Lennon's Guitars, Part 9

1966: Guild Starfire XII 12-string:  While this writer and his friends milled around in the crowd outside New York's Warwick Hotel on 23 August 1966, in the banquet room inside this one-off guitar was presented to Lennon by Mark Dronge (son of Guild Guitars founder Alfred Dronge), now head of D&R HandMade Strings.  (Read his account of the presentation here.) This guitar, styled like a Gibson 335, featured a special "flamed" maple finish and DeArmond pickups.  An unsubstantiated  report places it in the recording of "Getting Better."  This guitar somehow wound up with Tony Cox, Yoko Ono's first husband.   Cox sold the guitar to the Hard Rock Cafe, Honolulu, where it can be seen, along with a letter of authenticity sent by Guild to Cox in March 1980.

1967: 1966 Vox Kensington: This odd prototype guitar was a gift from Vox and shows up in the "Hello, Goodbye" video session shots (although not in the finished promos), but little else is seen of it save for a photo of Harrison with it rehearsing "I Am the Walrus" during Magical Mystery Tour.   Contrary to other reports, there was only one of these models created.  Mike (a.k.a. Mick) Bennett from Vox made this mahogany hollow-body guitar for the Beatles; after first displaying it at a 1966 trade show (below), Vox took it back to the workshop for the addition of some push buttons for special effects, then presented it to the band.  Not long after, Lennon gave it to "Magic Alex" Mardas as a birthday present, and it is from this collection that it was auctioned at Christies (below)in April 2004.

Note: This guitar wasn't originally designed as part of the Vox Kensington model line but over the years has come to be referred to as such.


Before modifications, at a 1966 trade show

After modifications, at auction

1967: 1965 Martin D-28.  This dreadnought acoustic took its place alongside the Gibson J-160E on Beatles albums, beginning with The Beatles.  Lennon brought it to India in February 1968 and composed on it most of his "White Album" songs.  In December 1969 Lennon took this guitar along on a visit to Toronto, and gave it to rockabilly guru Ronnie Hawkins.  However, a recent inspection revealed that the guitar Hawkins now has is a 1972 D-28.  The Hawk says Lennon's gift "was 'exchanged' by someone I thought was a friend; didn't know 'til lately . . . the way of the world."   Attention scoundrel houseguest:  Shame on you.  Give it back.

Et cetera
Lennon also played other guitars the Beatles passed around, including a Hofner 5140 Hawaiian Standard lap steel guitar (left) he used on "For You Blue" and a Fender Bass VI, a 6-string bass (right) he and Harrison used on The Beatles and Let It Be. It featured three pickups and a vibrato, and he used it for some rather low-end chords on "Dig It." He also briefly owned a Vox "guitar organ" that in time was auctioned off.  And during the '65 tour, Lennon bought a Spanish guitar in, of all places, Spain, which may have been used on Rubber Soul.  Also, as did Harrison, Lennon received a Danelectro Coral electric sitar in 1967; it's never heard on any recording.

Other "Lennon Guitars" 
Around Christmas 1968 Lennon gave Bob Dylan a 1966 J-160E sunburst he'd bought just for his favorite rock poet.  But after Lennon's death, Dylan gave it to guitar tech Cesar Diaz, saying it now gave him bad vibes.  On display at the Hard Rock Cafe in NYC, which acquired it in 1994.

Speaking of the HRC, the one in London has a "vintage '63" Rickenbacker 325 Jet-glo hanging on the wall, ostensibly signed and given to the cafe owner by Lennon.  As all of Lennon's Jet-glos are accounted for, this guitar is a fake.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame erroneously described two guitars in its 2000 Lennon exhibit: a Club 50 it declared was bought in Germany in the early '60s and shared with Harrison, and a '59 Gibson Special they said he played in the early '60s.  Both guitars -- more likely acquired after his Beatle years -- were given to his son Julian in the '70s.

Visit Harrison's Guitars
or  McCartney's Guitars

(c)2000, 2015  John F. Crowley