John Lennon’s acoustic guitar: Up close and personal

John Lennon\'s Gibson J 160 E guitar was used on many Beatles hits. (Courtesy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum)
A low-tech piece of music history

Neal Augenstein | November 14, 2014 8:50 pm

WASHINGTON – The imperfections were what made it perfect.

It was 18 years ago John Lennon’s flat top acoustic guitar used in the Beatles was first displayed to the public at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

DJ Cerphe Colwell was there for the unveiling of Lennon’s guitar, and will never forget it.

“I stood there for about an hour just staring at it, just thinking about how many hearts and ears were awakened by that Gibson J 160E guitar. Really magical stuff,” says Cerphe, whose show is heard on Eco Planet Radio.

Cerphe was one of the participants when the Rock and Roll Hall opened its doors in Sept. 1995, displaying priceless artifacts used by legendary musicians.

Lennon’s guitar, which was donated by wife Yoko Ono, had been personalized by the Beatles’ leader.

“I really liked the artwork drawings that John did on the wooden body of the guitar, but it was the fretboard and the pick marks and the gouges on the wood and tuning keys that really fascinated me,” says Cerphe.

“The strings looked like they hadn’t even been replaced.

The low-tech simplicity of Lennon’s guitar was striking to Cerphe, who rose to fame with WHFS and DC10.

“I wish I had a time machine, because this was taking me back to a time where there were no lasers, or smoke machines, or autotune, or twerking,” Cerphe said.

In the age of technology where computers can create or manipulate music out of silence, “I was looking at something that was a part of keeping the human element, where music sounds like people, and people playing real instruments,” says Cerphe.

Lennon’s guitar remains “one of the most precious artifacts that we have in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection,” according to curatorial director Howard Kramer.

According to the Hall’s website Lennon originally got the Gibson in 1964 to replace an identical one that was stolen.

Lennon’s acoustic guitar was featured prominently in albums including “Please Please Me,” “Meet The Beatles,” and “A Hard Day’s Night,” as well as the movie, “Help!”

“George Martin and the Abbey Road crew got some marvelous results from that J 160E guitar,” marvels Cerphe.

“That guitar alone is worth a trip to Cleveland.”

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