Jimi Hendrix And The Tale Of The Million Dollar ‘Black Widow’

Jimi Hendrix was, to millions of people, the greatest guitarist of his generation. Hendrix was both innovative and distinctive. Jimi’s use of technology to augment his guitar playing became legendary. Despite the fact that Hendrix released just three studio albums during his lifetime, his place in the annals of rock history is assured for all time. Hendrix has often been emulated but rarely surpassed.

Hendrix was also drug dependent and a violent drunk. Jimi was closely associated with the late 60’s drugs culture, a habitual user of cannabis, amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, and heroin. It was Hendrix’s addiction to drink and drugs that eventually led to his death in London in September 1970. Hendrix was just 27 when he died, one of the members of the so called “27 Club” a collection of artists who died at age 27, often as a result of the misuse of drugs and alcohol or as a result of suicide. Hendrix was joined in the “27 club” by the likes of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and, much more recently, Amy Winehouse.

The London coroner found that Hendrix had asphyxiated on his own vomit while intoxicated with barbiturates. Jimi had apparently taken 18 times the recommended dose of Vesparax sleeping tablets.

Jimi hendrix Guitar

According to The Guardian, Hendrix’s estate is suing a Tuscon guitar shop for the return of Jimi’s “Black Widow” acoustic guitar, believed to be worth a cool $1 million. Hendrix’ estate says Harvey Moltz, the owner of Rainbow Guitars, is not the rightful owner of the guitar and claim that the guitar was stolen by Sheldon Reynolds and passed on to Brian Patterson who sold it to the shop for $80,000.

Reynolds is a former member of the band Earth, Wind And Fire and was married to Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s adopted sister. According to The Independent, the entire Hendrix estate, worth an estimated $80 million, passed to Janie after the death of Jimi’s father James Hendrix in 2002.

Jimi Hendrix

“The guitar is priceless to our family. It is one of the few guitars that came home after Jimi passed away. We just want our guitar returned safely and back where it belongs.”

Janie is CEO of Experience Hendrix, the Seattle based company set up by Jimi’s family to administer the Hendrix estate including the rights to Jimi’s music. The estate realized that Jimi’s guitar was missing after they were contacted by an L.A. based auction house that wanted to verify the authenticity of the guitar.

The lawyer for the music store claims that the store bought Jimi’s guitar legitimately and that the store was shown a letter by Mr. Patterson, stating that Ms. Hendrix gave the Black Widow to Mr. Reynolds while they were married, possibly as part of a divorce settlement.

Todd Jackson, lawyer for the store owner, Harvey Moltz, says that his client is disputing the Hendrix estate’s claim of ownership because he bought the guitar in good faith.

“My client purchased the guitar in good faith from a private seller, without knowledge of competing claims of ownership, [and] has no interest in acquiring or retaining stolen property.”

Mr Moltz has agreed not to attempt to sell Jimi’s guitar until after the court case is settled. Who would have believed that one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars would be causing such controversy some 45 years after Jimi’s death?

[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]