Bob Dylan’s set at The 1965 Newport Folk Festival was when and where The Artist Formerly Known as Bobby Zimmerman publicly plugged in. And on December 6th, 2013, a buyer identified only as “a private individual” (my money’s on Paul Allen) bought that sunburst-finish electric; $965,000 at Christie’s Auction House in New York City. (I’m writing about it now b/c I only just read about it. Doi.)
Christie’s expected the guitar, sold with its original black leather strap and hard-shell case, to go for a mere $300,000 to $500,000.
Previously, Eric Clapton’s Fender held the record for a guitar sold at auction. Nicknamed “Blackie,” Clapton’s sold for $959,500 in 2004.
Dylan’s Fender was in the possession of a New Jersey family for nearly 50 years. Apparently, Mary Jane left it on the private plane that shuttled Dylan around with the likes of Peter, Paul & Mary. You know, The Beautiful People. The pilot’s daughter said her father contacted Dylan’s management, but nobody got back to him … “Hello? Mary Jane?”
Whatever Dylan might have been on at Newport, his blistering set there sent into seismic his shift away from acoustic and toward amplified rock. The crowd mutinied.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Dylan said at the time, “but they certainly booed.”
According to myth, Pete Seeger was so furious that he tried a) to end Dylan’s performance—dude, it was only three songs—or b) threatened to cut the cable with an ax. Years later, Seeger said he had nothing against Dylan going electric — he was upset over the distortion-filled sound system.
For the kiddies: the reaction at Newport was analogous to Stephen Colbert’s moment of legend at the 2006 Foreign Correspondence’s Dinner. The performance wasn’t understood by the audience, but the long-term effect catapulted the performer beyond fame and into lore. And now, the conduit of all that music history can be yours for only a million bucks—while supplies last.