Beloved BB King 'Lucille' guitar sells for $280,000 at auction

Auction of items from blues guitarist’s estate fetches $1.3m, with prize item a prototype Gibson guitar that was stolen and later returned

One of BB King’s most beloved guitars has sold at a US auction for $280,000 (£225,000).

The black Gibson ES-345 prototype was presented to King in 2005 by manufacturers Gibson on his 80th birthday, and was the first in a limited edition of 80. He used it as his primary guitar until it was stolen in 2009 and traded in at a Las Vegas pawn shop. A guitar collector bought it, and after investigating its provenance, returned it to King later that year.

It was one of the guitars King named Lucille, a tradition that began in 1949. King – who went on to become one of the most celebrated blues guitarists of all time – was playing in an Arkansas dance hall when a fight between two men caused a fuel tank to catch fire; King escaped, but ran back in to save his guitar. He later found out the men had been fighting over a woman named Lucille, and gave her name to every guitar since.

BB King’s Gibson ES-345 prototype guitar.
BB King’s Gibson ES-345 prototype guitar. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

One of a number of lots from King’s estate in the wake of his death in 2015, the ES-345 prototype nearly tripled its estimated price of $100,000, and other items broke their estimates. A gold and diamond ring estimated at up to $8,000 went for $16,250, while a collection of 78rpm blues records sold for $51,200, up from a top estimate of $700.

Other items included a watch given to him by U2 and a National Medal of Arts. The sale, held in Beverly Hills, California, totalled $1.3m.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
BB King was that rare thing – a game-changer who was also beloved
The blues legend, who has died aged 89, pioneered a style – and did so with a grace that made him a hero to fans and musicians alike

Charles Shaar Murray

15, May, 2015 @6:58 AM

Article image
Divorce, illness, failure ... how musician Larry McCray beat his own blues
He wowed the blues scene with his holler – but bad decisions and worse luck sent him into a rut. Now, with a loving relationship and Joe Bonamassa championing him, he says he’s grabbing a second chance

Chris Lord

25, Mar, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
BB King's 'Lucille' guitar to be auctioned along with other personal items
Blues legend used instrument on tour in his later years and his touring van, jewellery and clothing are also on sale in Beverly Hills

Miranda Bryant in New York

23, Jul, 2019 @2:01 PM

Article image
BB King hospitalised for dehydration
The 89-year-old’s daughter tells the LA Times that her father’s symptoms were caused by his type 2 diabetes but he is now ‘much better’

Guardian music

07, Apr, 2015 @7:44 AM

Article image
BB King at Glastonbury 2011 – review

The blues veteran is an imposing, regal presence and the Glastonbury crowd greet his songs like old friends, writes Dafydd Goff

Dafydd Goff

24, Jun, 2011 @7:16 PM

BB King, Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield

Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield

John Fordham

31, Mar, 2006 @12:24 AM

Soundtrack of my life: BB King

The 82-year-old blues legend tells Carl Wilkinson about his aunt's snuff habit, the Stones and how the Olympics opened his ears

Carl Wilkinson

13, Sep, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
Dick Dale, godfather of surf guitar, dies aged 81
Pioneering musician was known for 1962 hit Misirlou, the theme from Pulp Fiction

Laura Snapes

17, Mar, 2019 @8:52 PM

Article image
Readers recommend: melancholy songs – results
Broken hearts to bad luck, mood swings to lost love, fado to hip-hop, hard rock to classical, RR’s Ravi Raman selects 13 sorrowful songs from last week’s massive topic

Ravi Raman

03, Sep, 2015 @11:00 AM

Article image
The week in music: Riot Grrrl Day, the National's six-hour vinyl and more
Our weekly music news roundup, featuring Odd Future’s media ventures, Frances Cobain’s blunt thoughts on Nirvana and Selena coming back from the dead as a hologram

Tshepo Mokoena

10, Apr, 2015 @2:37 PM