Iconic Les Paul 'Black Beauty' guitar to hit auction block

Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:36pm EST
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By Alicia Powell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One deep-pocketed bidder will get a chance to own a piece of rock and roll history when the iconic Les Paul guitar known as "Black Beauty" goes up for auction in New York next month.

The electric instrument, which is the original prototype for the Les Paul Custom guitars made the Gibson Guitar Company, will be sold by Guernsey's Auctions at the Arader Galleries on Feb. 19th.

No pre-auction estimate, or reserve price, has been put on the instrument. But some music experts believe it could exceed the record auction price of $965,000 paid in 2013 for the guitar owned and played by Bob Dylan at his first electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

"This instrument," said Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger, "is referred to as the grail, the Holy Grail, because it was the first Les Paul guitar made by Mr. Les Paul that gave birth to the thousands and thousands of instruments that bear that name and that resemble this instrument."

Paul, a pioneering musician and inventor, collaborated with guitar makers Gibson, who approached him in the early 1950s to build a true electric guitar.

The solid body guitar was delivered to him in 1954 and continuously modified as Paul sought to perfect its sound until it was last used in 1976, when he gave it to his close friend Tom Doyle. The black guitar with gold hardware features fine inlays and bindings around the entire instrument.

Ettinger said the instrument originally had different hardware and attachments and the pickguard did not look the same.

"But through the next 20 years it evolved as he was experimenting to get new sounds and the maximum excitement of what he created," he said.   Continued...

Guernsey's Auctions President Arlan Ettinger holds the Les Paul guitar known as "Black Beauty", which will go up for auction next month, in New York January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar