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John Lennon

 

 

 

John Lennon

 

1940 - 1980

 

 

John Lennon Remembered

 

 

 

 

 

John's Guitar

 

I was in the USA in August 1999 with The Quarrymen and on phoning home, I was astounded to learn that John's guitar was coming up for sale at Sotheby's. The guitar was the one he was playing in Geoff Rhind's famous photo, a Gallotone Champion, actually the second guitar he had ever owned.


The first one being an Egmond like the one George Harrison is playing in the photo on page 25 of "From Yesterday to Today" published by Time Life.

 

As an inveterate haunter of junk shops I had often wondered what had become of John's guitar. I had played it frequently myself and could still recall the way my fingers smelled of smoke afterwards as John was in the habit of parking his still burning cigarette stub on the end of the first string where it stuck out of the tuning peg.

 

But the problem was, how to recognise John's guitar amongst all the hundreds, or more likely thousands of Gallotone Champions, which were snapped up by skifflers way back in 1957. Here I had an advantage. On one occasion, it may even have been at St Peter's Church Hall, John had broken a string and in the process had also skinned the edge of his indexfinger, probably as a result of playing too hard, don't forget we had no amplifiers! He handed the guitar to me to replace the string and took my banjo to play the next number. I noticed that a fine spray of blood droplets from John's cut finger had gone through the sound hole of the guitar and had landed partly on the label (Guaranteed not to split!) and partly on the wood above the label. If I ever found a guitar in a junk shop I was sure I could tell if it was John's or not!

 

When The Quarrymen returned from the US after playing in Boston and Orlando, I contacted Sotheby's who very kindly invited me to examine the guitar. They said they were in no doubt that it was John's because it had come originally from his Aunt Mimi with a letter from her to that effect! I did of course mention the bloodstains but in the circumstances it was quite clear that this was John's guitar. After John's death she could no longer keep it in the house and had given it away to a disabled boy so he could learn the guitar. From him it passed to a young girl, also disabled, and it was her guardian who was putting the guitar up for sale to secure her future.

 

It was a big thrill and a great privilege to see and hold the guitar again. Mimi has had it restored somewhat with the intention of presenting it to John. She had even mounted on the machine head a little brass plate which he had originally given her bearing her famous quotation "The guitar is all very well John, but you'll never make a living out of it". Then came the moment I looked inside for the bloodstains.

 

Yes, they were clearly visible when you knew what to look for. Sotheby's had noticed the marks but had simply thought it was discolouration due to the ageing of the wood. I pointed out that the same marks were also found on the top part of the label, but not on the bottom part of the label or on the wood beneath!

 

With the guitar came an apparently unused guitar tutor printed in 1958, with tucked inside a picture of Lonnie Donegan cut from a magazine. There was also an old leather briefcase that contained another newspaper clipping with photos of various film stars including Brigitte Bardot, John's favourite!

 

In the briefcase was a collection of 78 rpm records which had also come from Mimi. They were ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ / ‘I Was The One’, ‘All Shook Up’ / ‘That's When Your Heartaches Begin’, ‘Hound Dog’ / ‘Don't Be Cruel’, ‘Whole Lotta Living To Do’ / ‘Party’, ‘I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine’ / ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’ / ‘Treat Me Nice’ all by Elvis. Buddy Holly's ‘Peggy Sue’ / ‘Everyday’. Little Richard's ‘Lucille’ / ‘Send Me Some Lovin'’. The Goons ‘Ying Tong Song’ / ‘Bloodnok's Rock And Roll Call’ and Lonnie Donegan's ‘Cumberland Gap’ / ‘Love Is Strange’, ‘Lost John’ / ‘Stewball’ and ‘Alabammy Bound’ / ‘Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O’.

 

This for me was like opening a time capsule, this was the music, which influenced us in 1957 and of course John was a big fan of The Goons, as we all were. I was particularly interested in the records, as in 1957 I had bought from John his copy of ‘Rock Island Line’ for two shillings and sixpence. It had been badly chipped around the hole in the centre where John had carelessly slapped it on the turntable, in fact the hole was so damaged my father stuck a bit of plastic over the hole and re-drilled it so it would not slide about when played. Some of these records were damaged in the same way! I would have liked to have restored this record to the rest of the collection! The Quarrymen still play ‘All Shook Up’, ‘Don't Be Cruel’, ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Lost John’ in our current stage show.

 

Sotheby's kindly allowed me to take some photos holding John's guitar, but alas I was not allowed to tune it up and try to play it. It is possible that the neck might have collapsed and as it eventually went for £140,000 my own neck would have been in a sling! At the auction itself, which was held at the Hard Rock Café in Piccadilly, the eventual purchaser was a Beatles fan from New York, who was absolutely delighted that he had been successful. The collection of records made £750.

 

All in all an extraordinary find for Sotheby's, and so now I have one less guitar to look for when trawling the junk shops!

 

John Lennon's Original Quarrymen are appearing with a whole lineup of top bands at Quarry Bank School on Saturday 26 Aug as part of the Cavern's ‘John Lennon Day’, on the following day, Sunday 27th they will be doing their own show at LIPA, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets for the Saturday are available from The Cavern and for the Sunday show (£10.00) from the Merseyside Welcome Centre. See The Quarrymen's homepages on
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages./davispain for more details, email
davispain@compuserve.com or phone 01895 846707

Rod Davis

John Lennon Remembered

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