George Harrison Guitar Strings Press photo of The Beatles during Magical Mystery Tour

George Harrison’s Guitar Strings In Case of Auctioned Hofner

We always suspected that George Harrison's guitar strings of choice were made by Rotosound during his Beatles period – the company being the main supplier in Britain at the time and McCartney choosing to string his Hofner violin bass up with Rotosound Tru Bass strings. However, with the emergence of George's "Blondie" Hofner at a Sotherby's auction, and with the contents of the case included, the evidence was clear the Harrison was indeed a Rotosound player.

[George] gave me a set of strings for it that he thought would be better for me

These strings came in gauge 11-47 and were considered a “light” gauge in those days.

When this auction listing appeared on our radar in 2019 we were intrigued to see an old pack of Rotosound strings included in the original case belonging to George Harrison. It seemed that the 1959 Hofner President Thinline and a pack of Harrison’s guitar strings had been kept in top condition since they were gifted to the current owner, Alan Herring, who provides these details on how he ended up with this historic instrument:

How the guitar got into Alan’s hands

“…George gave me this Hofner President… in the summer of 1969, before the release of ‘Here Comes the Sun’. I’d gone to George to ask him to show me the chord I was missing from the song ‘Here Comes the Sun’ which I was trying to teach myself to play. George told me to go and get a guitar from his guitar room, which I did, he described this guitar as ‘Blondie’ and remarked that a Hofner President was his first good guitar. George showed me the chord then took the guitar from me, and told me, whilst smiling, ‘Play it up here at the seventh fret’, he then handed the guitar back to me telling me it was mine.”

George Harrison's guitar strings Hofner President case. Rotosound

“He said it needed some work doing on it and gave me a set of strings for it that he thought would be better for me than the ones on the guitar. I played this guitar frequently when waiting for the band whilst they had their long sessions at Abbey Road Studios. One night I was playing in the kitchen at the studios when George came in with Mal Evans. George took the guitar from me and started to play the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Mrs Robinson’ delightfully substituting his nickname for me ‘Alan Herringbone’ for that of Mrs Robinson. This was a very special moment for me – one of the best of my time there…”

George Harrison's guitar strings Hofner President case. Rotosound RS44 gauge 11 stainless steel strings

George Harrison’s guitar strings of choice

But why was there a pack of Rotosound strings in the case and did George Harrison play Rotosound strings for a particular reason or were they just what came with the guitar? Well, this comment in Alan Herring’s letter of provenance shows that Harrison picked out the Rotosound strings because he found them to be superior to the ones originally fitted to the guitar:

“George told me to go and get a guitar from his guitar room, which I did, he described this guitar as
‘Blondie’ and remarked that a Hofner President was his first good guitar. George showed me the chord then took the guitar from me, and told me, whilst smiling, “Play it up here at the seventh fret”, he then handed the guitar back to me telling me it was mine. He said it needed some work doing on it and gave me a set of strings for it that he thought would be better for me than the ones on the guitar.”

sothebys George Harrison Guitar letter of provedence

What are Rotosound “44” guitar strings?

The pack of strings in George Harrison’s guitar case features one of the earliest designs with the Rotosound emblem included, dating to around 1966 to 1968. The only mark designating which model these strings are is the “44” printed on the front – so the obvious question is, what are “44” model strings?

We have a large trove of archive material dating from before the start of the company in 1958, so we had plenty of catalogues and production materials to refer to. A quick dive into some late sixties brochures revealed that the “44” (or “RS44” as they later became) were roundwound stainless steel strings. Also called the “Beat King” set, these strings came in gauge 11-47 and were considered a “light” gauge in those days.

The full “Beat King” set came in the following gauges exclusively: .011 • .0145 • .0205w • .029w • .035w • .047w. Today, Rotosound produces British Steels, which come in a similar gauge running from 11-48.

George Harrison's guitar strings Hofner President case. Rotosound

World famous strings

George Harrison wasn’t the only iconic player to use Rotosound stainless steel electric guitar strings to make some of the world’s best enduring music. Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Syd Barrett, Jeff Lynne, Brian May and Angus Young are among the players who have strung their guitars up with Rotosound steel strings.

Even Jimi Hendrix played Rotosound when he lived in London, even posing for a photograph with Noel Redding and Rotosound’s then Marketing Director, Alan Marcuson. Read about Rotosound’s rich heritage here and see fascinating photos, catalogues, and advertisements in The Rotosound Archives.

Like this post? Share it with a friend...

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Stay in the loop

Subscribe to the Rotosound newsletter