1962 Fender Duo-Sonic, as made famous by Jimi Hendrix
Not only a fabled Pre-CBS Fender, but the first Fender that a stage-named Jimmy James, aka Jimi Hendrix, is pictured with. A shorter scale guitar marketed for the "student", not a bad place to start if you're on the way to rock legend status.
No, it's not the guitar Hendrix owned and played. That one sold for a cool $246,000 in auction in 2010. And, as the story goes, he got that one for free from O'Kelly Isley, one of The Isley Brothers, when he joined the band in 1964. There are pictures of the young Jimi and the Duo-Sonic with The Isley Brothers' support act, The Turkords, in that year . . . of course, upside-down for the left-handed Jimi.
But his was the same spec, same era model as this one. The 22.5" scale, the rosewood fingerboard, the single-ply white scratchplate, and the two black single-coil pick-ups that in middle-switch position created an early humbucker effect - something not missed by Gibson when this guitar first came to market in 1956. So, a pioneering guitar in its own right. And one that, a decade later, became the favourite of the burgeoning US punk scene - Patti Smith, David Byrne, Television - and then again to later generations, including John Frusciante and Damon Albarn.
The original model evolved to the standard scale Duo-Sonic II in 1965, but was discontinued in 1969. Fortunately, you can't hold an iconic guitar down, so the Duo-Sonic has been reissued in various guises since 1993. But if you want the real deal, this is the one for you. Fantastic build quality, amazing condition for its age, and a pioneering combination of single-coil and humbucker tones. An absolute beauty!
See & Hear It In Action
Jimmy James with The Turkords, 1964 : Here it is - and even if you couldn't see his face, chances are you'd know it was a young Jimi Hendrix from the upside-down left-handed position.
Jimmy Limo with a unique 1962 Paisley Duo-Sonic: Wow! Not only showing that there were one-off colour models, but from blues, to surf, to country, to a Little Wing cover, Jimmy Limo showcases the fantastic range of this guitar.
Number of Frets
Fender "F" Individual Tuners
Fender Single Coil
Fender 3-saddle, 2-way adjustable
This one may be the "student" model, but all Fenders in that pre-CBS era were built using the same materials and to the same high quality standards as their more famous cousins. The maple neck with pencilled production date, the rosewood fingerboard and clay position markers, the alder body and 250K pots - the same wood and component choices that you'd find on same-era Stratocasters.
What's especially lovely about the Duo-Sonic, and its single pick-up twin, the Musicmaster, is the offset (asymmetrical) waist, designed originally to make the guitar easier to play sitting down. It's the edgier shape adopted by later models like the Jazzmaster, Jaguar and Mustang. With the benefit of hindsight, it looks and feels like it was built with the future of music in mind: surf, punk and indie wouldn't be the same without an offset.
At some point in its history, the original waffleback tuners have been replaced with Fender "F"-stamped tuners. But apart from that, this is an all-original example of this iconic classic.
There's a fair amount of speculation about the colour of the Hendrix Duo-Sonic, captured in investigative if unconcluded detail by Ground Guitar. Some things just need to stay a mystery. Originally produced in Desert Sand, the Duo-Sonic was available only in Sunburst from 1961 - 1963, when Olympic White was introduced as standard. This one's pretty clearly an Olympic White, faded to Ivory over the years. But the neck bears a February 1962 date. There's no evidence of a paint refinish. So, either this was a 1962 one-off in white, or the neck is old-stock used on a 1963 body.
Whatever the mystery with the colour, this is a fantastic piece of Fender history. And a great player. For a Fender of its age, not a hint of earthing buzz, great low set-up, and great tones across the three pick-up settings. And, needless to say, if Jimmy James can start with one of these, then so can you!
Sources & Links
All the specs, all the history at Guitar HQ: This is just a fantastic and indispensable reference, not just for the Duo-Sonic, but for all Pre-CBS Fender models. You learn more every time you go back to it!
And more of the same from Vintage Guitar and Bass: Adding in that image of Jimmy James with the Duo-Sonic.
Fender 1963/1964 Guitar Catalogue: Hats off once again to Vintage Guitar and Bass for this image of the original 1963/1964 catalogue. Just that little bit later than the 1962, noticeable with the brown scratchplate introduced in late 1963.
The latest batch of Fender Duo-Sonic Reissues, plus some famous players: PMT Online do the reissues proud.
The Jimi Hendrix Duo-Sonic Story: Great piece from Guitar Ground on the history and provenance of the Duo-Sonic seen in the hands of Hendrix.