The Beatles: Guitar Heroes – Revisited

Here is the first in a series of guest posts by John F. Crowley about guitars owned by the Beatles. Last year we unleashed a new article each week. If you missed them then, have a look now and check out the guitars that made amazing music and read a bit about the fantastic history!


JOHN LENNON’S 1958 Rickenbacker 325

Purchased in 1960: 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri (5/8 scale, hollow-body electric). Serial No. V81: The Holy Grail of guitars. Lennon bought this “short arm” guitar, with a natural finish, gold pickguard and Kaufmann vibrato, on the Beatles’ first trip to Hamburg, after he saw jazzman “Toots” Thielmans playing a Ric model on an album cover. Later in 1960, in Hessy’s Music, Chris Huston of The Undertakers mounted a Bigsby B-5 vibrato and “bow tie” bridge (for more on this operation, click here). At the same time they replaced the “oven” knobs with new ones from Curry Electronics. Somewhere along the line, Lennon disconnected the middle pickup, and in September ’62 had it painted black. In his well researched piece Baby’s In Black, Peter McCormack tracked the job to a subcontractor, Mr. Derek Adams, and suggests the refinishing was part of Brian Epstein’s effort to spruce up the band’s look. But another source credits the refinish to coach painter Charles Bantam, who reportedly sprayed the Rickenbacker with black coach paint while the band took a brief holiday. Later inspection led Ron DeMarino (below) to speculate the finish had been brushed on! So perhaps we’ll sort out this point in time. At any rate, in ’63 Lennon changed the knobs again when he had some electrical work done by Burns of London.


Lennon played this guitar onstage and in the studio right through to the first Sullivan show (below) and the Carnegie Hall shows (2/12/64), then, except for a bit of work on Beatles For Sale, retired the beat-up workhorse. In 1972 he had it restored to its natural finish by Ron DeMarino of New York, who also replaced the tuners and cracked pickguard. (Read DeMarino’s account here.) This guitar may very well have made its final appearance during the Double Fantasy sessions, as producer Jack Douglas and Yoko Ono both confirm seeing it in the studio. There is also speculation that Lennon used this guitar on Yoko’s “Walking On Thin Ice” in December 1980, the last piece of music to which Lennon contributed. Regardless, as guitar aficionado Frank McLallen wrote: “That guitar . . . from Hamburg to the Plaza in New York City, and a national broadcast on the Ed Sullivan Show — doesn’t get any better.” This priceless instrument, recently displayed at the Lennon museum in Japan, is now owned by Sean Lennon.

CLICK HERE to revisit the complete series of Beatles guitar posts!

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