Music Icons Auction: George Harrison’s First Electric Guitar Up For BidOn May 19 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York, music lovers and collectors will get their chance to snag a treasure trove of memorabilia linked to rock and pop icons at the Music Icons auction.
Music Icons auction is one of those annual affairs where some sought-after piece of music memorabilia will be purchased for crazy money.
Among many items of clothing, handwritten song lyrics, and instruments once owned and played by rock’s and pop’s most celebrated stars, is a gem of a find that’s not been seen in public since 1965.
The star of the Music Icons auction is undoubtedly George Harrison’s first electric guitar.
When the early Beatles (then called The Quarrymen) moved from acoustic skiffle band to travel on the road to electric rock and pop mega-stardom, George Harrison and John Lennon both took ownership of an almost identical pair of Hofner Club 40 guitars – Lennon first, closely followed by Harrison.
“I got what they call a cello-style, f-hole, single-cutaway called a Hofner, which is like the German version of a Gibson. I got a pickup and stuck it on,” Harrison is quoted as saying in the auction description. “I soon got fed up with it and did a straight swap for a Club 40. I thought it was the most fantastic guitar ever.”
The guitar was given away as part of a promotion for a Beatles tour of Germany in 1966.
Though the Hofner appears to have been autographed by all four band members, it was later determined that a road manager had actually signed the instrument on behalf of the band.
The guitar eventually became a prize and won by the group Faces, for winning a Best Beat Band of Germany competition, and has since been confirmed as the actual guitar once owned by Harrison.
As for the guitar itself, it’s a single cut hollow-bodied instrument with a spruce top and maple back/sides left in natural blond colors.
The Club 40 features a short scale 22-fret neck with rosewood fingerboard and, unlike many of today’s shred meisters, the neck joins the body at the 14th fret – making the top of the neck soloing quite a challenge.
It has just one single coil pickup at the neck, a Hofner trapeze tailpiece and floating bridge and a standout volume/tone control disc to the right of the pickguard.
Earlier, we mentioned anyone hoping to own this piece of music history should expect to plunk down big bucks.
The Music Icons auctioneers, Julien’s Auctions, estimates the Hofner will fetch somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000.
The Beatles are well represented in the Music Icons auction, including wire-rim glasses once owned by John Lennon, estimated to go for $20,000 to $30,000.
If you’re a fan of grunge and the late Kurt Cobain, you’re probably left gasping for breath at an estimated auction price tag of between $40,000 and $60,000 for a unique guitar, a prototype of a leftie Fender Jag-Stang designed by Cobain himself.
The instrument comes with a design drawing penned by Cobain and is one of two prototypes built by Custom Shop Master Builder Larry Brooks. The story goes that it was being readied for shipping out to Cobain as news came in of the Nirvana frontman’s untimely death at just 27 years old.
Sticking with the heavy for the moment, the Music Icons auction includes a signed vinyl album from the voice of Brit-metal and reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne (Blizzard of Ozz – estimate $800 – $1,200), and a large crucifix which can be seen hanging on the great man’s den door at his Beverly Hills home in season 2 and 3 of The Osbournes (estimate $1,500 – $3,000).
The Music Icons auction has a bunch of Michael Jackson memorabilia to satisfy any “King of Pop” lover.
Highlights include a custom Honda three-wheeler made for the Jackson 5 (pictured above, estimate $10,000 – $12,000), a Victory Tour jumpsuit worn and signed (estimate $30,000 – $40,000), a ripped and torn costume from a backup dancer in the epic Thriller video (estimate $2,000 – $4,000), and handwritten lyrics for the song “T.S.” (estimate $2,000 – $4,000).
Of the latter, the Music Icons auction description notes that “it is widely thought that the lyrics of this song refer to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who led the child abuse investigation against Jackson.”
There’s also a generous sprinkling of Elvis Presley goodies at the Music Icons auction, including a signed album from 1956 (estimate $800 – $1,200), an all-rosewood 1968 Presley Telecaster prototype (estimate $90,000 – $100,000), a job application form from 1952 (estimate $6,000 – $8,000) and some X-rays from 1973 (estimate $2,000 – $3,000).
Those last two just going to show that where celebrity is concerned, anything goes.
The Music Icons auction catalog includes some PRS guitars formerly owned and played by Carlos Santana, such as a modified MD prototype, built especially for the guitar icon in 2010 (estimate $4,000 – $6,000) and a Strat-style three pickup creation from 2015 (estimate $4,000 – $6,000).
Bob Dylan’s contributions include handwritten lyrics of 1963’s Blowin’ in the Wind (estimate $50,000 – $70,000), while Eric Clapton makes an appearance on the roster with an early 1960s Epiphone Granada guitar from his Yardbirds years (estimate $80,000 – $100,000).
Apparently, someone will pay up to 70 grand for notes to an iconic song. Note to self: write down everything you’re thinking, especially at a hotel! Well, maybe not at Motel 6.
Progressive Rock is represented by Keith Emerson’s custom Hammond C3 organ (estimate $10,000 – $15,000), used extensively on stage according to the Music Icons auction description, and a slightly battered and bruised Hammond L-111 organ, complete with flight case stenciled “Keyboards, Stage Right” (estimate $3,000 – $5,000).
There’s an ivory jumpsuit (estimate $20,000 – $30,000) worn by Elton John at a concert in Madison Square Garden in New York, November 1974, though the auction description does suggest that the Rocket Man may not have worn it on stage. “It is uncertain whether John wore this costume on stage, but he was photographed wearing it backstage with Lennon, Taylor, and the rest of his band.”
The Music Icons auction has quite a few signed guitars on offer, including a blond Fender Telecaster signed by The Boss (Bruce Springsteen), a 2015 Gibson Les Paul (Tom Petty), a Lucille model signed by the King of the Blues (B.B. King), a standard Les Paul (Joe Walsh), an Ovation acoustic in cherry red burst (Glen Campbell), a limited edition Custom Shop SG signed by The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, a Taylor 110E acoustic (Ed Sheeran), a Custom Quilt Fire Tiger SG signed by AC/DC’s Angus Young, and a Danelectro ’64 that was actually played by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.
There are many more items not mentioned that go under the gavel at the Music Icons auction on May 19 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York. For a complete list visit the Julien’s Auctions website.
For most of us, owning a piece of rock and pop’s history is only a fantasy, but chances are most of the pieces will end up with collectors, and at another Music Icons auction years from now.
We hope they will be well preserved for future generations.