Bob Dylan’s first electric guitar performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival is often cited as the watershed moment of rock and roll, the moment when the rebellious volume of rock finally matched itself up with the social conscience of folk music. However, the guitar Dylan played at that legendary show-a 1964 sunburst Fender Stratocaster-has been missing for over 40 years since. That all changed today, when the researchers behind PBS’ History Detectives told New Jersey resident Dawn Peterson that the old Fender guitar she had in her home was, in fact, played by a rock icon.
Peterson inherited the guitar from her father, who had previously worked as a pilot for Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman. Peterson told Rolling Stone that the guitar contained sheets of written lyrics inside the case.
Dylan, for his part, insists that the guitar Peterson owns isn’t the real McCoy. Orin Snyder, Dylan’s attorney, issued a statement saying that “Bob has possession of the electric guitar he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.” The statement also noted that Dylan “owned other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as well as some handwritten lyrics.”
However, experts called in by History Detectives to analyse the guitar own by Peterson say that their guitar is the real one. Dylan memorabilia expert Jeff Gold confirmed that the guitar was real, and analysis of the woodgrain and paint match photos of the guitar Dylan played in 1965.
Gold also confirmed the authenticity of the lyrics while noting that some of them feature fragments that would end up on the Blonde on Blonde tracks “Absolutely Sweet Marie” and “Temporary Like Achilles.”
The guitar is believed to be worth over $1 million, but it is unclear whether Peterson will sell the guitar, since Dylan still legally owns it and has asked for it back.
The episode of History Detectives airs July 17th at 9:00pm on PBS.