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John Lennon’s ‘Help!’ guitar sells for $2.85M

12-string guitar used during the band’s 1964 album

By Nardine Saad and Noah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times
Published: June 6, 2024, 6:13am

LOS ANGELES — John Lennon’s long-lost, newly repaired 12-string guitar has set a world record as the most expensive Beatles guitar sold in auction history.

The Framus Hootenanny, which was used by the famed musician during the recording of the band’s 1964 “Help!” album, fetched $2,857,500 at auction this week, Julien’s Auctions said Thursday. The instrument touted by Julien’s as “the most important Beatles guitar to ever come to market” sold for four-and-a-half times its estimated sales price.

The German-made artifact from the 1960s British Invasion was recently fixed up for auction in a Sherman Oaks shop by Ryan Schuermann, an Arcadia resident who reset the guitar’s neck and repaired its corroded frets and neck joint to get it to play again “perfectly.”

To his ears, it sounded just like it did in the sessions with Lennon and Harrison, Schuermann told The Times in April.

Lennon, who was slain in 1980, acquired the acoustic guitar in 1964 and used it in 1965 to record “Rubber Soul” before the instrument was eventually found abandoned in the attic of a home in the British countryside. Bandmate George Harrison also played the guitar during a Beatles studio session, and it made an appearance in the movie “Help!,” where Lennon strums it as the band plays “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”

A year after he bought it, Lennon gave the guitar to Gordon Waller, who formed the pop duo Peter and Gordon with Peter Asher. Asher’s sister dated Paul McCartney in the ‘60s, and Peter and Gordon recorded several songs with writing credited to Lennon and McCartney. At some point, Waller gave the guitar to his manager, who took the instrument home and threw it in the attic, where it was forgotten for more than a half-century inside a worn and dusty Maton guitar case.

A man stumbled upon the case in the attic of his parents’ longtime home, which they were preparing to vacate. When he asked about it, his father said, “Oh, that’s John’s.”

The family contacted Julien’s Auction House, which confirmed the guitar’s legitimacy with the help of a Beatles expert, who suggested it be repaired for auction. The Framus Hootenanny was among the few lost Beatles guitars unaccounted for: Others include the sonic blue Fender Stratocaster that Lennon used on “Ticket to Ride” and the Gretsch Country Gentleman that Harrison played on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Julien’s Auctions was “absolutely thrilled and honored” to have set a new world record with the sale of the instrument.

“This guitar is not only a piece of music history but a symbol of John Lennon’s enduring legacy,” David Goodman, chief executive of Julien’s Auctions, said Thursday in a statement. “Today symbolizes what we do best at Julien’s — creating opportunities for people to reconnect with the cultural touchstones that have shaped the moments that matter most throughout their lives. Today’s unprecedented sale is a testament to the timeless appeal and reverence of The Beatles’ music and John Lennon.”

The two-day “Music Icons” auction was held at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York and also featured items from industry legends Dolly Parton, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Prince, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, U2 and Michael Jackson. The event set another record with the sale of the most expensive Robbie Robertson guitar — a 1965 Fender Telecaster guitar, which sold for an impressive $650,000.

The auction house said that past record-breaking sales have included Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar played during Nirvana’s historic “MTV Unplugged” performance, which sold for $6 million in 2020, and a previous Lennon acoustic guitar that sold for $2.4 million in 2015.