Beatle's guitar tops bill at showbiz auction Harrison’s Gibson SG was sold for $567,000
George Harrison's Gibson SG Guitar
NEW YORK - A guitar played by George Harrison of the Beatles was sold for $567,500 Friday, topping the bill at what auction house Christie’s said was its biggest ever sale of show business memorabilia.
The Gibson SG electric guitar, played by Harrison from 1966-1969, was the star attraction among over 400 lots, ranging from guitars and clothing to scraps of paper signed by stars.
The guitar, which had a pre-sale estimate of $500,000, was used while recording the Beatles’ “Revolver” album. John Lennon also played it on what is commonly known as “The White Album”.
The Beatles guitar was recently rediscovered and has been on loan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2002.
Harrison gave the guitar to Pete Ham of Badfinger and after Ham’s death in 1974, it was stored away for 28 years by his brother John Ham. The guitar was found during preparations for a Badfinger retrospective at the Hall of Fame in 2002.
THE RED almost for CHRISTMAS GUITAR
This story was brought to the surface by the recent news item above concerning the auction of George Harrison's '66 Red SG at the insane price of over 1/2 a million dollars. It made me recall my first "good " guitar which was red also and actually the progenitor of what George Harrison once owned. I am convinced that if George and I had a conversation today about it, he would say I got a much better deal for $230.00 even if it was all the way back in 1961.
I can still recall the second I first saw it. It was a Friday evening, December 15, 1961. Christmas fell on a Monday that year and was just 10 days away. I was in Patchogue, Christmas shopping with my Mom and Grandma Spooner. I'm not sure if my brother Butchie was with us that night , I think he was, but the reason I say I'm not sure is because once I saw it..... that was all I really thought about. I knew my Mom was with me because I wouldn't of been in Patchogue on a Friday evening at age 13 without a parental unit...and as for Grandma Spooner, I'll never forget her being with us for reasons soon to be revealed.
We were heading down South Ocean Avenue along the west side of it . We had just passed the music store where I got my first two guitars and uke. Funny thing is I don't think I ever knew the name of that place. I'm not sure why we continued on down that side of South Ocean Avenue (perhaps the optical store?) but just past the South Bay Fish Market was Irv's other wise formaly known as Patchogue Music Center. This was before they moved across the street to where it still is today although Irv's son Joe changed it to Family Melody Centers when he went whole hog into the Piano & Organ biz.
Irv's was known as the place that sold the major brands of guitars like Fender, Gibson and Gretsch. The stuff I had dreamed about but mostly saw only in catalogs. Even at Irv's back then most of it was kept in cases away from view? But this night he had a major show stopper in his window. It was sitting on a stand surrounded with cotton snow and there was a red spotlight on it. It was a Gibson "New Les Paul" model. I was familiar with the original Les Pauls having plunked on Frankie Campbell's Goldtop model in 1958, but this looked nothing like Frankie's Goldtop at all.
THIS ONE WAS RADICAL AND IT WAS RED!!!!!!!
Although the Fender Strat and Jazzmaster was on top of my list and my bandmate / neighbor Doug Percoco's list for the last six months ...(we had started a band in April that year) mainly thanks to The Ventures, this guitar was the most different looking thing I had ever seen. We didn't go inside, but I didn't stop talking about it either.... All Week Long......and finally the next Friday night my grandmother said something to my Mom like... Kenny should have that red guitar... I can loan him the money and he can pay me back out of his band earnings... She didn't even know how much it was...nor did I...But our little six piece band The Islanders were working someplace just about every weekend...AND WE HAD A BIG MONEY NEW YEARS EVE GIG COMING UP AT THE MASTIC BEACH FIRE HOUSE TO BOOT!
So Saturday morning, two days before Christmas we treked back into Patchogue. I remember trying it out in a little teaching studio and it was incredible. It was the same overwhelming feeling I got as when Frankie Campbell handed me his Les Paul in the Lyon's Den in 1958 except now three years later I could actually play the thing. The only thing wrong was when you pressed the vibrato arm down the strings raised in pitch instead of lowering. I thought it was something defective and Irv did too (it was just strung wrong) and he said he would order me another guitar from the factory rather than selling me this one. It didn't really matter because Grandma was going to have to put it into Lay Away anyway. Even though I knew I wasn't going to have it for Christmas, the fact that it was in my future was all that mattered and mostly all I would think about for weeks on end. My actual big Christmas present that year was an Aurora Slot Car set. Bandmate Adolph Almasy also got a slot car set that year, A Scale Electrix I believe, but we spent much more time playing music together than we ever did with the toy race cars.
My grandma made monthly payments on the guitar with her Social Security money and I was giving her most of my band earnings. The guitar which cost $230.00 less case and tax was almost paid off and the original "display" model was long gone. So going into the store in January and February of '62 to make payments wasn't that much fun as I couldn't visit it. Around St Patricks day my new instrument arrived and we went in to look at it and make one of the last payments. It was a shocker when they opened the case. It wasn't the same guitar! ........... oh it was red allright and it had a vibrato but this one "worked" totaly in a new and different way....Also the pickups did not have the black plastic covers the original one had (P-90's) This guitar was the Les Paul Standard as the one in the window was a Les Paul Special (cheaper model) This one had nickel chrome "Humbuckers" What I didn't know at the time were they were the yet to be legendary Gibson PAF pickups which simply meant Patent Applied For. These pickups in another decade would become worth far more than the entire guitar was. As for the sideways vibrator they were kind of an engineering mistake....they didn't work very well at all, but I didn't care, I was ready to bring it on home... A hardshell case would have to wait for a while though. I carried it in my old chipboard case with a pillow under it. But before March was out I was playing it withThe Islanders.
A funny but not funny thing happened the first day I got it home. Larry Schulz came over to try it out and we were both passing it back and forth. After he left I got out my polish and special cloth to wipe it down and gasped when I saw the back. One or both of us had gouged a part of the back with the rivets in our Levis. It really didn't matter who did, the fact was it had these impressions in the wood where the guitar back made contact with our hip. It left an indelible photo in my mind that I really never forgot.
The Islanders started out with 6 kids from Mastic & Mastic Beach. Eddie Ianetto on drums, Adolph Almasy on accordian, Doug Percoco guitar, Pete Morano Tenor Sax, Bill Clausing alto sax and me. By the fall of '62 though petty kid stuff between Doug and myself had split the band up. I went on into playing with much older guys in various bands for a year or so. There were many adventures both on stage and off for me and my red Gibson. Then in the fall of '63 Doug and I got back together buried the hatchet and started planning a new band. It finally pulled together in the spring of 1964 and we called ourselves The Continentals after Angie Misciagno and Norman Cavaliere's old Floyd School combo that was no longer around. We spent a year working in one night club The Palm Terrace.
In 1965 Doug went with the group Sonny Stiles and The Kingsmen and I hooked up with a group of college guys at Adelphi (now Dowling) and found myself in a band called the Strangers. I was starting to double on portable organ too. One day on an impulse I took my Red Gibson over to Irv's (I was living in Patchogue then) and traded it in on a candy apple red Fender Jaguar.... within an hour I realised I had made a mistake The Fender was good for Surf only and went back to get my old Gibson but it was already sold .....Irv had put it in the window and he said he never saw anything go so fast.......I stayed with the Fender for another few months but wound up trading it in on another Gibson that became sort of a rare bird too.... a ES345-Stereo guitar. By now I was only playing guitar in the band about 50% of the time because The Rascals came along in the summer of '65 and changed everything for bands on LI. Six months later I too was sitting behind a huge Hammond Organ which is where I stayed for 5 years.
In the early 1970's my sisters boyfriend introduced me to a friend of his that also played guitar. We got together to jam and CHRIST ALMIGHTY he takes out his guitar and it looks just like my old Red Gibson! As soon as I turned it over I knew from the gouges it was mine!!! And the serial number sealed it. Well needless to say I wanted it back and he didn't seem to have any qualms about selling it to me. We struck a deal for $350.00 good guitars always appreciate.... and I told him I would need a week or so to get the money together. He said no problem.... the guy was really non chalant..... well I call him up to come and get it and the SOB had sold it. He wouldn't tell me who he sold it to and I never saw it again......
When we had our music store, The Clearwater Guitar Gallery in Florida in the 1980's I had several chances to buy one like it but was totaly into acoustic instruments then. At the time they were selling for around $750.00 They only made them with Les Paul's name on it for one year. His endorsement contract with Gibson ended and the guitar became simply known as The SG model... which stands for Spanish Guitar. I guess I should of bought all I ever saw and stuck them away. This one below which is identical to the one I owned is on the market now for $15,000.00 which to me is still ridiculous.... but $567,000.00 !!!!! .... no wonder the buyer wants to remain anonymous.... who wants to be thought of as crazy?
He's got more dollars than sense!
THE ALL NEW LES PAUL STANDARD FOR 1961
THE ISLANDERS 1962
HIGH SCHOOL DANCE FEB 1964 THE START OF BEATLEMANIA
THE PALM TERRACE JUNE 1964
HARD DAYS NIGHT
These are the only photos I know of that were ever taken when I owned the guitar from 1962-65. I can't believe I never got one in color. The one in February of 1964, was taken a week after the Beatles invaded, which is why there are those silly wigs on our heads. We are playing The Sweetheart Ball at the William Floyd High School (biggest dance of the year) . L to R : Adolph Almasy, Doug Percoco and skinny old me. We weren't really a band anymore, just friends who once were in The Islanders together. Bottom pic is taken in early June of '64, when I was in an official R&R bar band "The Continentals". We played at the Palm Terrace, an infamous club on the outskirts of Riverhead for a year . It was frequented by local eastern Long Island potato farmers and airmen from Westhampton Air Base. The amps are in front of us as a first line of protection from the fights. L to R: from Mastic Beach, Doug Percoco on Bass, also from Mastic Beach, the late Frankie Aiellio lead singer, From Smithtown, Johnny Potts on the champagne colored Ludwig Drums, from Mattituck, Richie Robbins, who quit soon after this pic was taken and over on the far side the former Mastic Beach and now new Patchogue resident me.
"I TOLD YA TO HANG ON TO IT... HELL I GOT A CLOSET FULL OF THEM !!! " Les Paul 1987
I would get to meet Les in 1987 when I was working for Gibson in Nashville. I gave him a tour of the factory and we swapped a few stories along the way. Always a wild and crazy guy, he had a wooden purple banana in his handkerchief pocket gave me a huge a poster for Erik . I told him Vaya Con Dios was my grandma's favorite song and Les signed my 1954 album Ken "Keep Up The Good Work" It sits framed and on the wall in my writing room.
Anna Olsen Spooner
Oct 8, 1888 - Dec 11. 1970
IN 2008 I GOT ME A NEW ONE IT TOO CARRIES LES' NAME ON IT