Man Finds John Lennon’s Forgotten Guitar in His Father’s Attic

The 12-string instrument, which is going to auction in late May, spent 50 years hidden away in the British countryside

John Lennon and Guitar
John Lennon plays the rediscovered 12-string Framus Hootenanny guitar. Julien's Auctions / Emilio Lari

An acoustic guitar once played by Beatles legends John Lennon and George Harrison has been rediscovered after spending 50 years in an attic in rural England. Soon, the Framus 12-string Hootenanny guitar will be hitting the auction block. 

Lennon and Harrison both played the instrument while making the albums Help! and Rubber Soul. Listeners can hear it on songs such as “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “It’s Only Love,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Norwegian Wood” and “Girl.” Lennon also plays the guitar in the Beatles’ Help! movie.

“Finding this remarkable instrument is like finding a lost Rembrandt or Picasso, and it still looks and plays like a dream after having been preserved in an attic for more than 50 years,” says Darren Julien, co-founder and executive director of Julien’s Auctions, in a statement. “To awaken this sleeping beauty is a sacred honor.”

Help! Guitar
The guitar, which had been sitting in an attic for 50 years, has been restored and is now playable. Julien's Auctions

Lennon reportedly gave the guitar to fellow musician Gordon Waller, half of the pop duo Peter and Gordon, who then gifted it to its current owner. He stored it in his home—and while he spoke of it often over the years, he assumed it was lost, per a video from Julien’s. During a recent move, his son found it in his father’s attic.

Julien traveled to the United Kingdom to see the guitar in person. With the help of Beatles historians, he confirmed that the instrument was the real deal.

“The woodgrain of a guitar is like a fingerprint in that no two guitars are the same,” Julien tells the Guardian’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas. “Not only is the woodgrain a perfect match to the guitar that John and George are playing, but so is the pickguard, which can be exactly photo-matched.”

Beatles in studio
Both George Harrison and John Lennon played the 12-string guitar, which can be heard in numerous Beatles songs. Julien's Auctions / Beatles Photo Library

According to another Julien’s statement, an attic is “one of the worst places to store a guitar,” as it will likely be exposed to heat and humidity. While the instrument was in good aesthetic condition, it was no longer playable. Auction house officials had a decision to make: They could keep the guitar as is, meant for display, or they could repair it.

The team chose the latter. “At the end of the day,” they wrote, “we saw no other way forward: Musical instruments are meant to make music, and a guitar of such importance to music history deserves to be made whole.”

Lennon’s guitar isn’t the first Beatles instrument to be rediscovered this year. A Höfner bass that Paul McCartney played at the height of Beatlemania was recovered a few months ago. After a campaign to find the instrument, which had been stolen in the ’70s, McCartney was finally reunited with his beloved bass.

Lennon's guitar and Paul McCartney
John Lennon's 12-string Help! guitar in front of Paul McCartney Julien's Auctions / Beatles Photo Library

Julien’s will sell the Help! guitar on May 29 and 30 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York. The sale will also feature other music memorabilia, such as a Kurt Cobain handwritten setlist, a Tupac Shakur lyric book and a Versace outfit from Tina Turner.

The auction house hopes the instrument will exceed its estimated price of $600,000 to $800,000 and potentially make history. The current record holder for the most expensive Beatles guitar is Lennon’s Gibson J160E, which sold for $2.4 million in 2015.

“Our expectation is that this guitar will be in the top five most expensive guitars ever sold at auction,” Julien tells the Independent’s Roisin O’Connor. “It’s likely the last chance for someone to buy and personally own an iconic John Lennon/George Harrison guitar.”

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