John Mayer once turned down the Fender Rosewood Stratocaster meant for Jimi Hendrix – but had a replica built soon after

John Mayer
(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It’s one of the most iconic Fender guitars on the planet, but despite its fame, not too many people know that George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster was actually made alongside a sibling Stratocaster. Two Stratocasters, to be precise, both of which were built in the late ‘60s as the Big F sought to break into new markets with a range of prototype instruments.

The first Stratocaster was originally intended for Jimi Hendrix. As the story goes, Philip Kubicki – who was also responsible for the rosewood Telecaster – was tasked with creating two rosewood Strats. While one was kept as a proof of concept, the other was made specifically for Hendrix.

However, owing to production difficulties, the Strats took longer than anticipated to make. As such, Hendrix passed away before he could receive the rosewood Strat.

From there, the Strats’ stories get a little murky. One of them – thought to most likely be the one that was on its way to Hendrix – is accounted for, and currently owned by New York’s Well Strung Guitars. The other… well, it’s a mystery. No-one knows where it is.

There is another high-profile rosewood Stratocaster, though – a special replica model that was built decades after its distant Stratocaster ancestors were first finished in early 1970. That guitar’s whereabouts are also well accounted for: it’s owned by John Mayer.

Specifically, Mayer had it purpose-built by the Fender Custom Shop after he turned down the opportunity to buy the original Fender rosewood Stratocaster that was made for Jimi Hendrix.

While filming an Instagram live back in 2017 during a soundcheck, Mayer went through his entire collection of guitars, including the rosewood Strat that he appropriately ended up naming “Rosie”.

“The story behind this guitar is that I got offered a guitar just like this for a bunch of money,” Mayer recalled. “This guitar that got offered to me was made as a companion piece with George Harrison’s rosewood Telecaster, and people say it was made for Hendrix but Hendrix never got it. It’s come and gone on the market.

“I just sent the picture to Chris Fleming [Senior Fender Masterbuilder] and said, 'Can you make me a rosewood one?'” he continued. “Then I started calling it Rosie, then I thought it would be cool to put a rose on the pickguard.”

In the same video, Mayer notes that it is “incredibly heavy”, which might be the reason why he’s not been spotted out in the wild with it too often. He has, however, wielded it during a number of high-profile performances, the earliest of which can be traced back to Leon Russell’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in March 2011.

Only a month later, the guitar – still with its factory-fitted black pickguard at this point – was back in action during the Tiger Jam All-Star Benefit Concert in April 2011, and was used by Mayer to perform a number of tracks such as Vultures, Something Like Olivia and a cover of Keith Urban’s Til Summer Comes Around, which he performed with Urban himself.

At some point between April 2011 and July 2012, Mayer had the custom pickguard fitted, with the rosewood replica model stealing the spotlight in the music video for Mayer’s Born and Raised track, Queen of California.

Not too long after, Rosie was once again spotted on stage as Mayer performed at the 6th Annual Stand Up For Heroes concert in November that year.

Arguably it’s most famous live appearance took place when Mayer – as a result of a fan request – performed Don McLean’s 10-minute masterpiece American Pie from the fretboard of Rosie on Letterman.

Now, whether or not Mayer used the Rosie Stratocaster to write and record his song Rosie – which featured on his 2017 LP, The Search for Everything – is up for debate. It would certainly seem like a missed opportunity if it wasn’t the case.

Having said that, Mayer did perform Rosie for the first time ever using the Rosie Stratocaster on April 14, 2017, during a show at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, so we’ve got to give him kudos for that.

So, where is the Rosie Strat nowadays? Well, it’s been a while since it’s made a public appearance, but that might just be down to the love affair between Mayer and his beloved PRS Silver Sky. Why play a super-heavy Strat when you’ve got the guitar of your dreams waiting in the wings? 

As far as we know, it’s still in Mayer’s possession, so don’t be surprised if it gets spotted out in the wild in the future.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.