A New Jersey woman claims to have inherited folk music's most infamous electric guitar, confiscated after Bob Dylan forgot it on an aeroplane. Despite Dylan's denials, American researchers say they have authenticated Dawn Peterson's 1964 sunburst Fender Stratocaster – allegedly the same guitar Dylan used when he "went electric" at the 1965 Newport folk festival.
"This is the Holy Grail," said Elyse Luray, a former Christie's appraiser who now works with the PBS series History Detectives. Luray and the show's producers have spent months researching Peterson's guitar, which was found by her late father, a pilot called Victor Quinto, who worked for Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, in the mid-60s. "After one flight, my father saw there were three guitars left on the plane," Peterson told Rolling Stone magazine. "He contacted the company a few times about picking the guitars up, but nobody ever got back to him."
Working with numerous experts, History Detectives say they have authenticated the guitar's model, finish, stenciled case, and above all its wood grain, matching it to the instrument Dylan played at Newport. The guitar was also accompanied by 13 pages of lyric sheets – typed with handwritten annotations. "The second I looked at them I knew they were real," Jeff Gold, a Dylan expert, told the New York Times. "These are not lyrics to important songs, but they are a real important and extraordinary lens with which to look into [Dylan's] working method."
Representatives for Dylan, however, say it is impossible that Peterson has discovered the songwriter's lost electric guitar. "Bob has possession of the electric guitar he played at the Newport folk festival in 1965," said Orin Snyder, Dylan's lawyer. "He did own several other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as were some handwritten lyrics."
Part of the dispute seems tied up in the guitar's potential auction value. If believed to be authentic, this slab of rosewood could sell for as much as $1m (£650,000). But if the guitar is found to be stolen, Rolling Stone reported, the original owner could demand a share of the proceeds or prevent the sale. Peterson apparently wrote to Dylan's management in 2005, asking them to waive their claim to the instrument. Dylan refused, asking that the item be returned. "The guitar has been in my family since before I was born – over 47 years," Peterson complained. "I have to discuss it more with my husband … Things have crossed my mind."
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