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A Guitar In A Pawn Shop: How A Las Vegas Man Become Friends With A Legend

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Eric Dahl and B.B. King
Ted Vandell

Eric Dahl discovered B.B. King's guitar 'Lucille' in a Las Vegas pawn shop

Blues legend B.B. King died last week at his home in Las Vegas. And after 89 years, his life touched many others.

Some quite by accident.

Eric Dahl was one of those accidental meets who became a friend.

His story begins in 2009, when Dahl bought a guitar in a Las Vegas pawnshop.

It happened to be B.B. King’s beloved guitar, Lucille.

Dahl told KNPR's State of Nevada he ended up with Lucille because of his love of guitars and guitar equipment. 

He said he had relationships with several pawn shops around the city. He would price guitars for them, and in return, they would give him deals on instruments. 

One day, the EZ Pawn on Rainbow Boulevard and Sahara Avenue called because they had a guitar coming out of pawn that they knew he would want. 

 "I went down over my lunch and took a look and knew I had to have it," Dahl said. 

He noticed right away that it was a special guitar. Not only was it a Lucille, it had "80th birthday Lucille prototype 1" stamped on the headstock. 

"You don't find a prototype guitar out in the public. Usually, those are owned by the artist or by the guitar company," Dahl explained. 

Dahl bought the guitar for just over $2,000, thinking the blues legend had maybe just held the instrument for a few minutes. 

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While researching the guitar's origin, he found the price of the guitar was closer to $30,000 to $40,000 and Gibson had only created 82 of them.

That is only part of story. The next twist came when a representative of Gibson guitars called. The guitar company representative asked Dahl about his B.B. King Lucille.

Dahl explained that he had two and one was an 80th birthday edition, which is when the representative dropped a bit of a bombshell. 

"'No, you don't understand, you have B.B. King's birthday present that we gave him for his birthday and he would really like to get it back,'" Dahl recalled, "I went very quiet at that point."

Dahl said both the Gibson people and King's people asked how much money it would take to get the guitar back. To the surprise of both camps, Dahl said he wouldn't take any money.

 

"I take it, previously, that people had tried to hold it hostage and get money from them for guitars and things that Mr. King had lost and I wasn't going to take any money," Dahl said. 

All he asked for was a replacement Lucille and to give the guitar to the King in person. 

"I don't think anyone believed it was the guitar until I was sitting next to him in is office in Las Vegas," Dahl said.

He had the case between them and King asked him to open the case. 

"As soon as he looked down, he started smiling," Dahl said "I pulled it out and gave it to him and you would have thought I had given him a million dollars. He never thought he would see this guitar again and it was one of his favorites."

Dahl believes the musician wanted to meet him because he was the only person who hadn't ask him for money to return it.

"It surprised everybody that I wasn't trying to get any money out of them. I just wanted to return his guitar to him.  I think that meant a lot to Mr. King," Dahl said.

Dahl believes it will be the guitar featured in B.B. King display at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.  

Guests

Eric Dahl, found B.B. King's guitar

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