The Beatles: George Harrison and his 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet Electric Guitar
1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet semi-solid mahogany body, black finish, silver pickguard; Serial #21179
Harrison found this one through a member of a band called the Delacardoes, who got a tip from a taxi driver. The driver, Ivan Hayward, was a former merchant seaman who was planning on emigrating and had decided to sell the Gretsch Duo Jet he’d bought at Sam Goody’s in New York City in 1957.
“God knows how I managed to get 75 quid together,” Harrison recalls in the Anthology book. “It seemed like a fortune. I remember having it in my inside pocket, thinking ‘I hope nobody mugs me.’ “
As it turned out, he only had Â£70 at the time and had to leave an IOU for the balance — which he never got around to paying. The Duo Jet sported “humped block” inlays, a Bigsby vibrato and two single-coil DeArmond pickups. Harrison used this sturdy, stylish beauty for the early singles, the Please Please Me sessions and innumerable shows in Hamburg, at the Cavern, the Casbah and throughout Britain until late spring ’63. Then, after getting a swankier Gretsch, Harrison gave this instrument to Hamburg mate Klaus Voormann, who changed one pickup and hung on to it for about 20 years before giving it back to Harrison.
Pictured above is Gretsch’s authentic G6128-57 reissue.
Sometime in late ’85 or ’86 this guitar was sent to guitar tech Alan Rogan, who gave it to luthier Roger Giffin for the rehab work. “I had to rewire it,” Giffin recalls, “because true to form with old Gretsch guitars, the original wiring was disintegrating.” Rogan “was working with George on and off at the time. He also brought in a ’50s Strat and George’s original Rickenbacker 12 string. I refinished the Strat matte black (I’ve seen George playing that in a video) but I’m not sure what I did to the Rickenbacker.”
Regarding the Duo Jet, Melvyn Hiscock recalls that Giffin also “had a spare DeArmond pickup which he fitted and generally gave the guitar the once-over. I was Roger’s shop manager and was there when all this happened. I even got to play ‘Twist and Shout’ and a few other Beatle tunes on it.” Harrison put the restored Duo Jet to use on Cloud Nine (1987), whose cover it graces.