By the summer of 1963, The Beatles were fast establishing themselves as the biggest sensation in England, prompting wide interest in their music, live shows, records, haircuts, and guitars. Eager to share some of this incredible success, the Selmer London Company, UK distributor of Hofner guitars, quickly realized that McCartney was using a left-handed bass guitar made by the German manufacturer.
In exchange for the use of promotional hang tags featuring The Beatles’ bass player, Selmer paid a small royalty to Brian Epstein’s company, and Hofner supplied a one-off custom-made Hofner bass for McCartney himself. The history of this instrument has been well documented in Andy Babiuk’s book Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four’s Instruments from Stage to Studio. The bass guitar was presented to McCartney in 1964 and was displayed at the London music trade show at the Russell Hotel. In mid-1965, it was then sold by a Bedfordshire music store to a young bassist. It eventually resurfaced years later in 1994 when it was purchased by ourselves, who, after extensive research, discovered that the bass was indeed the one bass made especially for McCartney in 1964.
The guitar was taken to Hofner in Germany to verify its authenticity, which was confirmed by Christian Benker of Hofner Musikinstrumente. Additionally, Alby Paynter, who worked for Selmer & Co. in London between 1954 and 1967, also examined the guitar and confirmed this was the bass with which he was personally involved clearing through customs in 1964. Also, Dave Wilkinson, another Selmer employee at the time, remembered the instrument being on show at its central London shop. McCartney himself discussed the guitar in an interview that appeared in the July 1967 issue of Beat Instrumental Monthly. McCartney was quoted as saying, “I have had a Hofner Violin bass ever since I started. I’ve got three or four models but the ancient one is still my favourite … The only difference in any of they can be seen on the one Selmers [sic] had made for me, that has gold pickups.”
This historical instrument is one of only three basses made by Hofner for McCartney during The Beatles’ lifetime. Considering that McCartney still plays his cherished 1963 model on stage nowadays and that his first violin bass purchased in Hamburg in 1961 has long been lost.