Chuck Berry’s stage-played Gibson Firebird – which features on the cover of a 2017 triple-album reissue – is up for auction

A stage-played 1964 Gibson Firebird that was once owned and used by rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry is set to go up for auction in the UK later this month.

Though the Firebird wasn’t one of Berry’s go-to Gibson models – the ES-350T and, later, the ES-355 received that honor – the electric guitar legend was forced into playing this particular six-string during a headline performance at the 1972 Rock and Roll Show at Wembley Stadium in London, when his main instrument snapped a string.

After Berry’s guitar went a string down, his backing guitarist, Terry Gibson, showed impeccable initiative by handing over the Firebird in question, which Berry used to finish the set. 

Berry can be seen switching to and playing the Firebird in the video below around the one hour and 16 minute mark.

After the show, the guitar was given back to Gibson – whose real name is Terry Clemson – who kept it until his death.

Gibson, who had a prolific performing career as a solo artist and session man – his credits include work with Berry, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley and Screaming Lord Sutch – passed away in 2020, with the guitar moving hands to its current owner around that time.

Despite its black lick of paint, the Firebird originally flaunted a sunburst finish, though was refinished sometime between the late ‘60s and 1972, when Berry was snapped playing the Firebird at Wembley.

Chuck Berry playing a 1964 Gibson Firebird

(Image credit: Gardiner Houlgate)

One of the pictures captured from the event, which shows Berry in one of his iconic power poses, was later used for a three-album reissue of Rockin’ at the Hops, One Dozen Berrys and New Juke Box Hits in 2017. The Firebird was also used for the artwork of Gibson’s own solo album, Downliner, in 1990.

In terms of specs, the Firebird features a refinished body, rosewood fretboard and a Maestro Vibrola tremolo system, and is being auctioned off alongside a guitar strap that is believed to be the one used by Berry during the gig.

Owing to its association with Berry, the Firebird is expected to fetch a five-figure sum at the auction – as much as £20,000, to be precise – when it goes under the hammer next Thursday (March 9) in Wiltshire, England.

Head over to Gardiner Houlgate to find out more about the guitar.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

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.