Now, I know a little about guitars and what they sell for. My friend Greg Dorsett owns a business called “Rock Star Guitars” and they have dealt with a few Jimi Hendrix guitars (one involved a big lawsuit with the Hendrix estate, which he won). He’s had lots of big name guitars over the years, and I really thought nobody would ever top the sale that the Hendrix guitars go for.
But what made this Dylan guitar so valuable is – it’s the one used when he “went electric.”
It was that famous show at the 1965 Newport Folk festival. The folk crowd was furious that he went from the acoustic stylings of songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” to the feedback and amplified sounds of “Like a Rolling Stone.”
And how exactly was that historic ax acquired? Well, a New Jersey family had it for 50 years, after the singer left it on a private plane. The pilot’s daughter said that her dad contacted Dylan’s management what to do with it, and they never got back to him. She took the guitar last year to “History Detectives” on PBS, and it was authenticated. That involved close-up photos matching the instrument. The guitar also came with the original black leather strap and the hard-shell case (I always like the guitar cases that have the stickers plastered all over them).
Apparently something happened, because Dylan’s people settled a legal dispute over the items, yet those terms weren’t disclosed. You can bet Dylan got a pretty penny out of the deal, though.
Much like how baseball fans dispute weather or not Babe Ruth pointed to where he was going to hit a home run before he did, fans often debate what really happened at the Newport Festival. Certainly some in the crowd booed, but many claim it wasn’t the fact that he went electric (with a smokin’ band that included Al Kooper on organ, and Mike Bloomfield on guitar); or the sound system, which had a lot of feedback and distortion.
Autograph collectors probably hate that these guitars usually aren’t autographed. Surprisingly, in the guitar case were handwritten and typed out lyrics to various songs. Only one of them, lyrics for “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (not to be confused with the Prince song), went for $20,000.
Eric Clapton, who did the opposite and went from electric to acoustic on the popular MTV Unplugged show, had the previous record for a guitar sold at auction. It was his Fender (Blackie). That went for $959,500 in 2004.
I’ve never been much of a Dylan fan. Love his songwriting, hate his voice. Yet once at a Beatles convention in L.A., I saw an 8 x 10 signed photo. It read, “Best Wishes, Bob Dylan.”
It was $50 (this was in 1992). I always regret not buying it at that price (and it was one of his nicer signatures).
The one Bob Dylan album I love, and think is one of the best records in rock history, is “Blood on the Tracks.” I bought a signed copy of that album for $380 at an auction years ago. Nothing like getting one of your all-time favorite albums signed by the artist.
Now, if I can get The Doors debut, Zeppelin IV, Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers”, The Who “Who’s Next” (it’s almost complete, but will never have a Keith Moon on it!)…well, if I can acquire those to go with my signed Sgt. Pepper, I’ll be a happy camper.