The Story of John Lennon’s Missing Guitar

How do we know it’s his?

By Luke QuintonJune 15, 2015 9:21 am

Half a century ago, John Lennon and George Harrison bought the same guitar: a J-160E Gibson acoustic. But after writing a couple of songs you might recognize – “Love Me Do” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” – John Lennon lost his. Or at least it went mysteriously missing after a gig in England.

Well, against all odds, it’s been found. And it’s actually here in Texas for the next two weeks, at the LBJ Museum, for the “Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!” exhibit. But it won’t be in town long. Lennon’s guitar is about to go on the move again, to a Los Angeles auction house.

But the price tag is staggering for a reason, says guitar expert Brian Harris from Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas.

“There’s no guitar player, living and working, that can’t claim some Beatle influence, either direct or indirect, they touched just about every aspect of music,” Harris says. “This a guitar that has a legacy. This is a guitar that has pedigree. This has been involved in some very influential recordings and performances at a time when a very influential group was really just coming into the height of their powers. You can’t really put a price on that.”

A little bit of J160E trivia:

“Not many people know this, but the J160E was not long for this world with Gibson. they were actually going to discontinue the model, and would have, had The Beatles not shown up playing it.”

Harris on deciding whether it’s the real thing:

“There are a couple of ways [to determine that this is John Lennon’s actual guitar]. The first is by the serial number, every Gibson guitar is assigned a serial number during it’s production. Although that won’t tell you the whole story, because Gibson had an unfortunate tendency to use and reuse serial numbers two or three times. There are other ways, for example, no two pieces of wood are alike, the grain in a spruce top on an acoustic guitar is very distinctive and so that’s one clue. If the grain matches, it could be the same guitar. The other thing is that John had a very aggressive right hand technique, he hit the guitar pretty hard. And he made some very distinctive strum marks, some wear marks, on the face of that guitar that we can match up later. If those three things match up, you’ve probably got the same guitar.”

Listen to the entire interview, and other Q&As from the Texas Standard, on our Soundcloud channel.