Did Paul Davids really play Hendrix’s “$10,000,000” Monterey Stratocaster?

A couple of details surrounding the guitar in Davids’ video don’t seem to add up.

UPDATE (13 January 2022): Myles Poulton, who organised the video in question, has responded to Guitar.com‘s coverage in a statement, addressing the Heritage Auctions issue and asserting that he is satisfied with the guitar’s provenance. You can read the statement here.

Last Friday (3 December), YouTube guitarist Paul Davids uploaded a video titled I PLAYED JIMI HENDRIX’ $10,000,000 GUITAR. The guitar showcased in the video is ostensibly the black Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. However, there are questions about the authenticity of the instrument.

Firstly, there is the Heritage Auctions sale of this guitar, which was initially set to be sold by the auction house around the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Pop Festival show, in 2017. However, not long after the auction was announced, the guitar was pulled from sale – a Heritage Auctions press statement revealed that “experts examined the instrument and cited concerns that it may not be the same guitar Hendrix played at Monterey”.

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The concerns were grave enough, apparently, for Heritage to cancel the sale outright. Notably, when the guitar was sold at an earlier auction, no mention of any documents of provenance, signed or otherwise, was made. Instead, the lot description mentioned “endless pictures” of the guitar from the Monterey footage – but this footage could cast even more doubt on the instrument’s authenticity.

The Monterey footage provides a view of the rear of the guitar. Comparing the guitar in the footage and the guitar in Davids’ video shows us that the pattern of damage has, of course, changed over the past 50 years. New dings have appeared, and the line of buckle rash has expanded – as would be expected should the guitar have been played over the past half-century. However, what’s more difficult to explain is the movement of the roughly circular chunk of missing finish close to the back corner of the belly carve.

Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix performing Hey Joe at the Monterey Pop Festival. The circle of missing finish is on the sloped section of the belly carve, and closer to the edge of the guitar than it is on the guitar in Davids’ video. Images: Vintage Blues In 4K via YouTube

As you can see in the above image, footage from the Monterey performance of Hey Joe shows the chunk of missing finish to be inside the line of the belly carve. The video footage makes this a little clearer – the movement of the guitar and the reflections on the finish show the outline of the belly carve more obviously. However, on the guitar featured in Davids’ video, the exposed wood is outside the line of the carve, further from the edge of the instrument. Take a look below:

Paul Davids' Stratocaster footage
Image: Paul Davids via YouTube

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It’s possible that a combination of low-quality footage and odd reflections from stage lights explain this visual discrepancy. The guitar in Davids’ video has also been part of several museum exhibits about rock history but no clearer provenance was brought about by these exhibitions. The story at present is that the guitar entered the collector’s market after being purchased from Hendrix’s US manager, Bob Levine.

These details do not question whether this instrument is or is not an actual Fender Stratocaster. It’s likely still a very valuable guitar – perhaps just not as valuable as Davids’ video would have you believe. While Davids states, “estimates say that this guitar might bring in between seven and 10 million dollars,” this figure is a significant leap from the guitar’s previous sales: it fetched $200,000 at auction in 2012 and, before it was pulled from Heritage Auctions, was estimated to fetch $750,000. How exactly this increase in value came about is not made clear in the video.

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