Bob Dylan’s Guitars and Gear
Bio: Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, United States. He started using the name “Bob Dylan” before 1960, while he was enrolled at the University of Minnesota, and playing at the local bars. In his autobiography, Dylan acknowledged that he had been influenced by the poetry of Dylan Thomas, explaining his change of name in a 2004 interview: “You’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.”
As a songwriter and musician, Dylan has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and released 35 studio albums. He has been described as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, and was included in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century, and the Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at Number Two in their 2011 list of “100 Greatest Artists” of all time.
Bob Dylan’s Acoustic Guitars:
1949 Martin 00-17
This was Dylan’s first acoustic guitar. As he wrote in “Chronicles”, he traded it in 1959 while staying in Minneapolis for an electric guitar which seemed useless for him at that moment, and played it for couple of years that followed.
He was probably inspired to get a 00 sized Martin by Woody Gurthrie.
This guitar can be seen at the EMP museum in Seattle.
1947 Gibson J-50
This was Dylan’s second guitar. It’s hard to say what model it is exactly, but by looking at the Gibson logo on the headstock, it must have been made before 1948 when Gibson switched to a different logo design. Bob’s J-50 also had a teardrop-shaped pickguard, which was used on ’47 and ’50 models. Based on these two details, we can almost safely conclude that this guitar was made in 1947.
Dylan’s Gibson can bee seen on cover of the “Bob Dylan” album released in 1962. It was also used for few songs on “The Freewheelin’” album in 1963.
Here’s a video of “Blowing in the Wind” recorded in 1963 featuring this guitar: Blowing In The Wind (Live On TV, March 1963)
1930-1933 Gibson Nick Lucas Special
After his J-50 went missing around 1963, Dylan bought this Gibson in a shop in New York called “Fretted Instruments” – owned by Marc Silber. Marc gave an interview telling that the guitar was previously owned by his sister Julie (source: Long Ago, Far Away). It was originally sunburst, but it had been refinished blonde, and the original bridge was replaced with Guild-type bridge.
This guitar had 13 frets, which is the case with models made between 1930 and 1933. The 1930 and 1931 models usually came with the trapeze bridge, which may be the case with this guitar, and the reason why it was later changed with Guild bridge. In the 1932 and 1933 the trapeze bridges were replaced with standard pin bridges, because the previous design was proved to be flawed, so this particular model might as well be from this period (more info: Gibson Nick Lucas Special Flattop Guitar)
This guitar can be heard on “Another Side of Bob Dylan” released in 1964 and on “Bringing it All Back Home” released year later.
Used at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 for the song “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Link to the video
It’s safe to guess that this guitar was probably borrowed from Joan Baez, who had the exact same guitar while performing at the Newport herself.
Dylan has used a number of different J-200s. He had a one with double pickguard which he used at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, and another one that was featured on the cover of the Nashville Skyline in 1969. That same J-200 was used at the Isle of Wight festival, and it was supposedly a gift from George Harrison.
Dylan occasionally used 0 and 000 Martin 18s.
For a duet with Johnny Cash in 1969 he played a 000-18 on “Girl From the North Country”(link to the video), and at the Guthrie Tribute Concert in January of 1968 he used a 0-18,
|Played on the Friends of Chile Benefit concert on May 9, 1974, and possibly on the “Blood On the Tracks” recording sessions.|
Dylan used various D-28s and HD-28s. He played a D-28 at The Concert for Bangladesh on 1 August 1971 with Leon Russell, for the Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975/76, and on the MTV Unplugged concert in 1995. He also used a couple of HD-28s in the 1990s, perhaps the most notable on the 30th Anniversary Concert on 16 October 1992.
There’s also a story about Neil Young’s D-28 which he nicknamed “Hank”. after Hank Williams, who traded it for some shotguns. The guitar ended up with Neil’s friend Grant Boatwright, and later with Tut Taylor who sold it to Neil. Some time later Neil lent his tour bus to Dylan, along with this guitar: “Bob Dylan was using my bus. He, didn’t have his own tour bus yet. And he was just getting into using buses, so I let him use mine and, uh, when I gave it to him, I told him that, uh, Hank was in the back and that if he wanted to use Hank. And so I don’t know what he did with it, but he had it with him for a long time. And I don’t know what he wrote or what he did, but you know, something must have happened back there.“
|Around the time of the Budokan Tour in 1978, Dylan started playing Yamaha guitars. He used the L-6 model, and a black L-52 with a white square pickguard among others.|
From 1982 Dylan started playing Washburn EA-20s.
He played a sunburst EA-20 on 6 June 1982 at the “Peace Sunday” in Pasadena. Later in 1986 and 1987 he used two different EA-20, one in black and other in white.
Martin Herringbone D-28
|This guitar was made by Martin for Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s 10th anniversary. Bob Dylan saw the guitar on the cover of the magazine, and asked Martin if they could make one for him – so they made a couple of these guitars specially for Dylan.|
Bob Dylan’s Electric Guitars:
Bob Dylan had used many different electric guitars. To our knowledge he does not have a favorite, but he mostly played Fender Stratocasters and Telecaster, and also ocassionaly Gibson Les Pauls and SGs.
1960s Fender Stratocaster
Dylan’s perhaps best known electric guitar is a 1960s sunburst Fender Stratocater which he played at the Newport Folk festival in 1965. There’s a lot of talk going on about this particular guitar, and you can read some of it here if you want so: Electric Dylan controversy
This guitar was played for a few more gigs, and then it went missing. No one actually kneow what happened with this guitar, or what year model was it exactly.
But, as the story goes, the guitar was found, and now belongs to the daughter of a pilot who flew Dylan back in 1960s. The guitar was supposedly left on the plane, and Victor Quinto – the pilot, took it home.
Dylan had used many different Telecasters over the years. He played a sunburst Tele with The Hawks in 1965, and what seemed to be a black Telecaster with The Band same year.
He also had a cream Telecaster.
Les Pauls and SGs
Dylan played a Les Paul at the Fox Warfield theatre in San Francisco in both 1979 and 1980. It seems that he had at least two Les Pauls – one black and the other sunburst Les Paul Ultima.
He also appeared with the Gibson SG on several occasions.