At the very first Lockn' Music Festival in 2013, most of the artists on the bill signed a couple of guitars, for charity. The guitars came out of the box as ordinary axes - base model Les Paul's from the Gibson subbrand Epiphone.
But as musician after musical etched their names on the guitar bodies, these instruments started to become historic artifacts of a festival at its genesis. Bob Weir, Trey Anastasio, Zac Brown and every member of Widespread Panic - among many others - took turns adding their John Hancocks.
When not being passed around by musical royalty, the guitars were on display at Participation Row, the social action village that HeadCount organized as home to about 20 non-profit organizations for the weekend. At the end of the row was the Qello Concerts Lounge, which housed a raffle for one of the guitars and a silent auction for the other.
About 1,500 people entered the free raffle, after fulfilling the requirement of taking 4 separate socially-conscious actions at the non-profit booths. The other guitar was sold to the highest bidder, with proceeds split evenly among all the charitable organizations on Participation Row.
So where's the legendary part? Well the bidding was in the $2,000-$3,000 range for most of the 4-day festival, but as Furthur hit the stage in Sunday night, the competition heated up.
Eventually the guitar sold for an unexpected $20,000. The winner then quickly explained that he was giving it to a friend... "someone who helped me out a lot in life. And I want him to know how much that's meant to me."
The Legend of the Lockn' guitars was born.
The next year, the guitars featured the signatures of even more Rock N' Roll Hall of Famers. Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Willie Nelson... all on one instrument. As well as Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Grace Potter, Jeff Tweedy, Gary Clark Jr. and on and on. A set of four posters - one from each day - was also signed by each day's performer.
Once again they were auctioned to support all the charities on Participation Row. The poster set actually fetched the highest price tag $16,500. But the guitar auction was the stuff legends are made of.
One bidder, was actually the winner of the previous year's free guitar raffle. The other was Brett Stacy from Kentucky, who had quite a story.
See, Brett's best friend Johnny Dawson was very sick the Christmas before, and his prognosis was iffy. Brett bought him a ticket to Lockn', as motivation and something to live for.
Well Johnny made it through the worst of his illness and was there at Lockn' cheering on Brett in the auction. It closed at $12,000 and Brett was the winner.
Then, Brett handed Johnny the guitar. Another gift. For a friend and for charity.
We may not be able to top those stories for shear heartwarming factor. But this year the guitars themselves are true collectors items.
A D'Angelico semi-hollow body electric guitar and a stunning acoustic model, both emblazoned with the Lockn' logo.
The EX-DC is the same model guitar that Bob Weir played on stage during the Grateful Dead's anniversary concerts in July. It auctioned for an astounding $526,000, with proceeds going directly to the 17 non profit organizations that formed the Participation Row at the Dead shows.
The Lockn' electric will be auctioned, and the acoustic will be given away in the free raffle, both at the Qello Concerts Lounge at Participation Row.
All of the Lockn' headliners are expected to sign the guitars - a list that uncles Santana, Robert Plant, all four members of the Grateful Dead, and legends like Jorma Kaukonen, Leon Russell and Jimmy Cliff. The auction will close at 7:30 PM on Sunday. The free raffle drawing will happen then too. So be sure to stop by Participation Row and visit your favorite non-profit organizations to enter the free raffle. Or, if you want to roll big for charity, throw down a bid in the auction. You might take home a legend.