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Chris Adams - The Grail Guitar : The Search For Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ Telecaster

  • Written by  Ben MacNair

The growth and the development of the internet is responsible for many things, and one of the benefits of the possibilities of the world wide web is the existence of books like this, where something said over a 3rd hand telecaster can lead to the amount of detective work that would put a Raymond Chandler private eye to shame.

If you add one of the most revered and iconic figures in rock history to the mix, then there will be a lot of interest, from fans of the guitar, rock music, and the Sixties and the Seventies. In 1973, the author of this book bought a white telecaster from a music shop, with the seller telling the budding musician about the storied history of his newest acquisition.

Now seen as being a country guitar, the telecaster has also featured on many more mainstream songs, from the rock and roll of the Rolling Stones, to Bruce Springsteen, to James Burton with Elvis, from Gram Parsons to Status Quo, even featuring as the main guitar on Mike Oldfield’s epoch changing Tubular Bells, whilst Hendrix is most closely associated with another one of Leo Fender’s inventions, the Stratocaster, so to find that one of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time was originally recorded on a different instrument is a surprise.

Jimi Hendrix arrived in Britain in 1967, with a Fender Stratocaster that was ‘borrowed’ from Keith Richards and little else, but he soon, with the help of The Animals bassist Chas Chandler made something of a name for himself amongst the movers and shakers of London, even stealing the limelight from Eric Clapton at a Cream concert, and went onto set up his own band, with the drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. After a gig, where Hendrix’s main guitar was damaged, due to his showmanship, a new instrument was needed for the recording session of 'Purple Haze', so the Telecaster in question was borrowed from a friend, and with the help of an octave pedal, and some amplifiers, 'Purple Haze' was recorded, overnight, whilst the trio had some time in the studio.

The telecaster passed through the ranks of various bands, but due to the lack of record keeping by Hendrix’s management company, any number of guitars went missing, or were sold and never used, so there is no real way of knowing for sure, whether or not Chris Adams’ prized telecaster was the same instrument that played such an important part in rock music history, but the evidence points to a very strong case that it is.

There is a lot to be said for this book, both as a historical record of the bands and musicians who worked with Hendrix, and the times in the 1960s and 1970s and for shedding light on some of the musicians and players that plied their trade in the shadows of one of the giants of rock music.

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (1 May 2016)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442246799

The Grail Guitar is available from amazon.

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