The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,

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Lot 127Y
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours,
circa 1958,

Sold for £ 250,000 (US$ 310,371) inc. premium
The Beatles
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours,
circa 1958,
serial number 1126 impressed to rear of headstock, the twin cutaway, contoured two-piece maple body with two-tone sunburst finish, top-mounted jackplug socket, large white plastic scratchplate with Resonet logo to upper bout, three pickups with one master volume control and one tone control and three selector switches, six-saddle bridge and tremolo, one-piece maple neck with rosewood skunk stripe, fingerboard with black dot markers, headstock with three-a-side machineheads, in original Selmer rectangular case with fish skin-effect covering and remnants of three transit labels, several illegibly/indistinctly inscribed, dark crimson plush lining to interior, accompanied by two copies of Beat Instrumental magazine from November and December 1964 in which the guitar was offered as a competition prize, guitar 38½in (97.8cm) long

Footnotes

  • "IT'S A GREAT GUITAR" - George Harrison

    "I started learning to play the guitar when I was thirteen on an old Spanish model, which my dad picked up for fifty bob. It's funny how little things can change your whole life..." - George Harrison

    'Just chuck the word "guitars" into any conversation with George Harrison and you can prepare yourself for a really detailed discussion...' So wrote Tony Webster in his interview with George Harrison for Beat Instrumental magazine in November 1964. George continued: "I bought my first electric job, a big Hofner President, but I soon got fed up with it and did a straight swop for a Hofner Club 40. I thought it was the most fantastic guitar ever, but a short time later solids became all the rage and I bought a Futurama..."

    The Futurama was manufactured by the Drevokov company in Czechoslovakia, originally with the model name of Grazioso, which appeared on the headstock. George's guitar, however, had no such name but just Resonet on the scratchplate, being the name of an electric piano maker taken over by the manufacturer and apparently meaning 'music played in a graceful, smooth manner.' In 1958/59, Selmer began importing the guitar into the UK, in addition to their Hofner range, and re-branded the guitar the Futurama, as Selmer's marketing men thought this was a much catchier name and more appealing to their target audience.

    Like many other aspiring teenage guitarists at the time, George would have seen Buddy Holly's Fender Stratocaster on the cover of the 1958 Chirping Crickets album and had dreams of owning one. (Buddy himself had also appeared at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall in March 1958.) However, a post-war ban on imports of American instruments made the Strat generally unavailable and so the Futurama, loosely styled on the Strat, made an affordable, reasonable quality alternative.

    On 20th November 1959, having recently started as an apprentice electrician at Blackler's department store, George went to Hessy's music shop in Liverpool and took out a hire-purchase agreement on this Futurama, a copy of which is illustrated in Beatles Gear. George recounts how Paul accpmpanied him on this visit to Hessy's in The Beatles Anthology: ''Paul came with me when I bought the Futurama. It was on the wall with all the other guitars, and Paul plugged it into the amp but he couldn't get any sound out of it, so he turned the sound right up. The guitar had three rocker switches, and I just hit one and there was an almighty 'boom' through the amplifier, and all the other guitars fell off the wall.'' Arthur Kelly, George's best friend, quoted in All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In, remembers seeing the Futurama for the first time at the Casbah Club: "George produced his new guitar out of the case. It was the closest he could get to the Strat, simply amazing..."

    George is on record as later admitting that the Futurama was "a dog" to play because of the high 'action' i.e. the strings were an uncomfortable distance from the fingerboard, but in an interview with Guitar Player magazine in November 1987 said: "It had a great sound, though, and a real good way of switching in the three pickups and all the combinations."

    After returning in July 1961 from The Beatles' second Hamburg residency, this time at the Top Ten Club, George bought his black Gretsch Duo Jet and the Futurama was effectively retired. A few years later, in 1964, the front cover of the October issue of Beat Instrumental magazine announced, 'Win George Harrison's Guitar' and on p.13 the competition details described the guitar thus: 'This is the actual instrument he used during the Cavern days and right up to the Beatles' last visit to Hamburg in 1962. It can also be heard on the historic Polydor recording of 'Ain't She Sweet etc.' Competition entrants had to list in order of importance various points for consideration when buying a guitar. The following month's issue featured an interview with George in which he stated: "...I bought a Futurama. This was the guitar which I played right through the Cavern and German Night Club days. Incidentally, I see it's been offered as a prize in a competition which your magazine is running and I hope whoever wins has as much fun with it as I did. It's a great guitar." The publisher of the magazine, Sean O'Mahony, who also edited both this and The Beatles Book fan club monthly under the pseudonym 'Johnny Dean', recalled in Beatles Gear that he had asked the Beatles if they had any unwanted equipment that he could give away as a prize and George gave him the Futurama. The December issue of the magazine gave the competition results, with the winner being an A.J. Thompson of Seaford, East Sussex. At the prizegiving O'Mahony asked the winner if he played guitar and, when told 'no', offered a cash alternative, which was accepted. O'Mahony went on: "I still have the guitar today. There are some Hamburg stickers on the case." These stickers are now substantially worn and torn but one still bears the handwritten letters 'RR', presumably the remains of the word 'HARRISON'.

    This Futurama was played by George on numerous live appearances throughout 1960 and into the summer of 1961, a crucial period which saw The Quarry Men become The Beatles for their first trip to Hamburg in August 1960, undertake their first professional recording session backing Tony Sheridan in June 1961, and in which they forged the sound that would make such an impression on audiences around Liverpool and beyond.

    This is the first time this historically important guitar has been on the market, and is now being offered by a relative of the former editor of Beat Instrumental. It is extremely well-documented in numerous photographs of the band in Hamburg taken by renowned photographers Jürgen Vollmer and Astrid Kirchherr.

    Reference:
    Beatles Gear, Andy Babiuk, Backbeat Books, 2001/2002.
    All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In, Mark Lewisohn, Little, Brown, 2013.
    The Beatles Anthology, ed. Genesis Publications, Cassell & C. London, 2000.
    Harrison By The Editors Of Rolling Stone, 'The Strings Of His Heart', Andy Babiuk, Simon & Schuster, 2002.
    Beat Instrumental, Beat Publications, 1964.
    www.vintagehofner.co.uk
Contacts
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
The Beatles: George Harrison's personally owned and played Futurama electric guitar, used on the famous Hamburg tours, circa 1958,
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