George Harrison Was Extremely Upset When This Rare Guitar Sold Out

George Harrison played 26 instruments. But in his early days of being a musician, the guitar was all he thought about. When he was just becoming proficient in the instrument, he dreamed of the day when he’d finally have one of the most coveted guitars in all of Liverpool. It took a lot of searching, but George eventually got the holy grail of guitars.

George Harrison performing with The Beatles in Australia, 1964.
George Harrison | Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images

George Harrison wanted a particular guitar the kept selling out

In the very early days of The Beatles (pre-Ringo, to be exact), George didn’t like his sound. At the time, he had a Vox amp and a Gretsch guitar, but that equipment just wasn’t doing anything for him. He was thankful he had a guitar, though, because they weren’t cheap in those days. However, George still really wanted a Fender Stratocaster, which back then was highly coveted. American-made guitars were tough to find in England in the late 1950s.

“I didn’t like the guitar sound I had. And it was a Vox amp and a Gretsch guitar. [But] it was early days and we were lucky to have anything,” George said in an interview. “I could have had square ones and round ones and fur ones, you know like Bo Diddley.”

After dreaming about the Fender Stratocaster for some time, George finally got the chance to buy one when he found out a local guitar shop had one in stock. So, George hightailed it to the shop in the hopes that the guitar was still there. Unfortunately for George, it wasn’t.

George Harrison playing his Gretsch guitar on stage with The Beatles, 1962.
George Harrison playing a Gretsch guitar | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

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George says finding out that the Fender Stratocaster was sold out again was ‘scarring’

George set out the next morning to buy the Stratocaster, but the guitar shop had already sold the guitar by the time he got there. The guitarist in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo’s band at the time, had got up earlier in the morning and bought it before George could.

This was one of the most desired guitars in all of England, after all. The greatest musicians at the time, like Buddy Holly, played the Fender Stratocaster. George was so upset by the experience that it actually scarred him. “By the time I got there, it was gone,” George said. “I was so disappointed. It scarred me for the rest of my life.”

George finally got his Fender Stratocaster in 1965

According to Guitar World, George eventually did get his Fender Stratocaster. He and John purchased a matching set of 1961 Fender Stratocasters with Sonic Blue finishes in 1965. George says they were bought during the recording of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, but Guitar World argues that the guitars made their first appearance on the recording of “Ticket to Ride” on Help!

Either way, George’s Fender became one of the most famous and distinct guitars in his whole arsenal. In 1967 he painted the guitar with Day-Glo paint and dubbed it “Rocky.”

George Harrison's hand-painted Fender Stratocaster, which he dubbed "Rocky" in 1967.
George Harrison’s Fender Stratocaster “Rocky” | Nigel Osbourne/Redferns

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“During ’67, everybody started painting everything,” George said, “and I decided to paint it. I got some Day-Glo paint, which was quite a new invention in them days, and just sat up late one night and did it.” George even used some of his ex-wife Patti Boyd’s nail polish to decorate the guitar.

Rocky appeared during The Beatles’ live TV performance of “All You Need Is Love” on Our World and in the band’s music video for “I Am the Walrus.” George used Rocky until he died in 2001. Since then, it has been in the safe hands of George’s son, Dhani. As George said, Rocky is a part of history.