50 Years Later, Bob Dylan’s Electric Guitar Returns To Newport

Fifty years ago today, on July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan scandalized the folk world by (gasp!) plugging his guitar in and launching into “Maggie’s Farm.” Now, that very same “Dylan goes electric” electric guitar has found its way back to the Newport Folk Festival, as the AP reports. “Dylan’s guitar is home,” festival producer Jay Sweet said through a spokeswoman yesterday, the opening day of this year’s three-day fest.

A pilot who transported Dylan soon after the legendary performance found the Fender Stratocaster on his plane and tried, unsuccessfully, to return it to Dylan. His daughter then auctioned off the instrument, and it eventually made its way into the hands of Jim Irsay, owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, who purchased the guitar for a paltry $965,000 back in 2013 (making it the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction). Chris McKinney, the curator of Irsay’s rare guitar collection — which is apparently a real job position that exists — brought the guitar to the festival on Friday.

The guitar hasn’t been played in public in 50 years, but the plan is to have someone play it this weekend, although exactly who will be playing it has yet to be determined. Sweet asked McKinney to make sure it was in playable condition, so he checked it and changed the strings, thought to be the original ones Dylan used 50 years ago. “It’s actually a good playing guitar,” according to McKinney. An invitation was extended to Dylan himself, who last played at Newport in 2002, but he will not be attending this year’s festival. “It (the guitar) is such an important part of musical history, and Dylan was our generation’s Shakespeare, so it’s our way to give back and share,” Irsay said. “In his mind, they’re made to be played,” added McKinney.

So like … Courtney Barnett?

The festival is also hosting a discussion of a new book about Dylan going electric, Elijah Wald’s Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, And The Night That Split The Sixties. McKinney said he plans to bring the guitar to the event on Sunday, where musicians will be invited by the festival to speak on a film about Dylan’s 1965 performance and play the guitar.

Watch Dylan perform “Like A Rolling Stone” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival below.

UPDATE: The great Jason Isbell, who just released our recent Album Of The Week Something More Than Free, was the first one to play the guitar. See below.