A GUITAR named a ‘holy relic’ of the birth of the Delta blues by legendary blueman BB King will go up for auction in Corsham in March.

The 1933 National Duolian resonator guitar, christened Hard Rock, was owned and played for over 30 years by ground-breaking American Delta bluesman Booker White, whose music inspired the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and The Rolling Stones. In 1967, Booker met 24-year-old English photographer Keith Perry at a blues festival in Newcastle, England and, after the two corresponded, sent him his prized guitar in return for postage and packing costs in 1976.

The guitar became something of a celebrity and was played by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, American Pie singer-songwriter Don McClean, Brian Johnson of AC/DC and former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman.

In 2010, American blues singer and guitarist Eric Bibb released an album called Booker’s Guitar inspired by the story of Booker White and Hard Rock’s journey from 1930s Mississippi to contemporary Newcastle.

According to Luke Hobbs, auctioneer from Gardiner Houlage who will sell the guitar, to his knowledge this is the only authenticated Booker White-owned guitar ever to come to market and is possibly the only one of White’s left in existence.

It is expected to fetch in the region of £80,000–£120,000. Hard Rock comes complete with letters from Booker White, his guitar case with hand-written tag and even some of his metal slides used for playing the guitar.

Luke Hobbs said: “This is a truly astounding guitar backed up by masses of documentation and historic evidence. Not only does it come with its own incredible story, it’s also a direct connection to the mythic bluesman of 1920s and 30s America. It’s no wonder we’re expecting interest from right across the world for this sale.

“Today, Booker White is not commercially known, but if you ask performers like Robert Plant or Mark Knopfler, they’ll tell you how important he was. When I heard his guitar was coming in, I was instantly excited."

He added:"He’s a proper legend – one of the archetypal bluesman. His story is full of poverty, women, guns, prisons and even a late career revival.

“We’ve not auctioned anything like this guitar before. You simply don’t see guitars on the market linked to this era of blues greats. We really are talking about a relic of bygone age before the British blues invasion of the 1960s turned it into the international musical force it is today.”

Explaining why he is selling the guitar after 42 years, current owner and Newcastle resident Keith Perry said: "It was a great pleasure to know Booker White as a friend and I've treasured his guitar for many years, but now feels like the right moment to pass it on.

"It's time for the next chapter in Hard Rock's long and memorable story. I only hope the guitar will be bought by someone who loves and respects it. To me, it embodies the soul of Booker White and music of the blues like nothing else."

The auction will take place at Gardiner Houlgate, 9 Leafield Way, Corsham, on Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 March from 11am.

Booker White’s Hard Rock and hundreds of other guitars will be available for public viewing Monday 11 and Tuesday 13 March from 9am–5.30pm and on the day of the sale itself.