A year or so ago, a forgotten — but staged burned — Jimi Hendrix guitar was found and sold for a little under half a million dollars.

Here’s the story behind Jimi’s axe:

The rock legend torched his 1965 Fender Stratocaster at the end of a show at the Astoria in Finsbury Park, north London, in March 1967.

The stunt sent roadies rushing to put out the flames and left Hendrix needing treatment for minor burns.

But amid the hubbub, press officer Tony Garland cleared away the scorched Stratocaster and stored it in his parents garage in Hove, East Sussex, where it lay forgotten for nearly 40 years.

Even as Hendrix became famous for burning his guitars on stage the instrument remained undiscovered until last year when it was unearthed by Garland’s nephew.

What surprises me about the discovery and then sale of Jimi’s guitar is this:  Why would you sell a sacred object for mere money?

That Hendrix guitar had a context, a memeing and a provenance in that family — enough so that the original keeper of the guitar hid it so well that it couldn’t be found for 40 years.

Then, as quickly as it was resurrected, the guitar was sold for half of what it was really worth.

What’s the point of selling the family scepter?  To turn a quick buck and dishonor the historic want of your core values?

How does one auction off and barter down a generational gift that was touched and inspired by a legend?

Is money all that matters today?

Can memory in your head ever be more valuable than a check in your hand?


  1. Maybe the seller wanted to purchase one and a quarter classrooms?
    Really, though, I do wonder about this. Perhaps it was because it was discovered by Garland’s nephew who had no ties nor interest in Hendrix – but a very real mortgage to pay or bills to pay? Money seems to motivate so much oddity in our lives.

  2. Those are excellent insights, Gordon, and I guess that’s what concerns me so — the family survived just fine for 40 years — and then Jimi’s guitar was unearthed and the need to sell far outweighed its inherent, familial, value.

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