Pssst, Hey, Beatle

I love this photo. It was apparently taken during the final British tour in late 65. It shows the guitars we all associate with JP&G but what's that in the upper right? It's a stoptail 345 is what it is and it was George's main stage guitar for that tour

When I watched the Ed Sullivan Show on that February night in 1964, I was actually already very interested in their guitars. I recall getting right up close to the (black and white) screen and trying to read the name on the headstock of John’s guitar. It sure looked like “Rickenbacker” to me but who had ever heard of a Rickenbacker? George’s Gretsch Country Gent was easy to recognize and Paul’s Hofner bass was just plain strange. Being a Beatle would have meant that you could play any guitar you wanted and I’ve always found it interesting to try to get into their heads when it came to their choices. As far as I know, none of them ever owned a 335 but all three of them owned Epiphone Casinos which, frankly, was not a

This photo was taken in Sheffield, England in December of '65

particularly high end guitar. Casinos, like ES-330s, could be fairly problematic at high volume. The feed back easily and I’m guessing if you’re a Beatle, feedback was not something you wanted beyond the opening note of “I Feel Fine.”  I also found it interesting that in the mid to late 60’s I was playing essentially the same guitar that they were. I had a 63 ES-330 for a number of years. But there is an ES that’s much less well known that counts as a Beatle guitar. It’s a sunburst stoptail ES-345 that George bought some time in 1965 and began playing in November of that year. He began using it as his main stage guitar after his second Country Gent fell off the back of their van and was run over by a truck in 1965. The 345 looks to me to be a late 63 or a 64. It was pretty common for higher end guitars to be purchased a year or two or even three years after they were shipped. Especially in the UK.  They toured for much of 1965 (that was Shea Stadium if you’re old enough to remember) but the 345 didn’t hit the stage until very late in the year. The Beatles did their final British tour in December of ’65 and George began it with his beloved second Gretsch Country Gentleman. After the aforementioned incident involving a truck ( or a lorry, if you want to be culturally correct), George brought out the 345 and used it for the rest of the tour along with his Rickenbacker 12 string. After the tour ended around Christmas, the guitar wasn’t seen in public again. I have no idea what happened to it but I like to think that maybe it’s one of the ones that passed through my hands over the years.

There certainly aren't a lot of photos of George's 345 and while George looks unusually absorbed in his playing here, I know exactly what he's thinking. "hey, this Varitone doesn't suck all the tone out of this one."

Wait a second, isn't that George with a long guard dot neck? It is but the guitar belonged to Joe Brown of Joe Brown & the Bruvvers. Apparently, the Beatles were the opening act in sometime in 1963 and Paul's brother Michael snapped this photo. All these guitars have to be somewhere.

3 Responses to “Pssst, Hey, Beatle”

  1. Joe says:

    Great to pic–notice the Strat there, too. Probably George’s. I’ve often wondered what happened to that 345, Lennon’s Strat (same color as George’s), Paul’s left-handed Jazz Bass, and the infamous Esquire from Sgt. Pepper. BTW, the 345 shows up in the series of promotional videos the Fabs made at the end of ’65. I believe the 345 is featured in the Day Tripper vid. It’s on the DVD version of the Anthology series, which I have. I’ll look for it and let you know if I find it.


  2. bassame says:

    Thanks Charlie for an interesting and evocative entry for us oldsters. I also dig that top photo – I notice a Stratocaster standing there in the midst.

  3. OK Guitars says:

    Yes, it looks like it’s a custom color with a matching headstock. I know that John and George each had a Sonic Blue one (wouldn’t you like to find one of those?) but I don’t know of any others. The camouflage is sort of extraordinary. I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out.

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)