Bob Dylan’s (In)Famous Electric Guitar From the Newport Folk Festival Discovered?

On July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan returned to the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val, now the head­line act. The purist audi­ence expect­ed to hear some Dylan clas­sics played with an acoustic gui­tar — some­thing like “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Mr. Tam­bourine Man.” They got any­thing but. Dylan trad­ed in his Gib­son acoustic gui­tar for a Fend­er Stra­to­cast­er, and began to bang out elec­tri­fied ver­sions of “Mag­gie’s Farm” and “Like a Rolling Stone” (see below). Pete Seeger, the folk icon, lost his cool and famous­ly threat­ened, “If I had an axe, I’d chop the micro­phone cable right now.” The crowd booed (for rea­sons that some now inter­pret dif­fer­ent­ly). Dylan abrupt­ly left the stage, only to return with an acoustic gui­tar in hand. Lat­er, dur­ing his 1965–66 world tour, embit­tered fans called him “Judas!”

Every­thing changed the moment Dylan went elec­tric at New­port. Dylan’s own music, folk music, rock ’n’ roll — they all moved in new direc­tions. And the gui­tar at the cen­ter of the con­tro­ver­sy, it went silent for almost five decades … until now. This week, the PBS pro­gram His­to­ry Detec­tives aired an episode that tried to deter­mine whether Dylan’s elec­tric axe may have wound up in the hands of Dawn Peter­son, the daugh­ter of a pilot who flew planes board­ed by Dylan and oth­er folk musi­cians. The foren­sic evi­dence sug­gests that it’s the real deal. But Dylan, through his lawyers, insists that he’s still in pos­ses­sion of the his­to­ry-mak­ing gui­tar. It’s anoth­er lay­er of con­tro­ver­sy that began 47 years ago.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A His­to­ry of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

Mak­ing Fend­er Gui­tars, Then (1959) and Now (2012)

Jim­my Page Tells the Sto­ry of “Kash­mir”

Here Comes The Sun: The Lost Gui­tar Solo by George Har­ri­son

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  • Grapost says:

    It’s amaz­ing how cheap wealthy celebri­ties can be. If it is the New­port Gui­tar why not just give the woman $500,000 for it and be glad it has been found and that you can get it back.. That amount of mon­ey is pock­et change to Dylan and the woman could sure use it. But he’ll prob­a­bly do the stu­pid and greedy thing and spend $500,000 suing her to get it back, with the lawyers get­ting all the mon­ey.

  • Mark R says:

    As far as elec­tric gui­tars go, this Dylan gui­tar has to be among the top five most valu­able in the world. I guess Bob is the only per­son who real­ly knows if he is still in pos­ses­sion of that par­tic­u­lar instru­ment. The oth­er part of the sto­ry here is that play­ing lead gui­tar for Dylan that day was per­haps the great­est Amer­i­can blues gui­tarist ever, Mike Bloom­field. Mikes elec­tric gui­tar (which should also be includ­ed in that select group of five) was a Fend­er Tele­cast­er.


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