Opening chords' 100,000 notes
July 10, 2006
By Graham Davies
Daily Post Staff
Paul McCartney is reunited with his Rex acoustic guitar, the first he ever played.
THE first guitar Sir Paul McCartney ever played is expected to fetch more than £100,000 when it is auctioned this month.
As a schoolboy, the former Beatle learned his first chords on the Rexacoustic guitar belonging to his best friend, Ian James.
Now, salesman Mr James, 64, from Ormskirk, is selling the instrument to fund his retirement.
The lot will include a letter from Sir Paul, stating: "The above guitar belonging to my old school pal Ian James was the first guitar I ever held.
"It was also the guitar on which I learnt my first chords in his house at 43 ElswichStreet, Liverpool 8."
On July 6, 1957, a 15-year-old McCartney attended a summer fete at St Peter's Church Hall in Woolton, Liverpool.
A young John Lennon was playing there with his band, The Quarrymen. McCartney played some songs for them, convincing Lennon to let him join the band.
Recalling the encounter, Sir Paul once said: "I showed him a few more chords he didn't know. Ian James had taught me them, really. Then I left. I felt I'd made a good impression, shown them how good I was."
The guitar will go under the hammer at the Cooper Owen's Music Legends auction on July 28, held in the appropriate location of London's Abbey Road Studios.
Married father-of-two Mr James has stored the instrument in his loft and on top of wardrobes over the years.
He and McCartney were pupils together at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys.
Mr James said: "I suppose in a way I helped to introduce Paul to playing music.
"My grandparents bought the guitar for me when I was 12 or 13. I don't know exactly how much it cost, but it was definitely shillings rather than pounds.
"Paul and I hung around together and after school we would often go back to my house. We both had an interest in rock and roll and I would show him a few chords and things.
Mr James could have played alongside McCartney that night at the Woolton church fete, but missed his chance.
"Paul had his own guitar by then and I brought mine along. We were supposed to play in the hall, but the vicar told us we couldn't.
"We went off to a local cafe and I got a bit fed up so I left. After I'd gone I believe they went back to the hall and played together. That was the closest I got to being in The Beatles," he said.
The friends did not then see each other again until 1991, when they were reunited before a concert performed by Wings.
They remained in touch and the singer has given James his blessing to auction the guitar.
*The first guitar that Paul McCartney was taught to play on, a REX acoustic circa 1950's*
The actual guitar that Paul McCartney was first taught chords on. This highly significant guitar was owned from new by Ian James, McCartney's good friend from the Liverpool Institute grammar school, where they met in the second year. Ian, an avid guitar player from a very musical family, taught Paul, on many occasions, his first set of chords and how to run the first riffs in the latter part of the 1950's, when Rock and Roll first hit the shores of Liverpool.
Mr James recalls that This is how Paul and I formed a friendship - through music. More so with the arrival of Rock 'n' Roll when we would visit all the travelling fairgrounds around Liverpool to listen to all the latest records being played, he recalls further Paul would come to my house after school and sometimes I would go to Forthlin Road. We would sometimes have a session, with his brother Mike on his set of drums, Paul on piano and me on the guitar. Ian hung out with Paul long before the Quarrymen were even an idea, and recalls he was present, with this guitar on the historical day that McCartney first met Lennon at the Woolton Church fete, he explains I had it on the evening of the Woolton Fete when Paul met John earlier that day and he phoned me to suggest I go to the church that night as they (the 'Quarrymen') were planning to play there. I arrived there and was introduced to John (Lennon). We all practised for a while deciding who should sing what. It was an easy decision. Whoever knew the words would sing the song. But to no avail, the vicar walked in and said the gig was off. I can't remember why. The others decided to go to a local coffee bar and play a few numbers, I think the owner was a relative or friend of John's. But by this time I'd had enough of show-business and decided to go home. Interestingly Mr James also elaborates on the significance of this guitar It's possible John may have handled the guitar that night and it's also more than possible that George (Harrison) may have played it as I went to his house on a couple of occasions to teach him a few chords. He had more of an interest in playing melodies but felt he needed to know some chords. Ian went on to form his own group, The Mateys, in which he continued to use this guitar.
The guitar is a Rex acoustic, of foreign manufacture, serial no. 459 7124, in sunburst finish, laminated wood body with single round cutaway, laminate top with f-holes, twenty fret fingerboard with dot inlays; wooden bridge, metal tailpiece; and a beige soft guitar cover.
The guitar is accompanied by a signed letter from Paul McCartney dated 24 March 2006 on his personal headed paper which reads The above guitar belonging to my old school pal Ian James was the first guitar I ever held. It was also the guitar on which I learnt my first chords in his house at 43 Elswick Street Liverpool 8; a black and white photograph of Ian James with this guitar, taken by Paul McCartney at James' house in Liverpool in 1957 and a colour photograph taken at McCartney's MPL offices in London by Ian James on 24 March 2006 of Paul McCartney with this guitar and the aforementioned photograph of Ian James.
Estimate £ 100,000-150,000
It is well documented in the annals of Beatles history that Ian James was a good school friend of the young McCartney, and that he can be held responsible for being one of the select persons who turned McCartney on to the wonders of music and most notably 'Rock n Roll'. He is mentioned in the Beatles official biography by Hunter Davies, and in fact McCartney himself was quoted in press releases for his 1999 album 'Run Devil Run', when discussing the cover of 'All Shook Up', that featured on the album.
"I have the loveliest memory of All Shook Up. We were mad Elvis fans before he went into the Army. We thought the Army made him a little too grown up, but he was fantastic. Anyway, back in Liverpool me and my best mate, Ian James, who I still know, we used to go around in these draped flecked jackets. We thought they were really cool, that you could not have a more cool item of clothing, and we would wander around the fairgrounds in Liverpool trying to pick up girls. We thought the girls would come flooding to us, us being in these jackets. But of course they never took any notice of us'.
It is telling that McCartney has remained a friend after all these years and is also willing to acknowledge the significance of this particular guitar in being a catalyst to the development of one of the leading musicians of the 20th century. A truly significant instrument and probably the best authenticated Beatles' instrument, or indeed Beatle related item, to ever appear on the auction block - having a signed letter from one of the Fab Four themselves is the ultimate provenance and a rare piece in its own right.