Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar, 1967,

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Lot 160Y
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar,
1967,

Sold for £ 150,000 (US$ 190,892) inc. premium
The Ken (K.K.) Downing of Judas Priest Collection
The Ken (K.K.) Downing of Judas Priest Collection

The city of Birmingham and its neighbouring towns can claim to have played a key role in the emergence and development of British heavy metal music. Following in the wake of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Judas Priest was formed in West Bromwich in the late 60s, with guitarist Ken (K.K.) Downing becoming an early member. After various personnel changes and limited success in the early 70s, the sonic bedrock of the group was established with the twin-guitars of Downing and Glenn Tipton, over which were the distinctive, soaring vocals of Rob Halford. After building up a good live following, their debut album Rocka Rolla was released in 1974 but it was their second, Sad Wings Of Destiny, recorded in late 1975, that really helped to consolidate the band's reputation. They released the single The Ripper and undertook their first headlining UK tour. The band then signed to CBS and the album Sin After Sin, with Deep Purple's Roger Glover as producer, came out in early 1977 and included what was to become a fan favourite, a cover of Joan Baez's Diamonds And Rust.

Two further albums followed and the band's first visit to the US included several prestige concerts, including support to Led Zeppelin at the 'Day On The Green' event in July 1977. A single, Take On The World, from the album Killing Machine, went into the UK Top 20 in early 1979 and later that year came the release of a live album, Unleashed In The East, which arguably put the band into rock's premier league. "This was Judas Priest in their element, dishing out exceptionally manic heavy metal to a captivated audience. Judas Priest's stage act stood as a perfect example of why heavy metal has proved so enduringly popular: it provided participatory escapist entertainment, allowing audiences to rid themselves harmlessly of excess energies and frustrations." (Malcolm Dome, 'Know Your Rites, Rock 'n' Ritual From Judas Priest', an article from The History Of Rock, issue no. 100, Orbis Publishing Ltd., 1983).

1980 saw the release of the album British Steel, with the singles Breaking The Law and United becoming UK hits. Despite the album's mixed critical reception, it reached the UK's Top Five in the charts and gave the band second-billing, under Rainbow, at the first 'Monsters Of Rock' Festival at Castle Donington. The band's success continued through the 80s and they appeared at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for 'Live Aid', 13th July 1985. Three more studio albums appeared between 1986 and 1990 and the seven-month tour supporting the release of Painkiller in late 1990 included the band appearing at the second 'Rock In Rio' festival in Rio de Janeiro, 23rd January 1991, to an audience of more than 100,000.

Following this, singer Rob Halford left the band, to be replaced in 1996 by Tim 'Ripper' Owens, recruited from the Judas Priest tribute band, British Steel. Two studio and two live albums were released with Owens but, in 2003, it was announced that Halford and the band would reunite. They toured Europe in 2004 and appeared at that year's 'Ozzfest'. The reformed Priest issued the album Angel Of Retribution in 2005, winning them a Metal Hammer magazine 'Golden Gods Award' for Best Album. At the first 'VH1 Rock Honors' ceremony in Las Vegas, 25th May 2006, the band were inducted along with Queen, Kiss and Def Leppard.

In the summer of 2009, Priest undertook a US tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of British Steel and released the live album, A Touch Of Evil: Live, with the track, Dissident Aggressor, winning them the Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Towards the end of December 2010, the band announced that their forthcoming 'Epitaph World Tour' would be their farewell tour. However, Ken left the band before the tour commenced. His autobiography, 'Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest' was published in 2018.

Judas Priest were highly influential in the heavy metal genre, both musically and in the area of fashion, with their leather-and -studs look adopted by many metal bands in the 80s. Priest have sold over fifty million records, notching up eleven UK Top 30 albums and named by MTV as the second 'Greatest Metal Band' of all time, behind Black Sabbath.
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Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar,
1967,
mahogany body with red refinish, twin pickups, three volume/tone controls, three-way selector switch, rosewood fingerboard with dot markers, headstock with Kluson Deluxe machineheads and indistinct serial no., in plush-lined, shaped case with piece of tape inscribed Kenny's Flying V Main, tremolo unit in pocket, guitar 40 1/8in (102cm) long

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    The property of Ken Downing.

    This was bought in the mid 70s from Musical Exchanges in Broad Street, Birmingham. Michael Schenker told Ken that he had travelled up from London to buy the same guitar but Ken bought it just the day before. Ken recalls that the finish was somewhat faded at the time of purchase and, after playing it for some years, had it refinished around 1982. This was Ken's main guitar on all albums up to 'Point Of Entry' in 1981. The metal disc to the jack input is a result of the original plastic surround being damaged after the guitar was being thrown around onstage. In the early 2000s, Gibson took detailed measurements of this guitar for use in the production of reissue models, a prototype of which is also included in this auction as Lot 142.
Contacts
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar, 1967,
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar, 1967,
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar, 1967,
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V guitar, 1967,
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