Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V Medallion guitar, 1971,

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Lot 161Y
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V Medallion guitar,
1971,

Sold for £ 81,250 (US$ 102,162) 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 Medallion guitar,
1971,
mahogany body and neck with dark cherry finish, number 233 from a limited edition of 350, two pickups with three volume/tone controls, three-way selector switch, rosewood fingerboard with dot markers, headstock with Grover machineheads and indistinctly stamped Made In U.S.A., in plush-lined, shaped case with tape repairs and rope handle, guitar 44 1/8in (112cm) long

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    The property of Ken Downing.

    This was bought shortly after Ken acquired his '67 Flying V in the mid 70s. It was played on albums such as 'British Steel' (1980), and can be seen in the video for 'Breaking The Law', the single taken from that album. It also features in the 'Screaming For Vengeance' 30th anniversary DVD of the band's performance at the 'US Festival '83'. Judas Priest appeared on the 'Heavy Metal Day' of the Memorial Day weekend Festival, San Bernadino. This came after the band had finished the North American leg of the 'World Vengeance Tour', which lasted some six months and took in over 100 venues in the U.S. and Canada.
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Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V Medallion guitar, 1971,
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V Medallion guitar, 1971,
Ken (K.K.) Downing/Judas Priest: A Gibson Flying V Medallion guitar, 1971,
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