The man who did more than any before or after him to launch the Stratocaster into the stratosphere of the world’s most significant noise machines really needs no introduction, but the Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster deserves a little back story.
This new model from Fender’s Mexican-built range brings several essential Hendrix-certified twists to the table at aprice affordable to most hard-working guitarists. As such, it’s worth a look from any Hendrix fan, as well as any Strat lover who might dig a few alternative accents.
Be aware that while at a glance this instrument comes off as an homage to Jimi’s Olympic White 1968 “Woodstock-era” Stratocaster, this Artist Series model makes no attempt to be aperiod-correct representation of that guitar.
And that’s exactly the point. What it does is deliver a few specific flipped-over features of Hendrix’s left-handed use of right-handed guitars so that righties can cadge a little Jimi-inflected vibe without going whole-hog and scratching up their forearms on the inverted knobs of a lefty Strat.
So, we get the flipped headstock, which extends the low-E and shortens the high-E behind the nut, reverse-angle bridge pickup that purportedly tightens up the bass response and adds girth to the treble, plus a Hendrix signature decal on the back of that telltale big headstock and an engraved Hendrix neck plate.
The model does not give you the flipped-over vibrato bridge with whammy arm on the bass strings side of the block, but no matter. Gear lore often has it that the reversed headstock and bridge-pickup angle (which also reverses the polepiece stagger relative to the strings) contributed to Hendrix’s signature tone.
Many authorities, on the other hand, will tell you that he played guitars this way not out of any finicky preferences for their nuanced sonic differences, but because right-handed Strats were just a whole lot easier to get hold of, especially when you needed one quickly after setting your main squeeze on fire or smashing it against a Marshall stack.
This maple-necked Stratocaster comes in Olympic White or black (another Hendrix favorite), with three of Fender’s American Vintage ’65 Stratocaster single-coil pickups, traditional vintage vibrato bridge, and Kluson-style tuners.
At 7.9 lbs it’s a little on the heavy side. Trussrod adjustment is conveniently found at the headstock end rather than the heel—where it would have been in ’68—and there’s a 5-way switch already installed, although the guitar’s two Tone controls govern the neck and middle pickups, as is traditional, rather than one being assigned to the bridge pickup, as so many contemporary players prefer.
The finish and setup are all good right out of the included gigbag, and the guitar’s slim-ish “C” neck plays easily, save for a few slightly sprouted fret ends, likely the result of its travels from Mexico to a cold, dry New Hampshire.
Played alternately through a Marshall JTM45-inspired Grammatico Blackpool head and a Komet 60 head via a range of speaker cabs, the Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster ably performed all the standard Strat-fueled sonic hijinks that will take you to Hendrix-land if, of course, you have the chops.
Put another way, it’s a good, solid, and enjoyably playable Stratocaster that confidently does anything you’d seek from the model.
All in all, you could point this weapon at anything you’d want a good vintage-voiced Strat to tackle, and if you’re a Hendrix fanatic, its nifty twists on the form might just ramp up that extra measure of mojo to kick you over the top. A cool guitar by any measure, the Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster is a worthy addition to Fender’s Artist Series lineup.
Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster – Specifications
Price: $899 street
Nut width: 1.650″
Neck: Maple, medium “C” profile, 25½” scale
Fretboard: Maple, 9.5″ radius
Frets: 21 medium-jumbo
Tuners: Vintage Kluson-style
Body: Solid alder
Bridge: Vintage-style Synchronized, Tremolo
Pickups: Three American Vintage ’65, Stratocaster single-coils
Controls: Master Volume, Tone controls for neck and middle pickups, 5-way switch
Factory Strings: Fender 250R, .010-.046
Kudos: Clever Hendrix-inspired features in a right-handed Strat. Great playability and tone for the price.
Concerns: A little heavy.