Steve MIller photo by Scott Dudelson/WireImage

Steve Miller disliked the iconic Hendrix guitar burning stunt

News 09/10/2019

Steve Miller described the time when Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival "pathetic".

He was also on the bill at the iconic event in 1967 and was not impressed when he saw the whole incident where Hendrix poured fuel over his Fender Stratocaster and set it on fire.

"I thought that was pathetic," Miller told the Washington Post in a new interview. "When I saw Jimi Hendrix stop playing the music he was playing and get down on his knees and pull out a can of lighter fluid and squirt it on the thing and light it, I went, 'Boy, this really fucking sucks.'"

Just before the first time Hendrix pulled the guitar burning stunt, they were hanging out with rock journalist, Keith Altham when he came up with the guitar burning idea.

"I was backstage at Finsbury Park Astoria and [The Jimi Hendrix Experience] were on that package tour Englebert Humperdink and Cat Stevens and a whole bunch of people who were ill-suited. Chas [Chandler, Hendrix's manager] turned to me at one point and said 'how are we going to steal the headlines this week?' So I said 'you can't keep smashing the guitar because people will just say you're copying The Who and The Move, you got to find something original to do," Altham said. "Why don't you set fire to the guitar?"

"There was a silence in the dressing room for about 10 seconds, and Chas turned to Tony Garland, who was his PA at the time, and said 'Tony, go out and buy some lighter fuel'. That is how 'guitar flame' was born. Jimi set fire to it on stage, after a few aborted efforts he whirled it around his head like an Olympic torch, much to the disconcertion of the fire chief who would probably never work again on the circuit."

So during the performance of 'Fire', Chandler doused Hendrix's guitar in lighter fluid while his bandmates continued to play on while Hendrix laid it down on the floor, knelt beside it and tried lighting it. After a few attempts, it finally caught ablaze, and rose to over a meter in height, burning Hendrix's hands. Probably high from adrenaline, Hendrix still continued to strum on another guitar but was taken to the hospital for treatment after the show.

He then pulled the same stunt a few months later at Monterey Pop Festival, which later became an iconic moment for Hendrix' music career.

The burnt guitar spent decades in storage until it was sold at an auction in 2008 for more than $450,000 NZD.