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Pete’s Gear: Gibson SG Special

Auction news (June 2014): Gibson SG Special guitar, sn 884484, realises £37,500 (US$ 60,248) via Bonhams

Estimated: £30,000–40,000 (approx US$50,000–67,000).

This instrument previously sold via Christie’s in July 2008, for £32,450 ($63,991).

Source: Bonhams

Lot 186 – Pete Townshend / The Who: A cherry red Gibson SG Special guitar, serial number 884484 stamped 2, circa late 1967,

Gibson SG Special sn 884484 (front). (Source: Bonhams)

Sold for £37,500 (US$ 60,248) inc. premium

Auction 21947: Entertainment Memorabilia, 25 Jun 2014, London, Knightsbridge

Pete Townshend / The Who: A cherry red Gibson SG Special guitar, serial number 884484 stamped 2, circa late 1967, owned and used by Pete Townshend in the early 1970s – early 1980s; the double cutaway body in cherry red finish, mahogany neck, Grover machine heads, 22 fret bound fingerboard with dot inlays, two P90 pickups, four rotary controls, selector switch, metal bridge, black pickguard bound in white, tailpiece removed; original Gibson contour hardshell case with scarlet plush lining; accompanied by a letter signed by Townshend detailing the provenance,

Footnotes

Provenance: Ex lot 124 Popular Culture: Rock & Pop Memorabilia Christie’s, South Kensington, 10 July, 2008

Pete Townshend has regularly stated that the Gibson SG was his guitar of preference, and this model was his main stage guitar until the early 1970s when the model specifications changed. The SG became synonymous with Pete from the late 1960’s until 1973, whilst touring with The Who, the majority of his SG’s he smashed to smithereens on stage during his infamous performances. It was this same model of guitar that he played on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus and at the Isle of Wight Festival as shown in illustrated images in the catalogue where Townshend is clearly seen playing an identical guitar. The SG was also used on the bands first live album The Who, Live At Leeds released in May 1970.

Townshend would always modify his Gibson SG guitars, removing the tailpiece and tremolo arm leaving visible screwholes, as seen on the guitar in this lot. In the accompanying letter from Townshend he writes about this guitar ...it must be one of the few passing through my hands, which has survived without getting smashed.... The instrument was originally gifted to Tony Haslam, former crew member for The Who, in the 1980s. The letter from Pete recalls I used it at home as my principle guitar of this type for use on my demo recordings...as one of my ‘special’ guitars.... Townshend gave Haslam such a prized piece in thanks for his support and friendship during the early 1980s.

Literature:

  • www.thewho.org
  • www.whotabs.com [sic]
Click to view larger version. Gibson SG Special sn 884484 (back). (Source: Bonhams)
Click to view larger version. Gibson SG Special sn 884484 (neck). (Source: Bonhams)
Click to view larger version. Gibson SG Special sn 884484 (case). (Source: Bonhams)

See Bonhams

Pete Townshend and the Gibson SG Special guitar

Click to view larger version. Sotheby’s auction of Pete’s 1969 Gibson SG Special — serial no. 917512. Courtesy thewho.org.

Click to view larger version. Sotheby’s September 1997 auction of Pete’s 1969 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 917512). Courtesy thewho.org. The guitar sold in a subsequent auction in Sept. 1998 for £5,750.

Introduction

The guitar model Pete Townshend used (and abused) exclusively on stage from mid-late 1968 until 1971, and the guitar with which he’s most famously associated. This guitar model was used for the famous late ’60s/early ’70s live recordings, including Woodstock, Live at Leeds and Isle of Wight, as well as the recordings of Tommy and The Seeker.

First Use

The earliest appearance of Pete’s use of the Gibson SG Special (other than one he borrowed in 1966 from a support group the Tages) is July 1968, likely purchased at Manny’s Music, New York, though regular use wouldn’t come until late 1968. Throughout his use of this guitar from 1968–1971, he usually used 1966–1970 models, which feature the full black wraparound pickguard. He did, however, occasionally use pre-1966 models, which feature the small pickguard, especially in 1971 as the available supply began to dry up. In all, Pete likely went through dozens of these guitars between 1969 and 1971.

Click to view larger version. 9 Sept. 1972, Paris, closeup of a Gold Top Les Paul Deluxe, left, and last known stage use of a cherry Gibson SG Special, right, at stageside.

Click to view larger version 9 Sept. 1972, Paris, closeup of a Gold Top Les Paul Deluxe, left, and last known use of a cherry Gibson SG Special, right, at stageside.

End of the line

Pete stopped using the 1966–1970 cherry-finish model SG Special guitars after 1971 when Gibson had changed the production specification and the existing supply dried up.

The last known use of a 1966–1970 cherry-finish model SG Special came at the 9 September 1972 Paris gig.

Other SG, SG Special models

Ca. 1973, Polaris White Gibson SG Special (pre-1966 model), with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed.

Ca. March 1973, Polaris White Gibson SG Special (pre-1966 model), with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed.

The Signature Pete Townshend Gibson SG Special

In 2000, Gibson issued a signature Pete Townshend Gibson SG Special to commemorate this guitar.

In 2011, Gibson issued a 50th Anniversary Pete Townshend SG Special in Alpine White to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Gibson SG and Pete’s later use of Polaris White Gibson SG Specials.

Specifications

Gibson model variations:

Gibson specs went through numerous changes from 1960 to 1970, in helping to identify which models Pete used:

  • 1960–65
    • Small neck/body heel
    • 17-degree headstock angle
    • 1 11/16 nut width
    • Small black beveled pickguard
    • Nickel hardware
  • 1960–62
    • Angled, smooth wrapover bridge/tailpiece
  • 1963–70
    • “Lightning bar”/“stairstep” tailpiece
  • 1965–68
    • 14-degree headstock angle
    • 1 9/16 nut width
  • 1965–70
    • Chrome hardware
  • 1966–70
    • Larger neck/body heel
    • Full-size black beveled pickguard
  • 1968–70
    • 17-degree headstock angle
    • 1 11/16 nut width

Consult Gibson Vintage Guitars Info for further details.

Gibson SG Special Details:

  • One-piece mahogany body and one-piece set neck, cherry finish.
  • Full black pickguard (1966–1970 models) or small black pickguard (1962–1965 models), white binding.
  • Bound dot inlay neck with rosewood fingerboard.
  • Schaller or Grover tuners. Nickel or Chrome-plated hardware.
  • P-90 “soapbar” pickups.

Pete’s Modifications:

  • Stock Gibson/Maestro Vibrola vibrato tailpiece removed (leaving visible screw holes).
  • Strings attached directly to wraparound — or stop — “stairstep” tailpiece (bridge is not the Gibson Tune-O-Matic).

Gibson 340 Sonomatic strings, .012, .016, .016, .032, .044, .056.

Setup

In his standard setup from December 1968 through 1971 (and then on and off until 1973 as he experimented with Gibson Les Paul Deluxes and other guitars, before returning briefly to Polaris White Gibson SG Specials), Pete used Cherry Red Gibson SG Specials plugged into a Univox Super Fuzz pedal, then into his Sound City as Hiwatt or Hiwatt “stack.”

Photo Gallery

SG Special, 1969

SG Special, 1970

SG, 1969

Generic Gibson SG Specials

Generic 1968 Gibson SG Special, with same modification (Vibrola removed) as Pete’s.

Generic 1968 Gibson SG Special, with same modification (Vibrola removed) as Pete’s.

Generic 1962–65 Gibson SG Special, with small black pickguard.

Generic 1962–65 Gibson SG Special, with small black pickguard.

Selected quotes from Pete Townshend

All quotes and references are copyright their original owners and are included for reference only.

Gibson SG Special (broken and repaired), owned by Revolution Studios. Courtesy WhiteFang’s Who Site.

Gibson SG Special (broken and repaired), owned by Revolution Studios. Courtesy WhiteFang’s Who Site. For more photos and information, see WhiteFang’s Who Site.

From April 1980 issue of Sound International article, courtesy Joe G’s site.

PT: Henry [Goldrich] at Manny’s (music store in New York) introduced me to a guitar which had just come out. I don’t know what you call them; it was a thin crimson-coloured guitar…

SI: The SG?

PT: Right. They just brought out a new model and this was in 1968 and it had a slightly larger wound pickup and it really suited my amplifiers. I started to use those and they were a bit weak, which was the only problem; I could actually break them with my bare hands. But that’s when I started to develop that technique because you didn’t need a tremolo arm. You could do it by just shaking the guitar. I got into this thing also of temper tuning the guitar with the second string flat, and pulling back slightly on the guitar all the time to bring it into pitch. So using that on some of the higher chords where you wanted that second string to voice a bit flat, you could relax the guitar and it would come out a bit flatter. No, sorry, I meant the G string. When you’re using a lighter G — I’ve never used light gauge strings. I’ve always used heavy strings — you can do that. The top string (high E) is an .012 downwards and I use two Bs instead of a B and a G string. I got that from Jimmy Burton, that’s what he used to use. I can’t stand light strings, you don’t have to struggle for it. Mickie Green, who is a guy who used to play with Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, was a great experimenter with the Jimmy Burton technique. He used to have this great lyrical string bending thing going on and I went up to him one day and said, ‘What kind of strings do you use?’ and he said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Do you have a plain third?’ And he said, ‘A plain what?’ He just had big hands; he used to bend the third, a wound third, right up and over the back of the neck. That was an affirmation to me that if you wanted to do it you fought for it. I hate that guitar sound where people sound like they can bend the string just by kind of thinking about it.

It fitted my sound and had a lyrical quality to it because the neck was so uncluttered at the top you could play high.

From May/June 1972 Guitar Player

GP: What about the Gibson SG, has anything been done to that?

PT: Well, the SG story is a bit disappointing. The first time I started to use the Gibson SG model guitar is when I got fed up with Fenders, because they were too clean, but I liked them because they were tough. In guitar smashing days, the Fender would last two or three shows and ten minutes if I wanted to smash it up. And I was into Jimi Hendrix, it was a fuzz box number. It was clean until you hit the fuzz box and then it was dirty. So I went to the manager and said I really need an alternative to this and he said I think you’d like the newest SG and I looked at it. I played it and it rang, it sang to me, not humbucking pickups, the plain pickups, and I’ve used SG’s ever since. They took the old SG off the market like about a year ago, so we used up every old SG in the country. I don’t break them deliberately any more, but when I spin them around, when I’ve had a few drinks, I bang them and they crack and they break. They’re made out of really light wood, it’s a light guitar. That thing I do with the neck (bending it back to stretch the strings as the chord rings) you don’t need any strength to make the whole guitar bend, because it’s made out of such a light-weight wood, but the factory stopped making those particular SG’s. So we said, “You’re going to have to make ’em for us, you’re going to have to customize them for us,” and they said okay, but it’s going to be about $300.00 a guitar. So anyway, we had four of them made for the beginning of the tour. They brought them up to us but the guitars were totally different. The pickups were in a different position, and on and on, so we said, “Forget it.” So I raided every music store in the country practically, looking for old SG’s. One I was using on this tour, the natural wood SG, is not modified except that it had a Tunomatic bridge on it. The SG that I use on “Baby Don’t You Do It” is a 1966 SG Standard. My favorite guitar now for the stage is the Les Paul Deluxe with the small epiphone pickups that you can buy on the shelf for $50.00. They’re like Humbucking, but they’re small, like what you have on Epiphones, and they’re really loud. I like those. I think that’s what I’ll probably end up using, either that or I quite like those Dan Armstrong pickups.

From June 1990 Guitarist magazine article

I never had any difficulty smashing SGs, they were like balsa wood.

Photo Gallery

Cherry Gibson SG Special guitars

1968

10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., tuning up (Photo: Rick Giles)

Click to view larger version. 10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., tuning up. One of the earliest known uses of a Gibson SG Special (this one with Vibrola intact); pedal is Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face; amplifiers are Sound City. (Photo: Rick Giles)
For more, see The Who at the Jaguar, 10 August 1968.

10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., backstage post-show. (Photo: Rick Giles)

Click to view larger version. 10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., backstage post-show. Gibson SG Special with vibrola in tact on table. (Photo: Rick Giles)
 
For more, see The Who at the Jaguar, 10 August 1968.

 
Ca. August 1968 at the Fillmore West, San Francisco. One of the earliest uses of the Gibson SG Special. Amps are three Sound City L100 into four Sound City 4x12 cabinets. Effects pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face.

13–15 Aug. 1968, at the Fillmore West, San Francisco. One of the earliest uses of the Gibson SG Special. Amps are three Sound City L100 into four Sound City 4x12 cabinets and two 8x10 Marshall PA cabinets. Effects pedal is Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face.

Ca. August 1968 at the Fillmore West, San Francisco. One of the earliest uses of the Gibson SG Special. Amps are three Sound City L100 into four Sound City 4x12 cabinets. Effects pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face.

13–15 Aug. 1968, at the Fillmore West, San Francisco. One of the earliest uses of the Gibson SG Special. Amps are three Sound City L100 into four Sound City 4x12 cabinets and two 8x10 Marshall PA cabinets. Effects pedal is Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face.

Ca. August 1968 at the Fillmore West, San Francisco. One of the earliest uses of the Gibson SG Special. Amps are three Sound City L100 into four Sound City 4x12 cabinets. Effects pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face.

17 Aug., 1968, at Phoenix, Arizona. One of the earliest uses of the Gibson SG Special, this one still fitted with Vibrola. Amps are Sound City L100 into four Sound City 4x12 cabinets.

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, 1968

10 Dec., 1968, the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus rehearsals, with early use of Gibson SG Special. Amplifier is Sound City L100 into two Hiwatt SE4122 4x12 cabinets. Effects pedal is Univox Super-Fuzz.

Click to view larger version. December 1968, Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus.

11 Dec., 1968, the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, with Gibson SG Special.

1969

Ca. Spring 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with both Pete and John using unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier heads, with Hiwatt-style chicken head knobs. Pete’s guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special.

Ca. February–March 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with Pete playing a 1968 Gibson SG Special. For amps, both Pete and John are using unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier heads each driving one Sound City 4x12.

Ca. Spring 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with both Pete and John using unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier heads. Pete’s guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special.

Click to view larger version. Ca. February–March 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with Pete playing a 1968 Gibson SG Special. For amps, both Pete and John are using unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier heads each driving one Sound City 4x12.

Ca. 1969, in the studio with SG Special.

Ca. 1969 or 1970, in IBC studios with SG Special.

Ca. February 1969, with Hiwatt rig.

Ca. February 1969, with Sound City/Hiwatt rig.

Ca. 1969, the first Isle of Wight festival, with 1968 or 1969 Gibson SG Special, with visible screw holes where vibrato was removed

Ca. August 1969, the first Isle of Wight festival, with 1968 or 1969 Gibson SG Special, with visible screw holes where vibrato was removed.

29 Sept., 1969, Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, with clear view of vibrola screwholes. Courtesy The Who Netherlands Photo Gallery. ©Henk Hulstkamp.

29 Sept., 1969, Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, with clear view of vibrola screw holes. Courtesy The Who Netherlands Photo Gallery (offline). ©Henk Hulstkamp.

1970

14 Feb. 1970 – Leeds University.

14 Feb. 1970 – Leeds University.

14 Feb. 1970, Leeds University, stage setup of Pete’s rig, one customised Hiwatt DR103 and two CP103 amps with four Hiwatt 4x12 cabs. Guitar is SG Special.

14 Feb. 1970, Leeds University, stage setup of Pete’s rig, one customised Hiwatt DR103 and two CP103 amps with four Hiwatt 4x12 cabs. Guitar is SG Special, and pedal is Univox Super-Fuzz.

14 Feb. 1970 – Leeds University.

14 Feb. 1970 – Leeds University.

14 Feb. 1970, Leeds University, stage setup of Pete’s rig, one customised Hiwatt DR103 and two CP103 amps with four Hiwatt 4x12 cabs. Guitar is SG Special.

Click to view larger version. 14 Feb. 1970, Leeds University, stage setup of Pete’s rig, one customised Hiwatt DR103 and two CP103 amps with four Hiwatt 4x12 cabs. Guitar is SG Special.

With Gibson SG Special at Third Isle of Wight festival show. Top: Sound City; Bottom 2: Hiwatts

August 1970 Isle of Wight show, playing Gibson SG Special. Top amp (chrome faceplate) is customized Sound City with Hiwatt nameplate; bottom two amps (black faceplate) are Hiwatt CP103 amplifiers, with “The Who” faceplate. Bottom speaker cabinets are Hiwatt SE4122 4x12s; top are Hiwatt SE4123 4x12s.

1971

Ca. 1971, backstage with three Gibson SG Specials, one capoed at the third fret.

Ca. 1971, backstage with three Gibson SG Specials, one capoed at the third fret.

Ca. 1971, with 1961 or 1962 Gibson SG Special, featuring small black pickguard.

Ca. 1971, with 1961 or 1962 Gibson SG Special, featuring small black pickguard.

Ca. 1971, with with 1961 or 1962 Gibson SG Special, featuring small black pickguard.

Ca. 1971, with with 1961 or 1962 Gibson SG Special, featuring small black pickguard.

1972

Ca. 1972, 1972, Foret Nationale, Brussels, Belgium, with one of last known uses of a cherry-finish Gibson SG Special. Guitar possibly has a Tune-O-Matic bridge/tailpiece, and therefore is possibly one of the custom-made SG Specials.

16 Aug. 1972, Foret Nationale, Brussels, Belgium, with one of last known uses of a cherry-finish Gibson SG Special. Guitar possibly has a Tune-O-Matic bridge/tailpiece, and therefore is possibly one of the custom-made SG Specials.

1973 – Polaris White Gibson SG Special

Ca. 1973, Polaris White Gibson SG Special (pre-1966 model), with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed.

Ca. March 1973, Polaris White Gibson SG Special (pre-1966 model), with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed.

Ca. 1973, Polaris White Gibson SG Special (pre-1966 model), with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed. Courtesy The Who Netherlands Photo Gallery. ©Henk Hulstkamp.

Ca. March 1973, Polaris White Gibson SG Special (pre-1966 model), with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed. Courtesy The Who Netherlands Photo Gallery (offline); ©Henk Hulstkamp.

Ca. October 1973, 1965 Polaris White Gibson SG Special, with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed. This guitar was auctioned in 2004 by Christie’s for £85,000 to a telephone bidder.

6 Nov. 1973, backstage at Newcastle, 1965 Polaris White Gibson SG Special, with two P-90 pickups, small black pickguard. Maestro vibrato and tailpiece removed. This guitar was auctioned in 2004 by Christie’s for £85,000 to a telephone bidder.

29 Oct. 1973, at Wolverhamton, UK, with two Polaris White Gibson SG Specials sitting stage-side. Left is pre-1966 model; right is 1966–1970 model. Courtesy Martin Forsbom.

29 Oct. 1973, at Wolverhamton, UK, with two Polaris White Gibson SG Specials sitting stage-side. Left is pre-1966 model; right is 1966–1970 model. Courtesy Martin Forsbom.

Click to view larger version: 6 November 1973, white SG Special

Click to view larger version 6 Nov. 1973, Newcastle.

Ca. October 1973, UK, backstage, with three capoed Polaris White Gibson SG Specials and a cherry sunburst Les Paul Deluxe. Left and right are pre-1966 models; center-right is 1966–1970 model.

Ca. October 1973, UK, backstage, with three capoed Polaris White Gibson SG Specials and a cherry sunburst Les Paul Deluxe. Left and right are pre-1966 models; center-right is 1966–1970 model.

Custom-made Gibson SG Specials

Ca. 1971, custom-made Gibson SG Special, natural color, featuring stop tailpiece and Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridge.

Ca. 1971, custom-made Gibson SG Special, natural color, featuring stop tailpiece and Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridge.

Ca. 1971, custom-made Gibson SG Special, natural color, featuring stop tailpiece and Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridge.

Ca. December 1971, custom-made Gibson SG Special, natural color, featuring stop tailpiece and Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridge.

Instrument/Auction profiles

1963 Polaris White Gibson SG Special – s/n 105078 (128658)

This guitar was owned by Clint Nurse (of the band Beaver) from late 1978, and sold via Christie’s auction (below), 29 September 2004, for £85,000 (estimated £35,000) to an unknown telephone bidder, a record for a Pete-owned guitar. (Clint also owned a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, sold via Christie’s in May 2005.) Current owner unknown.

Many thanks to Clint Nurse. Visit Clint’s band: Beaver. Photos courtesy and ©Clint Nurse.

Click to view larger version. (96kb) 1963 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 105078) in Polaris White, for auction at Christie’s. Courtesy and © Christie’s.

Click to view larger version. (96kb) 1963 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 105078) in Polaris White, for auction at Christie’s. Courtesy and © Christie’s.

Click to view larger version. Clint Nurse, with Les Paul Deluxe and Gibson SG Special, prior to auction.

Click to view larger version. Clint Nurse, with Les Paul Deluxe and Gibson SG Special, prior to auction.

Click to view larger version. Clint Nurse at Christie’s auction, September 2004, Polaris White Gibson SG Special and Premier silver kit pieces. Courtesy Clint Nurse.

Click to view larger version. Clint Nurse at Christie’s auction, September 2004, Polaris White Gibson SG Special and Premier silver kit pieces. Courtesy Clint Nurse.

Ca. October 1973, backstage with Polaris White SG Special. Photo ©Robert Ellis.

Ca. October 1973, backstage with Polaris White SG Special.

Christie’s auction info:

Click to view larger version. 1963 Gibson SG Special in Polaris White, for auction at Christies. Courtesy Christies.

Click to view larger version. (96kb) 1963 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 105078) in Polaris White, for auction at Christie’s. Courtesy and © Christie’s.

Christie’s auctions Pete’s 1963 Polaris White Gibson SG Special for £85,000

Christie’s auction house auctioned one of Pete’s 1963 Polaris White Gibson SG Special guitars on 29 September 2004 as part of its Pop Memorabilia sale in South Kensington. The guitar was estimated at £35,000 and sold for £85,000 to a telephone bidder, a record for a Pete-owned guitar.

Click to view larger version. 1963 Gibson SG Special in Polaris White, for auction at Christie’s. Courtesy Christie’s.

Click to view larger version. (130kb) 1963 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 105078) in Polaris White, for auction at Christie’s. Courtesy and © Christie’s.

Christie’s description:

Lot 103

A 1963 Gibson SG Special, Serial No. 105078 (overstamped 128658), in Polaris White finish, with a black hardshell case stencilled on the outside with white lettering WHO — owned by Pete Townshend, circa 1972–1974, and played by him onstage during The Who’s U.K. Fallout Shelter Tour, October–November 1973.

In the late 1970s, the vendor obtained this guitar from a former employee of The Who who was learning to play, and to whom Townshend had given the guitar in the mid-1970s.

Information and photo courtesy and © Christie’s.

For further information, see christies.com/LotFinder/search/searchresults.asp?SN=9919&LN=0103.

Sotheby’s September 1997 auction of Pete’s 1969 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 917512).

Click to view larger version. Sotheby’s auction of Pete’s 1969 Gibson SG Special — serial no. 917512. Courtesy thewho.org.

Click to view larger version. Sotheby’s September 1997 auction of Pete’s 1969 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 917512). Courtesy thewho.org. The guitar sold in a subsequent auction in Sept. 1998 for £5,750.

Sotheby’s September 1997 auction of Pete’s 1969 Gibson SG Special (serial no. 917512). Courtesy thewho.org. The guitar sold in a subsequent auction in Sept. 1998 for £5,750.

Sotheby’s auction description:

Pete Townshend’s Gibson SG Special, serial no. 917512, circa 1969,
cherry finish, two pickups with two volume/tone controls, three-way selector switch, neck with rosewood fingerboard and dot markers, headstock with stamped serial and Schaller machineheads, body with repairs, tremolo unit removed, in shaped, hard Gibson case, together with a letter of provenance, laser copies of three photographs of Townshend playing a similar guitar and a copy of an interview in ‘Guitarist’ magazine, June 1990.

£12,000–15,000

Cooper Owen auction of Gibson SG Special body

Cooper Owen auction house auctioned a body of an SG Special smashed by Pete in 1969. The Cooper Owen Music Legends auction took place in July 2006 at Abbey Road Studios. The item was estimated at £8,000–10,000 and sold for £8,000.

Lot description from Cooper Owen:

Sale 2161 Lot 91: Pete Townshend – a Gibson SG Special broken guitar body, 1969

Sale 2161 Lot 91: Pete Townshend – a Gibson SG Special broken guitar body, 1969

A broken rosewood body from a Gibson SG Special guitar smashed by Pete Townshend, when playing on the North American leg of the Who’s 1969 tour. The body has the holes where the original Vibrola would have been removed prior to being used, a standard modification by Townshend. The full black wraparound pickguard with white binding is still held in place by just two of its original screws, (these full pickguards usually appear on 1966–1970 models). The corner of the body, where the knobs and switches usually are, has broken completely off, along the line of the backplate to the electrics. No electrical parts are present except a single wire poking out from the hole where the lower pickup would have been. One cutaway point at the top of the body has also completely snapped off.

The guitar piece is accompanied by a letter from Tony Haslam, a former lighting engineer for the Who. He explains how the “S.G. Special broken guitar body was owned, played and smashed by Pete Townshend of The Who on the North American tour in 1969. This guitar body was retrieved and kept by myself after one of the gigs from this tour.”

Estimate £ 8,000–10,000

The earliest appearance of Townshend’s use of the Gibson SG Special (other than one he borrowed in 1966 from a support group the Tages) is July 1968, likely purchased at Manny’s Music, New York. Throughout his use of this guitar from 1968–1971, he usually used 1966–1970 models, which feature the full black wraparound pickguard. He did, however, occasionally use pre-1966 models, which feature the small pickguard, especially in 1971 as the available supply began to dry up. Pete stopped using these guitars in 1971 when Gibson had changed the production specification and the existing supply dried up.

Auction information ©Cooper Owen.

Christie’s auctions a Pete-owned 1967 Gibson SG Special for £32,450 ($63,991)

Photo ® Christie’s 1967 Gibson SG Special.

Photo © Christie’s 1967 Gibson SG Special.

Christie’s auctioned a Pete-owned 1967 Gibson SG Special, serial no. 884484, in Cherry Red, on 10 July 2008 as part of its Pop Culture: Rock and Pop Memorabilia auction. Also up for auction (again) was Pete’s classical acoustic, which was previously auctioned by Pete in 2000.

The auction realised £32,450 ($63,991). It was estimated at £20,000 – £30,000 ($39,440 – $59,160).

The lot description, from Christie’s:

Pete Townshend/The Who

A late 1967 Gibson SG Special, Serial No.884484, Stamped 2, in cherry red finish, double cutaway mahogany body, mahogany neck, Grover machine heads, 22 fret bound rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, two P90 pickups, four rotary controls, selector switch, metal bridge, black pickguard bound in white, tailpiece removed; and an original black hardshell Gibson contour case with scarlet plush lining — owned and used by Pete Townshend in circa early 1970s — early 1980s; accompanied by a signed letter from Pete Townshend concerning the provenance in which he states that this ...Gibson SG Special guitar...must be one of the few passing through my hands, which has survived without getting smashed..., although Townshend cannot recall when he first got this guitar, he states that before he gave it away to former Who crew member Tony Haslam in the early 1980s ...I used it at home as my principle guitar of this type for use on my demo recordings... and that he regards this instrument ...as one of my ‘special’ guitars along with a single Les Paul Deluxe modified for stage use, and a 1952 Telecaster... (3)

Lot notes

It appears from his letter that Townshend gave this guitar to Haslam in gratitude for the help he gave him in facing up to his problem with alcohol addiction in the early 1980s. Tony Haslam is selling this guitar to cover medical expenses for himself and for another former Who crew member, Mike Shaw, who was injured in a car crash whilst working for the band in 1965.

Estimate:

£20,000 – £30,000 ($39,440 – $59,160)

Information and photo © Christie’s.

For more information, see Christie’s.com.

1970 Gibson SG

News (28 April 2010): Christie’s to auction 1970 Gibson SG (Custom), as part of its Popular Culture: Rock and Pop Memorabilia sale, to be held on 24 June 2010. The instrument is currently owned by Brad Rodgers of whocollection.com.

Rock Stars Guitars for sale at Christie’s

Four iconic guitars feature from Brad Rodgers at www.whocollection.com — the largest single-owner collection of The Who memorabilia to ever appear at auction — two previously owned by Pete Townshend, and two by John Entwistle [...] An earlier example, synonymous with Pete Townshend, is a 1970 vintage Gibson SG. Played by Townshend on the first leg of the 1971 U.S. tour, this guitar was displayed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame from April 1998 to January 2007, and is also included in the sale (estimate: £20,000–30,000).

See christies.com

Realized: £49,250 ($73,678)

See lot details on christies.com.

1964 Gibson SG Special, sn 188776, broken and repaired

Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (full). (Source: Richard Henry)

A 1964 Gibson SG Special, broken and repaired, courtesy of Richard Henry Guitars.

Richard Henry:

“We have recently been involved with a unique piece of rock history, namely a 1964 Gibson SG Special that was owned, used, smashed AND repaired by Pete Townshend of THE WHO. Used by Pete from the mid 60s and used until the early 70s in various states of repair. Fully authenticated with a personally written and handsigned letter from Pete Townshend on his personal letterhead.”

Click to view larger version. December 1968, Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus.

According to the letter from Pete, he repaired the neck joint with Cascamite carpenter’s glue and left the guitar in his cellar. During a flood, the guitar bodies there survived, but the pickups and other parts were ruined and later featured in a “suitcase of old crap” that was as part of the ICA Who Exhibition in August 1978. The guitar was later given away by Pete’s brother in law Jon Astley, and subsequently had its hardware and electronics restored.

While a 1964 model SG Special would normally feature a small pickguard, this item had a large (post-1966) pickguard apparently added later.

This guitar may be the same as Pete played in December 1968 for the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus.

Photos courtesy Richard Henry Guitars

Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (front). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (front). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (front 2). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (controls). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (neck joint). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (body repair). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (neck repair). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (neck repair 2). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (headstock). (Source: Richard Henry)
Click to view larger version. 1964 Gibson SG Special sn 188776 (serial). (Source: Richard Henry)

Thanks to Richard Henry Guitars

Woodstock SG

News (5 June 2009): According to contactmusic.com, Pete’s “Woodstock” SG Special will be on display at the Hard Rock Café in London in July.

Wrecked Woodstock guitar goes on show

The remains of a guitar Pete Townshend famously smashed to pieces at Woodstock is to go on show in London.

The splintered Gibson SG Special was wrecked onstage by the rocker during The Who’s set at the notorious 1969 festival in New York.

It will be shown at a Hard Rock Cafe in London next month (Jul09) along with other artifacts from Woodstock, including Jimi Hendrix’s vest, a jacket worn by Joe Cocker, a festival poster, and souvenir T-shirt.

Per our listing in smashed guitars, the “Woodstock” guitar wasn’t actually smashed; rather, it was tossed into the audience and reportedly retrieved (or strong-armed) by a roadie for subsequent use. A review of the 1970 Hull City Hall show mentions that the guitar was caught by an audience member named Kurt Pfeiffer, and later retrieved. See story on thisisull.com.

This guitar appears to be the same guitar as auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1997/1998. However, there is no mention of its Woodstock provenance in those auction lot listings.

Gibson SG Special from Metropolitan Opera, 7 June 1970, broken and repaired

SG Special

A Gibson SG Special from the Metropolitan Opera, 7 June 1970, broken, caught by Binky Philips. Broken headstock replaced.

“As he played, a roadie slithered out onstage on all fours, grabbed the strap of the out of tune SG, and started slowly pulling it offstage, trying hard not to be noticed by Pete. But, notice him, Pete did. The roadie was about halfway to the wings when Townshend stalked over and stomped on the guitar, instantly snapping the head off the neck and vehemently shook his head NO! to the hapless roadie, who scurried away back into the wings. The guitar now lay onstage with its headstock and bridge lying next to it, attached to each other by the six limp strings.

“Pete put down the ‘new’ SG and walked over and picked up the headless SG. With exaggerated care, he wrapped the strap around the body, walked to the edge of the stage, looked straight at me again, and with a shrug of his shoulders, and a quick nod, asked me with his body language if I was ready. I nodded. He stepped back a foot or two, judging the distance of the orchestra pit, tossed the guitar high in the air. It must’ve gone up 15 feet. It slowly arched towards me. The guitar glided in, face first, and I literally caught it by its two SG horns.”

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