Jimi Hendrix is quite possibly the most recognisable exponent of the Fender Stratocaster. Revolutionising the style and sound of the electric guitar, his short lived career featured many highly revered performances including his infamous set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. This particular gig saw Hendrix sporting a hand painted Strat which he subsequently set on fire and smashed in the last song (what a way to get some attention – especially when taking the stage straight after The Who). Aside from some brief Custom Shop runs in the ‘90s and John Mayer commandeering some remakes, this particular Strat hasn’t been a staple of the Fender lineup until now. Celebrating 50 years since the performance, the Jimi Hendrix Monterey Stratocaster is hitting the market very soon.
In the spirit of the 1967 instrument, Hendrix’s artwork has been recreated for the Monterey and looks retro and cool against the red/white combination body colour. A ‘C’ shaped maple neck with 7.25” radius and vintage sized frets suits the style of guitar Fender is going for, and Pau Ferro - Fender’s new replacement for Rosewood on all its guitars and their solution to the CITES laws - is the fretboard wood of choice. With a gloss finish, the back of the neck is quite slick and for the Hendrix collector nuts, there is a replica signature on the back of the headstock and a Hendrix stamped neck plate. Vintage styled tuners and bridge round out the hardware with this particular example coming beautifully set up straight out of the case. Smooth fret edges, good action and intonation, and feeling nice.
I’ve gotta admit the Monterey Strat feels pretty darn good. With a medium weight that doesn’t feel super heavy or super light, it feels comfy sitting and standing, and the neck handles great. I’m not always a fan of super glossy finishes, but this didn’t seem to get too sticky or in the way so I’m fine with that. Once you’re into coaxing out some bends, 7#9 chords and major pentatonic licks, any qualms are pretty quickly forgotten. The stock single coils are clean and clear, and have the typical Strat snap on the front pickup and in between positions with some more bite when you move to the middle or bridge. Overall, it’s an easy player with what you’d expect in the tones department.
Some skeptics will wonder if the world needs another model Strat, and indeed another Hendrix inspired axe. The amount of Hendrix enthusiasts, coupled with those with an affinity towards John Mayer's recent Monterey-styled guitar, however, would suggest that these will be a hit. As a good playing, well appointed guitar that comes in well under the US and Custom Shop price mark, it seems like a winner.
Hits and Misses
Super comfortable to play
Classic Strat tone
Could do without the gloss finish