Monday, January 24, 2011


The Gibson Nick Lucas Special

This was the main acoustic guitar that he used in concert from late '63 through '66, and which can be heard on Another Side of Bob Dylan andBringing it All Back Home.
He had bought it from Marc Silber who ran the shop Fretted Instruments in NYC:
I didn’t really see him too much after that, although I sold him a couple of guitars along the way during the ’60s. That 1930s Gibson Nick Lucas Special he played in “Don’t Look Back” had belonged to my sister. It was in mint condition when I sold it to him, but it got a little wrecked. He had that guitar for a long time. Later, probably in the early ’70s, I drove up to Woodstock to sell him a really nice late-’60s Martin. He was a tough guy to do business with, though, because he didn’t have any idea what the guitars were worth. [read the full story]
Paul Hostetter gives another version of the same story:
This guitar was sold to Bob Dylan by my friend Marc Silber at his shop, sometime in 1963. It replaced Dylan's old Gibson J-50, which was lost in action. It's a 13-fret Nick Lucas that had been refinished blonde, and had had a Guild type bridge and a Martin-type pickguard put on. It had earlier belonged to Marc's sister Julie. Marc and Julie and their family are old friends of mine from Detroit, and I knew this guitar before Marc sold it to Dylan.
In January of 1964 I saw Dylan perform in Denver, and he played this guitar. He stopped by the Folklore Center (where I worked then) after-hours the next day, and he told me that the J-50 had gone missing, but I never connected the fact that the new guitar was Julie's old Nick Lucas. I wonder where it is now. [full story]
When the guitar was rebuilt, it was blonde instead of sunburst, and supposedly had a Martin pickguard and a Guild bridge. A reliable account of the story has it that the guitar was rebuilt already before Dylan bought it.
Then “it got a little wrecked,” as Silber says. Reportedly because Dylan put a lot of harps on top of it in his case and the front caved in. DON'T DO THAT! Apparently, this happened upon arrival in Australia during the 1966 tour. Phillip T. Pascoe told me:
Happened on arrival in Melbourne, Australia in '66. He borrowed a really nice guitar made by a local luthier & played it on the rest of his “Australian” tour in Adelaide & Perth, while the Nick Lucas was being repaired.
The one he borrowed went on sale in a little guitar shop in Melbourne for $500.00. I went by that store after school every day for a couple of weeks and dreamed up ways of coming up with that kind of money (impossible when you're 18 years old). He had only played 4 concerts but that sucker had flat pick scratches all across the face. I'd watched him play it and man he flat picked from the elbow not the wrist.
The Nick Lucas is often referred to as a 1929 model. Marc Silber refers to it as a 1930s model. According to Paul Hostetter, the 13-fret guitars were all pretty much from 1933, so that's probably the safest bet.
Here's a site dedicated to the Nick Lucas Special in general, and here'ssome more info on Dylan's exemplar (although the guitar in the picture is the 12-fret version, and not the 13-fret version that Dylan had).

Dylan’s Guitars

a survey compiled by Eyolf Østrem
relying heavily on input from
Peter Stone Brown and Paul Hostetter