Harrison's Guitars, Part 4
1963: 1962 Gretsch 6122 Country Gentleman (walnut finish) gold hardware, Neo-Classic inlays, dial-up mutes, Gretsch Bigsby vibrato, two Filter'Tron pickups:  In May Harrison upgraded to this more deluxe Gretsch he found at Sound City London, and after removing the mutes -- and later the bass-side screw-up knob -- used it extensively for touring and recording (first on "She Loves You" and then With The Beatles).    It's also seen in the famous Royal Command performance.  When this guitar went into the shop for repair, Sound City gave him another one (below), but while in the shop this first Gent was stolen.  It was later recovered, and Harrison, preferring his second Gent, relegated this one to backup duty.  (Both Gents are photographed together at a November '63 gig.) 

This Gent met its fate on a roadway.  On 2 December 65 the Beatles' limo, bound for Glascow for the first stop of the band's last British tour, hit a bump at Berwick on Tweed.  This first Gent had been lashed to the boot (trunk) and came untied, and it wound up on the road. When Ringo Starr noticed a trucker flashing his lights, he notified the driver, Alf Bicknell, who pulled over.  "You've just lost a banjo back down the road," the trucker told Alf.  Alf broke the news to Lennon, who told him that if he found the banjo, the driver would get a bonus -- he could keep his job.  Alf doubled back and found it -- in pieces -- but kept his job anyway.  As the band was in a hurry, they left the pieces in the road and kept going.



1963: Maton Mastersound MS-500 (vintage unknown): Before Harrison's first Gent went into the Sound City shop, it needed repairs during a May visit to Manchester, where he borrowed this Australian solidbody from Barratt's of Manchester and used it for a few performances.   It shows up in photos from shows at the Grafton Rooms, Liverpool, on 12 June and the Winter Gardens, Margate, in early July.  After that, Harrison reportedly returned the guitar to the shop, where, according to a recent story in the Liverpool Echo, "a few weeks later, Roy Barber, rhythm guitarist for Dave Berry's backing band The Cruisers, swapped his Fender Stratocaster for a Maton at Barratt's store and was told by the owner it was the one recently used by Harrison.  Barber stopped using . . . the guitar several years later and for 20 years it lay abandoned in its case in the attic of his home in Totley, Sheffield.  After his death aged 55 in 2000, Barber's widow Val loaned it to the National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield."  Mrs. Barber, who stated her desire to send her son to Cambridge, put this guitar up for auction in June 2002.  "There is no doubt in anyone's mind that this was the guitar which George Harrison played," Mrs. Barber asserted in the Echo piece, "but it would be great if the person from Barratt's could come forward to verify it 100 per cent."   One eventually did:  Brian Higham, the former manager of the shop, who wrote that Neil Aspinall brought the Gent in for machine-head repairs, a job which Higham did himself.    The guitar didn't go at aution, but a sale was subsequently brokered by Music Ground, which apparently bought the Maton from Mrs. Barber and sold it to Englishman John Marks for £35,000.  Marks explained that he is "collecting famously owned guitars for an investment, and to open a museum in Malta to benefit a childrens charity."  After the sale Marks got another of The Hollies, Eric Haydock, to sign a letter stating Haydock remembers the band's road manager, Johnny MacDonald, being asked to deliver the Maton to Harrison. 
So what's the deal with this guitar?  Physically, it is identical to the one shown in photos, except for replacement control knobs.  Also, there are inconsistencies in stories surrounding its origin: Previously, Barber had claimed he'd received the Maton from Tony Hicks of the Hollies, ostensibly a gift from Harrison; Hicks had denied the story.  And who took possession of the guitar, Aspinall or MacDonald?   Perhaps these points will be sorted out in time, but the weight of the evidence and examination of the woodgrain suggest this is the instrument Harrison is seen playing.  So the next time you're in Malta, look for this guitar.
 

 
 
1963: 1963 Gretsch 6122 Country Gentleman: When his first Gent went back to Sound City for repairs, they gave Harrison this one, identical to his first except for the mutes, which were flip-up rather than dial-up, and Harrison came to prefer it.  Seen on the Sullivan shows and used on the '64 and '65 U.S. tours, this was the guitar for the Beatles' first flush of worldwide success.   What happened to this guitar?  Brian O'Hara of The Fourmost, interviewed by Andy Babiuk, said Harrison gave him the Country Gent during a studio visit at Abbey Road and that he (O'Hara) remembers trading it for something or other.  But in a recent  interview in Modern Drummer, Mark Hudson tells of Ringo taking him to his house and showing him, among others, the Country Gent, which they promptly brought to the studio and used on the song "Satisfied."  I followed up in 2006 with my own interview with Hudson, who confirmed the story.

 
 
1963: Gretsch 6119 Tennessean (vintage '62 or '63):  Harrison found the perfect country-rock twang he'd been looking for when he got this double-pickup, single-cutaway "Type 2" model -- with painted-on f-holes -- late in the year, and before long it edged out the second Gent as his go-to guitar.  It's first spotted at the '63 Christmas shows, later at Carnegie Hall, and used on the For Sale sessions and for tours, concerts and TV appearances well into '65 -- most notably in the opening sequence of the film "Help!" and at the triumphant first Shea Stadium concert that August.  It took a back seat for a while but resurfaced for the Sgt. Pepper sessions.  Where is this guitar?  In the foreward for Jay Scott's Gretsch Book (1992), Harrison says he owns a number of Gretsch guitars, including a "1957 Tennessean, which to me is the Eddie Cochran / Duane Eddy model."  Apparently he's referring to his model 6120, the "Chet Atkins" hollow-body, a gift from his wife, and although in his Guitar Player interview he provides photos of his Gretsches, the '62/'63 Tennessean is not among them.  Likely it was stolen from a storage closet at EMI's Abbey Road studio, along with a couple other guitars.

 
 

The Tennessean saw as much studio and stage action 
as any other in Harrison's stable.

 
 
Onward to Part 5

 

(c)2000, 2012
John F. Crowley