This Harmony guitar is believed to be the first 'real' guitar (i.e. 'namebrand' guitar) to be owned and played by Brian Jones. Purchased for him by his good friend Richard 'Dick' Hattrell in 1962 as documented by Bill Wyman. Jones is pictured using this guitar extensively on stage with his fledgling band, The Rolling Stones, at the Marquee Club, Oxford Street, London and at Studio 51, Richmond Surrey, circa 1963. Brian apparently continued to use this guitar until the autumn of 1963 when the Rolling Stones signed with Decca Records and received the financial backing to buy new equipment. The Stones' manager at the time, Eric Easton, later sold this guitar to the son of a close friend circa 1964-5. Most recently the guitar was displayed at the opening of The Brian Jones Museum, in Cheltenham, as broadcast on BBC Midlands Today in October 2007.
Brian's connection with the guitar's benefactor Dick Hattrell began in 1961 when they met at a concert for Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen at the Cheltenham Rotunda. The pair immediately hit it off through their passion for music and they remained friends throughout the formative years of The Rolling Stones. Dick even shared a flat with Brian and Keith Richards for a time, the infamous Edith Grove apartment in Chelsea, London. Dick moved into the cramped two bedroom flat in the autumn of 1962, after Pat Andrews, Brian's girlfriend at the time, moved out, along with the baby son Julian she shared with Brian, on grounds of the unsuitability of these conditions for raising a child. The struggling musicians welcomed the new income their new flatmate Dick could bring. Bill Wyman suggests in his autobiography Stone Alone that Jones in particular, took advantage of Dick's generosity Brian was incredible. Within two weeks [he'd]...conned Dick into buying him his new Harmony electric guitar.... After a long winter without food, living alongside Brian and Keith, Dick decided to returned to Cheltenham.
According to Andy Babiuk & Greg Prevost, the Edith Grove period when Jones used this guitar exclusively, was a highly significant one during this embryonic period of the Stones' development. It was when they were ...working out Berry-Diddley riffs and putting an emphasis on what Keith described as the 'ancient form of guitar weaving'. "We were listening to Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters, and in both cases you had two guitars weaving around one another. We got to the point where we got really flash and would suddenly switch; the one doing the lead picks up the rhythm, and the one doing the rhythm picks up the lead
The following February saw the Stones perform their first gig at The Crawdaddy. It was here at this club in Richmond that Decca Records' scouts, on the advice of George Harrison, first saw the Rolling Stones. Once signed by Decca, Eric Easton, along with Andrew Loog Oldham, took over the management of the band. According to Andy Babiuk & Greg Prevost's research for their forthcoming book this guitar was used by Brian Jones on the ...unreleased, but widely available Glyn Johns produced IBC Studio recordings which included the tracks 'Road Runner', Diddley Daddy', 'I Want To Be Loved' 'Honey What's Wrong' and 'Bright Lights, Big City' as well as the Stones first single 'Come On/I Want To Be Loved' released June, 1963 on Decca Records. In the accompaying letter from Richard Hattrell he recognises some distinctive scratches to the guitar edge which apparently were obtained while Brian was recording Come On at Olympic Studios, London 7 June 1963. Brian continued to use this [Harmony] until late summer 1963 when he retired this guitar.
The accompanying documentation from the vendors family states that, in response to a request for any musical equipment he could spare, Easton sold this guitar to the son of a close friend in circa 1964-5, telling him that this Harmony guitar had been owned and played by Brian Jones. Shortly afterwards, the guitar changed hands again to another family friend, before it was purchased back by the original vendor's younger brother, who has kept the guitar in his possession even since.
This make and model of guitar was very affordable in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and as such was popular amongst struggling musicians in their formative years. Brian Jones clearly made an impression with this guitar on one of his peers, Eric Clapton, who for nostalgic reasons, some years later purchased a similar Harmony, the same model and sunburst finish, for his collection as it reminded him of his Yardbird days on the same music circuit as The Stones in the early 1960s. [Clapton sold his Harmony Stratotone, lot 11, Christie's auction A selection of Eric Clapton's Guitars in aid of the Crossroads Centre in New York, June 24 1999.]
Close examination of the wood grain of the Harmony guitar in this lot, most noticeably on the body of the guitar, matches the grain of the Harmony Brian Jones is photographed playing on stage in 1963 at the Marquee Club and at Ken Colyer's Jazz Club, Studio 51, in Richmond, London as documented in Philip Townsend's photographs of March 10th, 1963.
Christie's are grateful to Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost for their assitance with this catalogue entry.
Detailed photographs of the guitar will be supplied to prospective bidders on request.