Exhibition Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Band’s Arrival in New York.

The Beatles Instruments: Paul's Hofner Bass, Ringo's Ludwig Drums, George's  Gretsch Guitar, John's Rickenbacker Guitar


On February 7, 1964, The Beatles arrived in New York City to ignite what would become a decades-long rock and roll phenomenon for fans throughout the United States, and their guitar-driven songs, ranging from haunting love songs like “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell” to uptempo rockers, like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Till I Saw Her Standing There”, would inspire the then current generation, as well as future generations to not only buy Beatles’ records and paraphernalia, but to learn to play guitar, so they, too, could try their hands at what the Beatles did so well.

This past Saturday, May 10, 2014, I was fortunate enough to visit the exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. I say fortunate, because Saturday was the last day that the exhibit would be in New York, and, not knowing about it until the day before could have easily prevented me from attending. I hope that my mentioning “Ladies and Gentlemen …” here in this space will alert you to the possibility of it arriving in a location near you – this is a traveling exhibition curated by the Los Angeles-based GRAMMY Museum, and you can find out more about the tour itinerary by visiting the Grammy Museum website.

This historic era of popular music as well as the culture surrounding it, is wonderfully captured and presented by the Grammy Museum’s presentation of “Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles!”, an absolutely touching, nostalgic, and poignant remembrance of those halcyon days, months, and years when the musical evolution of the Beatles was focused on, and shared in, by millions of music fans throughout the world.

Some Key Highlights

The exposition is chock-full of various time-warping elements that are certain to grab your attention, but among them, one that was particularly eye-catching and time-stopping was the array of Fab Four instruments that greets visitors as they enter the exhibition: Paul’s Hofner bass guitar, George’s Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar, John’s Rickenbacker 325 Capri (refinished to John’s taste in coach black), and Ringo’s Ludwig drums. The instruments (in Ringo’s case – the drumsticks) are suspended in mid-air and seem to be awaiting the boys to step up to them, and, at any minute, break into one of their iconic live performances.

Another display that caught my attention, as well as the attention of numerous fellow visitors, was the recreation of a teenager’s room, from the day, replete with Beatles posters, cards, and a record-player that created the illusion of what it must have been like for countless young Beatles fans who spent time in their rooms listening to the music that does, in fact, circulate within the walls (from under the bed?) of the fantasy room.

Elvis’s Martin D-18 and Buddy Holly’s Gibson J-45

Yet another iteration of the music that propelled so many aspiring guitar players to learn how to play guitar was 1) Elvis’s Martin D -18 guitar, adorned with stick-on letters spelling E-L-V-I-, the missing “S” adding all the more intrigue to the story that that guitar must hold within it. From various reports uncovered on the internet, it appears that this Martin D-18 was used by Elvis from June, 1954 through December, 1954; and, 2) Buddy Holly’s scratched-up, weather-worn Gibson J-45, with it’s trademark embroidered leather cover. Word has it that, although his Fender Stratocaster became the guitar associated with Buddy, it was his Gibson J-45 that Buddy played the most when he was off-stage, as well as the one which was most often used by him when writing his songs. The scratches and pick-wear around the guitar’s sound hole, bespeak the hours of guitar playing that must have taken place on that guitar. The aforementioned leather cover was hand-tooled by Buddy himself, seemingly inspired by the leather cover used by Elvis on his D-28, and was embossed with “Love Me” and “Blue Days Black Nights”, two of Buddy’s 1956 Decca recordings.

“Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles” Itinerary

All in all, if you are a guitar player, someone who is learning how to play guitar, or simply a rock music aficionado, you owe it to yourself to see this exhibit at one of the stopping points on its way across the United States. “Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles”, is an absolute must-see for anyone, of any age, who has ever been drawn in by the music created by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Richard (Ringo) Starkey, or by any guitar – driven rock, country, blues, or folk music artist.

The next stop for “Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles” is Bloomington, Minnesota, at the Midwest Music Museum, and it will be open from June 5, 2014 to September 7, 2014. For more details about ticket prices and availability, please visit Midwest Music Museum.


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