A 1967 Gibson J-160E Sunburst acoustic-electric guitar bought by John Lennon and later gifted by Lennon to Bob Dylan is expected to bring $200,000+ as the undisputed centerpiece of Heritage Auctions
July 29 Signature® Music & Entertainment Auction.
Lennon played and wrote songs on this beautiful Gibson during the period of the famous Beatles retreat with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India, possibly even taking this guitar with him on the journey - one of the most tumultuous and creative periods in the band's history, which resulted in 1968's The White Album, one of the greatest albums ever made. Lennon later gave to Bob Dylan, who wrote, recorded and toured with the guitar himself.
"It's a cliché to say it, of course, but if this amazing guitar could only talk," said Margaret Barrett, Director of Music & Entertainment Auctions at Heritage. "What an incredible amount of Rock n' Roll history it has witnessed, having been owned, played and beloved by, arguably, the two most important rock musicians of the 20th century."
Lennon bought this instrument new in 1967, a model he was particularly fond of, in the months before the untimely overdose death of original Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The spring of 1968 found the Beatles - and possibly this guitar - in Rishikesh, India taking a transcendental meditation course from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. For John, it was a way to "get away from everything." Though they were supposed to spend most of their time in meditation, John and Paul spent many of their afternoons writing songs.
"Regardless of what I was supposed to be doing," Lennon would recall, "I did write some of my best songs there."
This new music became the nucleus of one of the greatest albums of all time, The Beatles, better known as The White Album, released in late November, 1968.
A month or so later, around Christmas, Lennon gifted this J-160E to one of his musical idols, Bob Dylan, who took over stewardship of it for a number of years, keeping it at his New York home, writing songs on it, touring with it and using it in the recording studio during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was the period in which Dylan released such major works as Nashville Skyline, Planet Waves and Blood on the Tracks, making it easy to assume that this guitar figured prominently in the Dylan's writing process of those seminal recordings.
"A few years after Lennon's tragic death in 1980," said Barrett, "Dylan's superstitions about owning this guitar led him to gift it to his friend, famed guitarist and guitar technician César Diáz, a legend in his own right. To the best of our knowledge, it's never been offered before at public auction."
Lennon and Dylan are not the only Rock n' Roll royalty represented in the Heritage July auction. In fact, Heritage is offering two guitars that were owned and played by the King himself: Elvis Presley's stunning stage-used 1953 Martin 00-21 acoustic guitar (estimate: $75,000+), which the King gifted to actor and Hawaii Five-O star Jack Lord in the early 1970s, and Elvis' stage-used 1972 Martin D-28 acoustic guitar (estimate: $30,000+).
While the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences does not allow Oscars awarded after 1950 to be auctioned, the Academy does make occasional exceptions for pre-1950 statuettes, and Heritage has had the pleasure five times before of auctioning awards. The August event will feature another Oscar statue, this one from 1942 for Best Sound Recording, the first ever awarded in this particular category, awarded to Nathan Levinson for his work on the classic Yankee Doodle Dandy. The statuette carries a pre-auction estimate of $50,000+, and is sure to be highly coveted by high-end collectors of entertainment memorabilia.
"You simply do not see Oscars come up for auction with any sort of frequency," said Barrett. "We're always grateful to the Academy when they give us their blessing to sell a pre-1950 award, and we look forward to seeing how collectors respond to this offering."
The Beatles always represent popular and highly sought-after groupings in Heritage events and the top offerings of the boys from Liverpool constitute some of the most exciting action in the entire auction. The Fab Four are represented by a rare 1962 45 of The Beatles backing Tony Sheridan, as the Beat Brothers (estimate: $6,000+), a Beatles band-signed magazine spread from 1963 (estimate: $30,000+), a Beatles 1964 Forest Hills Music Festival poster (estimate: $18,000+), one of only two known, a Beatles Melody Maker Magazine Pop Poll Award from 1965 (estimate: $7,000+) and an original pencil sketch of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Alan White by Klaus Voorman (estimate: $2,500+).
Heritage's history of presenting some of the greatest and rarest Buddy Holly memorabilia continues in the July auction with the offering of a Buddy Holly and The Crickets signed contract for their Apollo Theatre engagement in New York City in August of 1957 (estimate: $20,000+), a set of three Buddy Holly and the Crickets signed checks (estimate: $3,000+), a Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper signed autograph book estimate: $3,000+) and a very rare set of documents authorizing payment to Buddy Holly and the Crickets for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in December of 1957 (estimate: $3,000+).
Hollywood royalty is well-represented in the auction in a variety of lots, with several prime standouts, including Marilyn Monroe's signed Home Town Story contract, estimated at $10,000+, a single-page, double-sided freelance player's contract, dated March 22, 1950 and signed by Monroe on the reverse in black ink, engaging her for her role as Iris in the 1951 film, a Marilyn Monroe signed Norma Jeane Dougherty model release form, 1946, including the first photo taken during that session, a rare image of a fresh-faced young Monroe posing in a ski lodge tableau (estimate: $7,000+) and a collection of Orson Welles hand drawn Christmas notecards from the 1940s to his then-wife Rita Hayworth, one of the most interesting and important periods in Welles' legendary life. The archive carries an estimate of $3,000+.