Alex Lifeson spoke to his iconic “Whitey” Gibson ES-355TD before he put it up for auction

Alex Lifeson playing his Gibson ES-355TD
(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

Earlier this year, Rush legend Alex Lifeson announced he will be auctioning off an array of electric guitars and acoustic guitars that he's acquired across his illustrious career. One notable inclusion in the charity event is his iconic “Whitey” Gibson ES-355TD.

For most people, selling gear is a struggle at the best of times, but for Lifeson, parting ways with his ES-355 – an axe he described as his “main guitar” – proved to be an especially difficult experience.

Speaking to Guitar Magazine, Lifeson revealed his prized semi-hollow was the last guitar to leave for auction, and that he spent those last precious moments with his six-string cradling the case, speaking to it and even kissing its packaging. 

“That was the last one that was left,” Lifeson replied when asked about the Gibson. “I was sitting in our mudroom, just off our garage, while the removal truck was waiting. I sat there with that case in between my legs and, maybe it sounds a little corny, but I was talking to it.

Alex Lifeson

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

“I was reminiscing about gigs that we did together,” he continued, “and kissing the bubble wrap.”

Lifeson’s emotional farewell to his ES-355TD isn't surprising. Not only has appeared in numerous music videos and been used extensively live, it’s also featured on 16 of the band’s studio albums.

When the auction was announced, Lifeson spoke fondly of his ES-355, and noted, “I purchased this guitar in 1976. It was custom-built in Kalamazoo just for me. It has been my main guitar and is the iconic Alex Lifeson guitar.”

It wasn’t just the 355 that proved to be a difficult sell, though, with Lifeson describing the overall auction experience as “probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life”.

He added, “My wife and I, we’re at a stage in our life where we just feel like we have too much stuff and we’re trying to get a little leaner. I’m auctioning off the bulk of my guitar collection for charity. I’m looking forward to that. 

Alex Lifeson holding his Gibson ES-355TD

(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns via Getty)

“It was so emotionally difficult packing those guitars up. I cleaned them, polished them, did string changes. I made sure every single one was in tune when it went back in the case, and then I kissed it goodbye.”

Despite the difficult send-off, the Rush hero also acknowledged, “But I know that, with the funds I'm hoping to raise, it gives it all another life and helps other people, and in some cases gives people another chance at life. Why wouldn't you do that?”

Lifeson’s guitars will hit the auction block this Sunday (May 22). The Gibson ES-355 will be joined by his custom-built 1980 Hentor Sportscaster – used on 1984’s Grace Under Pressure – a ‘76 Gibson Dove that helped write some A Farewell to Kings songs and a limited-edition Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck built especially for Rush’s 40th anniversary R40 tour.

For more information on The Property from the Archives of Alex lifeson auction, head over to Julien’s Auctions.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.