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Pete’s Gear: 1967 Coral Hornet guitar

Coral Hornet

Pete Townshend used Coral Hornet guitars on stage in 1967 and 1968 and in his home studio until at least 1971.

The model is a 1967 Coral Hornet and featured two “lipstick tube” pickups and a non-vibrato tailpiece. The Coral Hornet was produced by the same company — MCA (which had purchased Danelectro in 1966) — that produced Danelectro and Silvertone guitars. The Hornet was a Vinnie Bell signature design.

For more information about Coral guitars, see Vintage Guitar Info – Danelectro/Silvertone/Coral.

The first reported use is in the U.S. on 29 November 1967 at Union Catholic High School Gymnasium, Scotch Plains, New Jersey (USA). Pete purchased several of these guitars, on or about 25 or 27 Nov., 1967, from Manny’s in New York, when the group also purchased Sunn amplifiers and a Sunn PA.

Dave Goessling:

At Union Catholic High School in New Jersey, we were all at that show and helped road manager Bob Pridden load the groups’ gear into their bus after the show. We were all very interested in the gear, having a band ourselves. He told us that the band had bought all new gear at Manny’s in NYC just a couple days before, and that Pete had bought a number of those Coral Hornets all at the same time. He said they were fairly inexpensive, and sounded pretty good, and they expected them to last a while and be easy to piece together after smashups.

Pete likely used these guitars on and off through 1968.

Following a show at the Marquee on 23 April, 1968, Pete smashed a Coral Hornet. He likely then had it repaired and kept it for home studio use.

Pete in Melody Maker on the Marquee Club date, 23 April 1968:

“I smashed up two guitars at the end of the show, because one I was using had recently been repaired and broke as I came on stage, so I played another one I use for recording. At the end, I thought, ‘What the hell,’ and smashed them both. The Gibson Stereo cost £200 and the amps, which were borrowed, will cost about £20 to repair. I can’t put it down to tax because when I say I use 70 guitars a year, they don’t believe me.”

Christie’s auctions Pete’s Coral Hornet, s/n 823044

Christie’s auctioned Pete’s Coral Hornet guitar on 28 Sept., 2005, realising £6,000.

Click to view larger version. Pete’s Coral Hornet, courtesy and ©Christie’s.

Click to view larger version (372kb). Pete’s Coral Hornet, courtesy and ©Christie’s.

Courtesy and © Christie’s:

Lot 132 – Pete Townshend/The Who

A 1967 Coral Hornet, Vincent Bell Signature Model, Serial No. 823044, in flame red finish, double-cutaway body, 21-fret fingerboard with dot inlays, two pickups, two rotary controls, four switches, jack input and pearloid white pickguard; a simulated tweed rectangular hardshell case with claret-coloured plush lining containing a torn fragment of a transit instruction [part of which is still glued to the base of the case and when pieced together the incomplete details read To Be Col…Mr Peter Towns…at Newcastle Air…Flight No. BKS…Leaving…Arrivin…; accompanied by various documents concerning the provenance from members of the punk band The Skunks including a note from Frank Cornelli, the band’s lead guitarist which states that Pete Townshend gave him this guitar in 1978 … after signing to his Eel Pie label and releasing a single I wrote called ‘Good From The Bad’ which was a feature single on the John Peel Radio One Show…he [Townshend] told me that the Hornet had been used on the Who’s first American Tour…We changed our band name to Craze when we later signed to EMI (Cobra then Harvest labels)…we…recorded an album on EMI called CRAZE on which I used this guitar and the Rickenbacker 12-string.

According to an interview with Franck Cornelli and Gerry Lambe of The Skunks in 2002, Pete Townshend first met the band when they were supporting Billy Idol’s Generation X at the Vortex club in 1978. Townshend, accompanied by Keith Moon and Alex Harvey, went back stage after the gig and told the band he thought they were really good, and that he had enjoyed Cornelli’s guitar work which reminded him of a young Ritchie Blackmore. He signed the band to his Eel Pie label shortly after seeing them.

Estimate: £15,000–20,000

Pete Townshend appears to have owned at least two Coral Hornet guitars. One, a sunburst model, he smashed on stage at the Marquee Club on 23rd April, 1968 as well as a Gibson Stereo he was also using on that occasion.

Photographs taken by Chris Morphet of Townshend in his studio at Twickenham, circa 1971, show a Coral Hornet on the wall which, although in black and white, reveal that there is no graduation of shade in the finish — i.e. it is not a sunburst version, and could well be guitar in this lot.

For more information, see christies.com.

Julien’s auction, 31 May 2008

The above Coral Hornet was auctioned again (along with a Gibson Maestro Fuzz-Tone) by Julien’s in the “Icons of Music” Benefiting Music Rising auction in New York on 31 May 2009.

It was estimated at $4,000 to $6,000, but realised $25,000.

23 April 1968 at the Marquee.

23 April 1968 at the Marquee.

23 April, 1968, on stage at the Marquee, London, with the Coral Hornet.

23 April, 1968, on stage at the Marquee, London, with the Coral Hornet.

Home studio, Twickenham, ca. 1970

Ca. 1970, home studio, Twickenham, with the Coral Hornet hung on the wall at left. (Guitar at right is Harmony Sovereign H-1270 12-string.)

Home studio, Twickenham, ca. 1970

Ca. 1970, home studio, Twickenham, with the Coral Hornet hung on the wall at left.

Home studio, Twickenham, ca. 1969

Ca. 1969, home studio, Twickenham, with the Coral Hornet leaning against the back wall to Pete’s right.

First use

Click to view larger versions. Photos of first use of new Sunn amps and Coral Hornet, Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. Photos courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Click to view larger version. First use of Sunn amps, Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. –1. Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Click to view larger version. First use of Sunn amps, Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. –2. Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Click to view larger version. First use of Sunn amps, Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. –4. Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Click to view larger version. First use of Sunn amps, Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. –3. Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Collage of 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. View large version at The Who Concert Guide. (h/t Dave Goessling.)

Click to view larger versions. 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Courtesy The Who Concert Guide. (h/t Dave Goessling.)

Collage of 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. View large version at The Who Concert Guide. (h/t Dave Goessling.)

Click to view larger version. Collage of 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. (h/t Dave Goessling.)

Smashed black Coral Hornet from Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J.

Bart Koster with remains of Coral Hornet

Bart Koster with remains of Coral Hornet

Bart Koster of Midtown Recording owns the remains of a Coral Hornet Pete smashed at the Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J., gig on 29 Nov., 1967. Koster:

Pete Townshend handed me the remains of the black Coral Hornet after smashing it at the Nov. 29, 1967, Scotch Plains Catholic High concert. What I have is about 3/4 of the body of the guitar. I was 13 years old at the time. The back of my head can be seen in the lower left corner of two photos from that concert. I actually had the electronics initially, but gave those to my friend who fended off all the people that were trying to take it away from me. I recently found him after many years. As it turns out he lost those parts over time.

Click to view larger version. First use of Sunn amps, Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. –3. Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Photo courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Click to view larger version. Remains of black Coral Hornet, smashed at Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J., 29 Nov., 1967 – front. Photo courtesy Bart Koster.
Click to view larger version. Remains of black Coral Hornet, smashed at Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J., 29 Nov., 1967 – rear. Photo courtesy Bart Koster.

Many thanks to Bart Koster, Midtown Recording.

Resources and Information

Acknowledgements

Coral information