Guitar Seeking Big Bucks at NY Auction

May 16, 2014

Guitar With Mt. Vernon Roots Seeking Big Bucks At NY Auction

By Leigh Williams, Contributing Writer

A guitar that shares its roots with the King City and the Fab Four will be auctioned this weekend and is expected to sell for somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000. According to a history of the guitar’s purchase written by Peter McCormack, George Harrison visited Southern Illinois in 1963 with his brother, Peter, to see their sister, Louise, who lived in Benton at the time he purchased the guitar in Mt. Vernon. Harrison reportedly expressed interest during his two week visit to the area in purchasing his first Rickenbacker 425, which was difficult to locate in England.

“This visit took place at a time when almost nobody in the Mt. Vernon area knew anything about George Harrison. The selection and purchase took place at the Fenton Music Store located at 601 South 10th Street, Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Lester “Red” Fenton operated this music store in 1963 at the time of the sale and continued to be its proprietor until the mid 1980’s. Mr. Fenton died in 1991,” McCormack writes.

Harrison was accompanied by area musician Gabe McCarty, whom he had been introduced to by his sister, and McCarty told him about Fenton Music Store, where he had purchased equipment himself.

McCarty spoke with “Red” Fenton and asked that he give Harrison a “musician’s discount,” which he did, plus a little more.

Although the guitar was originally purchased in Fireglo finish, Harrison asked that the finish be altered to match John Lennon’s black Rickenbacker. According to an announcement of the auction, Harrison played the guitar for only a few months and used it on two high-profile television appearances, “Ready Steady Go!” in October and “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” in December. In addition, Harrision played his piece of Mt. Vernon history during a tour of Sweden. The guitar is also believed to be the same used on “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

The auction announcement further states that during the Beatles’ first trip as a band to the United States, Harrison played a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen made famous by the band’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

“Harrison eventually gave the 425 to George Peckham, who played in Liverpool band the Fourmost, under the condition that it never be modified. The auction comes with letters from Harrison’s office — one of which was signed by Olivia Harrison — and Peckham that confirm that the guitar had belonged to Harrison,” the auction announcement states. The guitar will be auctioned off May 17 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, according to Julien’s Auctions.