Bob Dylan’s Famous Newport Guitar Going to Auction
Plenty of oddball rock memorabilia gets auctioned off every year, but in the not-too-distant future, one lucky bidder will walk away with a piece of real rock ‘n’ roll history.
Rolling Stone reports that the electric guitar Bob Dylan played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival — heralding a big change in his sound, and prompting howls of protest from some in attendance — is headed for the auction block. Uncovered last year during an episode of the PBS series ‘History Detectives,’ the guitar has spent nearly 50 years in the possession of a New Jersey family — and spent the past several months in the middle of a legal tug-of-war between its longtime owners and Dylan, who claimed it was still his. But with the lawsuit settled, the sale is ready to proceed.
The guitar’s long journey started the night of the Newport concert, when Victor Quinto, a pilot who worked for Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman, discovered it on his plane following the show. “Dylan left the guitar on the plane,” explained his daughter, Dawn Peterson. “My father passed away years ago, but I’ve heard from his friends that he asked the management company what to do with it and he heard back, ‘We can always get more from Fender.’ I’ve also heard that he called and asked them what to do and nobody ever responded.”
Dylan also left behind some handwritten lyric sheets, containing fragments of songs that ended up on subsequent releases (including ‘Just Like a Woman’ and ‘Medicine Sunday,’ an early version of ‘Temporary Like Achilles’). It all adds up to a pretty incredible memento for the right collector, even though, as Peterson points out, it won’t be cheap. “‘History Detectives’ felt it was worth $500,000,” she told RS. “I believe it’s probably worth more than that … The lyrics also estimated to be worth at least $50,000.”
All of which might have something to do with why Dylan initially disputed Peterson’s ownership of the instrument, releasing a tersely worded statement following the ‘Detectives’ episode and eventually taking the family to court. Their legal argument has been put to rest with an undisclosed settlement, and although the Petersons have yet to set a date for the sale (or even pick an auction house), Dawn has an idea of where she’d like the guitar to end up.
“I would feel unsafe hanging it on a wall now, after all this went on,” she explained. “I would have to pay to keep it locked up, and I want somebody else to enjoy it. I’m hoping it goes to a museum so it can be shared with everybody.”