Sunday July 15, 2012

NEW YORK -- Bob Dylan and historians at PBS are in a dispute over the whereabouts of an electric guitar that the singer plugged in at the New port Folk Festival in 1965, quite possibly the most historic single instrument in rock ‘n’ roll.

The New Jersey daughter of a pilot who flew Dylan to appearances in the 1960s says she has the guitar, which has spent much of the past 47 years in a family attic.

But a lawyer for Dylan claims the singer still has the Fender Stratocaster with the sunburst design that he used during one of the most memorable performances of his career.

If the authentic "Dylan goes electric" guitar ever went on the open marketplace, experts say it could fetch as much as a half million dollars.

The guitar is the centerpiece of Tuesday’s season premiere of PBS’ "History Detectives," and the show said it stood by its conclusion that Dawn Peterson, the pilot’s daughter who works as a customer relations manager for an energy company, has the right instrument.

On July 25, 1965, that guitar was more an object of derision than desire.

With his acoustic songs of social protest, a young Bob Dylan was a hero to folk music fans in the early 1960s and the Newport festival was their Mecca.

Bringing an electric guitar and band with him onstage to launch into "Maggie’s Farm" was more than an artistic change, it was a provocative act. Most folk purists disdained rock ‘n’ roll.


Advertisement

What happened next is a little foggy. Did an enraged Pete Seeger really try to cut Dylan’s electric power?

Was the crowd upset about the noise, or by Dylan leaving the stage after only three songs? Was it even upset at all? He later returned for a couple of acoustic songs.

Either way, Dylan never looked back.

Victor Quinto briefly flew music stars like Dylan during the 1960s. Peterson, his daughter, said Dylan left the Fender behind on an airplane and Quinto took it home.