Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Guitar's All Right as a hobby, John -- a book review

Mimi Smith at her home, Harbor's Edge in 1976. Photo posted with permission

The author, Kathy Burns with Mimi Smith in 1981.  copyright Kathy Burns and used with permission

The Guitar's All Right  as a Hobby, John -- a book review
by Sara Schmidt

John Lennon's aunt, Mary "Mimi" Smith has been depicted as many things over the past 50 years in various books and films.  most of these show Mimi to be the strict guardian of John who did not support him in any way.   But as a fan who loves John, I always knew there was more to Mimi than what I read in the biographies.  In Kathy Burn's book, The Guitar's All right  as a hobby John, she sets out to show a more complete story of Mimi Smith.

Kathy is a first generation Beatles fan who got involved in the Beatles fan club.  She started a division of the Beatles fan club in America that was devoted to Cynthia Lennon.  It became very popular and had hundred of members.  In the midst of the club's popularity, Kathy wrote a letter to John Lennon's Aunt Mimi to ask her if she would like to be a charter member.  This is what was the beginning of a correspondence between the two ladies that last Mimi's whole life.  This book is based a lot on the letters between the two and Kathy's personal memories.

The Cyn fan club sadly ended when John got together with Yoko, but Kathy continued to write to Mimi and stayed involved in the fan clubs.   In 1973, Kathy and some friends from With a Little Help From my Friends  traveled to England.  Paul McCartney fans will be interested in reading the humorous  stories of personal encounters Kathy and her friends had with Paul and Linda during that time. 

Mimi had invited her to come visit at the home John had bought for her in the town of Poole.  It was here that Kathy and Mimi became friends.  They would stay up all night smoking and chatting about John, the Beatles and the gossip of the time.   Mimi allowed Kathy to sleep in John's room.  It is interesting to note that when John moved out of Kenwood, John's driver found all of the gold records and awards the Beatles received in the trash.  He took them out to Mimi and she decorated her house in Beatles awards, never believing they were worth a small fortune.

Kathy returned to England in 1981 and got ot see first hand the emotional toil John's death had on his aunt.

This book shows that Mimi Smith truly was the mother figure of John Lennon.  Like any mother, she worried about him, supported him and was outspoken when he did something that was embarassing, but all of that never stopped her from loving him.

Mimi was a woman with a very strong opinion and she was never afraid to give her honest thoughts.  She openly shared what she thought of Cynthia, Linda, Yoko, Beatlefest, author Phillip Norman, Paul and basically anyone in the Beatles circle.  She also enjoyed hearing the gossip and news from the Beatle fans.

Like the other Beatle parents, Mimi was extremely kind to the fans who wrote to her or stopped by her home.  She'd often welcome them inside and give them a cup of tea while chatting about John and when they left, she would give them a small souvenir, like a button off of one of John's shirts.

While John and Mimi did not call each other every week, as some people believe, John was in regular contact with Mimi and wanted her to move to New York.  He sent her photographs of Sean and wrote her letters about all of his milestones and wanted her to be there to see her "grandson."   However, Mimi was contest in England, where she lived out her life.

While this book does not answer every question fans might have about Aunt Mimi, it does show a glimpse of what she was really like.  At only $15, it is a book that needs to be added to your summer reading list.

You can purchase this book from amazon.   There are not any photos in the book, however, the author has set up a lovely facebook page that I recommend joining because she has posted a large amount of rare photos of mostly Mimi but also some of Paul McCartney.  


  1. Thank you so much for the lovely review, Sara. I truly appreciate it and I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

    Kathy Burns

  2. I think Mark paints also a good picture of Mimi in his Tune In - and the other way around that John loved her aswell - buying a house etc.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this, Sara! I had no idea about this book, and now a copy is on the way and I can't wait to read it. Mimi is such an interesting character.

  4. Yoko would never had let John bring Mimi to live in NY