b b king es 345 es 335 pawn shop return story

One man''s pawnshop find ends with a new Gibson Custom Shop guitar and meeting B.B. King

Las Vegas, NV (December 3, 2009) -- Surely every gearhead has imagined walking into a pawnshop and finding the guitar of their dreams. For Eric Dahl of Las Vegas, that dream became reality two months ago—producing an ending even he couldn’t have dreamed up.

Like many guitar collectors, Dahl routinely visits pawn shops. He’s also left his contact information hoping to get a call when an interesting guitar comes up for sale. He received such a call on Sept. 10, regarding a unique Gibson ES-345 B.B. King 80th Anniversary model a pawn shop had just purchased. Intrigued, Dahl went straight to the shop to check it out.

“It was definitely a Gibson ES-345 B.B. King Lucille guitar, but it didn’t have the original case, or any of the original paperwork, and I was disappointed that it had been gigged pretty hard and full of pick scratches and small dents,” Dahl said. “Also, I flipped it over and looked at the headstock expecting to see standard serial numbers, but to my surprise saw ‘Prototype 1’ stamped where the serial numbers should have been. I figured maybe it was a fake, or a really cool piece that had once been approved by B.B. King himself then given away to a fellow musician, friend of the family or relative.”

Fortunately for Dahl, it was neither. After spending several weeks calling various guitar historians, including Gibson’s customer service department, trying to figure out the guitar’s history, Dahl felt like he’d hit a wall—until he received a call on November 9, from Pat Foley, director of artist relations at Gibson Custom.

“First, he asked me if I still had the guitar here in the United States, which seemed odd because where else would I keep it?” Dahl said. “Then he informed me the guitar had been stolen from Mr. King at the beginning of the summer [2009]. Gibson presented to him as his 80th birthday present in Los Angeles in 2005, and it had been Mr. King’s main gigging guitar for the last four years. He was so upset that it was stolen that he asked Gibson to make him another one as close to the original as possible.”

Photo by Ted Vandell

Needless to say, King was overjoyed when he learned his beloved Lucille had been found. He even arranged for Dahl to receive a brand new Lucille from Gibson Custom upon returning the original, which happened a few days after Thanksgiving—an appropriate holiday for Mr. King to celebrate the return of his beloved lady.

“We met at Mr. King’s offices here in Las Vegas,” Dahl said. “He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. He just kept shaking my hand and thanking me. He really wanted his birthday present back and was amazed he was actually getting it back. He really thought he’d never see it again.”

Dahl got King to autograph his new Lucille from Gibson Custom, and took a bunch of pictures of the meeting—one of which will go back to King as a memento of their unlikely encounter.

“I’m just happy that I was able to return a prized guitar to one of my guitar idols and inspirations,” Dahl said. “Now he can continue to give joy to so many other blues fans around the world.”