Jimi Hendrix was one of the finest guitarists to ever walk the earth. We lost him early. But his legacy and influence lives on. But why did Jimi Hendrix only ever use Fender guitars?
As of 2022, Fender is one of the biggest, most well-known, and, compared to Gibson, one of the most profitable and successful brands on the planet. Fender owns Charvel, Gretsch, and Jackson and it also has its very own budget line of guitars under its Squier brand. As companies go, Fender is killing it right now.
If you grew up in the 1980s or earlier, and you like rock music, one of the first people you were likely exposed to is Jimi Hendrix. The man redefined guitar for an entire generation of players. Everybody from Queens of The Stone Age to Jimmy Page owes a debt to Hendrix who, even by 2022’s standards, is still one of the most naturally gifted musicians to ever pick up a guitar.
Instantly recognizable, Hendrix made being a rock star look easy. The way he carried himself, the way he dressed, even his shoes were badass. Add in a gravelly, beautiful voice, a near-god-like command of the blues, and a completely unique style of playing guitar and you have all the ingredients for one of history’s most iconic and influential guitarists.
Aside from all of the above, one of the first things that pops into my head when I think of Jimi Hendrix is his guitar. Hendrix used Fender guitars for his entire career, mostly Stratocasters. In my mind I see Jimi and he ALWAYS has a Fender Stratocaster with him. I like to think, wherever he is now, he still does. But why did Jimi Hendrix only ever use Fender guitars and not, say, Gibson or Epiphone models?
Why Jimi Hendrix Played Fender Guitars
Back when Jimi was setting fire to venues with his amazing playing, the guitar market wasn’t quite as evolved as it is now. You had fewer brands, much less choice, and all the headaches guitarists still have to deal with today – things like reliability issues, tuning issues, intonation problems, and electrical problems.
If you look back to when Hendrix was playing, nearly all guitarists – save for The Beatles, who used Epiphone guitars – played Fender or Gibson guitars, usually either a Stratocaster, or an SG, a Les Paul, or a Telecaster. Semi-hollow models were popular too, like the Epiphone Casino and Gibson ES, but for rock music of the kind played by Hendrix, it was almost always a solid body guitar from Fender or Gibson.
But Hendrix, unlike Jimmy Page or Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, is mostly known for playing a Fender Stratocaster, as well as his innovative approach to pedal choice. Hendrix used Strats so much that they kind of became his thing. When I was little, I used to call Fender Strats, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. The pairing of the two was iconic and produced some of the best music ever recorded. But did Jimi Hendrix favor Fender Strats over, say, a Gibson Les Paul?
Here’s a quote from Jimi Hendrix that explains why he A) uses Fender Stratocaster guitars over Gibson, B) his amp setup of choice, and C) why he wasn’t particularly impressed by the Fender Telecaster, despite the fact he used one to record some truly outstanding material…
I use a Fender Stratocaster. Everyone’s talking about the 7yr old Telecaster, the 13yr old Gibson, and the 92yr old Les Paul. They’ve gone into an age bag right now, but it’s nothing but a fad. Y’know the salesman is always telling you that Chuck Berry took this one to the bathroom and he didn’t have no toilet paper, so watch out for the pick guard. The Stratocaster is the best all around guitar for the stuff we’re doing. You can get the very bright trebles and the deep bass sound. I tried the Telecaster and it only has two sounds, good and bad, and a very weak tone variation. A Guild guitar is very delicate but it has one of the best sounds. I tried one of the new Gibsons but I literally couldn’t play it at all, so I’ll stick with Fender. I really like my old Marshall tube amps, because when they’re working properly there’s nothing can beat it, nothing in the whole world. It looks like two refrigerators hooked together.Jimi Hendrix
Did Hendrix Ever Play A Gibson?
Hendrix was a Strat man through and through. A simple Google search or a quick browse at footage on YouTube shows that most of the time, meaning 99% of the time, when Hendrix played live, he used a Fender Stratocaster. But Hendrix did, in fact, also use Gibson guitars as well.
During his career, Hendrix has been known to play both Gibson SG and Gibson Fly V guitars. He even played a Gibson Les Paul as well. And who can blame him? During his heyday, Hendrix was one of the biggest musicians on the planet. He would have been courted by all the big guitar brands, including Gibson.
And if you love guitar, you love playing different models, trying them out, seeing how they feel. In this respect, Hendrix was no different from you and me; he was likely sent guitars by Gibson which he used and played often. In the grand scheme of things, however, across his painfully short career, the guitar Hendrix loved above all others was, of course, his Fender Stratocaster.
And Hendrix’s favorite Fender Stratocaster was his 1968 Olympic White Stratocaster which he named Izabella. In fact, this is the guitar that he used during his now-iconic 1969 Woodstock performance, where he ripped through classics like Hear My Train a Comin’, Foxy Lady, and Fire. You can check out the full video of that performance below – it is well worth watching.
The Izabella Stratocaster was originally purchased at Manny’s Music on West 48th Street in New York City. It was a 1968 Olympic White Strat with an alder body and two-piece maple neck, with no “skunk stripe” and truss rod adjustment at the heel. The “F style” neck plate had the serial number 240981, which, along with the pickups and hardware, were standard 1968 issue.
Significantly, the guitar featured the “big” Strat headstock with the Bob Perine-designed Fender logo and bold arced “Stratocaster” type. The headstock, when turned upside down in his hands, became an iconic emblem. Izabella was the last guitar Hendrix played with his original Jimi Hendrix Experience group, and the final guitar he ever played in concert. Izabella is displayed at MoPOP (formerly EMP Experience Music Project) in Seattle, Wash.Fender
Jimi Hendrix changed music forever. He inspired many of the greats of today which ensures the man’s legacy lives on. Hendrix is also arguably one of the main reasons why the Strat is so popular and remains so today. And despite what you might think, you can use Fender guitars for metal too – check out our guide to The Best Fender Guitars For Metal.
And, remember, if you cannot afford “Fender money”, you can always go with a cheaper alternative (like this amazing Squier Strat). Don’t be put off by the Squier name either; modern Squier guitars are fantastic, packing excellent pickups and very good build quality (especially in the $300-and-over category)
RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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