NEW YORK - The history of rock and roll is a history not just of music but also of charismatic, enigmatic and controversial personalities: James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley. For A Rock & Roll History: Presley to Punk, Sotheby’s has assembled a collection of rare and culturally significant objects that tell the extraordinary story of rock music and the iconic characters who made it.

Elvis Presley’s appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 ushered in the rock and roll generation. Censors insisted that the singer be shown from the waist up after some viewers complained that his movements were too provocative, a move that only contributed to his fame. If his gyrating dance moves were his early signature, then his elaborate jumpsuits were symbolic of his late career. The peacock jumpsuit, first worn on 11 May 1974 at a concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, reportedly became a favorite of Presley’s, who thought peacocks brought him good luck.

roy-orbison-blogGuitar Played and Autographed at Roy Orbison Tribute. Estimate $25,000–35,000.

Few figures were as beloved in the music community as Roy Orbison. Two years after his untimely death in 1988 at just 52, Orbison’s widow Barbara Orbison organized a tribute concert at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. Among those who played in the show were Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty, Iggy Pop, James Burton, Levon Helm and T. Bone Burnett, all of whom signed an Epiphone Sheraton guitar.


Debbie Harry, whose band Blondie, formed with guitarist Chris Stein, took the world by storm with their eclectic mix of musical styles that evoked pop, disco and even reggae. At the height of her popularity, Harry autographed a glossy photo of herself wearing sunglasses, writing the first verse of her hit song “Dreaming” along with her signature.

A Rock & Roll History: Presley to Punk includes nearly 200 dobjects that speak to the full breadth of rock music and its larger-than-life personas.