The Hohner Madcat is an electric guitar used by Prince throughout his career. Alongside the Dave Rusan Cloud Guitar and the Auerswald Symbol Guitar, it is the guitar most associated with Prince. The guitar has a similar shape to a Fender Telecaster. However, its pickups and bridge are closer to a Fender Stratocaster, which gives this instrument its unique sound. Prince started using this guitar on the Dirty Mind tour. He used it on later tours including the Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Lovesexy, Nude, Musicology, Earth and Welcome 2 America tours. Whilst Prince used other guitars live, according to Susan Rogers, Prince preferred to use the Hohner Madcat in the studio over other guitars like the Cloud Guitar. It most likely appears on all studio albums from 1980 onward, with the notable exception of Batman, when Prince wanted a more futuristic sound .
The Hohner Madcat was first released as the H.S. Anderson Madcat. H.S Anderson were a brand launched by the Japanese Morris Guitar company. Hohner liked the guitar and decided to release the guitar under their brand. The design is not a straight copy of a Telecaster. It has a walnut centre strip, sen ash sides and a book-matched maple top and back. The guitar has a bridge like a hardtail Stratocaster and pickups like the neck and bridge pickup from the Stratocaster. The pickguard is somewhere between tortoiseshell and leopard print in appearance. The bridge is also surrounded by a ring made from the same material as the pickguard. Morris Guitars received a lawsuit from Fender for copying their headstock design. The Madcat went out of production, with only 500 Hohner-branded Madcats built.
Prince acquired his Hohner Madcat at some point in the late 1970s. The legend is it cost $30 from a gas station , but Andre Cymone has reported that he bought it from a Minneapolis guitar store (probably Knut Koupee) around the same time as his Fender Jazz bass . Prince liked the "leopard print" pickguard as it matched his stage costume and other equipment, which were all covered in fake fur. There are varying reports of the quality of the instrument. Despite being a copy of a Fender design from the far east, the instrument was far from a cheap copy. It was of decent quality, built by the equivalent of the Morris factory's custom shop team. It would have cost about 80,000 YEN new in 1976, over $1,000 in today's money. His guitar techs worked on the instrument to keep it road worthy, but it remained a quality instrument. Takumi Suetsugu, Prince's guitar tech, has remarked that it is the best Telecaster he has ever played. The pickups have been replaced. First, with Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups and later Kinman Traditional pickups. A third pickup was also added under the pickguard for noise cancelling purposes, but this was later removed. Prince's Madcat has a wireless receiver built into the body, which he added during the Purple Rain tour.
Prince had multiple copies of the Madcat made by other luthiers including Roger Sadowsky. Some of these were exact replicas, down to the headstock logo. It is unknown how many of Prince's Madcats were copies, but Prince continued to tour with his original Madcat. It is in the collection at Paisley Park and appears in the Prince - Guitar & Bass book.
Hohner and H.S. Anderson both made copies of the Madcat in the wake of Prince's success. This includes the Hohner "The Prinz" (1984), "TE Prinz" (1990) and the "Artist" and "Artist Elite" (2008) and a H.S. Anderson Madcat reissue (2013). These all have variations on the original headstock to get around the lawsuit issue. Prince had a Hohner "TE Prinz" in his collection but only ever used his original and reproduction Hohners live.