There’s perhaps no guitar in the world more iconic than Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Olympic White Stratocaster, lovingly named “Izabella” which he used to perform at Woodstock on Aug. 18, 1969.
I bought this right-handed Fender Squier Stratocaster many years ago off a kid on the JDMST automotive forums for $300 (it even came with a Roland practise amp). I’ve always just had it lying around in case right-handed players drop around so we could jam.
I thought I’d do some research on it. The serial number on the headstock (P007459) suggests that it’s a 1993-1994 Silver Series Made in Japan at the FujiGen factory (much praised for their excellent build quality). The earlier 80’s guitars from the same factory are fetching thousands now but the later models seem to be worth a fair bit less. I’m not sure what the body is made of, it could be solid basswood, plywood or even MDF. It seems to have lower end ceramic pickups and tuners. The tremolo saddles don’t have FENDER stamped into them either.
In comparison to my Korean made Squier this guitar just generally feels like it’s lesser in quality. It’s heavier, the back of the neck is more glossy than satin, the neck feels a bit fatter and the pickups have flat pole pieces whereas my Korean Squier has staggered pole pieces.
I love that it’s made in Japan though and it’s got some really nice patina on the fretboard and body too. I recently put a new set of strings on it and put it away, out of sight, in a hard case in the closet… but Jimi was calling.
I gave in to temptation and decided to turn the guitar upside down, Hendrix style. Amazingly, the guitar is the same exact Olympic White factory Fender colour as “Izabella” and all I would need to do is do what Jimi did, which is to turn the nut upside down, restring the guitar, adjust the intonation and drill a new hole in the bottom horn to reposition a strap button.
Removing the nut without breaking it was the most nerve-racking part, and I had pretty jurassic tools; a blunt metal chisel, a jewellers screwdriver and a rusty razor blade, but I did have my Dad’s old hammer and with all the luck bestowed upon it I got the nut out without any issues.
These new school clip on tuners are so amazing! I flipped the nut and for now I’ve put it back in place without any wood glue. I got some new strings on and took my good time setting up the guitar right. I didn’t have to touch the truss rod, the action is on the low side too (which I like) and the saddles only needed minor adjustment to stop some slight string buzzing. I spent the most time adjusting the intonation which came out great.
I really didn’t like how much the guitar lead stuck out whilst playing the guitar so I flipped the “boat” jack plate upside down so I could easily plug a 90 degree jack into it. You can see the routing for the jack plate is a tiny bit bigger on one edge but it’s not something that bothers me.
Izabella was given to Jimi’s drummer Mitch Mitchell who sold it in 1991 through auction. The guitar was sold once again after only two years to Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder for an undisclosed amount (rumours are it was somewhere in the neighbourhood upwards of $2 Million). Izabella the Woodstock Strat is now kept safe at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.
One last thing. I’ve down tuned her to Eb just like Jimi did and I’m really tempted to take it a step further and also use the unique string gauge setup that Jimi used being: .010, .013, .015, .026, .032 and .038.