Kurt Cobain’s hair and a real Hi-Flier

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Don’t even ask me how I found this out, but one recent night while stumbling across the internet in a whiskey haze, I discovered an auction for some of Kurt Cobain’s hair. Yes, six gorgeous strands of bleached hair were carefully wrapped in plastic and shipped with all kinds of provenance to assure any bidder that this was the real deal. Of course, I immediately got to thinking about the economic ramifications of placing a bid (starting at $ 2,500), and after a few drinks I was about to throw one last second. Alas, I fell asleep and soon forgot about it. When I returned a few days later, I saw that the final price was… $ 13,800!


Heck, I’ve seen Nirvana live a few times throughout the day and certainly wasn’t thinking about Kurt’s hair. But I’ve always been impressed with how such a small guy could have such a powerful presence. I was also amazed at his choice of material, which always seemed a bit hit and miss. I mean, Kurt was changing all kinds of Fender guitars, but there were always these eccentrics that he used. Among his early favorites were Univox Hi-Fliers, which I really liked, as one of the my the early favorites were also a Hi-Flier.

There are all kinds of great players who rocked them on stage, including Lee Renaldo and Dexter X, but it was Kurt and his Hi-Flier who really resonated with my young self.

In the late 1980s, I first saw Nirvana in Hoboken, New Jersey. The night was rather blurry, but Kurt playing a Hi-Flier really blew me away. Like, I was here … a goofy kid who was obsessed with cheap, weird guitars, and then there’s this little powerhouse of a guy playing really heavy riffs on a pawnshop guitar. It was a life changing moment. I felt validated seeing another guitarist with one of my favorites.

In 1968, Unicord Corporation, based in Westbury, New York, imported some very interesting, rather amazing and affordable Japanese material. My original long-standing setup was a Hi-Flier and Univox Super-Fuzz, both going through an old Harmony 420 bass amp. Every component in this chain was probably more than I deserved as a player (j was still more of a noise maker), because all Univox guitars from the late ’60s and early’ 70s were consistent, sounded good, and could pretty much hold up tuning.

Simple yet effective, this 1971 Univox has only one control for tone and volume, warm single-coil pickups, and a Jazzmaster-style vibrato bridge that holds up much better than most budget imports. of his time.

Univox guitars were built at Matsumoku’s facility in the city of Matsumoto, Japan, in a former Singer sewing machine factory that was repurposed in the mid-1960s to make some of the country’s best electric guitars for around 20 years. years. Univox brand guitars were very common in the used market in the 1980s and could be purchased for a song. Heck, even the list price of a Hi-Flier was only around $ 90 in the early ’70s. (Today old Hi-Fliers bow to a large!) It was really the dawn of the copy era, so to outdo the American competition, Univox products were much cheaper and had much cooler names. The Les Paul copies were called Gimme and the Mother, their imitation 335 was the Coily, and Dan Armstrong’s plexiglass copy was nicknamed Lucy. I really need to write a book about weird guitar names, and I really need to honor the hype writer of the day who described the 6-String Hi-Flier and Bass as:

Allows you to feel free… with curves where you want them. Loose… Flat… Light. A guitar with which to fly, slide, bend and a bass that gets funky!

Yo, dig that! Throughout the 1970s the Hi-Flier underwent a few changes, like a switch to humbuckers, but the overall layout and feel stayed true to its Mosrite roots and it was quite the player – with volume and a tone control, and a 3-position shooting switch. And yes, my ’71’s pickups are single coil, but they are nicely coiled and hot-read, at around 9k. These P-90 lookalikes only scream and are always about to explode when a little fuzz or distortion is added. The neck profile of guitars made by Matsumoku tends to be a bit flat at the shoulder, much like the early Epiphone / Gibson electrics, but these Hi-Fliers are thinner at the nut. As for the vibrato, it has a very tight, Jazzmaster feel. Japanese twang bar bridges are generally not very good, but this device was one of the first good ones.

I don’t think you can go wrong with a Hi-Flier version, although there are some people who swear by one model or another. There are all kinds of great players who rocked them on stage, including Lee Renaldo and Dexter X (Man or Astroman?), But it was Kurt and his Hi-Flier who really resonated with my young self. Oh, what if either of you has Kurt’s hair, call me, dig?

Univox Hi Flier Phase II guitar demonstration

Mike Dugan demonstrates a 1971 Univox Hi-Flier, showing that it can ring, get dirty, and produce surf-style vibrato sounds with the best prices from Japanese pawn shops from the ’60s and’ 70s. And yes , there are congas and “Jingo!”

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