John Lennon J-160e

John Lennon J-160e

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.

Gibson John Lennon

gibson john lennon

In 1954, Gibson John Lennon launched an electrified version of their hugely popular Southern Jumbo (SJ) called the J-160E. Like the CF-100E, it had a single-coil pickup mounted right below the fretboard with electric-style Volume and Tone knobs mounted directly on the soundboard. The J-160E featured a 3-ply laminated spruce top (the earliest models in 1954 were solid), a solid mahogany back, laminated mahogany sides, and a neck that met the body at the 15th fret, allowing room for the pickup between the fretboard and soundhole.

While the J-160E was certainly a dual-purpose instrument, many collectors don’t realize that it was designed primarily as an electric that could be used as an acoustic. Piezo and internal pickups were years from being developed, so this is all Gibson knew at the time. The laminated top and ladder bracing were used intentionally to prevent unwanted frequencies and feedback. Also, because the neck was moved up to allow room for the pickup, the bridge had to be moved forward as well—so traditional X bracing wouldn’t work in this situation.

According to the serial number, your guitar dates from either 1966 or 1969. The long-style pickguard on your guitar was introduced in 1968, so we can safely assume your guitar is a 1969 model. This was probably one of the last J-160Es produced before Gibson switched to the square shoulder body style they adopted on nearly all their acoustics in the late ’60s and early ’70s. For whatever reason, the J-160E was always a bit late to adopt changes compared to other Gibson models. Everything appears to be stock on the guitar, including the bridge and control knobs.

This 1969 J-160E, in the condition it appears (which is 70 percent or “average”), is valued today between $1850 and $2250. If it were mint, it would be a $3000 to $3500 instrument. Astute readers will know that the J-160E is more valuable than an SJ produced during the same period. The J-160E ’s value is higher simply because of its association with the Beatles, and this is fairly typical of any guitar that a famous musician or band is known for using. Instrument association has affected every instrument the Beatles ever played, including Paul McCartney’s Höfner 500/1 “Beatle Bass,” John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325 and Gibson J-160E, and George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 360 12-string.