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Prince's "Yellow Cloud" guitar comes to auction

Prince's iconic guitar will offered up for auction at Heritage Auctions’ Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction, June 24-25 in Beverly Hills, CA.
Prince's "Yellow Cloud" guitar. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Prince's "Yellow Cloud" guitar. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

BEVERLY HILLS – Prince’s personally-owned and played Yellow Cloud Electric Guitar – an instrument as unique and innovative as the artist’s legendary contribution to the music world – will be offered exclusively in Heritage Auctions’ Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction June 24-25, 2016 in Beverly Hills. The guitar appears at auction with an opening bid of $30,000.

The solid body guitar, made-to-order in the shape and style he made famous, was the superstar’s instrument of choice for his hours-long concerts performed from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. The pop star died April 21, 2016 at his Paisley Park home in Minnesota.

 “It’s interesting to realize that Prince personally designed and commissioned this piece of art and it carries hallmarks of his famous “Love Symbol”, which he would adopt as his name during a famous contract dispute with Warner Bros. in the early 1990s,” said Garry Shrum, Director of Music Memorabilia at Heritage Auctions. “One glimpse and you have no doubt that this is Prince’s guitar.”

The singular guitar was built to Prince’s exacting standards and expectations: Presented in bright-yellow with gold-tone hardware, the instrument is complete with Schaller tuners, a Floyd Rose Original tremolo (with bar), one volume knob, one tone knob, a three-way switch, nut, and truss rod cover. The pickups are both from EMG -- the bridge pickup is a humbucker and the neck pickup is a single coil. On the back of the body is the original label: "Property of PRN MUSIC CORP. PM 16644". The custom hard case has an identical tag with the serial number of 16643.

“Prince was rarely photographed without an electric guitar strapped to his body,” Shrum said. “As celebrity stage-used instruments go, this piece is as unique as Beethoven’s piano or John Coltrane’s saxophone.”

Prince favored this guitar for recording sessions and at performances for several years until the neck broke in France. The artist turned to his guitar technician, Zeke Clark, to repair the guitar rather than replace it.

"This Yellow Cloud guitar was Prince’s main guitar and used in most of his early videos and touring performances & album recordings,” according to Clark’s letter of authenticity, which accompanies the guitar. “In 1994 he broke the neck of this guitar at a French T.V. show. After returning to [United States], I repaired neck and installed the first Floyd Rose set up Prince ever played … [a]nd then used in recording more albums, up until the symbol guitar was born.”

The auction will also include a rare, Reel-to-Reel Demo Tape with Tracklist Written in His Own Hand (opening bid: $2,000). The early Prince demo tape, made between 1976 or 1977, was recorded before he was signed to contract. The tape - in a box with the tracklist and Prince's name written in black felt-pen by his own hand - contains three songs. The first two, "Just as Long as We're Together" and "My Love Is Forever," would go on to be re-recorded for his debut album, For You, while the third is an instrumental track titled "Jelly Jam" which was later reworked into part of "Just as Long..."

Additional memorabilia appearing in the auction recognizing Prince and his extraordinary music career include a 1984 “Purple Rain” RIAA Platinum Record Sales Award bestowed to Prince and the Revolution commemorating the sale of more than 1 million copies (opening bid: $1,000);an RIAA Gold Record Sales Award for “1999”, his first to reach the Top Ten (opening bid: $1,000); an RIAA Hologram Gold Video Sales Award for “Purple Rain”, the artist’s first home video release (opening bid: $750).

Heritage Auctions’ Entertainment Signature Auction takes place June 24-25, 2016. Prince’s Personally-Owned Yellow Cloud Guitar will be on public display June 22-25, 2016 at Heritage Auctions’ Beverly Hills office, 9478 West Olympic Blvd., 1st Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.