August 30, 2013 in Historic Fenders

Historic Fenders: George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster

rosieGeorge Harrison’s 1968 Rosewood Fender Telecaster (Serial No. 235594) was used in the Let It Be movie, in the Abbey Road album recording, and in the Cream song Badge. It was also used in The Beatles’ memorable live roof-top performance at the Apple building in London.

The Telecaster is one of the staples of Fender’s line of electric guitars. It is Fender’s original solid body and in the late sixties, there were only a few versions of it available. It was around that time that German Master Builder Roger Rossmeisl designed two innovative Telecasters: the Thinline Telecaster and the Rosewood Telecaster.

The first Rosewood Telecaster was Fender’s gift to Harrison to be used in the movie Let It Be. Rossmeisl and Philip Kubicki made two prototypes and chose the best one for Harrison. The guitar’s body was made with a thin layer of maple wood sandwiched between a solid rosewood back and top. “I spent hours sanding the bodies to perfection,” recalls Kubicki. The rosewood neck was built with a separate rosewood fingerboard glued to it. The whole guitar had a special satin polyurethane finish. Historians say that Harrison’s guitar was flown to England (in its own seat) accompanied by a courier, and hand-delivered to the Apple offices in December 1968.

Kubicki adds, “I remember when I saw the guitar for the first time in the Let It Be film. I was so thrilled I almost jumped out of my seat.” The guitar was used almost exclusively by Harrison in the Get Back recording sessions and was chosen by him to play the final roof-top performance on January 30, 1969. The next day, another performance was staged in the Apple basement studio. Harrison used his Rosewood Telecaster for that performance as well. Shortly after this, the band would go their separate ways forever.

The Rosewood Telecaster was added to Fender’s regular production, however the production models were slightly different than Harrison’s model. They were made with a one-piece rosewood neck, with a special satin polyurethane finish. Production started in 1969 and each guitar was sold for $375.

rosewood

Almost a year later, Harrison gave the guitar to Delaney Bramlett following a performance at Royal Albert Hall. Harrison had attended the show and performed on-stage along side Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton. Following this, Clapton invited Harrison to join the group for a few shows throughout Great Britain and Denmark.

Bramlett has said that during that short tour, they would ofter switch guitars with each other, but that he would mostly play his newly-acquired Rosewood Telecaster. He considered the guitar to be one of his dearest possessions. He went on to keep the Telecaster in excellent condition for almost three decades.

Guitar collectors, music historians and Beatles fans spent years speculating about what had become of George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster. Very few people ever saw the guitar in person. Then, in 1998, Delaney Bramlett offered to auction it off, however he was forced to withdraw the guitar when his asking price of $200,000 was not met.

Bramlett offered to auction the guitar again in 2003, two years after Harrison died from lung cancer. He claimed that Harrison had recommended that he sell it before somebody killed him for it. The guitar was purchased by actor Ed Begley, Jr. on behalf of Harrison’s widow, Olivia, for more than $470,000. Thus, the guitar found its way back home.

Here is a cool clip of that final rooftop concert where Harrison is playing the Rosewood Telecaster:

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