John Lennon's Guitars, Part 2
1959: Hofner Club 40:  hollow-body, fawn colored electric (vintage unknown):  Although McCartney says in an interview that Lennon and Harrison both bought Club 40s in Hamburg, a photo taken in the autumn of 1959 -- months before their first Hamburg trip -- shows Lennon playing his Club 40 at Liverpool's Casbah Club.  In his book Beatles gear, Andy Babiuk cleverly researched the origins of this guitar.  Apparently, the guitar "Guaranteed Not to Split" had suffered some damage -- and Lennon couldn't be seen playing that purloined Tuxedo -- so the day before that Casbah gig, Aunt Mimi, after considerable pleading, had taken Lennon to Hessy's music store in Liverpool and plunked down a £17 deposit on this guitar and co-signed for it.  Its total price, with hire-purchase charges, was about £30.  Lennon made sporadic payments, and at one point Hessy's account ledger notes "Son in Germany -- mother paying." He played this guitar -- the first electric he's seen with -- until buying a Rickenbacker in Hamburg the following year.  He then loaned this Hofner to McCartney, who restrung it lefty and used it until Lennon sold it, in his words, "at a profit."  Where is this guitar now?  People of Hamburg, check your attics!
 

The Star Club 40 re-issue prototype, right, is authentic except for the control panel and machine heads, but production plans are on hold.  Named for the Star Club, a Hamburg venue the Beatles played, although the Club 40 was never used there. 



Note: Lennon's Club 40 is not to be confused with the Hofner Club included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2000 Lennon exhibit; that guitar, a Club 50 model, is erroneously described as an instrument Lennon purchased in Germany in the early '60s and shared with Harrison.  More likely, Lennon picked it up not long before he gave it to son Julian in '74.

 

 
? 1960 Hofner Senator (f-hole acoustic), "Compensator" tailpiece:  An advert of the period shows this handsome guitar that boasted a "powerful, penetrating tone," and doubtless one of the Quarry Men played one, but was it Lennon?  Mal Evans' widow Lil auctioned this guitar in 1984, saying Lennon had given it to Mal.  She provided a letter to her from Harrison calling it "one of the first guitars of John's going back to Liverpool (1960-ish)."  It went for £15,500 at Sotheby's.  Six years later it was auctioned again and found a home with AEI Music in Seattle, where it was displayed in the lobby, mounted in a brass likeness of Lennon.  Although AEI promotional materials called it the "Abbey Road Studio Guitar" and said it was used in the recording of "Love Me Do," "From Me to You" and "This Boy," these claims will have to be revised, for the Senator likely never saw the inside of Abbey Road, and the songs mentioned were all recorded with Lennon's J-160E.  This guitar was auctioned again at Christies in 2009, when it sold for £205,000.
No photos exist of Lennon playing this guitar, and he never mentioned owning a Senator.  Various "authenticating" auction photos showed Lennon with totally different guitars (a Club 40 or his Epiphone Casino). 

Note:  One Quarry Man who did own a Senator is Ken Brown, and I asked him about it. 
"I do not recall John actually owning one during the time I knew him," he replied.  "He may of course have acquired one at some later stage. I, of course, did own such a guitar."   Brown added cryptically that there was more on the subject in his autobiography, now making the rounds of publishers.   So go figure. 

 
 


 
 Onward to Part 3

(c)2000, 2015 John F. Crowley