In the summer of 1956, Paul McCartney's father gave him a trumpet for his fourteenth birthday. With the “Skiffle” craze hitting Britain, along with Elvis Presley’s emergence on the Rock and Roll scene, McCartney realized that he couldn't sing while playing a trumpet. So, he asked his father’s permission to trade it in.
McCartney visited Liverpool’s Rushworth and Dreaper's Music, where he traded his trumpet in for a Framus “Zenith” Model 17 acoustic guitar.
The Zenith was manufactured in Germany by Framus and imported into Britain by Boosey & Hawkes. McCartney’s new guitar carried a B&H decal on the headstock and a sound-hole label with the signature of Ivor Mairants.
Mairants was a professional British Jazz and Classical guitarist. From the 1930’s, he was a featured banjoist and guitarist in many of Britain’s leading dance bands.
In the 1950’s, Mairants devoted a lot of time to writing instructional methods for the guitar. He eventually commissioned Framus to make the Zenith Model 17 guitars with each one personally signed and numbered by him and with Boosey & Hawkes the sole distributor.
When McCartney got home with his new £15 guitar, he couldn't figure out how to play it. It wasn’t until later when he saw a photo of American Folk singer Slim Whitman, who was a left-handed guitar player, that McCartney realized that he too was left-handed. As he told later, once he re-strung the Zenith "upside-down," he discovered that the first string rattled around in the wider notches designed for the sixth string. So, he carefully shaved down a matchstick and made a block to keep the string from moving around.
The operation was a success and a new left-handed guitarist was born.
This is the guitar McCartney would be playing around the time that he would meet John Lennon, and it’s on the Zenith that he would compose his earliest songs, including "When I'm 64."
McCartney would later mount a little pickup near the bridge, and eventually remove its pick guard. He would use the Zenith right up until the Beatles' first trip to Hamburg. The guitar still hangs in his studio and was last seen in the "Anthology" video when McCartney played a bit of "Twenty Flight Rock." It appeared to be stripped of any color.
The 1957 Framus Zenith Model 17 presented in our collection is identical to McCartney’s first guitar, including set up for left handed playing.

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1957 Framus Zenith Model 17 (PMc)

One of the earliest photos of Paul McCartney with his new Framus Zenith Model 17 acoustic guitar.

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