George Harrison – Maton Mastersound MS-500 electric guitar, stage-played with The Beatles during July & August, 1963
*In the summer of 1963, George Harrison’s Gretsch Country Gentleman was experiencing problems and was taken to Barratts in Manchester to be repaired. Whilst repairs were made, shop owner Brian Higham gave the Maton to Neil Aspinall for Harrison to use. The Country Gent was quickly repaired and Higham returned it the same evening. It is thought that this was on 3rd July, when The Beatles appeared at The Playhouse Theatre in Manchester. Harrison liked the Maton and when asked, Higham agreed to let him hang on to it for while. Photographic evidence confirms that Harrison played the Maton in concert on the 8th-13th July at The Winter Gardens in Margate, 2nd August at The Grafton Rooms in Liverpool, 3rd August at a photo call at The Cavern Club in Liverpool (significantly, The Beatles last performance at The Cavern Club) and 6th-10th August at Candie Gardens, Guernsey.
After the Maton was returned to Barratts, Dave Berry and The Cruisers guitarist Roy Barber swapped it for his Fender Stratocaster. He was told that the guitar was the one used by Harrison and that it had also previously belonged to a member of the Hollies. Letters of authenticity from former band mates Dave Berry, John Fleet and Eric Haydock recall this information. An image shows Hollies guitarist Tony Hicks holding a Maton Mastersound guitar. Barber used the guitar for several years, later putting it into storage.
After Roy Barber’s death, his widow, Val, auctioned the guitar at Sotheby’s Olympia on 14th June 2002 (ex lot 315 ‘Rock & Roll Fashion and Memorabilia’).
The guitar was exhibited at The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool from 2014-2015 and then offered at Juliens Auctions, New York on 16th May 2015 (ex lot 424 ‘Music Icons’) with a listed hammer price of $485,000. Following the sale, the guitar was returned to The Beatles story, where it has been exhibited ever since.
The guitar is featured on pages 156 – 160 in Andy Babuik’s book – Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments, from Stage to Studio, The Ultimate Edition.
The Letters of authenticity from Roy Barber’s former band mates Dave Berry, John Fleet and Eric Haydock, amonsgt other paperwork are included in the sale. Copies of the letters are available to view. The original documents are currently held by the vendor and will be made available to the winning bidder.
This Maton Mastersound MS-500 model features a natural flame maple finish, sunburst maple back, bound Australian black bean 22 fret fingerboard, black scratchplate, two pickups, two volume and two tone knobs, three-way selector switch and Bigsby vibrato.
Maton guitars was founded in Australia in 1944 by Bill May, making an array of quality archtop guitars. Some years later electric guitars were added to the line, with the MS-500 being introduced circa 1958. Only a very small number of Maton guitars made it into the UK in the early 1960s