Bob Dylan's electric guitar from Newport goes up for sale
Bob Dylan’s sunburst Fender Stratocaster made rock history when he played it at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Now it is again set to make news when it goes on the auction block, where it could sell for half a million dollars.
The festival was a defining moment that marked Dylan’s move from acoustic folk to electric rock ’n’ roll.
Dylan’s three-song electric set at the festival was met by boos from folk purists who viewed him as a traitor. He returned for an acoustic encore with It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.
The presale estimate by Christie’s auction house for the guitar, which is being sold Friday with its original black leather strap and Fender hard shell case, is $300 000 to $500 000. The current record for a guitar sold at auction is Eric Clapton’s Fender, nicknamed “Blackie,” which sold at Christie’s for $959 500 in 2004.
Christie’s also is selling five lots of hand- and typewritten lyric fragments found inside the guitar case — early versions of some of Dylan’s famous songs. They have a presale estimate ranging from $3,000 to $30,000.
The lyrics for sale include “In the Darkness of Your Room,” an early draft of “Absolutely Sweet Marie” from Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album, and three songs from the 1965 recording session that were not released until the 1980s: Medicine Sunday (the draft is titled Midnight Train), Jet Pilot and I Wanna Be Your Lover.
The guitar has been in the possession of a New Jersey family for nearly 50 years. Dylan left it on a private plane piloted by the owner’s late father, Vic Quinto, who worked for the musician’s manager.
His daughter, Dawn Peterson, has said that her father asked the management company what to do with the guitar but that nobody ever got back to him.
Last year, she took it to the PBS television show History Detectives to try to have it authenticated. The program enlisted the expertise of Andy Babiuk, a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and owner of an upstate New York vintage instrument shop, and Jeff Gold, a Dylan memorabilia expert. Both men unequivocally declared it was Dylan’s guitar.
Babiuk took the instrument apart and also compared it to close-up color photos of the guitar taken at the 1965 festival.
“I was able to match the wood grain on the body of the guitar ... and the unique grain of the rosewood fingerboard. Wood grains are like fingerprints; no two are exactly alike,” Babiuk said.
“Based on the sum of the evidence, I was able to identify that this guitar was the one that Bob Dylan had played in Newport.”
Dylan’s attorney and his publicist did not respond to email and phone requests for comment. Dylan and Peterson, who declined to be interviewed, recently settled a legal dispute over the items. The terms were not disclosed.