Nirvana Roadie Reveals Guitar Kurt Cobain Refused To Perform With
By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta
November 8, 2019
Nirvana's Kurt Cobain is perhaps better known as a smasher of guitars than a great guitar player, and his former guitar tech Earnie Bailey explains that Cobain was just fine with that.
While the grunge icon wasn't picky about the specific instruments he used onstage — and cycled through a variety of models in his career — he had a particular aversion to one classic shape: the Gibson Les Paul.
As Bailey recently clarified to Ultimate Guitar, Cobain had no gripe with the sound or feel of a Gibson and owned at least two "imported [Les Paul] copies," he only ever used such a guitar in concert one time.
"And with that, he stated that he looked like Jimmy Page when he played his, and he would not play a Les Paul out in public," Bailey explained. "He did not want to look even remotely like the iconic guitar players that he grew up listening to."
Bailey worked for Nirvana from 1991 through Cobain's death in 1994. While he and the frontman had few in-depth conversations about guitars, he believes there's one quality that led to Cobain using mostly Fender guitars throughout his career: availability.
Any lefty guitarist will tell you how frustrating it is to search for instruments in the southpaw setup. But the guitar world was even less geared toward lefties in the '80s when Cobain started playing in bands.
"...Fender guitars were the easiest guitars to acquire in a left-handed configuration and it was easy to find used one," Bailey explained. "Replacement parts, except for pickguards and tuning heads, were also pretty easy to come by. So his affinity [for Fenders] could have also come from availability."
Bailey notes that Cobain began playing Fenders early in his career, and later, when he made a point to bash them into splinters at the end of shows, it made logistical sense to stick with the renowned manufacturer. Bailey could quickly and easily fix damaged guitars or buy new ones to replace their fallen kin.
In 2008, a smashed Fender Mustang that Cobain wrote on sold for a record (at the time) $100,000.
Photo: Getty Images