Chuck Berry’s 1964 Gibson Firebird – which he once played at a headline show at Wembley Stadium – has sold at auction

Chuck Berry and a 1964 Gibson Firebird
(Image credit: Gardiner Houlgate)

Last week, it was reported a 1964 Gibson Firebird that had been stage-played by Chuck Berry at one of London’s most iconic venues was going up for auction, and that it was expected to fetch a healthy five-figure sum.

Well, that guitar has now sold, ever-so-slightly exceeding its £20,000 forecast and selling for a total sum of £21,488. Admittedly, the guitar went under the hammer for £17,000, and it was only a 26.4% premium charge that pushed it over the threshold.

Nevertheless, it’s a significant sum of money for a six-string befitting its heritage, having played a crucial role in Berry’s 1972 headline show during The Rock and Roll Show at London’s Wembley Stadium.

As the story goes – and, indeed, as video footage verifies – Berry was playing his Cherry Red Gibson ES-330TD for the majority of the set, though ran into a spot of bother when one of the electric guitar strings snapped during the end of the show.

Thanks to some quick thinking from his back-up guitarist Terry Gibson – real name Terry Clemson – Berry was handed a refinished Firebird to finish his set with. In the video below, the whole switch can be seen around the one-hour-and-16-minute mark.

Upon completion of the set, the Firebird was handed back to Gibson, who kept it until his death. The Firebird then passed on into the possession of its current owner, who purchased the guitar around 2020.

Notably, the guitar itself was originally a sunburst-finished six-string, though had received a fresh lick of black paint sometime between the late ‘60s and 1972. Other specs include a rosewood fretboard and Maestro Vibrola tremolo system.

The guitar in its black-finished state could also be seen on the cover of Berry’s 2017 three-album reissue of Rockin’ at the Hops, One Dozen Berrys and New Juke Box Hits, courtesy of a picture that was snapped at that London show.

Chuck Berry's Gibson Firebird

(Image credit: Gardiner Houlgate)

As well as its connection to Berry, the Firebird was also a faithful member of Terry Gibson’s own axe arsenal, having featured on the front of his own solo album, Downliner, in 1990.

For more information, head over to Gardiner Houlgate.

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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.