Outside of the Prince fan community, he is most associated with his iconic Cloud and Symbol shaped guitars. However, it is the Madcat that Prince fans often most revere.
At the dawn of his career Prince was seen with a variety of guitars, including a Gibson L6S in early videos & TV performances, and a Fender Telecaster on his first tour. There are conflicting stories about where Prince acquired this cheap Telecaster copy, known as the MadCat. The most popular belief is that it was at a gas station, but some accounts suggest it came from the Knut Koupee Guitar shop in Minneapolis. Either way it quickly became his primary axe, and today bears the battle scars of a well used, well loved guitar.
The MadCat was originally made in Japan by H.S. Anderson in the 1970s. It was produced under three different company logos – H.S. Anderson, Hohner, and Bill Lawrence. Prince bought the Hohner version (which was exactly the same as the H.S. Anderson, except with a Hohner logo in the same pearloid effect lettering as used by H.S. Anderson).
The body was made from a central strip of walnut, Japanese sen (similar to ash) sides, and a flame maple top. It was fitted with leopard skin pattern scratch plate, a Strat style bridge, and the headstock was reminiscent of the classic Fender shape.
Photos appear to indicate that he started playing it regularly in 1981. Once he found success Prince had several copies made, including modified versions that were used to spray the audience during the Purple Rain tour in ’84/’85. It is impossible to determine if the one now displayed at Paisley Park is the original model, but based on the patterns of wear to the body it is definitely the one that Prince was using during the most recent years, which includes at the Super Bowl half time show in 2007, and the performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the RnR Hall of Fame in 2004.
There have been many re-issues of this iconic guitar over the years, including from Hohner and the original builder.