George Harrison, dubbed as “the quiet Beatle,” has had a long and illustrious career influencing modern music through his guitar playing. As one of the premier guitarists of his time, Harrison added the finishing touches to every song with a simple majesty.
What guitar did George Harrison play? During his time in the Beatles, George Harrison popularized the Rickenbacker 360/12, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul, and many others. Harrison’s favorite guitar was the 1961 Fender Stratocaster that he called “Rocky.” Harrison handpainted his Stratocaster with its famous rainbow custom finish during the Sgt. Pepper’s recording sessions.
George Harrison’s Guitars
1956 Egmond 105/0
In 1956, George Harrison received an Egmond 105/0 guitar known as an Egmond Toledo. In the U.K., Egmond guitars were marketed as Rosetti, and Harrison’s specific model was a Rosetti 276. In 2003, the guitar sold at auction for £276,000.
Hofner President F-Hole Acoustic
George Harrison purchased a Hofner President F-Hole Acoustic guitar in 1958. He used that instrument through the early stages of his career. Still a member of The Quarry Men at the time, he performed with the guitar at his brother Harry’s wedding reception. It was believed Harrison traded this guitar for a Hofner Club 40.
Hofner Club 40 Model 244
In 1959, Harrison acquired his first electric guitar: a Hofner Club 40 Model 244. He used this guitar for The Quarrymen performances and The Beatles’ early shows. Harrison’s early guitar is a single-cutaway hollow-body instrument with a spruce top, maple back, and sides in a natural blond finish with black body binding.
1958 Futurama Grazioso Resonet III
In late 1959, Harrison went to a guitar shop hoping to buy a Fender Stratocaster, but it was not in stock, so he settled for a Futurama instead. This model was the closest substitute to the Stratocaster that he desired. Harrison had difficulty using the guitar before he finally became accustomed to it.
1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet
The first electric guitar owned by George Harrison was a Gretsch Duo Jet. In the summer of 1961, Harrison paid £75 for a used Gretsch Duo Jet guitar from 25-year-old former Cunard Line merchant seaman Ivan Hayward.
The guitar was given to bassist Klaus Voormann by Harrison in 1963. After reacquiring the Duo Jet from Voormann in the mid-80s, Harrison posed with it on the cover of his hit 1987 album, Cloud Nine.
1962 Gibson J-160E
In June 1962, Harrison and Lennon ordered matching Gibson J‑160E acoustic-electric guitars from Rushworth’s Music House in Liverpool. They had to wait for the instruments to be shipped from the United States.
Once the guitars came, George and John immediately used their new Gibson guitars to record the group’s first single, “Love Me Do,” backed with “P.S. I Love You” at EMI’s Studio Two in Abbey Road on Tuesday, September 4, 1962.
1962 Gretsch Country Gentleman
In mid–1963, Harrison switched to a 1963 Gretsch Country Gentleman with a walnut finish and gold hardware. The Beatles were using this guitar when they first achieved widespread international success. In particular, this guitar can be heard on their first-ever performance of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the U.S.
After the iconic performance, sales of Gretsch guitars skyrocketed to over 20,000 guitars per week. This helped usher in a new age for manufacturers.
1963 Rickenbacker 360/12
George Harrison introduced the 12-string guitar to popular music with his 1963 Rickenbacker 360-12. In 1964, Francis C. Hall, owner of the Rickenbacker company, met the Beatles at their Savoy Hotel in London and showed them some new instruments—including the prototype Rickenbacker 360/12.
Harrison had not joined the meeting, but Lennon did, impressed by the new guitar. Lennon thought that the 12-string guitar would be perfect for their lead guitarist. Harrison received the guitar and started playing it after returning from the Sullivan shows in ’64.
1961 Fender “Rocky” Stratocaster
In 1965, John Lennon and George Harrison purchased matching Sonic Blue Stratocasters. During the Sgt. Pepper’s recording sessions, Harrison transformed his Stratocaster by painting it in rainbow Day-Glo colors and naming it “Rocky.”
On June 25, 1967, Harrison played his “Rocky” Strat during a televised performance of “All You Need Is Love” on a program called Our World. The first live television event to be broadcast globally via satellite, it was seen by an estimated 400 million people in twenty-four countries—the largest audience ever for any television program.
1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino
In 1966, George Harrison and John Lennon purchased Epiphone E230TD Casinos from McCartney’s lead. Lennon’s guitar had the standard trapeze tailpiece, while Harrison’s had a Bigsby tremolo tailpiece.
The Epiphone Casino was a thin line hollow-body guitar that debuted in 1961. Fashionable among blues players at the time, including BB King and Eric Clapton, it quickly became the instrument of choice for Harrison and Lennon. The two can be seen using their matching guitars on the BBC television show Top of the Pops in 1966.
1957 Gibson “Lucy” Les Paul Standard
Harrison received this Les Paul guitar from Eric Clapton in August 1968. Harrison named it “Lucy” after the red-headed Lucille Ball. He then took it right to the studio and recorded the outtake “Not Guilty,” which was included on the White Album. It had previously been owned by John Sebastian and Rick Derringer.
One of the most famous electric guitars in the world, this unique Gibson Cherry Red Les Paul was originally a Goldtop. The manufacturer repainted in vivid cherry red before being sold as a limited edition instrument.
1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster
In 1968, Fender added a solid-rosewood Telecaster and Stratocaster to its line of guitars. As part of the publicity campaign for the instruments, Fender gave George Harrison a prototype solid-rosewood Telecaster.
Harrison used the 1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster during the sessions for Let It Be and Abbey Road and the rooftop performance footage included in the 1970 documentary film Let It Be. In December 1969, Harrison gave this guitar to Delaney Bramlett.
Harrison purchased a sunburst Gibson J-200 in the United States in 1968, using it briefly over the following year. He played this guitar on his acoustic demo of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” recorded at EMI’s studio. He also used the Gibson J-200 in recording the album “All Things Must Pass.”
After Harrison finished working on the album, he gave the guitar to Bob Dylan. The latter posed with the instrument on the cover of his 1969 release, Nashville Skyline.
George Harrison’s guitars are as important and awe-inspiring as any instrument in the history of popular music. He played various models of Gretsch, Fender, and Rickenbacker guitars throughout his career. Harrison even popularized some models so extensively that he is inextricably linked with them up until today.