The Beatles: Guitar Heroes 17 – Paul McCartney’s ’63 Hofner 500/1 Bass

Share My Guitar is proud to announce a new series of guest posts by John F. Crowley about guitars owned by members of the Beatles. Each week we will unleash another article covering the history and impact of these fab guitars.

Paul McCartney picking on his ’63 Hofner 500/1 Bass Guitar

The 1963 Hofner 500/1 bass

Hofner had updated its violin bass in ’62, and in ’63 gave one to McCartney. First use: Ready, Steady, Go! broadcast, 4 October.

Variations from his first bass include the neck (two-piece rather than three-piece); machine heads (two-on-a-strip open-back as opposed to single open-back “rugby ball” tuners); pickups (“staple-top” rather than “diamond logo,” with one of the two moved nearer the bridge); headstock logo (horizontal script rather than vertical lettering); body (round back rather than flat), and fretboard dot inlay (to the 21st fret rather than the 19th).

Although by ’65 he’d switched largely to the Rickenbacker bass for studio work, McCartney appeared and recorded with this Hofner from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” through Let It Be and beyond.

Some time in 1966 he removed the pickguard, and its last Beatles action was the Apple rooftop session, complete with a “Bassman” sticker from his speaker cabinet. McCartney resurrected this bass at Elvis Costello’s request for Flowers in the Dirt, and later for tours, comparing it to Charlie Chaplain’s cane: “You just expect to see it.”

The ’63 Hofner Today

McCartney had strap buttons added so he’d no longer have to “dog-clip” one end to the tailpiece and tie the other end around the heel and under the fretboard.

This old workhorse still has the set list from the ’66 tours taped onto it; it reads “Rock & Roll,” “She’s a Woman,” “If I Needed,” “Tripper,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I Feel Fine,” “Yesterday,” “Wanna Be,” “Nowhere Man,” “Paperback” and “Long Tall.”

Like this post? Then you won’t want to miss the other awesome posts we have planned. Subscribe to Share My Guitar and get new posts delivered daily…for FREE!

  • It doesn’t get much cooler than Macca and the hofner 500/1…


    Have an unusual artist oil painting on canvas of Paul McCartney dated 1956.
    The pose in abstract pose form shows the lefty with his Hofner, but wait, I don’t believe
    he had a guitar in 1956. His father gave him a horn. It seems as if the artist
    had some sort off ESP or vivid imagination to put on canvas this abstract
    similarity. [TOP PHOTO]
    Tried to contact Paul’s publicist in England and did, but he did not return a call
    for Photo reprint permission. Want to show the similarities of the two.
    If anyone out there can help please contact me at

  • Ros Stean

    I love my ’63 Hofner 500/1 Reissue. For the last three years, I’ve tied the strap under the fretboard and used the strap button on the bottom of the bass. I thought I’d see how the clip would work, and found that I like it a lot more than using the button. It makes the bass rest against my body a lot better, and also helps me see the freboard better. You ’63 owners know what I mean.

  • Sonny Crockett

    The Hofner that Paul uses now wasn’t his first. If I am correct and I think I am, his first Hofner was a 1961 model with pickups mounted close together towards the neck, than the 1963 model, with the second pickup mounted closer to the bridge. This bass was sidelined for the 63 model but resurrected for the “Revolution” video and was used during the filming of “Let It Be” when it was stolen. The 63 was brought in (bassman label) and used till this day.

    “No….I DON’T know where Tubbs is!”
    Sonny Crockett

  • John Crowley

    Yes, I pointed all that out in the above article.

  • That 63 Hofner looks great. That is one awesome setlist taped to its back too.

  • Peter Hodgson

    Hello there, Paul removed the set list from the Hofner Bass in 1997.
    It had started to go yellow, he has put the set list away in storage.

    Peter Hodgson

    ps Do an image search on google peter hodgson/paul mccartney There you will see a picture of me with Paul, with me holding his Hofner Bass

    • Hi Paul, Interesting about the set list! I guess all things begin to break down with time (myself included) 😉 I hope that list ends up in a museum at some point back on the hofner. I checked out the pic of you with Paul… and the Hofner, awesome! Thanks for the info and hope all is well in Liverpool.

  • david bailey

    hi i own a hofner violin bass dad bought it for me in 1972 it cost about 90 pounds i have gigged with it in the 80s i hada a 1980s wb but sold it in 1998 i also have a gibson eb1 violin bass from the earky 70s sir macca was abig influence in the 60s when i was akid

  • CD

    FYI, Macca’s second violin bass was not a 1963 model; it was a 1962 model given to him by Hofner in 1962.

  • Beatle Fran

    Great write up. Was always mesmerized by that bass as a kid. It was unique and stuck out amongst the other guitars. Plus the fact that it was a LEFTIE!!! Was it also featured in the COMIN’ UP video?!! Are their cheaper replicas available for sale??!!

  • CD

    Oops, I meant a 1962 model given to him by Hofner in 1963.

Subscribe to SMG Podcasts!
Download the latest show
from iTunes >>>