By Christopher Scapelliti
The 1951 Fender Broadcaster with which Stevie Ray Vaughan launched his career is coming to auction on May 21 in New York City, and it’s expected to fetch a price befitting its history.
The auction, titled Music Icons and presented by Juliens, will feature a host of rock memorabilia items, including a handwritten letter from Kurt Cobain to producer David Geffen, Lady Gaga’s childhood piano, Freddie Mercury’s “Rock Soldier” jacket, and the first U.S. fan letter David Bowie received.
But the top item is undoubtedly Vaughan’s Broadcaster, the first professional-quality guitar he ever owned, and the instrument with which he began to achieve fame when he moved to Austin, Texas, in the early Seventies.
Stevie had begun to build a name for himself as a guitarist by the age of 14, playing in bars and clubs in his hometown of Dallas. Up to that time, he’d graduated through a series of rough acoustic and hollowbody electric guitars. But the instrument he loved to play most was his older brother Jimmie’s 1951 Fender Broadcaster.
According to Cutter Brandenburg, Stevie’s friend and roadie, Jimmie gave the guitar to his younger brother in 1966 after an argument over Stevie constantly playing it. Doyle Bramhall, friend of the elder Vaughan and future collaborator with the younger, was present and said to Jimmie, “Man, why don’t you just give it to him? You really don’t play it anymore at shows. If you do that, maybe he’ll leave all your other shit alone.”
As Juliens points out, Jimbo is a significant item—the guitar with which Vaughan developed his style and launched his career. He can be heard playing the guitar on his earliest known recording, at the End of Cole Avenue club in Dallas, at the age 15 in 1969. He also played Jimbo when he made his first studio recording in 1970.
Juliens notes that Jimbo is the only early Vaughan guitar in the hands of collectors that has been positively identified. The guitar, which has hung in the GRAMMY Museum alongside Vaughan’s famous “Number One” Stratocaster, is believed to be one of only two of his primary stage guitars to come on the market in the last 25 years.
Bidding starts at $200,000 and is estimated to reach $400,000 to $600,000.
For more information and to bid, visit the auction page at Julienslive.com.
You can hear Stevie playing Jimbo in the recording below of a performance at the End of Cole Avenue club.