Julien’s to auction guitars, estate property of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, Oct. 18-19

Steely Dan Walter Becker

Auction catalog cover, courtesy of Julien’s Auctions

LOS ANGELES – Julien’s Auctions will present “Property from the Estate of Walter Becker,” a two-day celebration of the musical artistry of famed Steely Dan co-founder, co-songwriter, bassist, producer and guitarist, on October 18 and 19 live at The Standard Oil Building in Beverly Hills and live online through LiveAuctioneers. Rocking the auction stage will be an exceptional and massive collection of the jazz rock legend’s stage-played and recorded guitars made by D’Angelico, Sadowsky, Gibson, Fender, Martin and others as well as amplifiers, speakers, recording gear and ephemera.

Known for his sublime and immediate identifiable guitar tone, his intimate knowledge of the tools of studio and stage, and his unique, impeccable ear, Becker is heralded as one of the most potent forces in popular music of the last 50 years.

“Julien’s Auctions is thrilled to offer this exceptional collection of musical instruments and gear owned and cherished by Walter Becker, the co-founder and creative genius of one of the most acclaimed and visionary bands of all time, Steely Dan; Becker was also a solo artist of uncommon uniqueness and creativity,” said Darren Julien, CEO/President of Julien’s Auctions. “Walter Becker was legendary for his unique sound, curiosity, knowledge, and high audiophile standards… he took pleasure in experimenting musically to develop perfect sonic landscape that would best support his creative and musical intentions. This extensive and wide-ranging collection reflects all of these characteristics — and more — that helped make Walter Becker one of the most talented and respected all-around musicians and sonic connoisseurs of his generation.”

Steely Dan Walter Becker

Walter Becker’s D’Angelico guitar and Bogner amplifier. Image courtesy of Julien’s Auctions

Born February 20, 1950 in Queens, New York, Walter Carl Becker began his legendary collaboration with songwriting partner and fellow jazz aficionado Donald Fagen while they were students at Bard College and bandmates under a variety of names including the Don Fagen Jazz Trio, the Bad Rock Group (or the Bad Rock Band), and The Leather Canary. During this time, the revolving musicians collaborating with them included future comedy star Chevy Chase. After graduation, they toured with the group Jay and the Americans and had their music featured on the soundtrack of Richard Pryor’s film, You’ve Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You’ll Lose That Beat.

In 1971, Becker and Fagen moved to Los Angeles where they formed the band Steely Dan with guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder and singer David Palmer. They created a distinctive sound unlike any other of its time: a unique blend of rock, jazz, pop and R&B musical styles, with sophisticated, ironic lyrics containing obscure literary and cultural references. They immediately gained critical and commercial success with their debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill (ABC Records, 1972), establishing a reputation and cult following for their masterful recording and studio production achievements that became revered by critics, musicians, fans and audiophiles as one of the most sonically and creatively sophisticated pop acts of the 20th and 21st centuries. The album’s hit singles “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In the Years” topped the Billboard singles charts at No. 6 and No. 11 respectively and along with “Dirty Work” (sung by Palmer) became instant classic rock staples.

After Palmer’s departure, Donald Fagen became the lead singer of the band’s subsequent albums, Countdown to Ecstasy (ABC Records, 1973) — containing the classic rock hits “My Old School,” “Show Biz Kids,” and “Bodhisattva,” — and Pretzel Logic (ABC Records, 1973), which produced the band’s most successful single, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (charted No. 4 on Billboard). It was also the first Steely Dan album to feature Walter Becker on guitar (who had previously played bass), an instrument which he continued to record on for several releases through 2003.

Steely Dan’s refined studio recordings featured some of the finest studio musicians of the day including vocalist-percussionist Royce Jones, The Doobie Brothers’ vocalist-keyboardist Michael McDonald, session drummer Jeff Porcaro of Toto and R&B and jazz stalwarts David Sanborn, Tom Scott, Michael Brecker, Chuck Rainey, Paul Griffin, Larry Carlton, Bernard Purdie, Phil Woods and Wayne Shorter among others. Their next album Katy Lied (ABC Records, 1975), — containing their hits “Black Friday,” “Bad Sneakers,” “Doctor Wu” and “Chain Lightning” — went gold, and The Royal Scam (ABC Records, 1976) produced their first Top 20 hit in the UK with their single “Haitian Divorce.”

But it was the release of the band’s sixth album, Aja (ABC Records, 1977), that would solidify Becker’s and Fagen’s reputation as songwriting and studio recording masters. The U.S. Top Five charting album, featuring top jazz luminaries including Larry Carlton, Victor Feldman, Wayne Shorter, Tom Scott and Lee Ritenour, won the Grammy for “Engineer – Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical” and produced the hits “Peg,” “Josie” and “Deacon Blues.” Aja also became one of the first American LPs to be certified platinum for sales of over 1 million albums. In 1978, their song “FM (No Static at All)” — the title track from the FM (Universal Pictures, 1978) film soundtrack — hit the top 40 and for the next two years the band began recording their album, Gaucho (MCA Records, 1980), which produced their No. 10 hit single “Hey Nineteen” on the pop charts and a third engineering Grammy Award for Steely Dan’s renowned sound engineer, Roger Nichols. After the band’s dissolution in 1981, Becker worked mainly as a record producer for an eclectic collection of artists such as Rickie Lee Jones, Lost Tribe, Michael Franks, and China Crisis, plus a stable of diverse jazz artists including Pete Christlieb and Warne Marsh, LeeAnn Ledgerwood, Bob Sheppard, John Beasley, Andy LaVerne, and Jeremy Steig.

Steely Dan Walter Becker

L to R: Walter Becker’s Model No. 1 Sadowsky guitar, and 1957 Fender Duo-Sonic guitar. Image courtesy of Julien’s Auctions

In 1993, Becker and Fagen reformed Steely Dan, toured frequently, and recorded together, with Becker producing Fagen’s second solo album, Kamakiriad (Reprise, 1993), and Fagen co-producing Becker’s debut solo album, 11 Tracks of Whack (Giant, 1993). They also released their whole catalog to date as the CD boxed set, Citizen Steely Dan (MCA, 1994), and a live CD, Alive in America (Giant, 1994).

The release of their first studio album in 20 years — Two Against Nature (Giant, 2000) — garnered four Grammy Awards including Best Engineered Album – Non-Classical, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group with Vocal and Album of the Year. In March 2001, Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003, Steely Dan released Everything Must Go (Reprise) their ninth and final studio album, with Becker singing lead vocals on a Steely Dan studio album for the first time. In 2008, Becker released his second solo album, Circus Money (5 Over 12), in collaboration with musical luminary, Larry Klein. From 2003-2017, Becker would play sold out tours and concerts around the world with Steely Dan until his death at the age of 67 on September 3, 2017.

Hundreds of guitars, amplifiers, effects pedals and a collection of rare and iconic recording equipment will be on offer, including:

an original signature model #1 Sadowsky guitar, which went into production while Becker played this prototype extensively on stage (estimate: $10,000-$15,000);
a fine early example of an Excel model archtop guitar, hand built by luthier John D’Angelico, with a spruce top and maple body with a sunburst finish, fitted with a Grover DeLuxe tailpiece, ebony bridge and fretboard (estimate: $10,000-$15,000);
a fine and rare Senorita S.6 model guitar manufactured briefly in the mid-1930s by Bacon Banjo (estimate: $10,000-$15,000);
a double cutaway strat-style Hahn guitar that was one of Walter Becker’s favorite stage instruments, with a distinctive green sparkle and fitted with a solid maple neck above three single coil pickups (estimate: $8,000-$10,000);
a 1961 Fender Stratocaster electric guitar with double cutaway alder body (estimate: $10,000-$12,000);
a 1952 or 1953 Gibson JS-200 Custom jumbo sized flat top acoustic guitar with sunburst finish (estimate: $8,000-$10,000);
a 1928 Martin 00 size flat top guitar with mahogany body and neck, a herringbone-banded spruce top inlaid with an unusual but likely original pickguard, ebony bridge and fret board with split diamond inlay (estimate: $8,000-$12,000);
a 1955 Gibson ES-5 archtop electric guitar with natural finish maple body and spruce top (estimate: $8,000-$10,000);
a 1958 and 1959 Fender Precision Bass (photo above left) (each estimated: $8,000-$10,000);
a 1965 Fender Jazz Bass in its original, now yellowed Olympic White finish (estimate: $8,000-$10,000);
a 1957 Fender Duo-Sonic electric guitar which is being played by Walter Becker in a photograph used in the liner notes to the 1977 Steely Dan album Aja (estimate: $4,000-$6,000);
a James Tyler Classic model solid body electric made for, and played often by Becker (estimate: $3,000-$5,000);
an extensively stage played Ian Anderson Standard electric guitar (estimate: $3,000-$5,000);
an early Bogner Ecstacy 100B amplifier head which was a favorite of Becker’s, along with its various successors (estimate: $2,000-$3,000);
a Satellite amplifier head made for and used extensively by Becker (estimate: $1,000-$2,000);
and a custom MESA/Boogie open back 2X12 speaker cabinet which featured prominently as part of Becker’s on-stage rig (estimate: $500-$700) and more.


Friday, October 18th, 2019
Session I: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time
Session II: 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Saturday, October 19th, 2019
Session III: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time
Session IV: 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers. For more information, email info@juliensauctions.com or call 310-836-1818.

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