A 1956 Bigsby Natural Solid Body Electric Guitar – extraordinary for being the last of its kind ever produced by Paul Bigsby himself – could sell for as much as $400,000 when it headlines Heritage Auctions’ Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments Signature Auction Oct. 24 in Beverly Hills. The 1956 Bigsby, serial # 121556, was created at the request of Luke Charpentier, Jr., the remarkably skilled Louisiana guitarist. Even more so, he was a player of exacting taste. In 1954, he contacted Paul Bigsby about constructing this very guitar, the final Bigsby that Paul Bigsby would ever build (as indicated by the red dot or “stop sign” over the I in Bigsby as stated by Paul).
Hand written letters between Bigsby and Charpentier canceled checks, railroad delivery receipts all tell the story of the collaboration between two men out to build what is quite simply the last and finest Bigsby ever made.
“It’s no overstatement that this is one of the most important vintage musical instruments in the world,” said Isaiah Evans, Operations Manager of Vintage Guitars at Heritage Auctions. “It’s impeccably provenanced and represents a true period in the development of the electric guitar as a cultural object and a cultural milestone.”
“What’s perhaps even more amazing is that the instrument has survived in all original condition,” Evans said.
Additional highlights in the diverse auction include One of the rarest and most sought after top tension flat head banjos ever made: a 1937 Gibson TB-7 Top Tension Natural Tenor Banjo in excellent condition (est. $7,000+).
Often called “the guitar that killed folk”, Mike Bloomfield’s 1963 Fender Telecaster Blonde Solid Body Electric Guitar, serial # L11155 (est. $60,000+). Back in the public eye as a cover piece on a recent edition of “Vintage Guitar Magazine,” the Fender is most famous as the guitar that Bloomfield used it at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. It was a moment that would change popular music forever as Bob Dylan, backed by Mike Bloomfield and this very guitar, went electric. The rest is history.
A 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop Solid Body Electric Guitar, serial # 8 2794, featuring an original finish with a 3-piece maple, survives as a desirable late 1950s Les Paul classic (est. $50,000+).
Among the private collections crossing the block are the guitars of the late, great Danny Gatton, including his1953 Fender Telecaster Blonde Solid Body Electric Guitar, serial # 4883 (est. $100,000+). The Fender’s neck is nicely re-fretted and adorned with cubic zirconia side markers by Gatton, and the switch is bent in what has come to be known as the “Danny Gatton Bend”. As an added touch, Gatton requested both Roger Miller and Willie Nelson (both of whom he played for) sign the top of the guitar.