The Beatles: Guitar Heroes 33 – George Harrison’s Maton Mastersound

Share My Guitar is proud to release a special series of guest posts by John F. Crowley about guitars owned by members of the Beatles. Be sure to check out our previous article’s covering the history and impact of these fab guitars.

George Harrison getting ready to rock his Maton Mastersound MS-500!

George Harrison’s Mastersound

Before Harrison’s first Gent went into the Sound City shop, it needed repairs during a May visit to Manchester, where he borrowed this Australian solidbody from Barratt’s of Manchester and used it for a few performances.

It shows up in photos from shows at the Grafton Rooms, Liverpool, on 12 June and the Winter Gardens, Margate, in early July. After that, Harrison reportedly returned the guitar to the shop, where, according to a recent story in the Liverpool Echo, “a few weeks later, Roy Barber, rhythm guitarist for Dave Berry’s backing band The Cruisers, swapped his Fender Stratocaster for a Maton at Barratt’s store and was told by the owner it was the one recently used by Harrison. Barber stopped using . . . the guitar several years later and for 20 years it lay abandoned in its case in the attic of his home in Totley, Sheffield.

Grafton Rooms, Liverpool – August 2, 1963

If the Guitar Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit!

After his death aged 55 in 2000, Barber’s widow Val loaned it to the National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield.” Mrs. Barber, who stated her desire to send her son to Cambridge, put this guitar up for auction in June 2002. “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was the guitar which George Harrison played,” Mrs. Barber asserted in the Echo piece, “but it would be great if the person from Barratt’s could come forward to verify it 100 per cent.”

One eventually did: Brian Higham, the former manager of the shop, who wrote that Neil Aspinall brought the Gent in for machine-head repairs, a job which Higham did himself. The guitar didn’t go at aution, but a sale was subsequently brokered by Music Ground, which apparently bought the Maton from Mrs. Barber and sold it to Englishman John Marks for £35,000. Marks explained that he is “collecting famously owned guitars for an investment, and to open a museum in Malta to benefit a childrens charity.” After the sale Marks got another of The Hollies, Eric Haydock, to sign a letter stating Haydock remembers the band’s road manager, Johnny MacDonald, being asked to deliver the Maton to Harrison.

So What’s the Deal with this Guitar?

Physically, it is identical to the one shown in photos, except for replacement control knobs. Also, there are inconsistencies in stories surrounding its origin: Previously, Barber had claimed he’d received the Maton from Tony Hicks of the Hollies, ostensibly a gift from Harrison; Hicks had denied the story. And who took possession of the guitar, Aspinall or MacDonald? Perhaps these points will be sorted out in time, but the weight of the evidence and examination of the woodgrain suggest this is the instrument Harrison is seen playing. So the next time you’re in Malta, look for this guitar.

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  • Who’s the guy with the beard in the top pic? Is that a the most interesting man in the universe?!

    • P.Melvin Shyturtle

      Neil Aspinall, maybe.

  • Pete Jepson

    The Mastersound wasn’t the only Maton George played. During The Beatles’1963 tour of Australia, New Zealand, George either acquired or was lent/donated (I’m pretty sure it was lent) a Maton 12 string acoustic from a hot-shot guitar music shop in Flinders Street, Melbourne, opposite the Central railway station. He toured New Zealand with this 12 string and it was later returned to the shop. The name of his establishment now eludes me due to the onset of old age. I saw and handled this instrument a day or so after its return and offered to buy it …naturally! Unfortunately, someone beat me to it. I recall that there was substantial pick scarring to the top plate, so George must have hammered buggary out of it. It’s probably still somewhere out there…someone in Melbourne must know something about this item. Perhaps an interesting project for a Beatles historian to track down. A little research would come up with the name of the shop. I have one or two other little pieces of information tucked away in the memory box, if anyone’s interested.

  • James Evans

    Hi
    I remember playing the 1963 George Harrison Marton with Roy Barber.
    He used to leave it at my house in Totley Sheffield when he travelled out of town. He told me the whole story. Pretty much in line with Eric Haydocks letter, Roy was Dave Berry’s guitarist at the time.

    In about 1995, one night after a lot of drinking and playing, and then some more drinking and playing, Roy accidentally damaged my beloved Ovation, whilst I was playing the Marton, he was so upset that he gave the Marton to me. Later that same morning, as the alcohol haze faded, we agreed that I would just look after it for him whilst he was away.
    My son Laurie played the Marton as a two year old and he still plays mean guitar to this day. Me and the old Ovation, have since collected a few more battle scars. Unfortunately Roy did not make it through, a real gem of a fella.

  • James Evans

    Maton

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