George Harrison’s first sitar sells at auction for astonishing fee

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The first sitar owned by The Beatles guitarist George Harrison has been sold at auction in Los Angeles, fetching a fee over £53,000.

The instrument played a pivotal influence in shaping the Fab Four’s sound, as they took inspiration from India thanks to Harrison’s friendship with Ravi Shankar. Notably, the sitar was used on The Beatles classic track, ‘Norwegian Wood’.

Harrison bought the four foot sitar from the shop, Indiacraft, on Oxford Street in London at some time between August and October 1965. However, it was only under in his ownership for a brief period as he gifted it to a friend in 1966.

Upon celebrating his honeymoon in 1966 in Barbados, Harrison gave the item to George de Vere Drummond, who allowed the couple to use his property in the Caribbean while they celebrated their marriage.

Although he gave the sitar to Drummond, Harrison’s love for the instrument continued to grow, and in 1966, he advanced his ability by visiting India with Shankar. However, it was this initial sitar that sparked the love affair.

Harrison once said of the cherished item: “I went and bought a sitar from a little shop at the top of Oxford Street called Indiacraft – it stocked little carvings, and incense. It was a real crummy-quality one, actually, but I bought it and mucked about with it a bit.”

The guitarist continued: “Anyway, we were at the point where we’d recorded the Norwegian Wood backing track and it needed something. We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up – it was just lying around. I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it. It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked.”

Drummond retained ownership of the instrument for 58 years before choosing to sell the item through Los Angeles auctioneers Nate D Sanders. The auction house said of the sale: “We are delighted with the result which was over double the pre-sale estimate. More than any guitar that Harrison used during his career with the Beatles and as a solo artist, the sitar is perhaps the instrument most closely associated with him.”

A spokesperson for Sanders added: “It is more than an instrument; it’s a bridge between cultures and melodies. From the moment he acquired it in 1965, this unassuming piece of craftsmanship ignited a revolution.”

Meanwhile, last week, it was revealed John Lennon‘s Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar, which was lost for 50 years, is set to head to auction.

The instrument was used on a litany of recordings by The Beatles during the 1960s but was considered a lost relic until it miraculously recently appeared in an attic, according to Julien’s Auctions. It will be sold at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City next month and is expected to fetch between $600,000 to $800,000.

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