A Zemaitis Custom "Dragon" electric guitar owned by the Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott

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Lot 5629
A Zemaitis Custom "Dragon" electric guitar owned by the Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott

Sold for US$ 56,400 inc. premium

Collector's Auction

22 May 2005, 10:00 PDT

Los Angeles

A Zemaitis Custom "Dragon" electric guitar owned by the Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott
Mahogany body, Les Paul style, bound tiger maple top, with large, hand-painted, mother of pearl inlay dragon device. Ebony fretboard with mother of pearl diamond and dot inlays, 24-fret neck, Schaller machine heads, oversize metal truss rod cover, engraved “Jimmy / Peggy-Sue,” with a Cupid’s arrow and heart. Handtooled adjustable bridge, and aluminum tailpiece engraved “A.C. Zemaitis / England. 1981.” Single humbucking pickup, with one volume and one tone control, repair at headstock, laminate lifting at mother of pearl dragon device, original hard-shell case stenciled in yellow “The Pretenders.” The legendary Tony Zemaitis (generally acclaimed as the world's finest custom guitar maker) made this guitar personally for Pretenders lead guitarist, co-founder, James Honeyman-Scott.

In January 1979, the Pretenders recorded their first single, a reworking of an obscure Kinks song “Stop Your Sobbing.” The band went off to Paris for a week-long gig, while their first effort shot into the UK top 30. A few months later their second hit “Kid” with it’s wonderful country-style solo was released, and this was quickly followed up with “Brass in Pocket,” which went to number one. Their first album “Pretenders,” was released in January 1980, to widespread critical acclaim and soaring record sales which took it to number 1 in the UK and into the top 10 in America. The Pretenders had clearly arrived. The strength of the band was in the unique combination of creative forces, led by Chrissie Hynde, and James Honeyman-Scott, and filled out by bassist Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers. Hynde wrote in complicated timings, and was to many a baffling if very fine rhythm player. She was also a sexy and incredibly strong singer. Honeyman-Scott provided the perfect foil, with a sonic palate of suspended chords, effects and syncopated rythms which proved remarkably influential over the next two decades. His strong rhythmic sense and elegant, minimalist texturings have influenced subsequent generations of guitar players. A subtle and profound player, he was the glue that cemented their early sound allowing Chrissie’s voice freedom to rise effortless above.

The original lineup released two albums, Pretenders and Pretenders II, a North American EP, Extended Play, and a handful of singles. By the end of 1981, Farndon’s increasing heroin use strained relations within the band. They finished their world tour in Bangkok in April 1982. Hynde, Scott and Chambers agreed that Farndon would have to go. In a tragic irony, two days after Pete was told the news, in June 1982, James Honeyman-Scott died in his sleep at the home of a friend – the official cause was listed as heart failure due to cocaine intolerance. Less than a year later Pete Farndon injected heroine and drowned in the bathtub.

Earlier this year, the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Neil Young who said the following: ”This is one of the greatest Rock and Roll bands that ever lived. They went through all the heartache that rock ‘n’ roll was built on. They lost two key members, and they never gave up …” Chrissie responded ”I know that the Pretenders has looked like a tribute band for the last 20 years. And actually they are a tribute band. And we’re paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we wouldn’t be here. And on the other hand, without us they might have been here, but that’s the way it works in rock ‘n’ roll."

This exceptionally fine instrument was crafted by Tony Z. at the height of the Pretenders’ fame. The workmanship and attention to detail is unsurpassed. A unique and extraordinary Zemaitis creation and a brilliant instrument owned and played by one of the most influential players of his day.
A Zemaitis Custom "Dragon" electric guitar owned by the Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott
A Zemaitis Custom "Dragon" electric guitar owned by the Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott
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