Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Guitar Man

It happens often to me that I write something for this blog and then a few days later I find more to the story or a new photo.   Such is the case with a story I found in a 1979 issue of Beatlefan magazine about Tony Saks.  This story gives a little more detail than I had previously known and I decided to go ahead and include it because the first story I wrote about him got a very positive response. 

 I am not sure who actually wrote this article for Beatlefan (maybe Bill King?) because no writer is given.

Beatles Guitar Man
From Beatlefan magazine
Vol 1 No 6 (1979)

If you’ve been to a Beatles convention this year or happen to live in the Norfolk, VA area, then you no doubt are familiar with a colorful 70-year-old character named Tony Saks and his unique guitar.
Saks calls himself the “world oldest Beatlemaniac” and his guitar is, he says, the only one in the world played and autographed in gold by all four members of the Beatles.  Saks figures that puts it right up in a league with Elvis’ jet and Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car, and so he’s making the rounds of Beatles conventions giving people a chance to pose for a picture with the guitar – for a price.

The story behind the Rickenbacker six-string goes back to Feb 8, 1964, the day after the Beatles arrived in New York City for their first visit to the U.S.    A Rickenbacker representative named F.C. Hall demonstrated the instrument for the band members, letting all four have a go at playing it.  Saks, a well-known guitar teacher from Norfolk, was present to assist Hall.
The next night, shortly after The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan TV appearance, Saks and his wife Grace met The Beatle sand manager Brian Epstein at the Plaza Hotel.  Later that evening, Saks offered to buy the guitar from Hall and did so for $467.50 thinking one of his guitar students back in Virginia might want it. 

The students suggested, however, that Saks ought to get the instrument autographed by the Beatles.  So he contacted the group’s London office when the band returned later that summer for a U.S. tour and Beatles press officer Derek Taylor set up a meeting between Saks and his wife Grace and Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.

The meeting took place around breakfast time on September 13, 1964 at the Holiday Inn (where the band was staying) in Baltimore, MD.  Each of the group members signed the guitar, using gold tape, and Taylor later recalled that all went well except at one point when the tape slipped almost ruining McCartney’s signature.  Mrs. Saks then got the Beatles to autograph some “She Loves you” sheet music and posed for a picture with McCartney.

Saks used the guitar, which he dressed up with four Beatles dolls (now collectors items in themselves), to promote his Guitarland music shop and guitar teaching business over the years, and also displayed it at civic clubs and shopping malls in the Virginia area and at music conferences.  In recent years he began putting on special displays of the instrument on February 9 and on September 13, which he proudly notes is not only the anniversary of the guitar signing, but the birthday of Starr and McCartney children. 

Then a Virginia newspaper columnist suggested to Saks that he take the guitar to the 1979 New York Beatlefest, “I decided to go at the last minute,” Saks said, and the trip turned out well as some 200 people paid $2 each to have a Polaroid picture taken of them holding the guitar.  He also took it to the Chicago Beatlefest, where 170 people paid $3 each to pose with the instrument and recently to the Beatles Forever II convention in Minneapolis where he also appeared on local TV.

“It wasn’t until I went to New York that I realized there was some (monetary) value to showing it off,” Saks said.  He would like to get the four ex-Beatles involved in some way with a charitable use of the guitar next year but right now he’s mainly, “trying to figure out how I can use it to add to my Social Security I started collecting in January of this year.  I ‘m retired now.”   He also sells guitar picks emblazoned with “McCartney Maniacs Unlimited.”

Although face value of the mint condition 1964 Rickenbacker like his would be around $1,000, Saks estimates the value of his Beatles guitar at $50,000.  A somewhat overenthusiastic figure, probably, but there’s no denying the instrument is worth much more than $1,000.

Money aside, thought, Saks said he’s enjoying attending Beatles conventions and meeting today’s fans.  “I love ‘em,” he said, “just like I do the Beatles.  I really am the world’s oldest Beatlemaniac.”


  1. I live in Norfolk . I had seen that guitar in his studio , he had a shop upstairs from the old Norfolk Drive-In on va, beach blvd ,in the early 1970's,,,,,,,wayback.

  2. I took group lessons from Mr. Saks in 1966 at his studio on Lafayette Blvd., in Norfolk, just a few blocks from our house. I had a used Silvertone electric with horrible action - it was painful to the point that I hated to practice. I wound up quiting after a few months.

    Tony had the signed Rickenbacker on display in his small store along with some Gretsch's. He was a Chet Atkins fan.

  3. My name is Max Mattoon and Tony Saks was my great grandfather. He died
    Before I was born but sure that’s where my brother and I’s musical genes come from. Let me know if you ever stumble across more info on him my email is