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50's Fender Stratocaster, Sunburst, Maple Fretboard

Chris played this Strat - which appears to be from the 50's - in The Jynx, circa 1965.


Fender Telecaster, Black, Maple Fretboard

Chris used this Tele in one of his pre-Big Star bands, Rock City.

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1963-68 Gibson ES-330, Cherry

Chris' main guitar during his Big Star tenure was a mid-60's Gibson ES-330, finished in Cherry. This guitar is still owned by the Bell family but remains on loan to Ardent Studios. 

Right: A recent photo of Chris' Gibson ES-330 at Ardent Studios, leaning against Jody Stephens' Ludwig "Oyster Pearl" kit.

Chris played a cherry red Gibson 335 (sic) 6-string guitar with P80 or P90 pickups. I’m pretty sure it had a Bigsby. It must have been mid-60s as well. I can’t remember Chris ever owning another electric guitar. He was a one guitar kind of guy with that 335 (sic) and he played the hell out of it.
— Andy Hummel, 2007
(Chris) also had a cherry red Gibson ES-330 (black single-coil pickups) (sic) from his teen years, which the Bell family still has. That guitar was definitely one of the ones used on the 1st Big Star record.
— Van Duren, 2014

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1965-68 Gibson Firebird I, "Non-Reverse", Sunburst

Chris used a sunburst "non-reverse" Firebird III on Big Star's first and only tour with the original lineup, 1972. 

Right: Big Star on their one and only "tour" with all four original members.


1970 Yamaha FG-180

Towards the end of his tenure with the band, Chris' personality began to turn volatile. In one of the more infamous tales, Chris got on Andy's case about not being able to play a bass line right during a rehearsal. Andy, in turn, punched Chris in the face. Chris, with blood running down his nose, smashed Andy's new Gibson Thunderbird bass; Andy retaliated by punching four holes in the top of Chris' Yamaha FG-180 acoustic guitar with a screwdriver.

Andy ended up with the guitar and later gave it to Jody, who wrote "For You" on it. He still owns it today. The holes are covered by gaffers tape.

Chris bought a Yamaha dreadnaught-style acoustic, I think while we were recording the 1st LP. It was a good guitar and used extensively on that LP and later on his solo stuff although it too was a victim of violence at one point. We were a very emotional band.
— Andy Hummel, 2009
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1959-64 Fender Stratocaster

This early 60's Fender Stratocaster is most likely "The Big Star Strat", heard throughout #1 Record and Radio City. 

This guitar is notable for its missing or painted pickup covers, unusual black refinish (it appears to have a matte quality to it, and is flaking around the heel in the cutaway), and missing its headstock logo (possibly sanded off during the refinishing process).

First seen in the 1967 footage of The Box Tops miming to "The Letter" (see below), it is also the guitar Chris is playing In the only known footage of the original incarnation of the band (see below).

Alex later used this same Strat on tour with Big Star (seen below at the Rock Writers' Convention, 1973).

The band's gear was stolen on March 30th, 1974, the night before a concert in Cambridge, MA (opening for Badfinger). Alex lost several guitars, including this Strat.


Double-Cutaway Telecaster; ORIGIN UNKNOWN

 

Chris had a custom made Tele-style solid body with double cutaways. Don’t know where he got it, but I think this was after he left Big Star. That guitar appears on most of his solo stuff. He also had a 1950’s Fender Bassman combo amp that had 4 10’s in it and was loud as hell. The Tele and the amp were stolen out of his mother’s station wagon while Chris was attending a Joni Mitchell concert at the Mid South Coliseum in the spring of 1976 (February 4th - ed.)
— Van Duren

Keith Sykes' Telecaster

Chris borrowed Keith Sykes' Telecaster (notable for the decal of a panther and a pinup girl on the upper bout) and used it with the Baker Street Regulars, seen here in April 1976 (Van Duren on bass, Jody Stephens on drums, Mike Brignardello on guitar):