Lot 927

Prince | Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints
Prince | Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints
Prince | Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints
Prince | Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints
Prince | Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints
Prince | Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints
+ 23


Stage Played Yellow Cloud 3 Electric Guitar with Magazine, Box Set and Photo Prints


$400,000 - $600,000

Sold Price


NOTE: BIDDING ON THIS LOT REQUIRES SPECIAL REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS Please contact [email protected] or call (310) 836-1818 for additional information to bid on this lot.

A Yellow “Cloud” guitar built by Dave Rusan for Prince, completed in early 1985 for the Purple Rain tour. Distinctive Cloud shape, multiple layers of paint, 25” scale length neck-through-body construction, 22 frets on a painted fretboard with dry transfer “Love Symbol” position markers, a mix of brass and gold-plated hardware, EMG pickups, Schaller 457 wraparound bridge, West German Schaller tuners, and a brass nut. Used by Prince on stage along with three other such instruments from 1985-1993.

Completed for the Purple Rain tour in 1985, Cloud 3 began life as an O’Hagan Nightwatch guitar and presents with correct three-piece neck-through-body construction. Its body was cut down and maple wings were attached and re-shaped to create the signature Cloud shape, based on a bass guitar acquired by Prince in the late 1970s that was designed and built by luthier Jeff Levin under the name Sardonyx. The shape of that bass was an extrapolation of the Gibson F-style mandolin, upscaled for the much larger instrument.

Prince brought the Sardonyx bass to his local Minneapolis music store Knut Koupée, and requested a white guitar version with gold hardware and EMG pickups.. Owned by Karl Dedolph and Jeff Hill, Knut had recently acquired a large inventory of guitars, parts, and tools from the recently defunct O’Hagan Guitars brand which included the completed husks of Shark and Nightwatch guitars. Using the center portions of these husks for the Cloud was the best way to complete the job in the time allotted.

“I was under a lot of pressure to do them quick, and I made everything except the neck,” Cloud builder Dave Rusan recounts over the phone. “I didn’t have a lot of jigs so there are some variations in the scroll carvings, but they’re all really close.”

The O’Hagan guitars used a three-piece neck-through construction, a feature that can be found on all of the original Cloud guitars. Still, some alterations had to be made. As stock, O’Hagan guitars had a humbucker in the neck position, which was filled and re-routed for Prince’s selection of a single coil sized EMG. The original tuner holes also had to be filled and re-located, awith additional wood attached and re-shaped into the instantly recognizable, asymmetrical Cloud headstock.

The unique Cloud control cavity backplate was designed by Gerald Ronning for a personal guitar build in the summer of 1983, a blend of SG and Les Paul plate shapes. Starting with the outline of a Les Paul cover plate, he played with the curves until he devised a shape he liked. He made a template, routed the control cavity and cut the cover plate, and then hung the template on the wall with the rest of the shop's growing collection. These templates would be used for Prince’s guitars –– a unique quirk of the process that persisted on all Clouds.

When the bodies were ready for paint, every original Cloud guitar was finished in the same color at first: white. In later years, when Prince would either damage them in use or demand a change to fit his ever-evolving tastes, they would each be refinished in a number of colors –– and quickly, too. Luthier Barry Haugen, who worked at Knut Koupée from 1984-1992, would often only have a matter of days to weeks to get the job done.

According to Guitar Historian John Woodland, Clouds 1 and 3 had a similar paint trajectory: white, peach, and finally yellow, whereas Clouds 2 and 4 received different paint layers, including blue and black. Each time they were re-painted, the bodies were over-sprayed or stripped entirely if extensive repairs were needed, the frets would be pulled (thanks to Prince’s uncommon preference for painted fretboards) and the fret position markers would be re-applied with a fresh Letraset dry transfer sheet. The position markers included spades, Roman numerals, or Prince’s trademarked “Love Symbol.”

The guitars would use up O’Hagan parts inventory including the Schaller bridges, brass nuts and truss rod covers, and other gold hardware. The guitars used EMG pickups at Prince’s request, and this coupled with the maple body construction added up to a very hi-fi sounding guitar. The potentiometers in Cloud 3 were replaced at some point in 1986.

From 1984-1993 the four original Knut Koupée Clouds had become synonymous with the reserved and idiosyncratic artist who wielded them. Prince played them, coaxed spellbinding sounds from them, and yes, he also threw them. A lot.

In 1992, Prince inked a historic 100 million dollar record contract with Warner Brothers, and Cloud 3 was present and photographed at the signing. As time wore on he became more and more dissatisfied with the contract, eventually changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993.

That year, he donated and gave away three of the four original Knut-made Clouds. He generously donated Cloud 1 to the Smithsonian, where it remains to this day. Cloud 2 suffered a headstock break and was left un-repaired, the same condition as when sold by Julien’s in 2020. Clouds 3 and 4 became promotional items: 4 was given away to a fan at a televised concert in Germany in conjunction with MTV.

Cloud 3, however, was part of a promotion with the New York radio station Z100 and given away to a lucky winner. In a letter dated March 25th, 1993, Z100 promotional coordinator Kath Spellman congratulates the winner and details they’ve also won two front row tickets to The Artist’s concert along with limo service to and from.

Having been previously sold with little information and fanfare, Cloud 3 has now been thoroughly examined and is offered through Julien’s with a full body of research and expert confirmation to back up its authenticity. Through CT Scans taken at Westside Medical Imaging, we can confirm this is indeed the third Cloud guitar, built and now verified by the luthier responsible for its creation, Dave Rusan.

CT Scans verify the guitar’s construction, showing the wood grain patterns of seven separate pieces of wood joined together: three for the neck, two pieces of the original body on each side, then two additional body wings. There is also a filled humbucker rout in the neck position, re-routed for a single coil sized hole, all features similar to Cloud 2.

Viewed under Computed Tomography, the headstock is revealed to have filled symmetrical tuner holes with wood added, then re-drilled. The hadstock angle is measured at 13 degrees, which is consistent with O’Hagan builds. The outlines of the original fretboard dot inlays can be seen in the CT Scan as well as under normal lighting conditions beneath the layers of paint.

On the back, Gerald Ronning’s control plate and cavity designs are present, with pots dating to 1986. Like the other Clouds, 3 features EMG pickups, master volume and tone pots, a three-way toggle switch, and an output jack mounted to the center of the lower bout body scroll with barely enough room for the 9v battery required to power the pickups.

Cloud 3 was originally painted white in 1985 by guitar and amp guru Mark Sampson, who was employed at Knut Koupée. Barry Haugen later stripped and re-painted the guitar in Peach for Prince’s Sign ‘O The Times, and then in “Lemon Yellow Shimrin” at a later date. In the fall of 1991, Ron Tracy painted C1 and C3 side-by-side with the same House of Kolor paint used by Haugen. This is the finish that remains on the instrument to this day, and Haugen still retains the original can of paint in his personal collection.

All of the Cloud guitars originally had a spade-shaped dry transfer placed on its brass truss rod cover. Woodland confirms that Cloud 2 received a new truss rod cover after being damaged in 1988 (while in blue paint) with the number “1” placed on the cover, referring to the preferred number one live guitar. Cloud 3 received the number “3” and is faint but still visible under specific lighting conditions. Like Cloud 4, it’s been rubbed away, but the outline of a 3 identifies this as Cloud number 3.

This guitar was used on-stage by Prince during the following tours: Purple Rain (1985), Parade (1986), Sign of the Times (1987), Lovesexy (1988-89), Nude (1990), Diamonds & Pearls (1992), and was given away during the beginning of the Act 1 tour in 1993. Cloud 3 was prominently used by Prince on the 1988 Lovesexy tour across America where its distinctive deeper input jack swirl, scroll work, bridge location and headstock details are readily apparent in photos from that period.

While many other Cloud guitars have been made by different builders from 1993 - today, Cloud 3 remains a time capsule from what many consider to be Prince’s most recognizable era.

The guitar includes a hardshell case, a Polaroid of a Cloud taken in 1985 at Knut Koupée, a letter of congratulations from radio station Z100 to the contest winner, a letter of authenticity from Paisley Park, a Billboard Magazine which features the contest winner, one Diamonds & Pearls Deluxe Edition 12 LP and DVD box set with 120-page hardback book, and four photo prints by David Gahr of Prince performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City during the Lovesexy tour in October of 1988.

Julien's Auctions | 13007 S. Western Avenue, Gardena, California 90249

Phone 310-836-1818 Fax 310-742-0155

© 2003-2024 Julien's Auctions