Jason Isbell Plays Bob Dylan’s Legendary Electric Guitar at the Newport Folk Festival
Yesterday (July 25) marked the anniversary of Bob Dylan’s 1965 performance at the Newport Folk Festival, where he stirred up shock and controversy by going electric for his set. Fifty years later, that very guitar returned to the Rhode Island festival, and singer-songwriter Jason Isbell was the first artist invited to play the iconic Fender Stratocaster:
It was a long journey for the guitar to return to Newport. Dylan’s pilot following the 1965 festival found the guitar on his plane and attempted to return it to the singer without success. It ended up with Dylan’s daughter, who then auctioned it off. In 2013, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay bought the guitar for just shy of $1 million. And it was Chris McKinney, the curator for Irsay’s guitar collection, who brought the instrument to this year’s festival.
“Dylan’s guitar is home,” Newport Folk Festival producer Jay Sweet said in a statement to the Associated Press.
As they do every year, festival organizers extended an invitation to Dylan to return to the festival (it would be his first Newport appearance since 2002), but Dylan declined. However, they were still set on letting other festival acts play the guitar, the first of which appears to have been Isbell.
“It (the guitar) is such an important part of musical history,” Irsay told the AP, “and Dylan was our generation’s Shakespeare, so it’s our way to give back and share.”