Saturday, September 26, 2009

John Lennon Makes Gibson Guitar History

By Brenne Meirowitz

Interested in what kind of guitar some of your favorite musicians play, well then here is a bit of Gibson Guitar history for one of my favorite artists, John Lennon. Early pictures of the Beatles in their infamous Cavern Club days portray a rather and rough band of Teddy Boys, sporting leather motor cycle jackets, tight jeans, and fifties style pompadour hair styles - not the iconic, clean cut mop-tops created by their manager, the late Brian Epstein.

When Epstein, then a young music store retailer first heard the Beatles in 1962, their sound was as rough and unpolished as their instruments. With great vision, and as a condition to manage the group, the young Epstein made the brilliant decision to have the group replace their leather jackets and jeans with the now iconoclastic Beatle suits and neo-Arthurian hairstyle. Along with the wardrobe makeover, came a musical makeover, which meant not only a modified sound, but also new instruments.

In Lennon's case, it was a new Gibson J-160E guitar - a Lennon legacy and a very special chapter of the Gibson guitar history. Several colorful myths surround Lennon's guitar; one is that it was purchased with the help of Epstein as co-signer, a second that Epstein bought one each for John and George, and lastly that John nicked it from George. However, the model Gibson J-160E and other Gibson guitars figure much more prominently in the commercial Lennon - Gibson guitar history, than in the Harrison legacy.

Apparently so attached to his Gibson J-160E, rather than replace it, in 1967 Lennon had the veneer repainted in a colorful psychedelic design. Around the time of his marriage to Yoko Ono, Lennon had the guitar stripped down to its original finish, but then proceeded to decorate it with caricatures of himself and Ono on the guitar's body during their 1969 "Bed-In for Peace."

Today, Gibson Guitars along with the endorsement of Lennon's widow offers a replica of the Gibson J-160E, aptly named The Gibson John Lennon J-160E Peace guitar. The Lennon replica looks almost identical to the original guitar - featuring a rounded shoulder body design, a Sitka spruce plywood top; its back and sides are made of mahogany. Gibson can proudly boast that their guitar produces a full-sounding balanced tone with warm, rich lows tones, and crisp, presence-laden highs.

But, wait - there's more to the Lennon association in Gibson Guitar history! In 1999, Epiphone reproduced the natural finish Casino guitar, which Lennon played in the Live in Toronto Concert, naming it the John Lennon Revolution model. A second edition of Lennon's Gibson Casino guitar was reissued as the John Lennon Epiphone Casino, similar to George Harrison's sunburst model.

Are you still waiting? Yes - there's more to the Lennon-Gibson Guitar history saga! Another Gibson homage to Lennon is the Lennon's Junior, which was issued in 2007. The guitar is a modified 1950s Les Paul Junior, which Lennon played at the 1972 Madison Square Garden concert, where he and Yoko reunited. The original, the Gibson P-90 guitar, was finished with a tobacco sunburst and wraparound tailpiece. Lennon had it sanded down to its natural mahogany, and replaced one of the pickups with a Charlie Christian one. Later, he had the wraparound tailpiece replaced with a Gibson tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece.

So, if you are a collector, musician, Lennon fan, or even all three, now you too can own a small part of the Lennon - Gibson Guitar history by visiting a Gibson Guitar store or by ordering online on their website.

Written by, Brenne Meirowitz, B.A., M.S., M.A. This article, John Lennon Makes Gibson Guitar History
was written while researching information for the Gibson Guitar Stop.

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