George Harrison Said His First Guitar Teacher Had an Enormous Influence on Him

George Harrison quickly became obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll when he was a kid. He begged his mother to buy him a guitar. Thankfully she obliged. His father was supportive as well, at least initially. Harold Harrison arranged his son’s first guitar lessons, and they changed young George’s life forever.

George Harrison holding his guitar before The Beatles performed at The Cavern Club.
George Harrison holding his guitar | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

George Harrison bought a guitar when he was 10

In Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene writes that in one of George’s earliest memories, he was “standing on a leather stool and singing folk singer Josh White’s ‘One Meatball’ to his family’s great delight.”

George loved performing for his family. “He had these animal puppets,” his sister, Louise, said, “and he’d do skits with them for us. He was funny and outgoing and the family doted on him.”

According to Louise, George had fun growing up and was “always the center of attention.” Even then, George made up silly songs like “I’m a Pink Toothbrush, You’re a Blue Toothbrush” and yodeled along with Hank Williams on “Blue Yodel 94.”

When he came home from school, he’d put on the radio and listen to tunes from Jimmie Rodgers, Big Bill Broonzy, Slim Whitman, and various English music-hall numbers.

George was born to perform, and when his friend offered to sell him a guitar for three pounds, 10 shillings, he confronted his mother, Louise. She allowed George to buy the beginner’s guitar, and he sat up all night practicing.

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George said his first guitar teacher had a massive influence on him

Initially, George’s father, Harold, supported his son’s love for music with Louise. He arranged George’s first guitar lessons.

“His father had a friend who ran a pub and played guitar, and he showed George how to finger chords to tunes from the twenties and thirties such as ‘Dinah’ and ‘Whispering,'” Greene wrote.

In George’s former sister-in-law, Dr. Jenny Boyd’s book It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), George said, “Since they really appreciated music, they encouraged me.

“My mum really liked the idea of me playing, because Dad was always out working at night or doing shift work. There was a friend of my father’s who, he remembered, used to play guitar when they were on the ships together.

“My father had sold his guitar because he needed the money, but this guy had continued playing. So my father called him up and asked him if he would show me a few things. This guy owned a liquor store, and whichever evening of the week he closed the shop, I’d go down there and he would show me how to play the guitar.

“I’m sure that set a certain pattern in my music, because he taught me all those old songs. He taught me all the chords to what you would call ‘dance band music,’ and that stayed with me until this day. He was a great help to me, showing me where to put my fingers and how different chords follow each other, just by playing songs, really. In retrospect, I think he had an enormous influence on me.”

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He knew more guitar than his future bandmates

Soon, all George cared about was playing his guitar. He stayed up late every night and practiced until his fingers bled and the cheap guitar’s neck bent. When George struggled, his mother would stay up all night reassuring him that if he practiced enough, he’d be great one day.

Then, rock ‘n’ roll came around 1956. Three songs changed the 13-year-old’s life: Fats Domino’s “I’m in Love Again,” Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”

By early 1958, George knew how to play songs like Alabama guitarist Bill Justis’ “Raunchy.” It was that song that got George into The Beatles. George played the instrumental for John Lennon during his audition. It impressed the older musician.

Following his entry into the Quarrymen (as The Beatles were called then), George knew more about the guitar than his new bandmates. He had to show John that a guitar had six strings, not four. However, George wasn’t the best yet.

Although his mother always supported him, his father became apprehensive about his son’s career choice once George joined the band. They showed everyone that they were ready to become stars.

George and The Beatles honed their skills by performing. Eventually, it all paid off. They became one of the most famous bands in the world.

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