Where is Bob Dylan's Newport Folk Festival Strat?

PBS History Detectives claim that they have found the Newport Folk Festival Strat while Dylan's camp dispute and say that they still have it.

Bob Dylan's Newport Folk Festival Strat

The 1964 sunburst Stratocaster in question is special because it represented a critical transition in Dylan's career, from acoustic folk to rock.

Dylan was known as a folk music hero in the early '60s, and he was expected to play some good old folk music at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Unfortunately, Dylan had other things in mind, he decided to rock out with an electric guitar! And since folk music fans disdain rock 'n' roll, his performance went down in history as an artistic, rebellious and provocative gesture.

After that event, Dylan continued to add electric guitar songs into his live performances which garnered mixed responses from his fans. The fate of the '64 sunburst Strat however remained unknown until a team of PBS researchers authenticated the guitar to be in the hands of a New Jersey resident named Dawn Peterson.

Dawn's father, Victor Quinto, was a private pilot who worked for Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager. The story goes that after one flight, her father saw three guitars left on the plane. He then tried contacting the company a few times to pickup the guitar but no one got back to him. Dawn Peterson tried to verify the identity of the guitars left by her father but was unsuccessful, so she asked the help of PBS History Detectives. At first the PBS History Detectives hosts were skeptical, Wes Cowan commented: "It's so important, historically and culturally, that I couldn't have imagined Bob Dylan would have just left it on an airplane."

Bob Dylan's Newport Folk Festival Strat
Lyrics image from PBS History Detectives

However, the results of careful examination by experts convinced them of its link to the Newport Folk Festival Strat. The '64 era Fender Stratocaster came with 13 pages of typed and handwritten song lyrics tucked inside the case. The handwriting on the lyrics were identical to Dylan's. Andy Babiuk, one of the experts that looked at the guitar was convinced after he compared it to close-up color photos from Newport. He was believed that the wood grains match with the actual one seen in the photos. He was quoted saying: "The more I looked, the more they matched. The rosewood fingerboard has distinct lighter strips. Wood grain is like a fingerprint. I'm 99.9 percent sure it's the guitar – my credibility is on the line here."

On the other side of the fence was Orin Snyder who is Dylan's attorney. He was quoted saying: "Bob has possession of the electric guitar he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, He did own several other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as were some handwritten lyrics. To further invalidate the claim, Orin adds: "In addition, Bob recalls driving to the Newport Folk Festival, along with two of his friends, not flying."

Bob Dylan's Newport Folk Festival Strat
'64 Strat image from PBS History Detectives

However the show History Detectives stand by its claim and would welcome the opportunity to examine and compare their find with the guitar that Dylan's camp currently has. Until Bob Dylan's camp shows the '64 Sunburst that they have in possession, the guitar in Dawn Peterson's possession could possibly be the iconic guitar that's been missing in action. You can check out the entire story surrounding this new found guitar when the 100th episode of PBS History Detectives airs on July 17, 2012.

If validated to be the real deal, the guitar is expected to fetch a ton of cash, but Peterson said that she does not plan to sell or donate the guitar to anyone.

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