Music

John Lennon's Lost ‘Help!’ Hootenanny Sells for $2.85 Million at Music Icons

This lost treasure, once missing for 50 years, is now the 5th most expensive guitar ever sold.

May 29, 2024

In a day filled with music history and fervent bidding, the spirit of John Lennon resonated through the hallowed halls of the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, New York City. Julien's Auctions presented an extraordinary piece of Lennon's legacy: his 1964 Framus “Help!” Hootenanny acoustic guitar, discovered after being lost some 50 years.

The atmosphere at the Hard Rock Cafe was electric, charged with the anticipation of collectors, fans, and music aficionados who had gathered from around the world to witness this historic event. As the auctioneer's gavel fell, the room held its breath, and the final bid of $2,857,500 echoed through the space, solidifying the Framus Hootenanny's place as the fifth most-expensive guitar ever sold.

This guitar was owned by John Lennon and used by both Lennon and George Harrison during the recording sessions for The Beatles albums “Help!” (1965) and Rubber Soul (1965). It has been matched to photos taken during sessions for both records as well as stills from the movie “Help!”

A 1964 Framus Hootenanny 5/024 12-string acoustic guitar, natural finish. This guitar was owned by John Lennon and used by both Lennon and George Harrison during the recording sessions for The Beatles albums Help! (1965) and Rubber Soul (1965). It has been matched to photos taken during sessions for both records as well as stills from the movie Help!

John Lennon acquired this Framus Hootenanny in late 1964, and it made recording debut during the 1965 Help! sessions where it was photographed in the hands of both Lennon and Harrison along with the Maton case it was originally paired with at the store.

“Fifth Beatle” producer George Martin’s handwritten notes from those sessions record that the Hootenanny was used by both Lennon and Harrison on “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” The Hootenanny is also present in “Help!” outtakes where John can be heard tuning the guitar before he starts playing.

This Framus is the guitar heard on “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “It’s Only Love, “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and of course, “Help!” On Rubber Soul it can be heard on “Girl” as well as George Harrison’s parts on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” It’s featured in photos from the Beatles Monthly Magazine, and is seen being played by John in the movie Help! when The Beatles perform “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.”

At the end of 1965, John Lennon gave the guitar as a gift to Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon, for whom Lennon and McCartney had been writing songs. Later, Waller would pass the guitar on to a manager of his, who took the guitar home, tossed it in the attic, and gave it nary a thought for decades.

We worked closely with musician, author, and Beatles Gear expert Andy Babiuk to confirm that this Hootenanny, serial #51083, is indeed John Lennon’s guitar. It has some distinctive markings which made it easily identifiable when compared to photos and stills from Help! These markings include the darker patches in the pattern of the rosette, telltale wood grain on the top, and the swirl of the tortoise shell pickguard material.

With the Hootenanny, the real proof is in the sound. When strummed, it immediately identifies itself as “that” guitar. If you know the chords, Beatles tunes fall out of the sound hole effortlessly. Like an audio time capsule from 1965, the Framus is a direct link to those records.

This historic instrument still retains the Maton case seen with it in recording room photographs. Its brown exterior is clearly worn from having done its job so dutifully for so many years. Inside, the crushed yellow velvet looks just like the color photos from the Rubber Soul sessions, its exterior Maton badge catching the light just so. There’s also an interior dealer tag that can be seen in the photo that matches perfectly.

The Framus “Hootenanny” 5/024 12-string acoustic guitar was made in the company’s Bubenruth, Bavaria factory in 1964. It features a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, a set mahogany neck, a 19-fret rosewood fretboard, and a decorative sound hole rosette made of individually-inlaid pieces of wood. A trapeze tailpiece and floating bridge, twelve tuners with white plastic buttons, a white string guide nut and zero fret, and multi-ply binding.

Includes Maton-branded hardshell case and a copy of The Beatles Help! Deluxe Edition Hardcover Book, Script, and DVD box set, and a copy of The Beatles: Photographs from the Set of Help! by Emilio Lari.

The guitar, a simple yet iconic instrument, witnessed the genesis of some of Lennon's most beloved songs. It was a faithful companion during the Beatles' early days, strummed in smoky pubs and cramped recording studios, and it played a pivotal role in shaping the sound that would define a generation. It was not just a guitar; it was a conduit for Lennon's creativity, a vessel for his emotions, and a tangible connection to the heart of one of music's most influential figures.

Its new owner now the custodian of a piece of Lennon's soul, a tangible link to the creative energy that flowed through him and touched the lives of millions.

a guitar in a case that says maton on it

THE BEATLES | John Lennon "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" Acoustic Guitar. Sold for $2,857,500 in Music Icons, May 2024.

For the rest of us, the sale of Lennon's Framus Hootenanny serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of the Beatles and the indelible mark they left on the world. It is a testament to the power of music to transcend time and connect people across generations. The guitar may have found a new home, but its melody will continue to echo in the hearts and minds of music lovers everywhere.

The excitement doesn't stop here! Julien's Auctions' Music Icons live-auction event continues on Thursday, May 30th, 2024, with a treasure trove of ultra-rare artifacts from music's most legendary artists waiting to find new homes. Don't miss your chance to own a piece of history – register to bid now and become a part of this extraordinary musical legacy.

a man singing into a microphone while holding a guitar

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