Black Beauty: Historic Les Paul, Chet Atkins Guitars Heading To Auction

The 1954 “Black Beauty” Les Paul that served as the prototype for Gibson’s iconic guitars is going on the auction block next month in New York, alongside an early version of Chet Atkins’ famed Gretsch instrument.

The guitars will be offered for sale on February 19 at Arader Galleries in New York City by Guernsey’s auction house, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Black Beauty guitar belonged to famed musician and inventor Les Paul for over 20 years, before he gifted it to friend and fellow instrument maker Tom Doyle in 1976. Built in 1954, the guitar served as the prototype for all Les Paul models produced by Gibson up to the present day, according to the auction announcement. Guernsey’s noted that the instrument is considered to be one of the most significant electric guitars ever made.

Alongside Les Paul’s signature instrument, Doyle is also offering “Dark Eyes,” a prototype for Chet Atkins’ line of Gretsch guitars. Les Paul and Chet Atkins were friends, recording and performing together multiple times, and bonding over their love of Gypsy Jazz phenomenon Django Reinhardt. Both guitarists’ signature instruments have gone on to become icons in rock music, used by musicians the world over.

An early champion of the solidbody electric guitar, Les Paul’s work helped transform the instrument, from a supporting place in a band lineup to its prominent lead role in rock music. The Les Paul model was Gibson’s response to Leo Fender’s Broadcaster guitar, which was renamed the Telecaster after its first year of production. Fender’s work made solidbody guitars relatively affordable, and showed that they could be mass produced.

Though no pre-auction estimate for the Black Beauty Les Paul has been released, the Guardian notes that the highest price ever established for an electric guitar at auction was $965,000, paid in 2013 for the Fender Stratocaster that Bob Dylan famously used at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. In May of last year, a 1962 Rickenbacker 425 black-and-white electric guitar, owned by George Harrison, sold for $657,000, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

The auction will also include an Ampex tape recorder from Paul’s home studio, as well as the stool he used while performing at Fat Tuesday’s in New York. A forthcoming catalog from Guernsey’s, due later this month, will detail the available memorabilia from Les Paul’s life, alongside the two iconic guitars.

[Image via Guitar Player Magazine]

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