Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)

Music

The legendary guitar George Harrison received as a gift

@TylerGolsen

Just by association, every guitar that George Harrison played while in The Beatles became legendary. There were quite a few of them, from his Gretsch Country Gentleman that took off once he appeared with it on The Ed Sullivan Show to the psychedelic style of the ‘Rocky’ Fender Stratocaster that made an appearance in the Magical Mystery Tour film when the band performed ‘I Am The Walrus’. If Harrison touched it, looked at it, or even just had it in his orbit, that guitar would become instantaneously priceless.

Playing the guitar like Harrison took more than just the right gear, but Harrison himself wasn’t precious or exacting about what he used, especially in the band’s early years. Initially using cheaper models like the Hofner Club 40 and the Resonet Futurama, Harrison initially pledged his allegiance to Gretsch when he acquired a Duo Jet during the band’s days at the Cavern Club. From then on, an assortment of high-quality guitars constantly came and went from The Beatles’ stable.

Up until that first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Harrison had remained dedicated to his Gretsch guitars. But while he was in bed resting from illness before the performance, Harrison got a visitor, the F.C. Hall, president of the Rickenbacker instrument company. The Beatles already had a strong association with the brand thanks to John Lennon’s use of the Rickenbacker 325, and now Hall was on a mission to get both Beatle guitarists on board with using the company’s guitars.

Hall had brought along a prototype of a new guitar that Rickenbacker was getting ready to produce the 360/12. The guitar was a part of a showcase that the other three Beatles had attended, during which Hall had also presented McCartney with a right-handed 4001S model bass. When Lennon figured that Harrison might want to give the 12 string a try, Hall rode up the elevator of the Plaza Hotel with the guitar in hand.

Harrison immediately gravitated toward the jangly tone of the instrument. He was giving a phone interview with radio station WDGY in Minneapolis at the time, and when he mentioned that Hall had just brought him the instrument, the DJ on the other line offered to buy it for Harrison. But Hall said that the instrument wasn’t for sale: he wanted to give it to Harrison for free. WDGY would later gift Harrison with a 1965 model of the guitar a year later.

The Beatles were set to begin filming their first feature film, A Hard Day’s Night, just a month after their Ed Sullivan appearance. The need for new songs was imminent, and Harrison decided to use the Rickenbacker 12 string for some of the album’s new songs including ‘I Should Have Known Better’, ‘You Can’t Do That’, and the film’s title song. Although Harrison would largely only use twelve string guitars over the course of two years, the sound became instantly and inextricably linked with both him and The Beatles’ moptop era.