Guitar lore has it that Stevie Ray Vaughan, after altering it somewhat, eventually traded the instrument for a red Epiphone. He later regretted it, but “Jimbo” had gone underground and did not resurface until after the legendary musician’s untimely death in 1990 at age 35.
The guitar is slated for an entertainment auction March 24 at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas. Mike Gutierrez, a consignment director for HA, says bidding will begin at $200,000 with no reserve. He estimates the final hammer price will surpass $400,000.
“We have collectors all through Texas that may be interested,” he says. “But we’ll have to wait and see. At that value level, the winner of this may be out of state.”
HA public relations director Eric Bradley says Gutierrez is a world-class guitar and music memorabilia expert who recently oversaw the sale of Bob Dylan’s acoustic Martin, which sold for nearly $400,000.
The highest price ever realized for a guitar at Heritage Auctions happened in 2003, Gutierrez says. That's when George Harrison’s Fender Telecaster, which was used in the movie Let it Be, sold for a record sum of $434,750.
“According to a 2006 issue of Guitar World magazine, ['Jimbo'] was gifted to the younger Vaughan in 1966 at the request of mutual friend Doyle Bramhall, who had come upon the brothers arguing,” Gutierrez says. “Apparently, Stevie was in the habit of borrowing the guitar without asking his brother.”
Bramhall advised Jimmie to give the guitar to his younger brother so he might leave Jimmie’s other instruments alone, Gutierrez says. And he did. The historic instrument, which has been displayed at the Grammy Museum, was Stevie’s first guitar, and he used it for several years.
“SRV personally modified the guitar in shop class, stripping off the finish and routing the body for a neck pickup,” Reverb.com reports. “Instead of a knob dedicated to volume and another to tone like a normal Tele, 'Jimbo' reportedly has two volume pots.”
Dallas-born blues musician Mike Morgan, whose music was influenced by both Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, says the guitar is of value to collectors and musicians because of the effect the younger brother’s music has had on listeners “all across the board, of all ages.”
Although Morgan’s style is more traditional than Stevie Ray Vaughan's, he says the late musician helped him and many other blues artists who were just getting started.
“He kind of sparked a wave,” Morgan says. “I was kind of riding on that wave myself. He sparked about a 10-year blues resurgence that was on a big scale.”