Everyone from Hank to Macca has strummed a Hofner. Phil Harris reckons you should, too
The Beatles, The Searchers, Bert Weedon… if you’re talking about a certain era of rock’n’roll, Hofner instruments are a quick route to nostalgia land.
Up until the late ’60s, many a guitarist struggled to make their first chords on a Hofner; Fenders and Gibson were either non-existent or way too expensive for youngsters – and remember that there wasn’t any Squiers or Epiphones around.
The good news is that many vintage Hofner guitars are affordable classics that play very nicely – as long as you choose wisely. For example, steer clear of the Hofner Congress; the action’s so bad that you could limbo dance underneath the strings, and they’re not worth scuffing up the hammer you’d end up smashing them with.
However, semi-acoustics like the Verithin, jazzers like the Committee and even solidbodies such as the Colorama are well worth a look.
The important thing to remember is to treat them in the right context. If you get a nice vintage Hofner, find a suitable Watkins or Selmer amp. If you put it through a Triple Rectifier, the back of the guitar would shake so much it would be more of a sex aid than an instrument. A lot of fun, perhaps, but not necessarily musical…
1962 Hofner Colorama
This one was a starter guitar, complete with cardboard – yes, cardboard – case. Later Coloramas are Stratocaster-esque, but I like this one because Hofner was trying to make their own mark; Gibson-y body, Fender-y neck. Mind you, they lost the plot on the headstock in terms of scale
1960 Golden Hofner
As Hofner guitars go, this is the cream of the crop. Those art deco pickups, that ‘frog’ headstock, all that pearl… and it sounds just as good as it looks. A thinline Golden can go for about £2,500 to £3,000, but if you’ve got a Bert Weedon fetish then you’ll need one of these under your bed
1964 Hofner 500/1
This version of the Violin Bass is a year later than Paul McCartney’s famous one; this one has individual machineheads, not two-a-side ones, and has visible neck binding. Apart from that, though, it’s pure Beatles. If you plugged it into a Vox T-60 I bet you’d be playing I Saw Her Standing There before you knew it. Worth the same as a Golden Hofner right now, and it’ll probably be worth a lot more in the future
1961 Hofner Verithin
The Verithin was the economy version of the Gibson 335, complete with a regular archtop Bigsby that they crudely filed down at the bottom around the strap button because it was slimmer than any guitar it was made for. The knobs are also an oddity; Selmer distributed Hofners in the UK and Hofner must have run out, because these have Selmer’s black gold-centred knobs with an arrow rather than the standard Hofner dish knobs. But I think it adds to its charm
1955 Hofner Senator
When I bought this pre-truss rod guitar with the big ol’ neck it was fitted with the add-on ‘pickups and knobs on a scratchplate’ that were around in those days for people who wanted to convert their acoustic into an electric. I’ve been known to get drunk on a Saturday night, take this guitar out and bang out some blues. Impresses the neighbours no end
1960 Hofner 500/5
The President Bass is often referred to as the ‘Stu Sutcliffe’, and although this model is slightly later than his, the pickups are still in the same position. It has a fuller tone than the Violin Bass, but it’s still got that early Cavern Club sound. It’s a really pretty number, and at £800 to £1500 it’s fantastic value for the money