The Power of the Plug

by Jeff Coltin
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Dylan in 1965 with the Byrds

Dylan with playing the Byrds in 1965, sans guitar, Credit: The Comedy Store, flickr

"Dylan Goes Electric" guitar is up for sale.

Dylan goes electric. It's right up there in the pantheon of moments that changed pop music, along with the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and Michael Jackson busting out the Moonwalk.

In 1965, Bob Dylan was already known as the voice of a generation, playing a simple acoustic guitar and harmonica on songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Mr. Tambourine Man." But at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he plugged in and played with a full band for the first time. First, "Maggie's Farm." Then, "Like a Rolling Stone." Nearly 50 years, rumors are still flying about somebody shouting "Judas" and the folk icon playing to a chorus of boo's.

This week, Christie's is auctioning off the famed guitar he played that day, along with handwritten lyrics found in the case.  It was left aboard a private airplane used to shuttle around Dylan in the mid 60's.

Specialist Tom Lecky at Christie's Auction House says nobody can verify the rumors Dylan was boo-ed and heckled for plugging in. But verifying the guitar decades later was basic forensics.

"Wood grain is like a fingerprint," Lecky said. “It has the patterns that can be analyzed and looked at, and these all match" based on pictures and videos of the day.

Lecky expects it to sell from $300-500,000, on par with axes from guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

"It's not [Dylan] is a virtuoso guitar player, but this was the tool he used to change himself, and therefore our perception of him," Lecky said. "And that transformation brought about so many different things.

He says the Dylan camp is aware of the sale and isn't contesting it. The guitar is on view to the public at Christie's at Rockefeller Center through Thursday, December 5. The Auction is at 1 P.M. on Friday, December 6.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article named the incorrect days of the week for the dates the guitar will be on view.]

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The story told by WFUV's Jeff Coltin

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