When Bob Dylan plugged in an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, folk music fans—who were used to Dylan's acoustic protest songs—were outraged. The Fender Stratocaster may very well be, the AP notes, "the most historic single instrument" in rock and roll. It also may have spent nearly half a decade in a family attic. Dawn Peterson, the daughter of a pilot who flew Dylan around, says the singer left the guitar in her father's plane. Though her dad tried to give it back, none of Dylan's people ever picked it up. She recently had it appraised by PBS for the season premiere of History Detectives, airing next Tuesday, and the show's historians say it is, in fact, Dylan's iconic guitar.
"This is really a pinnacle point not just in his career but for music in general," says one expert of the guitar's signficance. "I don't think music in the 1960s would have been the same if Dylan had not gone electric." Included in the guitar case are song lyrics that, experts confirm, were handwritten by Dylan and appeared on later songs. An instrument appraiser confirmed that the guitar is from the right era, and matches the one shown in pictures from Newport. One problem: A lawyer for the singer insists he still possesses the guitar he used at the festival, which could be worth half a million dollars on the open market.