NEW YORK – Like Elvis’ no-hips-allowed appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show or the Beatles’ arrival in America, or Woodstock, it is considered one of the milestone moments in rock history: Bob Dylan going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
On Friday, the Fender Stratocaster that Dylan plugged in at the festival sold for nearly $1 million – the highest price ever paid for a guitar at auction.
A buyer identified only as a private individual agreed to pay $965,000 for the guitar, including Christie’s auction house fees.
Dylan’s legendary performance at the festival in Rhode Island 48 years ago marked his rupture with the folk movement’s old guard and solidified his shift away from acoustic music, such as Blowin’ in the Wind, toward amplified rock, such as Like a Rolling Stone.
The raucous, three-song electric set was booed by some in the crowd, and folk purists saw Dylan as a traitor and a sellout.
Christie’s had expected the guitar, which was sold with its original black leather strap and Fender hard-shell case, to go for $300,000 to $500,000.
The previous record for a guitar sold at auction was held by Eric Clapton’s Fender, nicknamed Blackie, which sold at Christie’s for $959,500 in 2004.
Dylan’s guitar had been in the possession of a New Jersey family for nearly 50 years after the singer left it on a private plane.
The pilot’s daughter, Dawn Peterson of Morris County, N.J., said her father asked Dylan’s management what to do with the instrument, and nobody ever got back to him.
Last year, she had it authenticated on the PBS show History Detectives.
Dylan’s attorney and his publicist didn’t respond to requests for comment. Dylan and Peterson recently settled a legal dispute over the items. The terms weren’t disclosed.