New Guitar Collection: George Harrison iPad App Features Famous Rosewood Telecaster®
George Harrison’s custom rosewood Telecaster, as displayed in the new Guitar Collection: George Harrison iPad app.
The new Guitar Collection: George Harrison iPad app from Bandwdth Publishing presents a fascinating digital guided tour of one of the world’s most historic guitar collections belonging to one of the world’s most famous and beloved guitarists. It delivers 360-degree views and an unbelievably detailed close-up look at every scratch, ding, dent and modification on the guitars with which Harrison made his many monumental contributions to music.
Fans can dive much deeper, too. Guitar Collection: George Harrison also presents the facts about and the story behind each guitar through detailed descriptions, a wealth of images, historical and contemporary video footage, a full list of Beatles and Harrison songs on which each guitar is heard, and even the voice of Harrison himself.
Among the many famous instruments on digital display, the app presents an unprecedented look at one of Harrison’s more distinctive Fender guitars; one that figured briefly but prominently in his history—the custom rosewood Fender Telecaster he played at the famous 1969 “rooftop” concert that went down in history as the Beatles’ final public performance.
As quoted in author Andy Babiuk’s seminal reference guide, Beatles Gear, longtime Beatles friend and roadie Mal Evans noted in a 1969 magazine column that with work on a new album just getting under way, “George has a pair of interesting presents to bring into the studio for the first session. One was a splendid rosewood Telecaster guitar from Fender of America.”
Long known to guitar makers as a dark, strong and heavy “tone” wood, rosewood is often used for fingerboards and acoustic guitar bridges. An electric guitar with a solid body of rosewood, however, is a much rarer bird, yet Fender experimented with just such a design in the late 1960s.
Harrison’s new rosewood Telecaster was the custom-made work of young designer Philip Kubicki, who’d joined Fender’s R&D department in 1964 and worked under the expert tutelage of master German luthier Roger Rossmeisl. During an enormously influential earlier stint at Rickenbacker, Rossmeisl was responsible for the company’s signature “cresting wave” design, as found on the guitars played by Harrison and Lennon and the 4001 bass favored by Paul McCartney.
The venerable Telecaster was the subject of much Fender experimentation in the late 1960s, including the use of more exotic woods. The company designed solid-rosewood Telecaster and Stratocaster models and sought to promote them by giving a prototype of the former to George Harrison and one of the latter guitars to Jimi Hendrix.
“In the autumn of 1968, Roger Rossmeisl told me he would be making these two special guitars,” Kubicki said, as quoted in Beatles Gear. “For me, this was about as exciting as things could get. The Beatles and Hendrix were at their peak and were a big part of the times.”
Main screen of the Guitar Collection: George Harrison iPad app.
Kubicki actually built a pair of rosewood Telecaster prototypes, each with a thin layer of maple between a solid rosewood top and back. As noted in Beatles Gear, Harrison’s guitar got top priority since Fender knew the group was working on a new album.
“George’s guitar was to have a particular hand-done satin finish,” Kubicki said, as quoted in Beatles Gear. “To achieve this, the body and neck were hard-block sanded with 500-grit paper, following the grain, until the surface was smooth, flat and fine. Then the surface was carefully rubbed with a fine cloth until it became highlighted. The guitar was set up, checked and rechecked to Roger’s satisfaction, placed in a black hard-shell case, and delivered to marketing. I never saw the guitar again—not in person, at least.”
The Telecaster deemed the finer of the two prototypes, serial number 235594, was flown to England with a courier (in its own seat, no less; the other went into storage at Fender) and hand-delivered to Apple’s London headquarters in December 1968.
The album, originally to have been titled Get Back, eventually became 12th and final Beatles studio album Let It Be, and Harrison used the rosewood Telecaster extensively throughout the sessions. Most notably, Harrison played the guitar during the famous 42-minute “rooftop concert” on the afternoon of January 30, 1969, as documented in the Let It Be film.
A delighted Philip Kubicki immediately recognized his handiwork when the movie was released in spring 1970. “I remember when I saw the guitar for the first time in the Let It Be film,” he said, as quoted in Beatles Gear. “I was so thrilled I almost jumped out of my seat.”
The tenure of the rosewood Telecaster with Harrison, however, was brief. During several December 1969 U.K. and Danish shows backing U.S. act Delaney & Bonnie at the invitation of close friend Eric Clapton (who was then leading the duo’s band), Harrison gave his rosewood Telecaster to Delaney Bramlett as a gift. The guitar remained in Bramlett’s possession as a cherished “early Christmas gift” from Harrison, until he put it up for auction in fall 2003, at which time it was re-acquired by the Harrison estate.
Few have seen Harrison’s rosewood Telecaster in person or up-close; a two-page spread in Babiuk’s Beatles Gear is about as close as most admirers have been able to get. Now, the Guitar Collection: George Harrison app offers the best fan experience yet of this historic and phenomenal Fender instrument.