Les Paul prototype guitar sold for less that expected
An early prototype electric guitar owned by the pioneering musician and inventor Les Paul has sold for a six-figure sum in New York.
The 1954 Les Paul Black Custom was made by the Gibson company, as one of the earliest electric models of its kind. Described as "the very instrument that made rock and roll possible", the guitar inspired the Gibson Les Paul model which became a favourite of legends including George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Bob Marley.
The prototype version was known as 'Black Beauty', and was played extensively by Paul for more than 20 years and over 150 shows. During that time he modified it continuously, always trying to improve the sound, before finally gifting it to his friend and luthier Thomas Doyle.
It crossed the block in New York this week during a Guernseys auction, following international press attention, but failed to live up to its seven-figure estimate when it sold for $335,500.
The winning bidder was Christopher McKinney, guitar curator for Jim Irsay, owner and chief executive of the Indianapolis Colts. Irsay has built a collection of guitars played by the likes of Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Elvis Presley, and will now add Les Paul to that impressive list of luminaries.
“We know the importance of the guitar historically,” Mr. McKinney told the New York Times following the auction. “This guitar was used by Les in recordings, in television. It was his main guitar for innovations. It shows his thinking and progress as an inventor. A lot of the things that were done to this guitar went on to become industry standard.”
“Had this guitar been tied to an Eric Clapton or a Jimmy Page or a contemporary figure, it would have brought more. Les is an artist from a different era. The people who are Les Paul fans are guitar people.”
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