Owning a piece of rock and roll history is now possible as the original prototype for the Les Paul custom guitar is scheduled to hit the auction block.
On February 19 Guernsey’s in New York City will sell the priceless instrument known as “Black Beauty”.
“Auctions are unpredictable events and just when you say, ‘well, I’ve been doing this a long time so I should know what this will bring,’ I know that I don’t know. Because there is no precedent to point to,” said Guernsey’s president Arlan Ettinger.
“If this were the third or the fourth or the fifth like it and one or two others have been sold at auction, than you say, ‘ok, before one like it brought X amount of dollars,’ but that isn’t the case. So it’s anyone’s guess.”
The guitar that Paul developed with Gibson, took two years to make.
“Referred to as ‘Black Beauty’ it was sent to him in 1954. Originally it had different hardware, different attachments to it. The pick guard looked a little different. But through the next 20 years it evolved as he was always experimenting to get new sounds and to maximum the excitement of what he had created.
“This electric sound which really, many people suggest gave birth to rock and roll. That without this instrument would there be rock and roll today, it’s that important.”
After Paul perfected the instrument it became known as the “Holy Grail” of guitars.
“It was the first Les Paul guitar made by Mr. Paul, Les Paul, that gave birth to the thousands and thousands of instruments that bare that name and that resemble this instrument. Used by everyone from people who like to play in their bedroom to the leading entertainers of the last half century.”
Ettinger says while the instrument doesn’t carry rare or expensive features, the history behind the guitar is what makes it special.
“Is it the most beautiful guitar ever made, clearly not. Is the wood any finer than the wood you could get at a good guitar shop today, probably not.
“But it’s not about that, it’s about this being the pioneering effort that made a difference, that changed the world in terms of music.”
Also included in 15 lot sale is Chet Atkin’s prototype guitar, which Paul helped the musician develop.
Smaller items include Paul’s studio equipment, handwritten set list notes and microphones.