Eric Clapton's Cream Fool SG and Kurt Cobain's In Utero tour Skystang I guitar are heading to auction, expected to fetch millions

Cobain and Fool SG
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc / Nigel Osbourne/Redferns / Getty Images)

Eric Clapton's famous Fool SG Standard from his Cream era and the custom Fender H/S Mustang 'Skystang I' that was Kurt Cobain's most played electric guitar on his final Nirvana tour are both heading to auction to help raise money for charity.

The auction for the guitars will take place at Julien's auctions in Nashville between 16-18 November, with an  Auction Exhibition Tour running between 17-22 October at Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus, London, UK, Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square New York 6-11 November and Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville 13-17 November. 

The circa 1964 Gibson SG electric guitar was played by Clapton between 1967 and 1968 with Cream and features psychedelic artwork by Dutch collection The Fool, which it takes its name. Between the 1970s and early '80s it was owned and used live by Todd Rundgren. He originally bought it for $500 and had the artwork retouched, eventually selling it in the mid-1990s.  

It's also the guitar most synonymous with Clapton's 'Woman Tone' of the era – and can seen above demonstrating it to the BBC in 1968 with The Fool. It has an auction estimate of $1-2 million.

Studio still life of a 1963 Gibson SG Les Paul Standard guitar owned by Eric Clapton and painted by The Fool, photographed in the United Kingdom

(Image credit: Nigel Osbourne/Redferns / Getty Images)


Cobain's Skystang I is an equally iconic instrument for Nirvana fans, and would become a key instrument as Nirvana toured the In Utero record and Cobain sought to refine his taste for electric guitars that incorporated single-coil and humbucker pickups.

As writer Stuart Williams notes in his exhaustive MusicRadar feature on Cobain's Mustangs,  the Skystang I is a 1993 Sonic Blue model that was the musician's most frequently used model in the In Utero era – and was the guitar he used almost exclusively for Nirvana's MTV Live And Loud performance.  

There were two other Sonic Blue / red tort pick-guard 'Skystang' Mustangs Cobain used that were made by Fender Japan. 

Kurt Cobain Mustang

(Image credit: Experience Music Project)

The Skystang I guitar can be differentiated from the other two Mustangs by its white humbucker, as opposed to the black Seymour Duncan JB models in Skystang II and III. The Skystang I remained in the rig up to Nirvana's final live performance at the Terminal One venue in Munich on 1 March 1994.

Following Cobain's death the guitar eventually passed to his half-brother Chad Cobain. It has been on loan to Seattle’s MoPOP since 2007 (previously known as The Experience Music Project), where it went on display in 2009. 

It has an estimated value of $1,000,000 – $2,000,000. Used for 53 of the 63 In Utero tour performances, Cobain's former guitar tech has described this as the late musician's 'workhorse', and in light of the record-breaking $3,975,000 Cobain's Competition Stripe Mustang fetched at auction earlier this year, there's every chance the Skystang I could smash its estimate. 

Another Cobain guitar will also be part of the auction; his stage-played cream Fender Strat that was smashed at the end of Nirvana’s performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on October 30, 1992 (see video above for footage that).

The Strat the band signatures and the following poem written by Dave Grohl on the guitar within a heart-shaped bubble: “Hello. My name is Dave. I like Rave. It’ll drive me to my grave. But I’m not dumb. I play drums with two green thumbs and a sour plumb that makes the roof of my mouth numb - David.” 

A stick figure is also drawn inside the hole where the jackplate would have been, with a text bubble that reads “Help me!” with “The Who” handwritten on the back plate of the guitar. Its estimate is $500,000 - $700,000). 

"The guitar was won by a contest winner on the BBC Radio 1 Annie Nightingale Show in July 1992 along with two tickets to the Reading Festival show in Reading, England, on August 30th, 1992, to see Nirvana perform," writes Juliens in the auction listing.

"The radio show had initially advertised the guitar that Cobain would use at the Reading Festival to the contest winner, but the guitar was not available, and the winner received the damaged but signed Buenos Aires guitar instead. The lot is accompanied by the Reading Festival guest pass."

A portion of the proceeds from the auction of both guitars will benefit Kicking The Stigma, an initiative by Indianapolis Colts and Black Strat owner Jim Irsay to raise awareness about mental health and remove the stigma associated with mental health disorders. 

More info at Julien's auctions

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.