George Harrison’s Rare Fretless Electric Guitar goes on sale

George Harrison's guitar

Made by Bartell of California in 1967, this unconventional fretless guitar, which was owned by George Harrison and played by John Lennon, will be offered for sale in the Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia Sale in London. It has an estimate of £200,000-300,000.

Presented to George in Los Angeles in August 1967, the guitar remained in Harrison’s collection until 1984 when it was gifted to the present owner, session guitarist Ray Russell, when they were working together on the music for the Handmade Films production, Water.

The guitar is also believed to have been played by Lennon during an interview that took place at Abbey Road Studios in 1968, as part of The Kenny Everett Show. The interview was typically unstructured and chaotic, and at multiple points, John can be heard playing a guitar in the background of the recording. Everett asks: “What kind of guitar’s that, it’s fairly strange-looking…?” to which John replies “A fretless guitar”. The guitar is later seen in a photograph of Harrison with his guitar collection at Friar Park, near Henley in 1974 – in which the fretless electric guitar is clearly visible to the left of his elbow.

Head of Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia Department, Claire Tole-Moir, commented: “It is a privilege to offer two guitars owned by two much-loved British musical heroes. Although the guitars both date from 1967, their unique designs and pioneering previous owners define not just two generations, but two entirely different genres, making them an important part of British musical history.”