George Harrison's first electric guitar tops the bill at Music Icons auction
On 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. Among many items of clothing, handwritten song lyrics and instruments once owned and played by rock's greatest stars is an gem of a find that's not been seen in public since 1965.
The star of the whole 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 megastardom, 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 description continues to describe how 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 instrument was duly given to a group called 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 shredmeisters, the neck joins the body at the 14th fret – making 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 pick guard.
Lot 550 has been estimated to sell for between US$200,000 and $300,000.
Of course, no music icon auction would be complete without the rest of the Beatles joining in. All members of the Fab Four are represented by a rather expensive signed post card (estimated at $5,000 - $7,000), while elsewhere there's a Hofner violin bass signed by Paul McCartney (estimate $3,000 - $5,000), wire rim glasses once owned by John Lennon (estimate $20,000 - $30,000) and Italian ankle boots owned by Ringo Starr (estimate $3,000 - $5,000).
If Seattle grunge is more your style, then who better than the late great Kurt Cobain to serve it up? And if you're not left breathless by an estimated auction price of between $40,000 and $60,000 for a rather special guitar, a prototype of a leftie Fender Jag-Stang designed by Cobain himself might be just the ticket.
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 front-man's untimely death at just 27 years old.
If you don't have that sort of cash going spare but still want a slice of Nirvana history for your mantle, there's a gold record award up for grabs, that marks the sale of over 500,000 copies of the 7-inch single and cassette of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Sticking with the heavy for the moment, the auction includes a signed vinyl album from the voice of Brit-metal and awkward reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne (Blizzard of Oz – estimate $800 - $1,200) and 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).
Moving on to the King of Pop, there's a bunch of Michael Jackson goodies going under the hammer. Highlights include a custom Honda three-wheeler made for the Jackson 5 (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 auction description notes that "it is widely thought that the lyrics of this song refer to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who lead the child abuse investigation against Jackson."
There's also a generous sprinkling of Elvis Presley memorabilia for sale, too, 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 auction catalog includes a number of 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).
Prog rock is represented by Keith Emerson's custom Hammond C3 organ (estimate $10,000 - $15,000), used extensively on stage according to the 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 actually 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."
And there are 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.
We've only selected a few of the items up for grabs at the Music Icons auction that's due to be held on May 19 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York. Hit the source link below for a look at the whole catalog and get yourself a slice of rock and pop music history.
Source: Julien's Auctions