To smash the guitar or not smash the guitar? That is the question.
Every rock legend cultivates a relationship with his or her instruments. Once the Who's Pete Townshend normalized violently sacrificing his axes to the Gods of Theater (not to mention Jerry Lee Lewis setting his pianos on fire), anyone who hops on a stage with a Fender, Gibson, or Martin follows his disposition to a foregone conclusion. Elvis Presley, the consummate showman, was famously gentle with his six-stringers. The fantastically charismatic Kurt Cobain not so much. As they say: There's more than one way to skin a cat.
Whether cherished or murdered (or both) by its owner, the guitar is the Excalibur of the popular music world the thing that opens the door to its player's uncharted gifts, and is emblematic of entire genres. Without guitars, there'd be no rock and roll, no R&B, no country, no folk, far less jazz... . And on August 11 in its Vintage Guitars and Musical Instruments Signature® Auction, Heritage
offers up guitars that were once in the hands of Presley and Cobain, as well as gorgeous examples that crossed paths with the likes of Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Paul McCartney, Stevie and Jimmie Ray Vaughan, Carlos Santana and more.
Says Aaron Piscopo, Heritage's Director of Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments: "Neil Young wrote the song 'From Hank to Hendrix,' and as time keeps on ticking, I think now it's safe to say 'From the King to Kurt.' Music lovers such as myself have many different sides, or float from one side of the music spectrum to another. This auction is no different in that it has items from The King of Rock 'n' Roll Elvis Presley to the Emperor of Grunge, Kurt Cobain. Being able to excite multiple generations of music lovers is always a pleasure."
Presley was a rhythm guitar player who was particular about the instruments he took onstage: They couldn't interfere with his signature moves. This 1968 prototype rosewood Fender Telecaster, made for The King, was the first of six built by Fender (one went to Stax legend Steve Cropper and another was sent to George Harrison, who played it during the Beatles' famous Let It Be rooftop performance). Elvis may have found it a bit heavy for his live performances. Letters from Hal Blain and Harold Bradley confirm his ownership: "Elvis used the guitar intermittently over a period of a few months, then sent it back to Fender." Scratched into the underside of the pickguard: "Elvis Presley 1968." True to the Elvis' ownership style, the Tele is in excellent condition.
He may have had a penchant for guitar smashing, but like so many players, Kurt Cobain haunted guitar shops and homed in on his favorites. This 1966 Fender Jaguar Sunburst, strung for a lefty like himself, was right up his alley and in a bout of territorial pissing (so to speak) he used a black feltip to commemorate his admiration for the Jag and slash his standard ironic misspelled signature across it: "To the/Guitar Hal/o fame/Kurdt Kobain/Nirvana." This signature has been authenticated by PSA and Roger Epperson, and the guitar comes with COAs from both, as well as the photo of an uncharacteristically pleased Cobain holding this baby.
The favorite happy couple Roy Rogers and Dale Evans "King of the Cowboys" and "Queen of the West" were both outstanding musicians, and in 1997, in a runup to the opening of their namesake museum, veteran artist and custom luthier Greg Rich, along with Mark Taylor via Dream Guitars, introduced what was meant to be a limited edition run of hand-painted and elaborately inlaid acoustics that pay homage to this dream team a his and hers pairing both jumbo bodied in maple. Rogers, who is said to have called his prototype "The prettiest guitar I've ever seen," died not long after production started, and so only six of his were made, and only one of Evans'. Heritage has the only "King of the Cowboys" example signed by both Rogers and Evans ("To Rogers/God Loves You/Dale Evans"), along with that one and only "Queen of the West" example, signed by Evans. Both come with photos of the Western stars signing these beautiful beasts and both guitars are in excellent condition.
The left-handed 1998 Les Paul Sunburst that Paul McCartney played during Bruce Springsteen's 2012 "Hard Rock Calling" Hyde Park show is here, as is this 1973 Martin D-35 acoustic, in good used condition, signed and inscribed by The Man in Black: It reads "Take care of my guitar - Johnny Cash/Feb 28, '91" and is certified by Roger Epperson. And here's a doozy: Rock's most famous muse and groupie Pamela Des Barres ("Miss Pamela" to you) owned this 1922 "Aunt Mabel's" Gibson L1 acoustic that many a legend took for a spin: Gram Parsons, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Waylon Jennings, Keith Moon, Steve Jones, Ryan Adams and many more. And despite the nicks, dings and finish chips caused by these greats, this lovable gitbox is in remarkable condition.
Another significant aspect of this auction is the selection of 96 essentially "new" vintage guitars from The Guitar Shop Collection. Founded in Washington D.C. in 1922 by Sophocles Papas, the brick-and-mortar Camelot was the go-to spot for guitars, and by 1968 was in the good hands of Steve and Lynda Spellman. As the shop's fame grew, the Spellmans influenced guitar design and represented the finest luthiers in the world. The shop was so renowned for its selection that for decades customers famous, infamous and civilian would fly into D.C. for the day to land a Holy Grail.
Says the Collection's Steve Spellman: "The instruments that we offer for sale now by luthiers such as George Lowden, Breedlove, Huss & Dalton, Taylor, Ehlers, Ramirez, Marzal, Bofi, Kohno and many of the hand builders of acoustic and classical instruments often were prototypes or custom instruments that were, in many cases, the first of their type. These are often new, vintage, special, prototype, or one-of-a-kind guitars that have never been sold." Heritage is pleased and honored to offer this astonishing collection.