It’s the stuff of rock and roll legend: in 1965, Bob Dylan pissed a whole lot of folkies off at the Newport Folk Festival by plugging in and going electric with a full band in tow. Fans jeered, critics sneered, but Dylan laughed all the way to the bank, reinventing folk sounds for years to come.
But where is the original guitar Dylan used? It’s kept a low-profile for years, and for some fans, the sunburst Fender Stratocaster is akin to the Holy Grail, a missing link between folk, rock and roll, and the ’60s counter-culture.
PBS’s TV show History Detectives think they found it. According to Billboard, the show’s producers were approached by a woman from New Jersey named Dawn Peterson who claims the guitar has been in her family’s attic for the past 47 years. Peterson’s father, Victor Quinto, was a pilot to acts like Dylan and The Band in the ’60s, and Dylan reportedly left the guitar on his plane. Quinto took it home and contacted Dylan’s representatives to pick it up, but they never did. He stored it in his attic until Peterson found it ten years ago and started piecing together some clues.
The producers of History Detectives first found a phone number for Dylan in the address book of Quinto, who has since passed away. They also found a batch of handwritten lyrics in the guitar case, and after taking them to expert Jeff Gold, he verified that they were authentic and ended up appearing in several songs recorded for but scratched from Dylan’s 1966 album Blonde On Blonde.
Finally, a guitar appraiser determined the instrument was made in 1964 (a year before the Newport show) and matched the wood grain of the one that appears in color photographs of Dylan at Newport. Dylan’s lawyer asserts the singer still has the guitar, but given all the evidence, the History Detectives stand by their conclusion.
Peterson will hang on to the guitar for now, with no plans to sell or donate the instrument. In the meantime, you can watch the History Detectives episode in question when it airs on July 17 on PBS. Also, below is a clip of Dylan performing with the guitar at Newport.