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Guitar used by Bob Dylan to 'go electric' sets auction record

Singer Bob Dylan performs during a segment honoring Director Martin Scorsese, recipient of the Music+ Film Award, at the 17th Annual Critics
Singer Bob Dylan performs during a segment honoring Director Martin Scorsese, recipient of the Music+ Film Award, at the 17th Annual Critics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The electric guitar Bob Dylan played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, when the acoustic troubadour shocked traditionalists with a set of rock and roll, sold for $965,000 on Friday, a world auction record for a guitar, Christie's said.

The 1964 Fender Stratocaster, along with five song lyrics left on a private airplane by the songwriter and his band in the months after the Rhode Island festival, were part of six lots in a special sale of Dylan material in New York.

"A tremendous amount of international interest was generated at the time of the sale's announcement, and today's result justifies the mythic status of this guitar in the annals of music history," Tom Lecky, a specialist at Christie's, said in a statement.

An absentee bidder bought the Fender Stratocaster with a classic sunburst finish, its original case and black leather guitar strap for nearly double its high pre-sale estimate.

The previous auction record for a guitar was for Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster, which fetched $959,500 in 2004.

Only one of the five lyrics sheets sold for $20,000, bringing the auction total to $985,000. That was a handwritten and typed version of 1965's "I Wanna Be Your Lover."

Friday's sale came just a day after rocker Bruce Springsteen's 1974 handwritten draft for "Born to Run" went for $197,000 in New York.

Rolling Stone magazine has cited Dylan's performance at the Newport festival as one of the most notable events in music history, according to Christie's.

"I did this very crazy thing," Dylan, who was 24, said at the time. "I didn't know what was going to happen, but they certainly booed. I'll tell you that."

Dylan, one of rock's most influential songwriters, wrote and sang "Blowin' in the Wind," "Like a Rolling Stone," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the 2001 Oscar-winning "Things Have Changed." He also used the guitar in 1965 for recording sessions for the album "Bringing It All Back Home."

The guitar and lyrics, which were found in the guitar case, were authenticated and put up for sale by the daughter of Vic Quinto, a New Jersey-based commercial pilot who had been hired by Dylan's manager to fly his artists.

Dylan had claimed ownership of the guitar in 2012 and was involved in a legal dispute with Quinto's daughter, Dawn Peterson, after she brought it to the attention of the television show public television show "History Detective," which authenticated it.

Christie's said the ownership dispute had been settled. No details were available.

"Dylan's representatives were aware of the auction and did not contest it," a spokesperson for Christie's said.

Dylan, who was greeted by early folk fans with cries of "Judas" at some of his early electric rock shows in the 1960s, is still generating headlines at 72. He was awarded France's prestigious Legion d'Honneur award last month in Paris, but is now being investigated there after a Croatian community organization in France filed a legal complaint alleging that comments he made to Rolling Stone magazine last year violated French racial hatred laws.

Neither the singer nor Rolling Stone issued any comment on the investigation.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Eric Kelsey and David Gregorio)

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