This summer, fender manufactured an affordable version of the Jimi Hendrix Monterey Stratocaster ($899 street; it had previously been a Custom Shop model) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American appearance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967. The new Monterey Strat celebrates a thrilling moment in pop-culture history, as Hendrix not only painted it himself, but burned it onstage in one of rock’s most infamous and enduring performance acts. To observe the Fender reissue, Janie Hendrix—Jimi’s adopted sister and CEO/President of Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix—shared some thoughts about her brother and this legendary Stratocaster.
Did you and your dad travel to see Jimi at Monterey?
Unfortunately, we did not. We knew he was really excited about it, because he would call us once a week to check in. I mean, he was still just a kid—25 years old. Things were new and fresh. I think Monterey was really important for Jimi, because he wanted audiences in America to see what he could do.
When did you become aware of all the uproar over Jimi burning his guitar?
There were no news reports about it, so I didn’t realize he burned the guitar until I saw the movie at our local theater [Monterey Pop by director D.A. Pennebaker, 1968]. He didn’t tell us what he did. He just said he was so excited that the audience really embraced him. When I finally saw it—wow—it was awesome. It really established who he was going to become.
Did Jimi ever tell you why he decided to paint his Strat for the Monterey Pop show?
No, but, as a kid, he would doodle, draw cartoons, and paint with watercolors. That was how he expressed himself early on. After his mom passed away, he picked up the guitar—it was kind of his therapy—but he never stopped drawing. In fact, he made drawings for Warner Brothers about how he wanted Electric Ladyland to look. I heard he painted his guitar before the show, and that he had always planned to sacrifice it. He was very aware that Monterey was a chance for him to be reborn in the U.S., and he knew he had to do something fabulous. So it was a ceremony of sorts. But the guitar was never an ornament to Jimi—it was an extension of who he was—so burning something he loved, and had made his own by painting it, was like offering a sacrificial lamb to the audience. It wasn’t just theater. You know, I think some guitarists look at their guitars like they shouldn’t touch them. But Leo Fender made the Strat and Tele to be hot rods—to be modified. So the cool thing about the Monterey Stratocaster is that Jimi showed people, “Yeah, draw on it, do whatever you want with it. Make it your own.”