Monday, February 3, 2014

25 Days of Harrison Day 3- Early music

"As I became a teenage, I first heard Fats Domino's 'I'm In Love Again' . That was what I would call the first Rock 'n' Roll record I ever heard. Another record from when I was still a schoolboy was The Del-Vikings' 'Whispering Bells' - I still remember the guitars on that. And then, of course 'Heartbreak Hotel'. That just came out of somebody's radio one day and lodged itself permanently in the back of my brain. Elvis, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly influenced us very much, and to this day theirs is my favourite rock 'n' roll music" - George Harrison
Growing up his oldest brother, Harry had a little portable record player that  could stack ten records, even though he only had three. Harry would keep it all nice and clean, with the wires tightly wrapped and the 45s and 33s in sleeves, it was made clear that no one would use it while he was out.
"But as soon as he'd go out my brother Pete and I would put them on." -George Harrison
George's dad had bought  a wind-up gramophone in New York when he was at sea. He also had records from America like Jimmie Rodgers, who George said was the first country singer he ever heard. There were also names like Big Bill Broonzy and Slim Whitman, who George recalls as the first person he saw play guitar, whether it was a picture or on the television.

While in the hospital (read more about on my previous post here) he realized he wanted to seriously play guitar. There was a kid from Dovedale named Raymond Hughes who had had a guitar for
£3 10s
"It was a lot of money then, but my mum gave me the money and I went to Raymond's house and bought it" -George Harrison
The guitar was as George said 'real cheapo horrible little guitar' with a bolt in the neck that once George got it, he unscrewed and the neck fell off. He threw the two pieces in a cupboard. Peter, his brother fixed it up for him.

George even tried to make his own guitar based off of his drawing he used to do in the back of his classroom at age fourteen or fifteen.
Arthur Kelly and George Harrison
"I got some three-ply wood. I first drew the shape that I wanted, then cut it out. (It was like a Les Paul shape, but it had 'f' holes.)  It had a hollow body, and on the inside of the back and the front I cut out little squares. I fitted doweling into the holes to hold the front in place. Then I soaked and bent the wood that went around the edge. It was very rough and a bit lumpy where it was glued on." -George Harrison
Then he made a big mistake when making the neck. To build the neck he didn't have a big enough piece of wood so he had to make it with multiple pieces using an aluminum plate to hold them together. He had put the he had finished putting the bridge, machine heads, nuts, and the strings on, even going to the extent to paint in in sunburst colours. As he was tightening the strings the whole guitar just 'ripped itself apart'.
"I threw it in the shed and never spoke to it again."- George Harrison 
He later got got a Hofner President, which was his 'first decent guitar'.

"It had big cutaway cello 'f' holes, based on the big Super Gibson guitars. I used to sit up late at night. I didn't look on it as practising, more learning. It was the only thing I really liked. When i had a new set of strings I'd take all the old ones off, and I'd polish the guitar and clean it and make it really impeccable."- George Harrison
Young Paul McCartney
He had later got a guitar manual that showed a few chords. When he got it he showed it to his new friend, Paul McCartney who he had met on a bus. Paul at the time had a trumpet, he would later trade in for a guitar, and George with his guitar had gotten together to play. Then came Lonnie Donegan who started the skiffle boom in the 50s. Everyone then went out to start a skiffle group of their own including George who formed a group with his brother and friend Arthur Kelly and called themselves The Rebels. The Rebels played only one gig at the British Legion Club and spent the rest of the time playing in somebody's garage.

As a teenager George went to see Lonnie Donegan in 1956 at the Liverpool Empire and others like The Crew Cuts and Danny and the Juniors but he says the best show he ever saw was when Eddie Cochran came ( a few years later).
Eddie Cochran
"I remember Eddie Cochran well: he had his black leather wasitcoat, black leather trousers and a raspberry-coloured shirt. He came on doing 'What'd Is Say', and as the curtains opened he had his back to the audience, playing the riff. I was watching his fingers, to see how he played. He had a Gretsch guitar, the one in all the pictures, with a black Gibson pick-up and Bigsby tremolo."- George Harrison
George goes on to say that he wasn't only impressed by his songs like the well known "Summertime Blues" C'mon Everybody" and "Twenty Flight Rock", but he was also impressed by Cochran's covers like Ray Charles's "Hallelujah, I Love Her So".

"There was a funny break in-between songs. He was standing at the microphone and as he started to talk he put his two hands through his hair, pushing it back. And a girl, one lone voice, screamed out, 'Oh Eddie!' and he coolly murmured into the mike, 'Hi honey.' I thought, 'Yes! That's it- rock 'n' roll!'"- George Harrison
At this time it was obvious that George was going into music, his grades in school had become awful, so bad that he'd burn his report cards so no one could see them and had persuaded his parents to have him leave school. He had become an apprentice for an electrician (his dad wanted all of the boys to have a trait and start their own garage) but Rock 'n' Roll was effecting everyone in the 1950s, especially with the 'Heartbreak Hotel' spread. George remembers hearing Elvis's song on someones radio and 'lodged itself permanently in the back of my brain' as George once said. 


Check for tomorrows post about how George met Paul and John.


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