)). (Owned before the above two other all-white strats) (41)..
3). All-black Fender Strat, black pickguard, 2 white single-coil sized pickups and a black full-sized humbucker in the bridge, used as early as 1991 (15). Serial # I 006414. The bridge humbucker was either a Seymour Duncan JB or a '59. The last tone knob had come off (59). Had the sticker, "Vandalism: As beautiful as a rock in a cop's face" (seen 15) and "Courtesy of the Feederz: Office of Anti-Public relations" (41). The neck was replaced with a Fernandes neck for the 10/31/91 Seattle Paramount Theater show (seen 15, 16, 10) where it was broken off again and replaced. This guitar was smashed in Paris in the spring of 1992 or the winter of 1991 (41). Another neck picture. Another picture.
4). Black Fender Strat with a white pickguard, two single-coil sized pickups and a full-sized black humbucker in the bridge (had a chrome ring around it)(seen pg. 177 on (25)). Had a chrome Tune-O-Matic bridge and a stop chrome tailpiece (41). It was smashed during the recording of "Endless, Nameless" for "Nevermind" ("Nevermind" 33)(25)(41). Once fixed, it had a black pickguard and black pickups which made it look like the all-black Strat above, except with a Tune-O-Matic bridge (41). Currently at the Hard Rock Cafe (59).
5). Kurt has also been seen with a sunburst Strat with a white pickguard and three white single-coil sized pickups (seen 15 and pg. 273 on (25)). Smashed in Florida. Earnie built it for Kurt out of Stewart MacDonald parts. The bridge and pickguard assembly were leftovers. Earnie put an aftermarket Fender decal on it (41).
6). Black Fender Strat, white pickguard, which was set up like the all white Fender Strats and also from around the same time. It had a black Seymore Duncan Hot Rails pickup in the bridge. Dave smashed this guitar at the Reading Festival in 1992 (seen 48)(seen pg. 274 of (25))(41). According to BBC Radio 1's sound engineer, Miti Adhikari: "That gig was mental - there were so many people trying to get a slice of the pie backstage, it was undignified. There was a Radio 1 producer who had negotiated to give away Kurt's guitar after the gig in a competition, but the band trashed everything in sight at the end. So afterwards this guy was wandering around with a big bag collecting the pieces." (61). This guitar wound up at the Boston Hard Rock Cafe (59)(15) seen here. (UPDATED 09/06/04).
7). Black Fender Strat, white pickguard, which was set up like the previous Strat #6. This guitar was reduced to splinters by Kurt at Sao Paulo in January of 1993. Kurt can be seen handing the broken halves of the body out to the audience in pro shot footage of this show seen here (15). (UPDATED 09/06/04).
8). Candy apple red Japanese '57 Fender Strat reissue (41), serial # 0 035626 (59), early-style white Seymour Duncan hot stock pickup. Cost $200. It had a maple neck (Earnie Bailey switched to a rosewood neck which Kurt like better) and white single ply pickguard . It was smashed during the east coast leg of the In Utero tour (41).
9). Kurt used 5 or 6 black Fender Mexican Strats with white pickguards and black Seymour Duncan Hot rails in the bridge during the In Utero tour, used mostly for smashing (seen 16). They were pieced back together all the time (41). (^ back to top ^)
- Note on Kurt's Kramer Strat necks: "we had about 5-6 of those necks, that one was still on that guitar at Reading. The others appeared on the Vandalism strat, white strats, and endless nameless strat, and the sunburst strat. In early to mid 1992 we got a batch (5-7?) of Japanese made fender necks, the sao paulo strat, sunburst and both white ones had necks changed from Kramers to Fenders per Kurt's request. The leftover kramer necks were given away in 1992 and 1993"(59). (UPDATED 09/06/04).
D). Fender Telecasters
1). Blue Fender Telecaster, Japanese-made (59), had the "'heart' Courtney" scratched into it (seen 15). Actually 3-tone sunburst in color, but Kurt painted it blue with latex house paint and scratched the heart and the "Courtney" into it; you're actually seeing the red sunburst underneath (41). Seen in the "Come As You Are" music video (seen 49) briefly seen a couple of times and very quickly. Another picture.
2). I've been told a red Tele (from the Australian tour) has been seen, but I don't know if it is true (10). Earnie says this guitar is either Tele #1 or #3 (most likely #1), as Kurt only owned two Japanese Telecasters. (59).
3). Sunburst Telecaster Custom, sent to Kurt by Fender in early 1994 (57), Japanese made (59). "Fender sent this out for the In Utero tour to replace the blue one (#1). Stock pickups were very shrill. After Kurt's coma in Rome, I thought modifying this guitar would make it a workhorse and get him away from the Mustang-Jaguar image. Hopefully get him perked up. I put on new tuners (Gotoh's - his favorite). A Tele bridge from Stew-Mac with a humbucker cut-out and individual saddles for each string. In the bridge, I put a Duncan JB - black, and in the neck, a new Gibson PAFF, potted with a Chrome cover. He got this 2 weeks before he died, and said it was his new favorite. He used it for the home recordings he was making with Pat" (41) and Eric Erlanderson in March 1994 in Kurt's basement (57). Pic #2, Pic #3. (^ back to top ^)
E). Custom-made Guitars built for Kurt
1). The Ferrington Guitar. The luthier Danny Ferrington made a custom guitar for Kurt in 1992, based on the Fender Mustang. Had no serial #, of course (59). Here are two articles on it.
"Kurt is left-handed, and he really likes the Fender Mustang he's been playing for a few years. But his playing style is so rough, and left-handed Mustangs so rare, that it was beginning to look as if his favorite guitar was going to break apart right out from under him. I'd talked with Nick Close, one of Nirvana's roadies, about trying to find replacement necks for the Mustang, but finally Kurt called me to talk about ordering a new custom guitar.
"Nirvana left for Australia a few days later, and Kurt faxed me a great little picture showing where he wanted the pickups to be and what shape to use for the body. It was the first time I'd collaborated by fax, and I thought it was real fun to be designing a guitar by long distance using such a modern communications technology.
"I built his guitar to be a lot like that old Mustang, except we used a Gibson-style bridge that's better at keeping the guitar in tune, and I made the neck a little straighter so that it won't be so apt to break when Kurt plays it hard. It's tricky making left- handed guitars, though, because everything on a left-handed guitar is counter-intuitive for me. Right off the bat I made a few mistakes on Kurt's guitar, so finally I took to labeling all the parts 'This Side Up' to remind myself that I needed to do everything backwards. The guitar turned out real well, and a few months later Kurt came by with his wife to pick it up. Just after he started playing it he stopped dead in his tracks and said, 'This is like my dream guitar!' His wife asked, 'Honey, are you gonna trash this one too?' but Kurt got this horrified look on his face, and in a solemn voice he said, 'No, this one's going to be my recording guitar.' I was tickled to death, and it was incredibly satisfying to hear that I'd hit the nail right on the head" (28).
The Ferrington guitar is distinguished by several features. It has heart-shaped fretboard "dot" inlays, a stylized "f"(for Ferrington) on the peghead, three pickups (which look like single coil neck and middle pickup, and a humbucker bridge-position pickup), and an almost-Mustang pickguard where the plastic continues right down to the control knobs (this section is chrome on actual Mustangs). The Mustang slide switches are replaced with a toggle switch where the input jack would be. The actual input jack is a Stratocaster-style jack mounted below the pickguard. The body is basswood, with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. Its finished in what Fender calls sonic blue, with a red-swirl mother- of-bowling-ball pickguard. I don't know of any pictures or footage of Kurt playing this guitar, but this could be because it was used only as a "recording guitar" (28).
Second article: "[Kurt] hooked up with Danny Ferrington via Richard Thompson's guitar technician, who was friendly with Nirvana roadie Nick Close, who was desperately searching for left-handed necks to replace the ones that Kurt had destroyed onstage."
"'Kurt called me from the backstage of Saturday Night Live when Nirvana was doing the show,' Ferrington narrates. 'We talked for a long time about what he wanted. Basically, he loved Fender Mustangs, but he also hated them because you couldn't tune them. And it's hard to raise the action. He thought you could improve on it. He essentially wanted a more sophisticated Fender Mustang. So we talked about the features he wanted. Then the band went to Australia, Kurt faxed me over a little drawing that he'd done, with the pickup placements and other little notes.' The instrument Ferrington built is depicted in his book. In body shape and headstock, it's closely modeled on a Fender Mustang, but it has a Gibson-style Tune-O-Matic bridge and three Bartolini pickups. The bridge pickup is a humbucker, while the neck and middle pickups are single coils. The middle pickup is angled. The bridge pickup, Ferrington further explains, 'has a coil tap, so you can get series, parallel, and single coil. Kurt said he wanted a lot of switch options.'"
"The bridge pickup variations are governed by a small toggle switch located below the guitar's two knobs (a tone and a volume). There's also a Strat-style pickup selector. The instrument's body is made out of basswood, with a maple neck and a rosewood fretboard. The baby blue body colour and tortoise shell pickguard were Cobain's choices, as were the heart-shaped fret inlays" (32). Another picture.
2). The Fender Jag-Stang (18).
Another custom collaboration was with Fender, and was again based on the Mustang. It was planned in February 1993, right before recording "In Utero" (57). Before presenting two articles on it, take note of this. Earnie is skeptical of Fender's A&R people's quotes. He feels Kurt would never endorse the Jag-stang as he seems to in various quotes Fender claims. Earnie says he doubts Kurt had any intentions of the Jag-stang ever being mass-produced. "I believe he wanted a custom made guitar from Fender and that was it. After Kurt's death, Fender was given the go ahead to mass produce these and they sold a lot of them" (59). Read the section after these articles for more of Earnie's thoughts on this guitar.
"Cobain worked with the Fender Custom Shop to develop the "Jag-stang," a very functional combination of Jaguar and Mustang design. "'Kurt always enjoyed playing both guitars,' says Fender's Larry Brooks. 'He took photographs of each, cut them in half, and put them together to see what they'd look like. It was his concept, and we detailed and contoured it to give him balance and feel.
"'He was really easy to work with. I had a chance to sit and talk with him, then we built him a prototype. He played it a while and then wrote some suggestions on the guitar and sent it back to us. The second time around, we got it right.'
"The guitar features a Mustang-style short-scale neck on a body that borrows from both designs. There's a DiMarzio humbucking pickup at the bridge, and a Texas Special single coil at the neck, tilted at the same angle as on a Mustang. Cobain was quite satisfied with the guitar. "'Ever since I started playing, I've always liked certain things about certain guitars but could never find the perfect mix of everything I was looking for. The Jag-stang is the closest thing I know. And I like the idea of having a quality instrument on the market with no preconceived notions attached. In a way, it's perfect for me to attach my name to the Jag-stang, in that I'm the anti-guitar hero - I can barely play the things myself'" (18).
Second article: "'I was able to track down what they needed,' says Fender Director of Artist Relations Mark Wittenberg, 'so they could keep his guitars up and running. Then we were contacted and told that Kurt had an idea for a guitar -- something that he had in his mind's eye but wasn't really seeing out there in the real world. His favorite guitar was a Mustang, but there were things about the lines of the Jaguar that he really liked too.'"
"Wittenberg and Fender master builder Larry L. Brooks journeyed to Cobain and Love's Hollywood apartment to discuss the guitar. The couple were just in the process of moving out. Like Ferrington, the Fender guys were impressed with Cobain's courteous manner. 'He was very soft-spoken and very gentle.' Brooks recalls. 'As it turned out, we'd gotten him out of bed. He'd been out or played the night before, so he was still a little tired. But as we started talking about the guitar, the adrenaline started flowing. He was very easy to work with. He knew what he wanted, but at the same time he was able to say, "You're the builder, so you know the best way to accomplish what I'm after." He was very open-minded that way'" (32).
Fender cut a body and sent it to Kurt who sent it back with some slight suggestions. He then sent out one of his favorite necks for them to copy (41).
"The resulting instrument has an alder body, plus a 24-inch scale maple neck with a rosewood fretboard and vintage-style fretwire. At Cobain's request, Brooks used stock Mustang hardware from Japan, where the guitars are still produced (32) (according to Nirvana guitar tech Earnie Bailey, the bridge was later changed to a Tune-O-Matic (41)). The neck pickup is a single-coil Texas Special, which was originally designed as a bridge pickup for Fender's Stevie Ray Vaughan model. The bridge pickup is a Dimarzio H-3 Humbucker."
"'The Texas Special is a little hotter than most single coils,' Brooks explains. 'With a humbucker at the bridge, the Texas Special in the neck position really helped to balance things out so that there wasn't such a drastic drop in volume and output going from one pickup to the other.'"
"'Kurt requested two guitars' says Mark Wittenberg, 'one in Solid Blue and one in Fiesta Red.' The blue instrument was delivered to Cobain, who used it on Nirvana's 1993 tour. 'We were just finishing the Fiesta Red one,' Wittenberg continues. 'In fact, we were literally ready to deliver it when we received word of his death.' The red guitar has been earmarked for the Fender museum which is being planned" (32).
The "Jag-stang" was seen starting in mid-to-late 1993 (18) although Kurt rarely played it. A reviewer for Guitar Shop saw a "cross between the Jaguar and Mustang, the Jag-stang features a sonic blue Jag body with white pickguard and Mustang bridge" (24). The Jag-stang was available to the public for a short time, but isn't wasn't as Kurt intended it to be (41). Kurt didn't even like the Jagstang that much when he received it (57). He forgot to have Fender do the contours for the arm and the stomach (41). It was as thick as a Telecaster and rather misbalanced. He wouldn't even play it for the (first?) month he had it. It was also tough to set up. Earnie immediately changed the pickups, putting a Duncan JB in the bridge (57)(59). As previously stated, he installed a Tune-O-Matic bridge on it (41). Kurt had trouble with the Mustang's slider switches, which oddly appeared on the Jag-stang, but not on the Ferrington. Earnie's also puzzled as to how the Jag-stang wound up with a Mustang tremolo and bridge (59). "Kurt was funny, with both the Jag-stang and the Ferrington, he was very excited when he received them, but soon he found things about both that he overlooked or wanted to change." He had also talked with Kurt about re-shaping the body for a more traditional Fender look. Earnie told Mark Wittenberg about these changes (also, the fitted bridge). Mark was interested in the changes, but he passed away, as well. So Fender released that Jag-Stang in the way Kurt had received it (41)(59). Kurt eventually became comfortable enough to use his Jag-Stang on rare occaions for a whole show (57). Courtney gave the Jag-Stang to Peter Buck after Kurt passed away (41). He played it in the "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" music video (seen 27), and Mike Mills plays it live on "Let Me In" (41). Pic #2, Pic #3, Pic #4, Pic #5, Pic #6, Pic #7, Pic #8. Kurt's sketch of the Jag-Stang. (^ back to top ^)
F). Univoxes. Although Kurt is known for his Fenders, he used a non-Fender from time to time. One type which definitely needs to be noted was a Univox. Note: a couple of these may overlap and be the same guitar.
"1). Univox Mosrite copy. Actually called "Hi-Flyers" on pg.116-117 of Rolling stone's Cobain book (source info?). White pickguard, maple fretboard" (direct quote 41).
2). White Univox, serial # 037472. Used in the Heart-Shaped Box video. Purchased at a NYC pawn shop in the Chelsea district (59). It had different string trees than the one used in the video (41), it had black roller-type graphite string trees (59). "Earnie sent him this guitar to use in the video when he couldn't find...[the] 1969 competition Mustang, which turned out to have been under his bed the whole time!" (41). It was smashed in Kansas City 1993 but there is another one just like it (59). This smashed guitar was found up for auction on eBay. Another pic.
3). White Univox (also mentioned (32), serial #034638. Purchased at The Trading Musician in Seattle for $200 and survived the last tour. It had a maple fingerboard and a B.C. Rich made Badass bridge (59).
Upon showing Earnie a picture that was sent to me of a white Univox which was supposedly the last one Kurt purchased, Earnie had this to say: "I bought Kurt's white Univoxes for him. They were the same as that one [in the photo], but I always put on good tuners and a bridge that would intonate. Kurt hated being out of tune, the stock bridge in the photo has a non-adjustable bridge designed for a wound G string. Even set up lefty, the D would be horribly out. Kurt avoided music stores after he could afford to pay someone to go deal with them" (59).
4). Sunburst Univox Custom (also mentioned (32)), serial # 1002904. Had a mahogany neck, single coils, and was purchased from Danny's Music (59). Used on SNL 1993. It had a nailed on logo that said "Univox" as opposed to "Univox Custom" which was previously thought (58). This was his favorite Univox. This was the first guitar that had a Duncan JB installed in it. Kurt loved the sound of this "plywood beast". Earnie bought it for him for $150. The previous owner was a Minister in Everett, Washington (41). This had an Ibanez Gibraltar bridge installed (59). Possibly seen on pg. 286-287 of (25), (41). Another picture.
5). Univox Hi-Flyer, mahogany neck and stock single coils at the Rio show encore (59). Kurt liked this one too. Later got a humbucker in the bridge (41).
6). Natural Univox Hi-Flyer, he had two of these, in Fall 1993, both with maple necks and fretboards (41). One had the serial # 038706. This one was purchased at Guitar Maniacs for $150 (59). They had stock humbuckers (which Kurt liked very much), Badass bridges (the stock humbucker models had single-piece bridges, while the P-90 single coil models had Jazzmaster type bridge-tail piece units). A friend of his painted one of these in a Van Gogh style (41).
7). "Univox, with pink and green stickers all over it. Also had Monkees sticker and "WASP: We are scary posers" written on it. Seen pgs.61, 116 of (25)." (direct quote 41). The first guitar Kurt smashed. It was at Washington's Evergreen State College on 10/30/88, said to be in response to frustration with Chad's drumming. Kurt bought a lot of Univox's (for an average of $100 over 5 years) from Guitar Maniacs in Tacoma, Washington and Danny's Music in Everett, Washington. Guitar Maniacs says that Kurt bought a lot of the Hi-Flyers with humbuckers and also the P-90 version (57)(59).
8). Black Univox Les Paul Custom copy (41), no serial # (59), which publicist Anton Brooks gave Kurt on the European tour in 1991 (41). It had a bolt-on neck, a Witchy Poo sticker on the body (41) (59), stock hardware, and a painted Flipper fish over logo in white (41).
9). Sunburst Univox, serial # 1002467. Had a mahogany neck, single coils, and was purchased from Danny's Music (59).
10). Natural Univox. Had a black pickguard, humbucker pickups, and was purchased from Guitar Maniacs.
Asleep with a Univox? (^ back to top ^)
G). Miscellaneous Guitars
1). Sunburst Mosrite Gospel with white pickguard, which Kurt loved. It was used at the Motor Sports show (41)(seen 51). Purchased in San Francisco, possibly a few days prior to the show. According to Earnie, "Kurt had only one Gospel, and this is a beyond rare guitar. At the time Kurt died, I was secretly working with Loretta Mosley to build Kurt a lefty Gospel," ".in some cool color." Unfortunately, Kurt passed away as Earnie was gathering photos to send to Mosrite of Kurt's original. "Loretta sent me a nice letter after it ended, as she had recently lost Semie (husband, founder of Mosrite) and was now running Mosrite on her own... she had sent me some sales literature of another Gospel, but could find no history of ever having made one based on the Mark IV guitar. Kurt's Gospel had a letter from Mosrite with it, that was written to the person it was built for" (59). Pic #2 , Pic #3, Pic #4, Pic #5, Pic #6, Pic #7.
2). Orange Vantage Les Paul copy, had a bolt-on neck. Also smashed at the Motor Sports show (41). Another picture.
3). The Hard Rock Cafe's collection of guitars mistakenly claims to own Kurt's "trademark" Fender Jazzmaster which is autographed. Kurt has told Earnie Bailey on several occasions that he never used a Jazzmaster. Earnie chased down a lefty Jazzmaster for Kurt once but he and Krist decided it was too expensive, as it was going to be purchased as a surprise (59). The photo also has, I believe, Kurt's all-black Strat which was destroyed and pieced back together (35) (see Strat #3 above)(59). Another good example is of a Poloroid I received is of a candy apple red 1966 Fender Jaguar that's signed by Kurt, the owner claiming it to be his. I've seen lots of examples of things Kurt "owned" such as an early 70's Marshall Superlead with "NIRVANA" painted on the side ("...we never painted "NIRVANA" on anything, that's asking to have it stolen," says Earnie), Univoxes, an Antigua Mustang, etc.. all bogus. "I grilled him [Kurt] about a lot of his gear, and things that didn't get destroyed wound up at their homes or in storage. I think it's safe to say that anything early on not reduced to splinters, I worked on at some point. So all this mystery stuff that people are claiming is out of hand. They really didn't have, or go through as much gear as everyone thinks or as much as they wanted you to think." Lots of times fans simply have bands sign guitars; often people will wait for bands at airports to sign them (59).
4). Bluish Gibson SG Standard, pickups taped in. Used in Tijuana where it was broken in half and had the neck broken off. It reappears at the HUB Ballroom on 1/6/90. However, a guitar resembling guitar #14 below may be the (or one of?) the HUB guitar(s) (Seen on pg.131 in (25))(41)(57).
5). Mid 60's Sunburst Fender XII (57) electric 12-string, serial # F 136692 (59), dot neck, right-handed (unlike most, if not all, of Kurt's other Fenders). It had cherub stickers on it. He wrote "Serve the Servants" on this guitar. Courtney had one too, but both guitars were damaged in the Spring of 1992. Kurt hid some guitars, songbooks, and tapes in their bathtub figuring burglars wouldn't look in the tub, were the house ever robbed. The bathtub filled with sewage and damaged his guitar the most-- the body was water-stained about halfway up, split, and warped. Earnie offered to build a new body for it, but Kurt didn't think the guitar was worth saving. Kurt was very depressed about the unfortunate accident to this guitar (41). Purchased around the end part of the "Nevermind" tour (57).
6). Black Epiphone Les Paul which was used for (and probably only for) the "Nevermind" under photoshoot (41)(seen (25), pg. 184 I believe).
7). Red sunburst Epiphone ET270, Japanese-made, used during the Bleach era, no serial #. Kurt had taken off the neck and filled the neck pocket with Elmers Glue, to stop the neck from shifting. It was messy, but worked. He had also put right-handed six-in-line tuners on this three on a side headstock. The fingerboard came off the last time he threw this guitar around (59). Said to be used in the SubPop "In Bloom" video (43) and was his main guitar around that time (41)(57)(possibly seen (25), pg. 132; and is on pg.135, says Earnie). Another picture.
8). Blonde F-hole Archtop Harmony. It had fake painted flame maple on the sides and top, and had a maple fretboard. It was used in Come as You Are video. It sat in the doorway to Kurt's home with a broken headstock. Kurt said he liked it that way (41).
9). National Map Body Resoglass, turquoise, serial # G14667 (59), right-handed, tremolo, small body fiberglass model, had 2 pickups.. not a big Glen Wood, strung lefty but the strap button wasn't moved. It never toured (41)
10). Hagstrom blue glitter 3/4 size Les Paul copy. He got this in December 1992, paid $500, a lot for that model at the time. Had a pearloid fingerboard and back (41).
11). Lefty Rickenbacker 4001 Bass, natural, which he loved (41).
12). Ibanez Les Paul Custom copy, left-handed, set neck, cherry sunburst, Dimarzio X2N pickups, 2 coil tap mini switches (installed when purchased), flame top but not super flamey, black pickguard (may have been removed) and pickup rings. Black or gold speed knobs. This was a great lefty guitar but Kurt wouldn't play it live because he said it looked too much like Jimmy Page. Earnie may have sent this for the "In Utero" recording (41)(59).
13). Blue Mosrite Mark IV that was damaged in bathtub incident. Kurt gave this to Pat at SNL 1993 (seen 50)(41).
14). Greco Mustang copy purchased from Guitar Maniacs. Supposedly destroyed on 7/9/89 in Pennsylvania but it may have reappeared in some form at the HUB on 1/6/90 (57).
15). An odd, unknown guitar said to be a BC Rich guitar but who knows if this is true (10).
16). Kurt's first guitar was said to be a Lindell, given to him on his 14th birthday by his uncle, Chuck Fradenburg (53) along with a 10-watt amp. This guitar was left in an abandoned meat-locker Kurt practiced at with some friends. When he finally was able to get back to the meat-locker, it was in pieces. He saved the neck, electronics, and hardware and attempted to build a new body for it in woodshop. However, he couldn't get its intonation and tuning right (57)(25).
17). Supposedly an unknown right-handed black guitar with a white pickguard, headstock similar to some Gibsons, newer Epiphones. Was completely smashed. Could be one of the above guitars? (15)
18). Greco SG copy, belonging to Dale Crover. Earnie says "...I spoke with Dale Crover and he reminded me of a guitar of Kurt's that was dropped off at Dale's apartment on an early NIRVANA tour. It was a Greco SG copy with a bolt-on neck that Kurt robbed for parts. I restored it for Dale with parts from Kurt's old guitars and painted it baby blue for him" (59).
19). Hagstrom model 3, probably belonging to Mark Arm of Mudhoney (59).
20). Framos Jaguar copy which was used as a prop in an "Alternative Guitar" magazine cover. Probably from 1992 and also probably just a prop guitar (41). Another picture. (^ back to top ^)
H). Acoustic Guitars
1). Prior to the In Utero tour, Kurt's main acoustic was an Epiphone Texan (32) purchased after completing "In Utero" as a replacement for the Stella (57). It was probably from 1961. It is easily identified by the "Nixon" (or is it "Nixon Now"?) sticker. The guitar's adjustable bridge was changed to a lefty flat-top bridge (41) and a standard saddle (57). Earnie says this was one of the best-sounding acoustics he's heard, and Kurt's best; despite this, he wouldn't use it on "Unplugged" ("Unplugged" 21)(41). Used during the "In Utero" tour on occasion as a backup to his Martin (52)(15). Another picture.
2). Takamine acoustic (seen 15), cutaway, and rented for use at a radio show-- seen with Kurt wearing a black (?) leather jacket. NIRVANA wasn't happy with pictures getting around of them playing modern equipment (41).
3). Yamaha acoustic, so I'm told (seen 15).
4). Ibanez Vantage (or Vintage) acoustic, used for a Tower Records store performance (source info?)(supposedly seen 51). Possibly this guitar.
5). Natural finish Harmony (41), serial # 5226H913 (59), 12-string acoustic. Other than the finish, it is identical to:
6). Stella Harmony 12 string acoustic, serial # 1460H912 (59) but only had 5 nylon strings on it that were never changed. Also see "Recording of 'Nevermind'" and "Recording of 'In Utero'" sections. It was sunburst in color, flattop, with a white screw-on pickguard, and a floating wood bridge which was glued down. It was purchased from Edgewater Pawn Shop and Sheridan Jewelry (cost $29.00 plus $2.23 in sales tax) on October 12, 1989, when Kurt was living in Olympia. Recorded "Polly," "Something in the Way," and the "Lithium" demo version with this guitar (Stella seen pg. 4 on 38 and also quickly in two of the segments in between "Sliver" and "On a Plain" in (16))(41). Kurt's receipt of purchase, from pawn shop.
7). Martin D-18E acoustic, also see "Recording of 'Unplugged'" section. Late 1950's, serial # 166854 (59), bought at Voltage Guitar in Los Angeles in the fall of 1993. The D-18E was one of Martin's earliest stab at electric guitars. Only 302 were made before it was discontinued in 1959. It is basically a D-18 acoustic but with two pickups, three control knobs (one volume and two tone), and a selector switch. Kurt probably didn't have any idea how rare the guitar was when he bought it, according to Earnie Bailey. Voltage recut the existing nut so a left-handed Kurt could play it, although out of intonation, probably due to Kurt "needing it yesterday." "I cut the new nut, and John Saba (longtime friend and Seattle area repairman who specializes in tricky acoustic bridge work and neck resets) filled in the bridge and routed the new slot for the bone piece. Kurt liked the work and sent me the Epiphone (Nixon Now) for the same treatment, but John replaced the entire bridge for that I believe. John now works for Dusty Strings, a high end acoustic & bluegrass shop in Seattle"(57). The D-18E didn't sound very good, so in addition to the instrument's DeArmond pickups (which were designed to be used in conjunction with nickel strings and sounded poor with bronze-wound), a Bartolini 3AV pickup was added to the top. Kurt was interested in the pickup because of its use by Peter Buck (21)(29)(32)(57).
8). Quoting Earnie, "I once ran across a broken off, lefty, Ferrington Strat-shaped headstock that had bronzewound strings attached to it! This leads me to think that he had a Ferrington acoustic made for him. It is possible that it was a spare Strat or Mustang neck, but where did the acoustic strings come from!" (59).
9). Funny, little acoustic (15).
1). During the "Bleach" (34)-era, Randall heads (the "Commander," allegedly) were used in conjunction with the Japanese Epiphones noted in "Guitars" section and whatever cabinets were available. It was said he later used a Sunn-Beta Lead head driving 4X12 Peavey cabinets also during the Bleach era (32). This may be true, but he also used a BFI Bullfrog 2x12 cabinet of which he only had one (59) and a Randall head (57). See #13 below and also the "Recording/Tour Gear" section for more details.
2). Mesa/Boogie Studio Preamp (56)(57), rack-mounted, tubed with either Mesa/Boogie or Groove Tubes 7025 preamp tubes (59). Kurt said he turned all the midrange up (57). This was the amp set-up for the latter part of the "Nevermind" tour and all of the "In Utero" tour (57). As a side note, Kurt didn't break any "important" equipment during the In Utero tour (40). The first Studio Preamp Kurt had was given to Pat, and Earnie ordered three more for the "In Utero" tour... two new ones for Kurt and a spare for Pat. "I kept tons of spares of everything on hand to avoid being stranded and unable to get parts, and to make sure the show never stopped due to a dead amp. I really liked the long, drawn out demolition sessions, and the more indestructible the amp rigs were, this part of the show would last as long as the guitar would, sometimes longer" (59).
3). 4 Crown 800W power amps (9)(22). This never worked out very well and was "a particular source of frustration" for "Nevermind" tour tech, Nick Close. He says the band didn't have a lot of spending money yet, and because of time and money a lot of gear which would have worked better for Kurt didn't get tried. Plus, Kurt wasn't a gear head and didn't want to take the time to sit down and talk about what could be done. The output on the Boogie Studio preamp was so hot, the Crown power amp would blow up a lot and have to be repaired. The Crown was replaced with:
4). Two Crest 4801 power amps. Finally, they found amps which could take the beating. Earnie Bailey called these "the amp that wouldn't die" (41)(57).
5). Kurt also used a Carver power amp (20)(59), which are made in the northwest and are very unique, Earnie tells me (59).
Miscellaneous pictures of Kurt's amp rig: Pic #1, Pic #2, Pic #3.
6). Fender Twin Reverb. 1982 blackface 135-watt "Ultra-Linear" model (57). Very clean in sound. It had missing knobs, broken off pots, and a fallen in jack when Earnie took it in for a makeover. It was functioning but the pots crackled and it only had two Peavey 6L6 power tubes in it (which meant it was only running on half the power)-- Kurt didn't know how it worked with only two output tubes but felt it was the key to its sound. Earnie knew it would sound even better with 4 matched power tubes. He replaced the two Peavey 6L6's with a quartet of Groove Tubes 6L6's (GE or Sylvania) and biased it for him, as well as fixed all of the above. The amp had 7025 preamp tubes (59). Earnie pulled a prank on Kurt for the "In Utero" rehearsals and told Kurt he only cleaned the pots. Kurt said it sounded better than ever and Earnie let him in on the secret (41)(57)(59). Used for recording "In Utero" (32) and "Unplugged." See each section for more details on this amp.
7). Marshall 4x12 cabinets (seen in many 15), visable in most any concert footage or photographs. For the live set-up on the "Nevermind" tour (very similar to the setup for "Nevermind" album), the individual speakers were 25 watt Greenbacks, 75 watt Celestions, and then Vintage 30's (Kurt's favorite) (41). The predominant speakers of this tour were the Celestion 75's (59). I believe Jim Vincent told me the speakers during the "In Utero" tour were 25 watt Greenbacks (40), but Earnie says they were Vintage 30's (59). During their last tour Kurt used 8 cabinets, Chris 8, and Pat 4 (32). Pat received Kurt's old 4x12's with the Celestion 75's when Kurt got his new ones with the V30's (59). See #18 in this section for more on Kurt's Marshall 4x12's.
8). Small, red vinyl Marshall "ministack/microstack" head and cabinets (seen 7). This was just for fun, it was never used or plugged in. Supposedly at the fall 1993 show in Chicago, Kurt asked the crowd if they wanted him to break anything; he picked up the MiniStack and threw it across the stage (10).
9). Fender Champ (25).
10). 70's Peavey Vintage with the fake vinyl tweed covering, 2x12, tube model. One of Kurt's first amps along with a small 10-watt amp given to him by his uncle(57). The Peavey was his favorite amp. Kurt's father gave it to Goodwill; Kurt was always trying to find another one (41). Another source simply says the amp "disappeared sometime between early 1986 and late 1987" after it was loaned to Krist when trying to get him to join the band. With this amp and an unknown guitar, sold and retrieved from a pawn shop and almost lost again when loaned to a drug dealer, Kurt formed his first band in 1985-- Fecal Matter (57).
11). The Mesa/Boogie amp head we've all wondered about from the Jonathan Ross show is said to be a Strategy 400 Stereo, stereo power amp, rackmounted. Thanks to Matt Salleo of the Krist Bass FAQ who saw a picture of this head in a two-year old issue of the "Australian Music Trader" magazine (source info?), or something to that effect (10).
12). '68 Fender Twin. Used for recording "Bleach" and also the Reciprocal Studio session (59)(54). See "Recording of Bleach" for more info.
13). A Randall amp (probably solid-state), possibly a "Commander," was used on 1/23/88 session when Dale was on drums. It was probably also used that summer at the "Love Buzz" session. Not used on "Bleach," however (54). If this amp was only a head, it was probably used in conjuction with a BFI Bullfrog 4x12 cabinet, the Epiphone ET270 guitar, and a Boss DS-1)(57).
14). Hiwatt 4x12 speaker cabinets. Seen at least once, at the Beehive Record Store on 9/16/91 (57).
15). Marshall head and cabs seen on the "Top of the Pops" show were NOT used (seen (15)).
16). Kurt's actual rack (which held his rackmounted preamp and power amps) was said to be made for him by a guitar tech named Mark Snyder (58). Earnie Bailey, on the other hand, says this is not true. It was rebuilt weekly..."there was nothing to it, eight screws and one patch cord. It seems strange to me that someone would claim to have 'built' this for him. I have met many people over the years who have claimed to have done certain things that I know aren't true."
17). Mesa/Boogie Tremoverb. Kurt supposedly tried out the first Mesa/Boogie Tremoverb amp which Mark claims he brought to Kurt at the NY Roseland Ballroom show (1) where it was on stage, and Kurt eventually sent this amp back (58). However, Earnie says they always worked with a fellow named Kevin at Mesa/Boogie, not Mark.
18). Mark Snyder seems to recall Kurt using Marshall heads as a power amp, using the Boogie preamp and the Marshall's returns (58). Earnie Bailey's response to this:
"Regarding the Marshalls, Kurt really disliked Marshall amps. Partly, due to the whole hair metal stigma happening in the 80's, and he didn't like the sound of them. I think it was too generic for him. If you recall on his 4x12 cabs, he had his Marshall logos taped over, not removed (which is a simple task), as a statement towards the status associated with owning Marshall gear. Marshall 4x12's are easy to find whether you are buying or renting overseas. This is a likely reason why he used them considering how often they had to be replaced. Kurt using a Marshall head for a power amp is pretty out there, think about it, a Marshall's output stage is rather dirty and would be even more so at the volumes Nirvana played at. I brought an old plexi 100 to the Reciprocal session in 1993(?). It had 6550's in it and had the gain lowered to sound like a Dual Showman. It took a long time to get him to even try it. Kurt wound up recording with Endino's Twin again, and Krist used the plexi for bass" (59).
Krist Novoselic Edit
- Gibson RD/Gibson Ripper
- Fender Jazz Bass
- Ibanez Black Eagle
- Ibanez Roadster
- Guild B30E
- Ampeg AEB-1
- Rotosound strings
- Dobren accordion
(see Nirvana effects and amplification for effects and amplification used by Novoselic.)
Dave Grohl Edit
- Tama Granstar, Silky Yellow finish + Superstar Snare, Natural finish.
- This was Dave's kit from 1990–1991. It was demolished at the Cabaret Metro, Chicago, 10/12/91.
- 8" × 14" Birch Snare
- 14" × 15" Rack Tom
- 16" × 18" Floor Tom
- 16" × 24" Bass Drum
- Tama Granstar II, Fire Storm Red finish + Artwood Snare, Black finish.
- This kit was used for the remainder of the Nevermind tour.
- 8" × 14" Birch Snare
- 14" × 15" Rack Tom
- 16" × 18" Floor Tom
- 16" × 24" Bass Drum
- Tama Artstar II, Piano Black finish + Superstar Snare, Natural finish.
- This was Dave's chief set-up for the In Utero Tour.
- 8" × 14" Birch Snare
- 14" × 15" Rack Tom
- 16" × 18" Floor Tom
- 16" × 24" Bass Drum
- Zildjian A Series Medium
- 18" Crash
- 20" Crash
- 22" Ride
- 15" Hi-Hats
- Paiste cymbals (28" ride used briefly with Scream, broken within one year.)
- Aquarian Hi Energy snare drumheads
- Remo Clear Pinstripe drumheads on batter
- Clear Ambassador drumheads on resonant
- Clear Powerstroke II bass drumheads
- Ebony Ambassador drumheads with 6" hole off-center
- Aquarian Power-Sleeve 2B Sticks (Held Upside-Down)
- DW 5000 Turbo pedal
- Tama Titan Stilt Boom Stands
- Custom made Sonor hi-hat stand