George Harrison owned and played many guitars in his career, particularly in his time after The Beatles, when he amassed a sizeable collection. This post simply aims to catalogue the important electric guitars George used during the Beatle days, with a little information about each.
Please note, there are a couple of items missing from the list, because their importance in Beatle history is negligible or debatable, such as the Coral Sitar-Guitar or Gretsch custom 12-string which George owned in the 60’s. Additionally, the guitars are not necessarily presented in the order they found favour with George.
Bought on hire-purchase beginning November 1959. George’s first Beatle guitar. Eventually, George gave this guitar up as a prize to a Beatle fan competition.
Gretsch Duo Jet.
George’s “first good guitar”. His Gretsch Duo Jet is a 1957 model, bought in 1961 in Liverpool second-hand. This was his main guitar through the Hamburg and Cavern Club days, and he took it to America and Europe with him when touring in 1964.
Gretsch Country Gentleman.
In 1963, George acquired his first Gretsch Country Gentleman, owning a second before the year was through. The two models are almost indistinguishable from each other apart from the different methods of strung muting. His first employed a pair of “screw down” mutes either side of the Bridge, while the second, a newer model, was fitted with “flip up” mutes, which could be activated by switches placed in the same position.
George picked up a Rickenbacker 425 when visiting his sister in the US in 1963. Although he didn’t use it as much as his other Rickenbackers, he liked it enough to have a second pickup installed later.
1963 was a good year for George’s guitar collection. He picked up a Maton while one of his Country Gents was being repaired, and retained it for at least a few shows.
During their run of Christmas shows in 1963/64, George gained a Gretsch Tennessean. He would use this guitar prominently through 1964/65.
Rickenbacker 12 strings.
In 1964/65, George would acquire two Rickenbacker 12 strings. The first with a flat top and front and back binding, and the second with rounded contours and binding on the rear only. It appears (visible in the third image above) that the contoured model had a stereo output, while the earlier one had a regular single output jack.
Fender Stratocaster “Rocky”.
During the recording of the “Help!” album in 1965, George and John each bought near identical sonic blue Fender Stratocasters (they would later both use them to record the solo on “Nowhere Man” in unison). George’s would later receive a handsome paint job and the name “Rocky”, becoming one of his most famous guitars after it’s appearance in the Magical Mystery Tour film.
After admiring the Epiphone Casino Paul bought the previous year, John and George each acquired their own in 1966. All three were easily distinguishable by different bridges or tremolos, and Paul’s had an older-style headstock shape.
In late 1965, George was reportedly loaned a Gibson ES-345 by one of the Moody Blues, after one of his Country Gentlemen was lost off the back of a car between gigs. Whether the loan is a fiction or not, he certainly used one around this period, but not for long, and although it appears in a surprisingly large number of clips and live performances given it’s time frame, he seems to have either ditched it or given it back. Perhaps consistently with the fact that it wasn’t actually his, It’s also rumoured that he never recorded with it.
George bought a new guitar for the “Revolver” sessions. A humbucker-fitted Gibson SG with a Vibrola tremolo system. Perhaps influenced by Eric Clapton’s use of a similar guitar at the time. This guitar would share the position of George’s favourite guitar with his Stratocaster, until it was replaced by a gift from Clapton himself…
Gibson Les Paul “Lucy”.
In 1968, Eric Clapton returned from a trip to the US with a gift for George; A Cherry red Gibson Les Paul, which George named “Lucy” after redheaded actress Lucille Ball. This guitar would replace the SG, which became unused and was given by George to Pete Ham of the band Badfinger. “Lucy” would find it’s way back into Clapton’s hands (briefly) when he used it to record the guitar solo on “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” for the White Album sessions. Used heavily for George’s remaining time with the group, it would also later provide the lead sounds (under George’s fingertips) for (amongst others) the song “Something” on Abbey Road.
Fender Rosewood Telecaster.
Finally, in 1969 Fender gave George a prototype all-rosewood Telecaster. This became his main guitar for the Let it Be sessions (making history as George’s instrument for the infamous rooftop concert at the film’s climax) and likely found it’s way onto Abbey Road as well.