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.

Contributor

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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