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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