For reasons that may never be revealed, Prince was not playing guitar in the final months before he died. Some have speculated that the weight of the guitar on his shoulders and back was causing some pain, others have said that he was suffering from pain in his hands. The Piano & A Microphone tour was entirely focused on, well, his voice and his piano accompaniment. During his DJ party at Paisley Park on 17th April 2016 Prince showed off his latest custom made guitar but said that he couldn’t play it at the moment because he needed to concentrate on his piano playing.
All this means that possibly the last guitar Prince ever played, and certainly the last one he played in public, was this unlikely instrument – a white Collings 290. It was owned by Steve Morgan, a luthier in a guitar store in St. Paul, Minnesota. Steve was playing with a band at a Ray Charles tribute event at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre on March 12th 2016, and Prince was in attendance.
Prince made his way to the stage and after a quick discussion with Steve, he asked to take the Collings 290, he played along with the band, and then left the stage as quickly as he arrived.
Mick Sterling, producer of the Ray Charles show recalled to the BBC:
“We’re playing, and the piano player Scottie Miller is doing a great solo. All of a sudden I hear a guitar, and I’m thinking it’s our guitar player Steve Morgan, but it’s not. Then I look … and there’s Prince, playing the solo. You know, Prince can play any style, but he played this beautiful, lots of space blues, and it was perfect. He just kept playing the solo, so as the bandleader I’m saying ‘keep going, keep going … you know, as long as you wanna go, Prince.'”
The Collings is a strange choice for Prince, especially given that there was a spare Telecaster on the stage. My guess he chose it because Steve Morgan has been playing it – so it was plugged in and tuned up, and meant Prince could enter with the minimum of fuss.
The Collings 290 is not a cheap guitar at close to $3000. It has a solid Mahogany body and P90 pickups as standard, although it looks like Steve Morgan may have changed the pickups in his. The high cost is apparently justified due to the quality of the electrics. Although $3k may be out of reach for some musicians, it’s not an unreasonable price to pay for a guitar…….until that is, Prince picks up and plays it. This guitar has been listed for auction with a guide price of $60k – $80k. At the time of writing the bid is at $47k.
I can understand paying a high price for a guitar Prince owned – but a guitar that he picked up and played for a few minutes?
[update] The Collings final selling price was $156,250