The NAMM Music History Project has proven to be an essential resource for anyone with a passing interest in the innovators behind musical instrument design and playing. Its new podcast on Jimi Hendrix featuring key people from his life is a reminder of this – and it also includes a revelation on the fate of the electric guitar Jimi used in his army days.
His army buddy and future bandmate Billy Cox, the only musician who played regularly with Jimi still alive, reveals what happened to Hendrix's 1958 Danelectro Shorthorn 3012 'Betty Jean'.
The guitar was nicknamed after a woman called Betty Jean Morgan, who Hendrix was dating when he purchased it. He even put her name on it.
It became his guitar during his Us Army service, playing it during jams with Cox and early gigs. So it's hugely significant in the Hendrix story. And Cox has revealed what happened to it.
“He had a Danelectro that had ‘Betty Jean’ on it,” Cox said in the podcast you can hear below in full. “And I was told, ‘If you ever found that guitar in Nashville it’d be worth five millions dollars.’ I found it where it was.
"He had pawned it to the guy who owned the Del Morocco [a Nashville club that Hendrix had played during the early ‘60s] for about $150, something like that. And he kept it because Jimi didn’t pay him back. He kept it at his house, and about four years later that house burnt down."
Cox had gone looking for the guitar when he discovered its tragic fate. “I sometimes thought it was at Collins Music store where we sometimes did our business in Clarksville. We looked up in the attic, we looked down in the garage, in the basement, for a whole Saturday. I had bib overalls on, never found it.”
He added: “it dawned on me. It was possible…I had talked to some people and they said, ‘Yeah, it was at Uncle Teddy’s house and that house burned down.'"
So unless there's an unexpected twist in the tale to be unveiled, it looks like a sad end for Betty Jean.