John Lennon’s Guitar, Rediscovered After Decades Languishing in an Attic, Heads to Auction

The Framus Hootenanny could become the priciest Beatles guitar.

John Lennon on the set of the Beatles film Help! (1965) in Wiltshire, the U.K., 1965. Photo: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images.

A long-lost Framus Hootenanny that belonged to John Lennon has finally been found and will hit the block in New York this month. The storied 12-string acoustic guitar will headline the Music Icons sale that Julien’s Auctions is hosting at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City on May 29 and 30.

The Framus is expected to smash its estimate of $600,000–$800,000, making it the highest of sums anticipated for the sale’s other artifacts, which include guitars, stage-worn fashions, and set lists penned by musical stars. In fact, the Framus might become the priciest Beatles guitar ever sold.

A black and white photo of the Beatles, with Lennon on the left, recording together in a sparse studio

George Harrison playing the Framus as the Beatles record. Photo: Beatles Photo Library

The current record belongs to Lennon’s formerly long-lost Gibson J-160E, which Julien’s auctioned off for $2.4 million in 2015. While Lennon only played that Gibson through 1963, he favored the Framus Hootenanny throughout 1965, as Beatlemania peaked following their first trip to the U.S.

Lennon used this Framus while recording their fifth studio album Help! (1965), on the set of the LP’s accompanying film, and while making Rubber Soul. All three dropped the same year.

Until recently, this guitar was just the stuff of musical myth. According to Julien’s Auctions, by the late 1960s, Lennon’s Framus was in the hands of singer-songwriter Gordon Waller, who handed it off to the road managers backing his band, Peter & Gordon. For years, unbeknownst to fans, it languished in the attic of its new owner’s home in the British countryside.

A photo of Lennon's Framus Hootenanny acoustic guitar in an old open case

Lennon’s Framus Hootenanny, in its case. Photo: Julien’s Auctions

“The current owner is still alive and their son discovered this guitar in a box in their attic while helping his elderly parents move from their current two-story home to a single-story house,” Martin Nolan, the auction house’s co-founder and executive director, explained over email.

He visited the house with Darren Julien, founder of the auction house, to authenticate the guitar—with help from Beatles experts Andy Babiuk and Danny Bennett. They compared it with archival Beatles imagery, too. “The woodgrain on the guitar is like the fingerprints of a guitar,” Nolan said. “It matches up exactly to the photos and videos of John Lennon and George Harrison playing it. We also photo-matched the synthetic tortoise shell pickguard on this Framus Guitar.”

The specimen will hit the block with its original case and a copy of The Beatles: Photographs From The Set of Help, featuring imagery by Italian photographer Emilio Lari.

two men seated behind Lennon's Framus guitar on a stand, surrounded by two stairwells with red and blue neon lights visible above them

Darren Julien and Martin Nolan with Lennon’s Framus Hootenanny at the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus, London. Photo: Julien’s Auctions

“American Woman” musician Randy Bachman’s 200-strong guitar collection will inaugurate the auction on May 29. The rest of the sale will take place the next day, featuring the Framus lot and more—including the pink Fender U2 bassist Adam Clayton played during their residency at The Sphere; Michael Jackson’s stage-worn “Billie Jean” jacket from the 1984 Victory Tour; and a Nirvana set list written by Kurt Cobain himself.

Some lots, like Chet Atkins’ guitar—donated by British singer-songwriter Mark Knopfler—will benefit the The King’s Trust. Proceeds from several more will go towards the Teenage Cancer Trust. Highlights across the board, though, will go on view in a public exhibition that will travel from London’s Piccadilly Circus to New York’s Times Square, ahead of the big sale.

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