Monday, April 24, 2017

An Inquiry Regarding Bob Dylan's Guitar Collection

Looks like a Gibson, Clinton Inauguration, Jan., 1993**
Though a longtime fan of Dylan's music since the Sixties, it wasn't till 1998 that I experienced my first Dylan concert in person, an event I described as "an early Christmas." In my review of the concert I included the following observation:

Before the show I walked down to the railing directly overlooking the side of the stage and studied the racks of guitars. There must have been nearly a dozen guitars in racks on both sides of the stage which would be used during the show.

Those guitars weren't all Bob's, but as most anyone will attest who's been to a Dylan concert, Duluth's Native Son does strum more than one instrument during his concerts, commonly alternating between electric and acoustic sets and occasionally taking a stand at the keyboards.

In the same manner as Dylan's history with motorcycles, so likewise he's favored a variety of guitars over the years. For this reason I'd been contacted earlier this month via social media by tech editor John Gilbert of Street Rodder magazine regarding Bob Dylan's guitar collection. He initially reached out with this inquiry:

Ed, What do you know about Dylan's guitar collection? Writing about Bob's gate sculptures I emailed back and forth with Jeff Rosen. Asked Jeff about the 1917 042 Martin I sold to Bob brokered by Howie Hubberman Rosen told me Dylan didn't like Martins and didn't play one. Odd, Bob's first guitar was a '49 Martin. A moment of curiosity struck me. Thanks, John

As a follow up Gilbert, who like Dylan is a musician and artist as well as writer, went on to explain further:

Ed, Ramblin' Jack Elliott plays a Martin, and I'm guessing that's why Dylan's first guitar was a Martin. Rosen kind of pissed me off, kind of like he was worried I'd establish a connection with Dylan and make some money from it. It was around 1982 that I sold it. Howie told me Tom Petty's bass player and Dylan were both looking for an 042 Martin. When I picked up the $1,000 Howie said Dylan bought it. 1917 042 Martin five made two with ebony, three with real Ivory. Mine had Ivory. The next time you talk to Bob tell I'll give him $2,000 to get my guitar back. Thanks, John

Well, I don't talk with Bob very often (VBG*) but I do make inquiries with Google and frequently uncover some interesting details. With regards to Dylan's guitars here is what I found, a fascinating blog titled Bob Dylan's Gear.

I find it interesting that Bob's manager would state that Bob didn't care much for Martins when in fact Bob Dylan's Gear goes into great detail regarding the history of Dylan's love affair with the guitar including Gibsons, Fenders, Martins and more. One blog post states:

Cesar Diaz, Bob’s guitar technician in the nineties acquired many stock and Custom Martin guitars for Dylan and thanks to Dick Boak from Martin & Co. we can see the specifications asked for his guitars like the Spruce Top Specified...thinline Goldplus...and their serial numbers!!!!

Though we have repeatedly been urged not to believe everything we read on the Internet, there's a ring of authenticity here that's hard to argue with, especially when the details are accompanied by photos of Bob in all phases of his career with these selfsame guitars.

Robert Zimmerman & Friends at Camp Herzl. Nice guitar, kid.
* * * *

Since we're talking Dylan here, I might do well to remind you that Duluth Dylan Fest is one month away, beginning on Saturday May 20 with a concert by Robby Vee at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, an intimate kick-off to a very special week honoring the newly minted 2016 Nobel Prize winner for Literature. Here's where you can find the full schedule of DDF events. Will we see you there?

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

* VBG means Very Big Grin. Though I have written excessively about Dylan and his music, I hope I've not mislead anyone into thinking Bob and I have ever talked.  
* * This photo was sent to me without a photo credit. If you own the copyright and object to its use, let me know and it can easily be replaced. Or let me know who sot it so I can give due credit. Thank you.


Bernie Dreasure said...

rosen should have specified what he said: "dylan cares for martins no more". as we all know he played famouls the d-28, d-45 and and and he lost it with martins sometime along the net. (i doubt the his first guitar was a Martin...whenever you date his first...) but he doesn't Play guitar on stage anyway These days. best regards bernie

John Gilbert said...


Here's another Dylan guitar story totally unrelated to my 042 Martin. It was right before Christmas a few years after I'd sold the 042. My friend Herman Hanshaw was at Norman's Rare Guitars when Dylan walked through the door. Herman looked at Dylan, said Merry Christmas and let it go at that. Immediately a woman and her kid asked Herman who that was, and Herman told her, "Bob Dylan."

The lady grabbed her kid and charged over to Bob, and started slobbering all over Bob. To this day Herman regrets he ever said a thing to that lady it made him feel pretty bad.