Sort of like the geriatric's version Chris Brown-Drake fight, but with less violence and no Tony Parker, Bob Dylan is beefing with historians at PBS over the whereabouts of the electric guitar he used at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Dylan famously went "electric." Dylan claims he's still in possession of the Fender Stratocaster he used, but Dawn Peterson, the daughter of Victor Quinto, Dylan's pilot from the 1960s, says otherwise.
According to Peterson, Dylan left the guitar, now valued at up to $500,000, on her father's plane, and he took it home. After attempting to contact Dylan's representatives to no avail, Quinto kept it. Quinto died a few years later, when Peterson was eight, and the guitar remained in her family's attic until roughly a decade ago.
A friend of Peterson's husband suggested the Newport connection, and after trying to verify the guitar's origins on her own, Peterson took it to PBS' History Detectives, who are fairly sure it's the real deal.
"When I heard it, I was like, `Yeah, right,'" said Elyse Luray, a former Christie's auction house appraiser and auctioneer who co-hosts the PBS show. But there were intriguing clues. Peterson's father left behind an address book that included a phone number for "Bob Dylan, Woodstock." Luray showed the guitar case to a former Dylan roadie who recognized the name of a little-known company that Dylan had formed at the time stenciled on its side.
A sheaf of papers with handwritten song lyrics was in the guitar case and PBS took them to an expert, Jeff Gold, who said the handwriting matched Dylan's. The fragmentary lyrics later appeared, in part, on songs that Dylan recorded but rejected for his 1966 "Blonde on Blonde" album.
Luray took the guitar to Babiuk, an appraiser of instruments who consults for the rock hall. He took the guitar apart to find a date written inside (1964) that made its use in Newport plausible. He drew upon blown-up color photos from Newport to compare the wood grain on the guitar Dylan played that day to the one in his hands. He's confident it's a match, likening the wood grain to a fingerprint.
Dylan's lawyers aren't buying it, though.
Dylan's lawyer, Orin Snyder, said late Wednesday that the singer had the guitar.
"He did own several other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as were some handwritten lyrics," Snyder said. "In addition, Bob recalls driving to the Newport Folk Festival, along with two of his friends, not flying."
But Peterson and the historians refuse to cave.
Peterson said she stood by the "History Detectives" conclusion. Babiuk said he didn't want to get involved in a dispute, but said he was "99.9 percent certain" that he examined the guitar used at Newport.
Peterson said she had written to Dylan's lawyers in 2005 requesting that Dylan waive any claim to the guitar. Lawyers declined the request and said it should be returned but until this week, there had been no further contact.
So who will prove victorious in the Great Guitar Battle of 2012? Will Dylan return to his younger, angrier form and drop some killer rhymed insults aimed at PBS into an old Woody Guthrie tune? Will he recruit other members of the Illuminati to take up his cause? Or does he even give a shit? I'm guessing it's that last one. In fact, I bet he has no idea what's going on because he's too busy making weird lizard faces while getting medals from the president.