George Harrison was the “quiet Beatle” – at least until he plugged in an electric guitar and, to paraphrase another famed guitar wrangler of the era, “let his freak flag fly.”

One of the key instruments in Harrison’s guitarsenal was “Lucy,” a more solid-bodied relative of B.B. King’s beloved “Lucille”. Lucy is one of the world’s most famous Gibson Les Paul Standards, although her 1957 date of birth dictates that she began her life as a Les Paul Gold Top.

Eric Clapton gave the guitar to Harrison in August 1968, and Harrison named the deep cherry red instrument “Lucy” after popular red-haired comedienne Lucille Ball. The elegant tone machine made its debut in the studio during the “White Album” sessions, although the first song Harrison played it on, “Guilty,” did not make the disc. Shortly after that, Harrison’s Lucy made her TV debut in the promo video for “Revolution,” which premiered in America on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Lucy is the most famous Gibson guitar that Harrison played, but she is not alone. As Harrison’s playing evolved and he became interested in instruments with greater feedback control and tonal warmth and depth he turned increasingly to Gibsons. As far back as the Please Please Me and With the Beatles albums, Harrison was strumming a Gibson J-160E for his acoustic tracks. Both Harrison and John Lennon acquired J-160Es in 1962 before entering the studio to cut The Beatles’ Please Please Me. Their manager Brian Epstein had to co-sign for both men so they could buy the sunburst six-strings on the installment plan from a Liverpool music shop. The J-160Es can be heard prominently on “Love Me Do.” After Lennon’s J-160E was stolen in late 1963, he often borrowed Harrison’s and played it in Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night before getting his own replacement.

Harrison kept playing his, on Beatles For Sale, Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, the “White Album” and Yellow Submarine. If only guitars could talk.

As mentioned, Lucy’s iconic history began with the “White Album,” and she can be heard crying through the extraordinarily emotive solo in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” albeit in the hands of Clapton. Harrison was feeling insecure about his lead playing at the time, but knew he wanted something brilliant for the song he’d written. And brilliance was something Clapton always had on tap.

Back in her new master’s hands, Lucy also appeared on Let It Be and Abbey Road, laying down the middle solo at the end of “The End.” Harrison also took the guitar on tour when he joined Clapton with Delaney & Bonnie in 1969.

Lucy already had an interesting life before she was acquired by E.C. The details are less than crystalline, but the guitar appears to have been bought new by the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian and then sold to Rick Derringer, who was in the McCoys and nearly a half-decade away from joining the group of Gibson Firebird legend Johnny Winter. Derringer had the guitar refinished from its original gold at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but felt it didn’t sound or feel the same after that, so he traded it for a Gibson Les Paul Sunburst at the Manhattan guitar shop where Clapton found Lucy.

In the 1970s, Lucy was stolen during a break-in at Harrison’s Beverly Hills home and ended up on the wall of the Hollywood Guitar Center. It was bought and taken to Mexico, but eventually traveled back to Harrison after a series of negotiations and delivery of a ’58 Les Paul Sunburst and a bass. The guitar remained in Harrison’s hands for the rest of his life.

Another important Gibson in Harrison’s musical life was a 1964 Gibson SG Standard that he played on the “White Album,” Revolver, Rubber Soul and beyond. It appears in the videos for “Paperback Writer,” “Rain” and “Lady Madonna.” He also used the SG to record “Hey Bulldog” for Yellow Submarine.

For Help! and Rubber Soul, Harrison had some help from a Gibson ES-345. Little is known about this particular instrument. At one time, Beatles mythology dictated that it was a gift from Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues presented to Harrison in 1965, but there are photos of the Beatle using the instrument before that date. Another important Harrison-owned Gibson is the J-200 acoustic he used from 1968 on, and employed in cutting the “White Album”’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Clapton and the tracks “Long, Long, Long” and “Piggies.” That big-bodied guitar also played a crucial role in the writing of the songs on Harrison’s solo masterpiece, All Things Must Pass.

Of course, Harrison’s history with his Epiphone Casino is well-documented. He and Lennon both acquired 1965 Casinos after utilizing Paul McCartney’s Casino during the making of Rubber Soul, but the model is the workhorse of the Sgt Pepper’s sessions. During the “White Album,” both Lennon and Harrison had their sunburst Casinos sanded down to a natural finish in the belief that process improved their tonal qualities. Indeed, Lennon’s instrument, at least seemed to take on a rawer nature, although Harrison’s sound, as always, remained studied and beautiful.