George Harrison’s 1958 Gibson “ransom” Les Paul – the same electric guitar that was used to rescue his cherished ‘57 Lucy model after it was stolen in 1973 – has hit the auction block.
We see our fair share of guitar auction stories here at Guitar World, but this one carries one of the most remarkable backstories of them all – one that involves theft, negotiations, international exchanges and the return of one of the most coveted Les Pauls in history.
Lucy’s story really began in the early ‘60s – once it passed through the hands of John Sebastian and Rick Derringer, the six-string was then gifted to Harrison by Eric Clapton in 1968, after Slowhand purchased it from Dan Armstrong’s guitar shop in New York.
Originally a Goldtop, the guitar had been refinished with a unique red colorway, and became one of Harrison‘s go-to instruments for the remainder of his time with the Beatles.
Alas, the guitar was one of a number of items that were subsequently stolen from Harrison’s Beverly Hills home in 1973, and not long after was sold to Whalin’s Sound City Music Store on Sunset Boulevard.
Before Harrison could reclaim Lucy, however, the ‘57 Les Paul was sold to a musician from Mexico called Miguel Ochoa, who took the guitar back to his home country with him.
In a bid to get Lucy back, Harrison offered an exchange, to which Ochoa asked for a Fender Precision Bass and another Les Paul – a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul, to be precise, which would later become known as the ransom Les Paul.
The ransom LP was purchased from popular vintage dealer Norman Harris of Norman’s Rare Guitars, and was delivered to Ochoa in return for Lucy.
Ochoa kept his 1958 Les Paul for a decade, until he decided to sell the vintage guitar to his boss – Nadine’s Music Owner, Robert Truman – in order to raise funds to pay for a house. After spending time migrating from musician to musician, the ransom Les Paul has now been placed up for auction via Heritage Auctions.
The guitar is almost untouched from its factory specs. According to Heritage, the pickup covers appear to have been removed and reinstalled, while the original tuners have also been swapped for early Kluson machines. The original frets and original pots are also present.
Owing to its rollercoaster history and the role it played in rescuing Lucy, the ransom Les Paul is set to sell for an eye-watering sum of money – the opening bid currently sits at $250,000, with a Buyer's Premium that takes it up to $312,500.
It might not quite make it on to the list of most expensive guitars sold at auction – the lowest entry on that is Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” Stratocaster, which sold for $959,000 – but it looks like it will certainly fetch a fairly substantial sum.
To find out more, head over to Heritage Auctions (opens in new tab).