Heres a really cool article written by a great friend of mine. BOB MYTKOWICZ is a fine musician with whom I have had the pleasure of playing in a few different bands. Hes an accomplished guitarist, vocalist, bassist, keyboard player and drummer. Hes also valued by many as a Beatles Authority. I believe his trips to Liverpool and London happen at least twice yearly these days. Heres an article that Bob did for Guitar Player Magazine and he has also given permission for me to reprint it here for those who want to be in the know about these guitars that played such a huge part in the history of the instrument. Many thanks, Bob! – Jack
FAB GEAR – THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE BEATLES by Bob Mytkowicz
I can still see Ed Sullivan standing there saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!” That’s how seventy three million other people and I were introduced to the Beatles. Although I was quite young, the Beatles left an indelible impression on me. John Lennon stood on the right. In his straddle stance, he bounced slightly to the rhythm and strummed a small black guitar. George Harrison in the center, almost hidden behind a large double cutaway guitar, concentrated on his playing. Paul McCartney on the left, the most animated, played a violin-shaped guitar. The drummer, Ringo Starr, perched on a riser behind, broke into an occasional grin.
It is safe to assume that most people see this picture when they envision the Beatles. Press and photo coverage escalated when world fame struck the Beatles in 1964, and most photos show them playing the same instruments. The Fab Four did use this same gear for most of their touring years, but they possessed and used much more. As the Beatles’ studio experience grew, they often tried one of their ever-growing collection of instruments. Of course they also used other equipment on stage as well.
This article is based on photos mostly from the Beatles Book, the official Beatles monthly magazine. The Beatles Book originally ran from August 1963 through December 1969. These original issues have since been reissued, and a new version of the Beatles Book still hits the news stands each month. Beatles Book photographers had more access to the Fab Four than any other photographers. They snapped exclusive shots of the boys in both the recording studio and on stage. This article provides a thorough accounting of the Beatles instruments, however Im sure there are some that were never captured on film. I am confident the equipment photographed was the main equipment they used between 1960 and 1969.
In 1960, the Beatles played Hamburg, Germany for the first time. At this point there were five Beatles John, Paul, and George on guitars, Pete Best on drums, and Stuart Sutcliffe on bass. Only Teisco Del Rey could appreciate the instruments they played then. John used a Hofner guitar, model 126/B. This was a single pickup, blonde finished guitar similar in shape to a Les Paul. George paid his dues on a sunburst Futurama Resonet. It was a poor copy of a Strat. Paul played a Rosetti Solid 7. If Batman played a guitar, this would be the one. It was a solid body, two pickup model with double cutaways. The bat-like cutaways must have been designed with the Dynamic Duo in mind. Sutcliffe used a jumbo Hofner President bass, model 500/5. It was a single cutaway, two pickup, hollow body bass in a shaded brown finish. Best kept the beat on a Premier drum kit with a white pearl finish. Their amps were small nondescript models.
During this trip to Hamburg, John saw Toots Thielemans playing a Rickenbacker guitar. He immediately fell in love with the look and sound of this guitar and soon purchased one for himself. His first Rickenbacker was a 1958 Capri, model 325 finished in the Hi Lustre Blonde color. It had three pickups, a 3/4 scale length, a stock Kauffman vibrato, and gold Lucite pickguards. John soon replaced the original vibrato unit with a Bigsby vibrato. By January 1963, John had his Rickenbacker 325 refinished black. It was still the original, but very beat up blonde finish when the Beatles recorded Love Me Do. When John got this Rickenbacker, Paul adopted Johns Hofner 126/B.
By mid-1961, Sutcliffe left the Beatles and Paul took over on bass. Pauls first bass was a Hofner model 500/1. This violin-shaped bass had a hollow body, came in a shaded brown finish, had two pickups, and had a thirty inch scale length. The 500/1 from this period had a neck pickup and the second pickup centered between the bridge and the neck. Pauls reasons for buying this bass were first, its affordability, and second, its symmetrical shape. At that time, he couldnt afford a Fender Bass. Since he played left-handed, he liked the symmetrical body shape. Paul has stated in past interviews that his Rickenbacker Bass was his first left-handed bass. In every early picture I have seen of him, he played a left-handed bass. He possibly used Sutcliffes right-handed bass until he got his own. All of the six string guitars Paul owned were right-handed models. He just reversed the strings to play left-handed.
Also during 1961, George picked up a Gretsch Duo Jet, model PX6128. His Duo Jet, a late 1957 model, featured a solid body, cloud inlays, a Bigsby vibrato, black finish with a silver pickguard, and two DeArmond pickups. The body style was similar to that of a Les Paul. Georges early influences included Chet Atkins and rockabilly music, so his choice of a Gretsch guitar was obvious. He owned several Gretsch models through the years. George also had a newer model Duo Jet. It had the Neo-Classic or thumbnail inlays, a red top with black pickguard, a trapeze tailpiece, and FilterTron pickups.
By now the Beatles amp situation had improved slightly. Paul used a Truvoice amp, John a late 1950?s tweed Fender Deluxe amp, and George a Gibson GA40T. The GA40T was a 16 watt combo amp containing a twelve inch Jensen speaker. By the summer of 1962, the Beatles employed Vox amplification. John and George used AC30s and Paul a T-60 bass amp. One of their first AC30s had a white tolex covering while the other was black. John and George soon had matching black AC30s. The AC30 is a 212, 30 watt tube combo amp about the same size as a Fender Twin Reverb. The T60, a piggyback model, had a 60 watt solid state head. The speaker enclosure contained one twelve and one fifteen inch speaker.
By September 1962, John and George had purchased matching Gibson J-160E acoustic guitars. This was the start of a trend where the Beatles bought matching guitars. The J-160E was a jumbo flat top guitar with sunburst finish, spruce top and mahogany back and sides, bound body and neck, and crown inlays. It also sported a P-90 pickup at the end of the fingerboard. These were Johns and Georges main acoustic guitars for many years both in the studio and for live performances. Most of the time, John and George used the J-160Es acoustically in the studio. On P.S. I Love You however, they played them electrically. For their live shows, the J-160Es acted mainly as backup guitars, but the Beatle guitarists did use them electrically for numbers like Till There Was You and other ballads. This happened mostly in the early years of touring in England where the Beatles played smaller venues.
As the Beatles prepared to record their first single, Love Me Do, in September 1962, they made a final personnel change. Pete Best was out, and Ringo Starr was in as drummer. Ringo played a Premier drum kit, and at that time, had his own name on the front of the bass drum. It wasnt until the Please Please Me session in November 1962 that he had a Beatle logo on it. This logo was not the distinctive one we are familiar with, but one done in script with antennae coming out of the top of the B. This equipment lineup remained the same through the recording of the Please Please Me LP to the recording of From Me To You in March 1963.
In April 1963, Ringo got his first Ludwig drum kit. This one had the famous The Beatles logo on the front. The finish on this kit was oyster black pearl. The snare was wood and had the same finish. He had several of these kits through the years. Ringo called the first one his mini kit. It saw use on tours and early studio days. It consisted of twelve and fourteen inch toms and a twenty inch bass drum. He used it to look bigger on stage! The later kits had thirteen and sixteen inch toms and a twenty two inch bass drum. To this day, his choice of cymbals is Avedis.
George used his new Gretsch Country Gentleman, purchased by June 1963, for the recording of She Loves You and the With The Beatles LP. The Country Gentleman, model PX6122 was the top model in Chet Atkins line of Gretsch guitars. Its features included a hollow body, gold hardware, the Neo-Classic inlays, double mutes, a Bigsby vibrato, two FilterTron pickups, and a mahogany-grained (dark brown stained maple) finish. In most pictures, Georges Country Gentleman looked black, but it was actually the mahogany-grained finish.
By August 1963, Paul started using a new bass amp. It consisted of a 100 watt Vox amp with his T-60 speaker enclosure. This was necessary as the Beatles were playing larger concert halls. He used this setup through the end of 1965.
George came to the States to visit his sister, in September 1963, where he picked up a Jetglo (black) Rickenbacker 425. The 425 was a single pickup, non-vibrato, solid body guitar. It was one of the lower-end guitars made by Rickenbacker, and George didnt use it that much. The only notable time was during one of the Beatles appearances on Ready, Steady, Go!. Ready, Steady, Go! was the English equivalent of American Bandstand where groups lip-synced to their latest hits.
By October 1963, Paul picked up another Hofner bass. This was the new version of the 500/1. It was basically the same bass, but the centrally located pickup was now in the bridge position. Paul was presented another Hofner model 500/1 in the Spring of 1964. This one had gold plated hardware, and was a gift from Selmer, the English distributor of Hofner equipment.
As the halls got larger and the screams got louder, the Beatles needed more power to cut through the noise. A review for one of their tour dates in the November 9, 1963 edition of Disk, an English weekly pop newspaper, reported: Unfortunately, the non-stop ear-piercing screams drowned the Beatles songs. It was impossible to hear the words. In fact the group had difficulty in making their instruments heard let alone their voices. By the end of November, John and George started playing through Vox AC50 amplifiers. They were specially made for the Beatles by Jennings Musical Instruments. The AC50 is a 50 watt piggyback tube amp with a speaker enclosure housing two twelve inch speakers. John and George used the AC50s through their tour of Australia in June 1964.
January 1964 brought the Beatles to Paris, France for a three week session. On January 15, the first nights show, George used a Gretsch Tennessean, model PX6119. He used this guitar on and off during 1964, and used it exclusively on the Beatles 1965 world tour. The Tennessean was another guitar in the Chet Atkins line, though not as deluxe as the Country Gentleman. It came in a Dark Cherry Red finish and had the Neo-Classic inlays, nickel plated hardware, a Bigsby vibrato, hollow body, and two Hi-LoTron pickups.
February 1964 found the Fab Four in New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. A throat ailment prevented George from participating in most of the sight-seeing/publicity/rehearsal sessions that took place. F.C. Hall, president of Rickenbacker, came to see George and offered him a new guitar. This was the Rickenbacker 360/12 twelve string guitar in the Fireglo (natural to red) finish that George used extensively for the film and LP, A Hard Days Night. This 360/12, made in December 1963, had two pickups, triangular inlays, and binding on both sides of the body and on the fingerboard. This twelve string was the second one Rickenbacker ever made and the first one strung with the high octave strings on top. George was doing a radio interview when Mr. Hall came to see him. He commented favorably to the interviewer about this new guitar, and apparently, the radio station bought it for him for doing the interview.
George played the twelve string on many tracks of the A Hard Days Night LP including, the title song, I Should Have Known Better, and Cant Buy Me Love. The Beatles had already recorded Cant Buy Me Love in Paris. They liked the sound of this new guitar so much that George overdubbed the twelve string onto the existing tracks. The twelve string became part of the Beatles sound, and George used it often on the next few LPs.
Rickenbacker gave John a new Jetglo Rickenbacker 325 during the Beatles first U.S. visit. It was basically the same as his original model except it had white pickguards and the Rickenbacker Accent vibrato. Unfortunately, Johns original 325 was soon stolen. John later acquired a Fireglo Rickenbacker export model 1996. The 1996 was the same as a 325, but it had an F hole instead of a solid top. Rickenbacker also offered a Fireglo Rickenbacker 4001S bass to Paul, but he wasnt interested in buying it.
Soon after the Beatles returned to England, Rickenbacker presented John with another guitar. This was a twelve string version of his model 325. The only difference was the flat tailpiece instead of the vibrato. John used the twelve string on the Beatles tour of Holland in June. He also had it on stage during the American tour that summer. John used a Vox Python guitar strap on this guitar, and later on his model 325. The 1966 Vox catalog described the strap as armored with striking metal plates, and embellished with metal studs. Certainly a heavy metal guitarists dream!
Before the 1964 Summer U.S. tour, Paul had his original Hofner bass refinished to a Fender style three color sunburst. The original small pickup rings were also replaced with larger ones. This bass became Pauls back up. The Beatles also started working on their next LP, Beatles For Sale before the tour. George used the Tennessean for many songs on the LP, including Im A Loser, Words Of Love, Honey Dont, and I Dont Want To Spoil The Party. Photos in the studio showed John and George using the new Vox AC100 amps. The AC100 is a 100 watt piggyback tube amp with a 412 speaker cabinet. From this point, the Beatle guitarists used the AC100s regularly in the studio and for their remaining 1964 and 1965 dates.
By the time of the Beatles Christmas show in December 1964, John, Paul, and George had got sunburst Epiphone Casino guitars. The Casino was basically a Gibson ES-330. It had two P-90 pickups and hollow body construction. The headstock on Pauls Casino, a righthanded model, had the Gibson