Courtney Love’s custom-built Fender Venus listed on Reverb

Courtney Love's 1994 Fender Venus
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage / Reverb)

Courtney Love’s 1994 Fender Venus, a Surf Green double-cut electric guitar Masterbuilt in the Custom Shop by Larry Brooks, has gone up for sale on Reverb.

Her go-to electric while fronting Hole, the Venus was co-developed with Love, and later adapted by Squier and released in 1997 as a more affordable signature guitar. And for a guitar that saw a lot of action during the chaos of grunge’s heyday, it looks to be in remarkable condition. 

More than conscious that she and the guitar might end up in the crowd mid-performance – all bets were off in those days – Love requested that there be no volume or tone controls to complicate the setup. And with a solitary single-coil pickup positioned at the neck, there’s no need for a pickup selector.

Courtney Love's 1994 Fender Venus

(Image credit: Reverb)

The only thing mounted on the multi-ply pearloid pickguard is the 1/4” input jack and a trio of glittery heart stickers, one of which is ripped in half, the most noticeable damage to the guitar. Though Brooks says there was a headstock break that was repaired by Love's tech.

There is no vibrato to bang out of shape. It is fitted with a Schaller tune-o-matic style bridge with a string-through setup. Sperzel locking tuners have been chosen to keep things tip-top.

Courtney Love's 1994 Fender Venus

(Image credit: Reverb)

Love’s Venus has a bound rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, 22 frets, a bolt-on maple neck, and it ships in the original G&G USA hard-shell guitar case, alongside a letter of provenance from Brooks. 

While the provenance of the guitar is beyond repute, there was some controversy surrounding the design of the Venus, which was alleged to have been conceived by Tim George and Danny Babbitt.

As told by George, he sold the guitar, then named the Mercury, to Love while backstage at a Nirvana show. She later played the green Mercury in the promo video for Violet. With its 3x3 headstock – not to mention the dual-P90 pickup configuration – George says it was different enough from the Fender design to avoid accusations of copying. His beef was that Love took credit for the design.

According to George, Porno For Pyros’ Pete DiStefano and Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto bought their long-defunct Mercury design. Only Courtney Love played the Fender Venus. Either way, both are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Love notably played the Venus on her 1995 MTV Video Music Awards performance. She took receipt of the guitar shortly after the death of her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The guitar was kept at her home at Lake Washington. Brooks had previously designed the Fender Jag-Stang with Cobain.

In his letter of authenticity, he confirmed that the guitar was one of three he made with her.

“Regarding Courtney Love’s guitar: I was the Artist Relations Builder at Fender during the 90’s when I built/designed this guitar, serial number CN402003,” he wrote. “It was owned and played by Courtney Love. I worked closely with her to build this prototype. It was 1 of 3 guitars that were built for her during that time period. Fender model ‘Venus’ is what ensued.

Brooks said that the guitar had no volume knob at the request of Love’s manager, who apparently thought that Love would just keep turning it up – a nonsensical request, all things considered. Did the manager ask for the knobs to be taken off Love's guitar amps

Brooks’ letter contradicts the story told by George, with the Fender Master Builder saying that it was his design.

“I designed this ballsy-toned guitar to include many custom aspects, like the bound custom shaped neck, matching painted headstock, absence of a volume knob, custom shape pickguard, custom body shape, and strings that flare over the tune-o-matic bridge through the body,” he wrote. “I designed the custom body shape.”

Courtney Love’s Venus does not come cheap. It is listed at a £54,467.84. Check out the Reverb listing for more details.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.