Does anyone have the scoop on Harrisons's Lucy?

Discussion in 'Vintage Les Pauls' started by loneguitar, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. loneguitar

    loneguitar Senior Member

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    I've heard it was given to George after Clapton played on "While my guitar gently weeps" but what's the story before that? I also heard it was restored prior to Clapton obtaining it, any help is appreciated.
     
  2. bryvincent

    bryvincent Senior Member

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    from this thread: Harrisons Lucy - Les Paul Forum

    Here's the story about George Harrison's Les Paul "Lucy" as it appears in the book "Beatles Gear, All the Fab Four's Instruments, From Stage to Studio" by Andy Babiuk. Don't mind the British spellings:

    Quote:
    George's Lucy, the Gibson Les Paul

    By the summer of 1968 more new guitars and other gear had crept into The Beatles camp. In August, Harrison acquired a guitar with a unique history, his now famous Gibson Les Paul, known as Lucy. Later, as we shall see, Harrison would have to chase Lucy half way around the world in order to bring her back from hiding. But the first public indication of the new arrival in the guitar collection had come in Mal Evan's (Beatles roadie) monthly column for "The Beatles Monthly Book".

    Evans, discussing the recording of Harrison's new song 'Not Guilty', wrote: "This is one of two August recordings you won't hear on the album because they were dropped at the last minute in favour of more recent numbers . . . Interesting note - he used Lucy for the first time on this session. Lucy is the fantastic solid red Gibson guitar that was given to George at the beginning of August by Eric Clapton. Recording began on August 7th at EMI Studios." The Beatle roadie's report puts to rest the myth that Clapton ceremoniously gave the Les Paul to Harrison after Clapton had played the lead guitar on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Clapton would not record his celebrated solo on that track until September 6th.

    Gibson had first offered a solid body Les Paul model for sale in 1952, just two years after Fender's shock introduction of the brand new solidbody-style electric guitar. Gibson's instrument was typically well crafted, offering fine playability and good workmanship, and was soon being offered with a pair of the company's powerful noise-cancelling humbucking pickups. By 1968 many guitarists, particularly those playing in blues-rock or similar style, were alert to the Les Paul's ability to provide a fat, sustaining sound well suited to their musical requirements, and the instruments - older 1950s models as well as new "reissues" - were enjoying a fresh burst of popularity.

    When Harrison received his Les Paul it had the red finish. The serial number on the back of the instrument's headstock is not in the correct original typeface and style, but reads 7-8789 which would date the guitar's manufacture to late 1957. Gibson's records indicate that a gold-finished Les Paul with this number was shipped by the company on December 19th 1957. All Gibson Les Pauls of this type made in 1957 were finished with gold-painted body faces, now known as "gold tops". So how is it that Harrison's guitar has a red finish? Tracing the instrument's history takes us to guitar legend Rick Derringer, best known for his work with Edgar Winter and Steeley Dan. Derringer was one of Lucy's former owners.

    Around 1966, when Derringer was in The McCoys, he had a Les Paul gold-top that originally had a Bigsby vibrato fitted, and which had previously been owned by The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian. "I loved playing it, but my dad - who always loved a guitar looking real good - used to comment on how it was kind of beat up," recalls Derringer. "It was a very, very used guitar, even when I got it. But it played great. So I figured that since we didn't live so far from Gibson's factory in Kalamazoo, the next time the group went there I'd give it to Gibson and have it refinished."

    Such an opportunity soon arose, and Derringer considered his options for the refinish. "Did I want it to be a gold-top again? I decided no, let's do something interesting and different. So I had it done at the factory in the SG-style clear red finish that was popular at the time. However, after that work had been done the guitar just never played as good again. I couldn't keep that sucker in tune any more, and it just didn't feel the same. I loved it before the refinish, but it had changed into an altogether different guitar that I didn't love anymore. So I traded it in on a sunburst Les Paul at Dan Armstrong's guitar shop in Manhattan, New York. And then Eric Clapton bought it at that store."

    Harrison started to use his Gibson Les Paul almost exclusively throughout the remainder of 1968 and well in to 1969. With a dual-humbucker Les Paul now in his possession, Harrison rarely played his similar SG. He eventually gave the SG to Pete Ham, the lead guitarist for Badfinger. Joey Molland, the group's rhythm guitarist, says it was during the time Badfinger were signed to Apple that Harrison gave the guitar to Ham. "I guess Pete liked it, so George gave it to him," Molland says. "The sad thing about that guitar is that after Pete's death in the 1970s his wife sold it at a garage sale, not knowing what it was. So that guitar is floating around somewhere in the middle of the United States, and whoever got it doesn't even know what they have. It would be impossible to trace now." Ham can be seen playing the ex-Harrison Gibson SG in a promotional clip for Badfinger's 1970 hit 'No Matter What'.

    . . . . . .

    A Missing Les Paul

    Giving or receiving an instrument as a gift seems almost sacred to Harrison, and he frequently gave away guitars to his close friends as a token of friendship. In the same way, Harrison held in high esteem the the gift that Eric Clapton had given him - his Gibson "Lucy" Les Paul. It was obviously more than just another guitar. So it was particularly shocking to Harrison when in the early 1970s his beloved Les Paul was stolen. "It got kidnapped and taken to Guadalajara," he explained later. "I had to buy this Mexican guy a Les Paul to get it back."

    To help him find Lucy, Harrison enlisted the help of musician Mark Havey, who at the time - around 1973 - was living in California, but had also lived in Mexico. "I had a musician friend , Miguel Ochoa, who came up from Mexico to buy some instruments ," Havey remembers. "He walked into a Guitar Center store in Hollywood and saw hanging on the wall a cherry-red Les Paul, which he bought for $650."

    The only similar guitar Ochoa had seen was pictured on the inside cover of Let It Be. He gave the store Havey's address and phone number for the receipt. The following day the guitar store called Havey, asking for Ochoa. They told Havey that they owed his friend some money because they had overcharged for the Les Paul.

    "I said that didn't sound very likely," recalls Havey. "So then the store explained to me that Miguel had bought a guitar that they had only recently acquired, and by law they were supposed to keep it for 30 days to see if it clears any 'hot' stolen-property lists. 'As is turns out' they said to me, 'the guitar belongs to George Harrison. So we're in deep shit here.'"

    Thinking that this must be some kind of joke, Havey told the store that if the guitar really belonged to Harrison, the ought to have the Beatle guitarist call him and sort it out.

    "About 30 minutes later the phone rang," says Havey, "and a nice gentleman with a very British accent said, 'This is George Harrison.' He told me the guitar had been stolen from under his bed over the holiday. His home in Beverly Hills had been burglarised, and among other things that were taken was the cherry-red Les Paul. So I called my friend Tony Baker, and we met with George." Harrison explained to them that the guitar wasn't really his - it belonged to Eric Clapton and was definitely on loan to him. "So he had to get the guitar back. He asked if we could help get it back from Miguel. We said sure."

    Havey then spoke to Ochoa, who was somewhat surprised by the news. He said he needed some time to think. "We grew up learning how to play Beatle stuff, and this was George Harrison's guitar!" says Havey. "So Miguel gets off the phone and we don't hear from him for two days. In the meantime, we're in constant contact with George, who wants to know what's going on. We told him what was happening, and he thought it didn't sound very good. George said that he wouldn't have a problem pay Miguel at least what he paid for the guitar so that he wouldn't be out on any money."

    Two days later Ochoa called Havey and said that he might want to keep the guitar - and promptly went back home with it to Guadalajara, Mexico. Be this time Harrison was, understandably, growing impatient. He asked Havey to contact his friend and find out what he wanted to return the guitar. Eventually, says Havey, Ochoa came up with some requirements.

    "He proceeded to give us a wish list," Havey remembers, itemising a couple of desirable and expensive collector's items. "He wanted a 1958 sunburst Les Paul, an early Fender Precision Bass, and about four other instruments. We told him that he was being totally unreasonable and that he should consider the reality of the situation. Se we got him down to a guitar and a bass. We told this to George, and we all got together to go looking for a '58 sunburst Les Paul. What was interesting was that every time we went into a store they would quickly pull off all the guitars' price-tags once they realised it was George Harrison.

    This went on for a week. Eventually, we found a guy called Norm Harris who had the right guitar. It was bought, and George flew my friend Tony and I down to Mexico. We made the trade : the guitar and bass for a cherry-red Les Paul. Then we came back and gave it to George."

    And all for the love of a guitar. This demonstrates how once more that Harrison was the true guitar fan among the Beatles - and indicates just how much certain instruments came to mean to him.
     
  3. Fletch

    Fletch V.I.P. Member

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    So... what your saying is that somewhere in Mexico there is a 58 Burst floating around?


    fletch
     
  4. JJ Blair

    JJ Blair Senior Member

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    I can't believe that guy ransomed the guitar like that. So totally lame. I hope the burst got stolen from him, as karma.
     
  5. ctkarslake

    ctkarslake Senior Member

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    Incredible story with an equally incredible outcome. Lucy was certainly worth the effort to George, no matter what Rick D. says!

    Cherrytops are gorgeous!
     
  6. Laservampire

    Laservampire Senior Member

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  7. banditguitarist1

    banditguitarist1 Senior Member

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    Awesome story I really love the look of Lucy. I can't believe that guy would do such a jerk thing as try to ransom a guitar off just because it was George Harrisons...Hopefully that Burst is no long in that guys hands!
     
  8. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    IIRC the way I always heard the story was that from then on whenever George alsed Eric to come & play, either on a session or to jam, EC would say "I don't need to bring a guitar, I know you've got a good Les Paul I can use".

    Age & memory may be affecting me, but that's how I remember things.
     
  9. Bes628

    Bes628 Senior Member

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    can't knock the guy for trying...i mean he did purchase Lucy fair and square.

    now he probably went a little far with demands(the 58 and the ???)..but it seems like a fair tradeoff imo.
     
  10. Leumas

    Leumas Senior Member

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    He could have been a lot cooler about it. Instead he was just kind of a dick. He could have said he wanted to meet George in person to make the trade, and if he were really a fan that would have been more satisfying than having a cold plank of wood. Especially back then when the price of collectibles was not what it is today.
     
  11. snaredrum

    snaredrum V.I.P. Member

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    i love lucy. not quite as much as i love George though :)

    the guitar, i mean. as it was a gift from Eric, and as the book Beatles Gear says, he treasured guitars given to him by friends. although for what it's worth i'd have had the mexican guy killed. jus' sayin...
     
  12. jimi55lp

    jimi55lp Senior Member

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    I wonder if George played the 58' Burst'? I can't believe he wouldn't have preferred the 58' over the refin "Lucy" that Rick Derringer said he got rid of because it no longer felt like an original after Gibson's refin altered it.
     
  13. geochem1st

    geochem1st V.I.P. Member

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    No, it was stolen merchandise.
     
  14. Leumas

    Leumas Senior Member

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    I don't think George ever really cared. Was a '58 burst really a '58 burst in 1972? I'm sure 50's LPs were pretty common to be had used at that time.
     
  15. jimi55lp

    jimi55lp Senior Member

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    Vintage 50's thru 60's guitars were preferred in 1972 just as much as they are now, and I'm sure if Rick Derringer knew the 57' GT "Lucy" was no longer in its glory, that George had to have some idea also, aa he had to have played several older LP's. I know Bursts didn't sell for much in 72' compared to today, but they were still preferred and in most cases, sold for more than a new LP did. In 1972, dealers were complaining that guitars were going down in quality every year, and I can remember a shop owner saying he wouldn't take 2 new Strats for the 50's tweed case Strat he had on consignment hanging o his wall, and it was a refin. They didn't feel any better about Gibsons after late 1970/71 either. He said he thought the new guitars were poorly finished and heavy compared to the late 60's models. This was one of the biggest shops in New Orleans at the time. Only the misinformed didn't understand what a vintage guitar was in 1972, and heads turned when one walked in! George Harrison had an attraction to the GT because it still played better than any of his new guitars and it was a gift from a friend. Other than the celebrity ownership history of Lucy, I don't think I'd be drawn to it for top money since it's not original in several ways and the off center seam on the top would always bother me more than the refin, just saying.
     
  16. 58burst

    58burst Senior Member

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    Looks like that guitar musta had a re-fingerboarding (or maybe a reneck?) when it was back in the factory, judging from the inlays...
     
  17. TVR1977

    TVR1977 Senior Member

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    I'm not sure about Mal Evans' story abut the Pete Ham SG. I remember seeing
    it going on the block several years ago, and IIRC, the story was Pete's brother had it stashed under his bed.

    I certainly never heard that it was sold at a garage sale and "lost in America."

    Ironically, it's Mal himself who can't be found. After his death, his remains (ashes) were lost in the mail somehow, and have never been found.
     
  18. Mr Insane

    Mr Insane Senior Member

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  19. Bes628

    Bes628 Senior Member

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    Yes...but he was not the thief, he purchased it fair and square off a wall..like you and I buy guitars.

    thats all fine and dandy but he still would be out $650 or a guitar. Although as nice as a person as George was im sure he would have rewarded him.


    like i said yeah its fucked up how he handled the transaction..but for him to ask for a guitar in return isn't some out of this world crazy thought..since he did buy Lucy.
     
  20. loneguitar

    loneguitar Senior Member

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    Extortionist is what he really was, BTW did they ever catch the thief? If he sold the guitar to GC they must have had some sort of record with names, addresses etc. Thanks for the story it's amazing George got it back at all, sorry I didn't see the previous thread on the subject.
     

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