A guitar once owned by Jimi Hendrix is back on the market following years of legal dispute that ended recently with this terse statement: “Experience Hendrix LLC makes no claim of ownership concerning the Fender Stratocaster guitar serial number 213078 and will not interfere with any attempt by Greg Dorsett, Rock Stars Guitars, or any subsequent owner to transfer rights in the guitar.” The memo dated January 26, 2009, is signed by Janie L. Hendrix, president and CEO of Experience Hendrix LLC.
The guitar had been at the center of controversy for nearly a decade after Dorsett, a San Diego guitar-and-rock memorabilia dealer, attempted to sell it on eBay.
Dorsett owns Rock Stars Guitars. He and partner David Brewis bought the Strat from ex-Hendrix employee Tappy Wright in 1999 for a reported $60,000. Wright claimed that the late guitarist had made him a gift of the guitar sometime prior to his untimely death in 1970.
On March 12, 2001, the Strat went on eBay for auction. But four days later, eBay officials suspended the auction after receiving emails from Experience Hendrix LLC officials claiming that the guitar was either stolen or had never belonged to Hendrix. The auction was eventually reinstated, but bidding fell off sharply in the remaining days and did not meet the reserve. Dorsett took the guitar off the market. Later that year, he filed a defamation suit against Experience Hendrix LLC in San Diego Superior Court.
“We wanted to prove that the statement that the guitar was stolen from Jimi Hendrix was false.” Dorsett’s attorney Michael Guta recalls. “One of the ways we were able to prove it, in addition to other evidence, was that the defendants [Hendrix LLC] wrote up a new letter that said that the guitar had never been Mr. Hendrix’s property. And so, the guitar could not be both stolen from him and never his property, so they had an inconsistency in their story, which went a long way to proving that the first story that the guitar was stolen was false.”
For Dorsett, the truth was always in the guitar’s provenance. Aside from Wright’s firsthand accounting, there are letters of authentication from rock drummer Carmine Appice and Norman Harris of Norm’s Rare Guitars. “The guitar,” he says, “has extensive left-handed wear [Hendrix was a lefty]. And there are certain things on the guitar that have not been changed since Jimi did the alterations.”
In May of 2003, a jury awarded Dorsett a total of $131,001 in damages.
Hendrix LLC filed an appeal.
In January of this year, the case finally came to a close when Hendrix’s heirs and Rock Stars Guitars reached an agreement to settle for an undisclosed sum and an agreement in writing that they would make no further claims nor interfere with Dorsett’s sale of the guitar.
Michael Guta says the famous guitar is back on the market at an asking price of $500,000.