Harrison's Guitars, Part 2

1959: Hofner Club 40 model 244 (vintage  unknown): "A little Hofner that looked like a solid guitar but was actually hollow inside, with no soundholes," as Harrison described it (the left-most guitar in this photo).  He got it in a trade with Ray Ennis of the Swinging Blue Jeans, and has said that he later traded in the Club 40 for "something," but a rare photo shows him with it even after he'd bought his next two guitars.  It differs from Lennon's Club 40 in that its control panel is round instead of rectangular, and the headstock logo is horizontal rather than vertical.  A sentimental Harrison acquired one very much like it during his solo career.  But what of the original? 

In December 1965 some Star Club officials and others from Hamburg attended a Beatles show at the Hammersmith Odeon and reportedly came away with the Club 40, signed by all four Beatles.  What this old guitar was doing at a sold-out Christmas show years later is anybody's guess.  Not long after, in early '66, the guitar was awarded to the winners of the Star Club "best band" contest: The Faces.  A band member, Frank Dostal, still has it stowed away in a German bank vault, but autograph experts contend the signatures are not genuine, more likely signed by Neil Aspinall.   Even if true, still a valuable guitar.

guitars

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The Faces celebrate their Star Club award: George's Club 40?

              A closeup of the guitar in question:

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1959:  Resonet Futurama solidbody electric, red sunburst, vintage c. 1958:  When Harrison went to Hessy's Music in Liverpool on 20 November looking for a new guitar, he was thinking "Stratocaster," but the closest Frank Hessy could come was this sleek three-pickup Futurama (originally called a Grazioso Resonet, manufactured by the Delicia company in Czechoslovakia, and renamed by Selmer, who imported them into the U.K.). The price was a whopping £55, a small fortune in those days.   Its advert bragged it was "made from the finest selected timbers" and was "practically indestructible."  Harrison is seen playing it in pictures of the Larry Parnes audition and the Scotland tour (May-June 1960), and brought it along on the Beatles' first trip to Hamburg later that year. During their second Hamburg trip he used it on their first proper recording session (for Bert Kaempfert, June 1961), which produced, among other tunes, "Cry For a Shadow." A month later the band was back in Liverpool, and the rapidly improving Harrison went looking for a better guitar.  The Futurama "was a dog to play," he recalled in the Guitar Player interview (November '87).  "It had the worst action.  It had a great sound, though, and a real good way of switching in the three pickups and all the combinations."  In the Anthology book, Harrison recalls the day he found this instrument in Rushworth and Dreaper's shop in Liverpool.  "Paul came with me when I bought the Futurama.  It was on the wall with all the other guitars, and Paul plugged it into the amp but he couldn't get any sound out of it, so he turned the sound right up.  The guitar had three rocker switches, and I just hit one and there was an almighty boom through the amplifier, and all the other guitars fell off the wall.  My mother signed the hire-purchase agreement for me . . . "  Records show that Brian Epstein eventually paid off the account on this guitar.  What happened to the Futurama?  In '64 Harrison gave it to Beat Instrumental magazine to raffle off, but the winner decided he'd rather have the money, so publisher Sean O'Mahoney paid the man and kept the Futurama, and he still has it.

A photo of a similar vintage Futurama shows more clearly the push-button pickup switches and the Stratocaster styling that appealed to young Harrison.   [It's not known whether Fender took issue with the advert (above) that declared the "automatic" Futurama had "the most revolutionary guitar design in years."]

 
Onward to Part 3

(c)2000, 2015 John F. Crowley