George Harrison's Guitar Plays On

George Harrison's Guitar Plays On  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Julien's Auctions.

"I saw a guitar program on TV, and it got into how guitars are phallic and sexual,"  George Harrison said.  "Maybe that's so.  I don't know in my case, but ever since I was a kid I've loved guitars and songs by them."

George grew up daydreaming about guitars, drawing pictures of them in his school books.  He studied record covers thinking some day he might actually own a Fender Stratocaster. 

Then he played his first guitar chord and fell in love.  It was really that simple.   

"I had no ambition when I was a kid other than to play guitar and get in a rock 'n' roll band.  I don't really like to be the guy in the white suit at the front. Like in the Beatles, I was the one who kept quiet at the back and let the other egos be at the front,"  he said

“Forget the bad parts, you don’t need them.  Just take the music, the goodness, because it’s the very best, and it’s the part I give.”
— George Harrison

Every time George picked up a guitar he learned something, something no one could take away from him.  He also understood early on a good player can make any guitar sound good.  But he still relishedthe idea of having a great guitar.     

If George had the money he said the Strat would have been his first guitar purchase.

He remembered seeing a Buddy Holly album cover with a Strat on it and looked all over Liverpool in his early days in hopes of finding one for himself.  He didn't.

He wrote to a friend in 1960 about really wanting to buy a Gretsch.   

Back in Liverpool George saw an ad in the paper.  He ended up buying a Gretsch Duo Jet from a sailor who had purchased it in America and brought it home.  It was George's first real American guitar.  Even though it was second-hand George polished it and was as proud as any new papa could be.    

As the Beatles fame exploded so did George Harrison's guitar collection.  He later added the guitars he is most associated with today, the Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman and Tennessean models.

George loved Chet Atkins' guitar playing.  As a beginner he was always trying to work out how Atkins did it.    

Both John Lennon and George liked the idea of matching guitars on stage.  So each one of them acquired a Gibson J-160E electric-acoustic. 

In 1963 George was visiting his sister in the United States and purchased a Rickenbacker 425 electric guitar.  Then he had it painted black to match John's little Rickenbacker 325.

When the Beatles performed on the "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964 Rickenbacker gave Harrison its new 12-string electric guitar.  George took it back home and used it in many of his recordings including songs in the group's film "A Hard Day's Night."  

Giving and receiving guitars was a sacred act for George and he frequently gave away guitars toclose friends.

"I think people who can truly live a life in music are telling the world, you can have my love, you can have my smiles," he said.  "Forget the bad parts, you don't need them.  Just take the music, the goodness, because it's the very best, and it's the part I give."

On May 15-16, Julien's Auctions, featured a stage played Maton Mastersound MS-500 electric guitar used by George in the summer of 1963.  It sold for $485,000.

The Beatles

Bathrobe; belonging to John Lennon;  $10,625.

Gold Record Award; presented to the Beatles for the sale of more than one million copies of "Get Back";  $10,880.

Butcher Album Cover; first state; 1966 Capitol Records Release; "Yesterday and Today";  $12,160.

Piano; John Lennon played; New England Piano Company; from The Record Plant, New York City;  $25,600.   


Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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