Guitar Aficionado

George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 425 to be Auctioned Off This Week

The historic guitar is expected to fetch up to $600,000.
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By Christopher Scapelliti

George Harrison’s Jetglo 1962 Rickenbacker 425 heads to the auction block this week, where the former Beatle's guitar is expected to fetch up to $600,000.

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The sale will take place at Julien’s Music Icons auction at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan, May 16 and 17. The sale includes numerous other Beatles-related instruments and items.

Harrison bought the Rickenbacker 425 in September 1963 while on a two-week holiday in the U.S. with his brother Peter. The two were in southern Illinois, where they were visiting their sister, Louise. The Beatles were still relatively unknown in the country at the time, though in just three months they would become famous to Americans everywhere with their breakthrough hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

While visiting Louise, Harrison was introduced to a couple of local musicians from a group called the Four Vests. When he mentioned that he wanted to buy a Rickenbacker, they took him to Fenton’s Music Store in Mount Vernon, Illinois, where he purchased the 425, serial number BH 439. Harrison paid about $400 cash for the instrument.

At the time of its purchase, the 425 was in its original sunburst Fireglo finish. At Harrison’s request, the store refinished the instrument in Jetglo, most likely to match John Lennon’s black Rickenbacker and maintain a consistent look for the group’s stage appearances. The refinishing was performed at Fenton’s by the storeowner, Red Fenton.

The instrument was ready in about a week’s time, and Harrison began performing with it almost immediately, using it for appearances on British TV shows Ready Steady Go! on October 4, and Thank Your Lucky Stars in December. He also used the 425 during the Beatles’ tour of Sweden that October.

Given that Harrison purchased the guitar in the U.S., it seems fitting that he used the 425 for the recording of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles’ Capitol Records debut that became their U.S. breakthrough shortly after its release in late December 1963.

At some point in the following years, the guitar was modified with an additional pickup. Then, in the late Sixties or early Seventies, Harrison loaned the 425 to Fourmost guitarist George Peckham for the Merseyside band’s upcoming performance on Britain’s Top of the Pops program. (Peckham was also a famed record-cutting engineer who at the time worked for the Beatles’ Apple Records. His handiwork is evidenced on vinyl records inscribed with “A Porky Prime Cut,” “Porky,” “Pecko,” or some similar inscription in the run-out “dead wax,” and his cuts are considered some of the finest.)

Afterward, Harrison gave the guitar to Peckham, who continued to use it. He later received a guitar case for the instrument from Noddy Holder of Slade, who was distressed by the sight of a Beatles guitar being toted around without a case.

Harrison’s Rickenbacker 425 carries a presale estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It is just part of a cache of Beatles memorabilia offered in the Julien’s auction. Among the items are a circa-1966, left-handed Hofner “Beatle bass” that Paul McCartney rented from Harris Hire in the U.K. and played publicly on numerous occasions. The instrument has a presale valuation of $30,000 to $50,000.