Chris Cornell's Superunknown Jazzmaster sells at auction – but the Eric Clapton 'Slowhand' Strat fails to get a bid

Chris Cornell Jazzmaster
(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock and Roll)

A number of star electric and acoustic guitars went under the virtual hammer recently in Gotta Have Rock and Roll's auction with the most notable being Eric Clapton's 1954 'Slowhand' Strat, a Jimi Hendrix 1966 Gibson Melody Maker, Chuck Berry stage played 1967 ES-345 and Chris Cornell's Soundgarden Superunknown era 1966 Fender Jazzmaster. But only one of them sold.

Eric Clapton 1954 non-tremolo Stratocaster

(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock and Roll)

The stage and studio used Clapton hardtail Strat failed to get any bids  – but with a starting price of $1 million that's perhaps not so surprising. Indeed, it seems the high starting bids and reserves may have put a lot of potential bidders off, with a relatively contemporary Yamaha dreadnought used and signed by Jimmy Page failing to get a $90,000 starting bid. 

Jimi Hendrix

(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock And Roll)

A Bruce Springtseen River Tour Tele also failed to attract a starting $125,000 starting bid and most surprisingly, the Hendrix owned 1966 Melody Maker only received bids up to $10,000, short of its reserve.

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(Image credit: Kevin Nixon / Future)

Why Chris Cornell was an unsung guitar genius

Of all the guitars, Cornell's 1966 Candy Apple Red Jazzmaster is arguably the most significant in terms of rock history and it sold at its starting price of $125,00 – short of the $175,000-$250,000 estimate. It could prove to be a shrewd investment for whoever got it at that price.

While the Slowhand Strat was used by Clapton live for the odd slide song including Tulsa Time over the years, the Jazzmaster's role as a key guitar on Soundgarden's masterwork elevates it, especially in light of Cornell's passing in 2017.

Chris Cornell Jazzmaster

(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock and Roll)

According to Superunknown's producer Michael Beinhorn, Cornell only used three guitar's for the 1993 sessions: a Gretsch Duo Jet, double-cutaway Gretsch Silver Jet and the Jazzmaster. 

Beinhorn told Music Tech that it was, “one of the best-sounding Jazzmasters I’ve ever used in my life".

Chris Cornell Jazzmaster

(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock and Roll)

Cornell used the Jazzmaster to track single Fell on Black Days and would take it on the road for the initial tour in support of the record in 1994. The footage above shows Cornell using the guitar in EEBBBB to perform the album's songs The Day I Tried To Live and My Wave at a London Brixton Academy show on April 14, 1994.

After Cornell's acrimonious divorce from Soundgarden's former manager Susan Silver, the guitar ended up with Cornell's childhood friend, Chris Bond, who supplied a letter of provenance with the sale.

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.