Guitar Aficionado

At Auction, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Broadcaster Is a No-Sale Mystery

But Elvis Presley’s Gibson Dove sold at the same auction for hundreds of thousands.

PHOTO: Astrid Stawiarz | Getty Images
OTHER IMAGES: Courtesy of Juliens

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By Christopher Scapelliti

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1951 Fender Broadcaster, with which he made a name for himself in Austin’s 1970s music scene, mysteriously failed to sell at auction on Saturday in New York City.

The instrument was one of several celebrity-owned guitars and pieces of memorabilia included in Juliens’ Music Icons auction, presented on May 21.

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The 1951 Fender Broadcast, a rarity in itself, was handed down to Vaughan from his older brother, Jimmie in 1966, when Stevie was just 12 years old. It was the young Vaughan’s first pro-quality guitar.

Stevie subsequently used it when he began playing dates in Dallas bars and clubs as a teenager. He moved to Austin in the Seventies, where the Broadcaster was his main instrument in the years during which he rose to local fame.

The Vaughan guitar was expected to be the auction’s big-ticket instrument. It received an opening bid of $300,000, and Juliens anticipated a selling price of $400,000 to $600,000. In the end, it received a top bid of just $325,000 and didn’t sell.

Other guitars featured in the auction included instruments owned by Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain and David Bowie.

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Presley’s Gibson Dove acoustic went for $334,000. The guitar was a gift to him from his father, Vernon, and was one of Presley’s best-known guitars. He played it in numerous performances, including his 1975 Aloha from Hawaii concert, televised worldwide on January 14, 1973.

Elvis and the Dove parted ways in July 1975 at a show in Asheville, North Carolina. During a performance of “See See Rider,” Presley approached the front row and handed the Dove to 21-year-old Mike Harris, telling him the guitar would help him out one day. Harris sat with the instrument through the remainder of the show and was given a police escort out of the building for protection. Presley can be seen with the guitar in the video below for “Burning Love” from Aloha from Hawaii.

The auction also featured the remnants of Kurt Cobain’s Univox Hi-Flier guitar, which sold for $56,250. The Nirvana guitarist played and destroyed the instrument at the group’s July 13, 1989, concert at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Afterward, Cobain gave the guitar to Janet Billig Rich, a record executive at whose home the band stayed. Cobain can be seen destroying the guitar at the end of the video below.

A custom chrome Steinberger owned by Bowie took $41,600 at the Music Icons auction. Bowie played the guitar on his records and tours with his early Nineties band, Tin Machine.

The guitar was one of two custom chrome-finished guitars created for him by Ned Steinberger. Bowie can be seen using it in the video for “You Belong in Rock ’n’ Roll.”