Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Morning with George

I've been wanting to post a few bits about George Harrison for a while, and being stuck home with a nasty cold has afforded us the chance to pull a few threads together.

First off, next week, the The Beatles Story, a themed attraction in Liverpool, will unveil the latest addition to their collection: a gold-plated banjolele previously owned by George Harrison. The uke was purchased for around $38,000 (21,600 GBP) by The Beatles Story at auction from Bonhams in June, 2008.:
"George Formby/George Harrison: A gold-plated Dallas 'E' banjolele, the headstock inlaid with George Formby's name and the reverse stamped E/1169, fingerboard with dot and shaped markers, replaced skin, in original plush-lined, shaped case by Paxman Bros. Ltd. London, together with background documentation"
There's apparently some argument as to whether the uke was ever owned or played by George Formby. It was indeed owned by Harrison, who later felt it belonged with the family and offered to gift it back to them. Formby's nephew insisted on paying for it, however. Lovely chaps, both.

This uke was one of three at auction; the others being:

George Formby's Dallas 'C' banjolele, which Formby used to perform, among other things, When I'm Cleaning Windows. (Formby used several differently-tuned ukes on stage, noting which songs each was to be used for. There's a professional cheat that anyone with Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome can use to justify the need to own multiple ukes: But Honey, I tune this one in C and I need this other one so I can tune it in D...)
"...with impressed serial no. 2364, in shaped case, an envelope attached inside inscribed in Formby's hand Uke in D Low, also with five song titles written in pencil on a scrap of paper by Formby, Window Cleaner, Serves you right, Lampost, Blackpool Rock, Growing Lad, a set of 1940s' strings by Keech 'Made expressly for Mr. George Formby', and the original vellum"
George Formby's Abbott 'Monarch' banjolele,
"rear of headstock stamped 4967 and neck with indistinct maker's mark, sold with background documentation"
As for the purchasers of the Dallas 'C' and the Abbott 'Monarch," well as my mother used to say, my hat blew off. The Monarch sold for around $129,000 (72,000 GBP). No selling price is listed for the Dallas 'C', so perhaps it did't sell.

I also recently ran across a video of George Harrison that I hadn't seen before. In case you haven't, here's the music video of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Everyone looks like they're having the time of their life. I can only imagine that this must have been what it was like at George's home when he brought the ukes out.

Finally, I got a change to kanikapila with my friend James Bradbury this week. Jim was teaching me George's For You Blue. Not surprisingly, it being a Harrison tune, it translates perfectly to the uke. Here's a knockout version by Seiji Yamashita. If anyone has tabbed this out, please email me. Enjoy!


(h/t to Al Wood for the Formby AntiVirus joke)

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