Bob Dylan Guitar

The Case:

On July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan stepped on stage in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Newport Folk Festival. The crowd expected Dylan’s signature acoustic folk songs. They got a revolution. Dylan plugged in his Stratocaster and went electric, changing Rock ’n’ Roll history forever. Now, 47-years later, Dawn Peterson thinks she may have that very guitar.

Her father was a pilot who flew music acts in the 1960’s. He said Dylan left this guitar on his plane. Dawn didn’t believe it until she saw a documentary picturing Bob Dylan on that Newport stage playing a guitar that looked just like her dad’s.

History Detectives Elyse Luray and Wes Cowan team up to investigate what could be the most valuable item since the show began.


The Update:

In March, 2012, during the investigation of the guitar that Dawn Peterson brought to our attention, History Detectives contacted Bob Dylan’s attorneys twice asking for any comment or reaction. We received no response at the time.

On July 11, after production of the program was completed, Mr. Dylan’s attorney responded to press queries with the following statement:

"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. In addition, Bob recalls driving to the Newport Folk Festival, along with two of his friends, not flying."

His attorney also sent a letter to PBS and Lion Television (co-producer of History Detectives) with a similar statement, raising concerns about the authenticity of the items featured in the program. The attorney also “dispute[s] that Mr. Dylan has relinquished superior ownership to any of the property at issue.” 

In response, History Detectives issued this statement:

History Detectives stands by its reporting of our story in which we conclude that a contributor to the show is in possession of the Fender Stratocaster played by Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.  

The guitar was authenticated by Andy Babiuk of Rochester, New York, based on the evidence provided – which included close-up color photographs of Mr. Dylan performing at Newport.

Mr. Babiuk was able to match the wood grain shown in detail on the photographs with the wood grain of our contributor’s guitar.  According to Mr. Babiuk, like a fingerprint, no two wood grains are identical.   Mr. Babiuk has previously authenticated numerous guitars including a John Lennon Gretsch 6120 currently on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a Bob Dylan Hummingbird used by Mr. Dylan at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. 

History Detectives welcomes the opportunity to examine the guitar which is currently in Mr. Dylan’s possession.

Although it may not be clear who actually owns the instrument, our job was to investigate if this was the guitar played by Bob Dylan at The Newport Folk Festival in 1965, and to educate the public about these important events in our country’s cultural history.  

Check back for further updates regarding our investigation’s conclusions.

Discuss this story

Season 10, Episode 1

Elyse Luray Detective:
Wes Cowan Location:
New York City and Rochester, New York

More Information

Andy Babiuk’s Fab Gear
200 Packetts Landing
Fairport, NY 14450

Jeff Gold

Bob Dylan Song Lyrics

Related Links


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