Lennon’s Jumbo Gibson – more details

July 1, 1963, outside the EMI Studios in Abbey Road

Our original posting about John Lennon’s stolen “Jumbo” 1962 Gibson J160e is attracting lots of comments, and the consensus among commentators is that it should be returned to the Lennon estate. However, more and more information is coming to light. In the San Diego ReaderMarc Intravaia says that the owner of the guitar, John McCaw “bought it in 1969 from a friend and never knew what he had until he brought it to me last August.”

The article goes on to provide more details: McCaw bought the mildly beat-up Gibson acoustic from a friend for $175, in a transaction at Blue Guitar shop, then located in Old Town (in San Diego). After spotting a magazine article in 2014 with a photo of George Harrison holding a similar guitar, McCaw noted Harrison’s guitar was only four serial numbers away from his Gibson, and concluded they were probably made on the same day in 1962.

“He had read that at some point between September 1962 and December 1963, they (George and John) swapped instruments for reasons unknown,” says Intravaia, “and that John’s guitar went missing after a series of December 1963 Christmas shows in London at the Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park.” 

John McCaw’s request on a Gibson forum a few years ago proves he didn’t know what he had.

Intravaia and McCaw found video of Lennon playing the guitar and noted several remarkable similarities to McCaw’s guitar, too numerous and detailed to list here but including specific scratches, wear marks, and – most telling – wood grain patterns. Local video archive licensors Reelin’ in the Years provided a high-def tape with freeze-frame close-ups of Lennon’s guitar, and pairing it with footage of McCaw’s (as seen in a new YouTube video) led to Intravaia contacting the official Beatles gear expert Andy Babiuk.

Comparison photo

Other sources claim that the current owner has indeed been in touch with the Lennon estate, and it has been implied that they are okay with the auction, under the condition that a percentage of proceeds of the sale will go to Spirit Foundations, Inc., the non-profit organization founded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The guitar legally belongs to the seller anyway, because under UK law, an item must be reported to the police as either lost or stolen, for the owner to be able to claim ownership. In later years, it must be reported lost or stolen within ten years of going missing, and the theft or loss of this guitar was never reported to the police in the first place.

The serial numbers on the guitars are 73161 (Lennon’s originally, now owned by Dhani Harrison) and 73157 (George’s originally, now soon to be auctioned).

3 Responses

  1. kenwoodlennon says:

    If the seller really has come to an arrangement with the Lennon estate, then fair enough I suppose. I wonder if Paul's long lost Hofner will ever turn up.

  2. James Percival says:

    Keep trawling the car boot sales and house clearances and hoping…

    If that 10 year rule is true and it wasn't reported someone could get very lucky indeed!

  3. Anonymous says:

    With the amount of documentation available, there wouldn't be much problem to circumvent these legal limitations to claiming ownership, even if the report is true that the guitar's loss/theft wasn't reported to police (I'd LOVE to know how this could be established by other than police and in what circumstances they would disclose this to enquirers).
    The spirit of the law would have it that upon the realisation that an item bought is one lost or stolen, that the 'owner' should make effort to inform the original owner and/or police of this.
    If it's true that the Lennon Estate is cool with this, then all well and good.

    I rather suspect that if the Hofner should show up in similar circumstances, Paul will pounce hard. As well he should.

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