What is claimed to be the first guitar played by Jimi Hendrix on British soil is coming up for auction in the UK this September. The guitar, a late 1950s Wandre electric, is being sold by auctioneers Gardiner Houlgate on behalf of the keyboard player and renowned band leader Zoot Money and comes with a hand written letter of provenance and a signed, sealed re-mastered vinyl edition of his 1966 album ‘Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band’.
In September 1966, Chas Chandler of The Animals arrived at Heathrow, with Jimi Hendrix via an overnight flight from New York. As was customary for Chandler when in town, he went straight to Zoot Money’s flat in West London to see if he knew anyone with a left handed guitar that Jimi could borrow to perform at the Bag ‘O’ Nails or Scotch of St. James that evening. Zoot recalls: ‘I couldn’t let him use one of Andy Summers’ guitars that were in the flat below because he would have killed me!’.
As they were discussing who to call, Hendrix played Money’s Wandre Italian guitar with Zoot saying that he would be happy to re-string the instrument in reverse if he was desperate, which he refused, but he did comment on it having a nice easy action. This visit with Chas Chandler has been written about in many biographies, so the story seems to be completely authentic. Although Hendrix never used the guitar in a gig, it was in fact the first instrument he ever played in England.
Zoot Money adds: ‘I had only purchased it to start some Chuck Berry songs on stage, because as I said Andy would not let me near his guitars! The strings are in fact still the strings that were on it that night! Later, many other people tinkered on it including Jose Feliciano. Since those days, mainly it has been hidden as I later purchased an acoustic to use for writing’.
Made in Italy, the Wandre has a brunette finish with custom stickers added to the table and back, within a vintage Stone Case Company. Gardiner Houlgate, which specialises in musical instrument sales and has regular vintage auctions, estimates a sale price of between £5-10,000 but auctioneer Luke Hobbs admit it is extremely hard to predict what an instrument of such rarity could fetch on the day.