Mt. Vernon Register-News

July 23, 2011

Musically Speaking: Former Beatle did visit Mt. Vernon


MT. VERNON — If you look on the first page of the MS Website (, you will see at the top-right a link for an article from the USA Today from early June, 2011.

Click on the link and you will be directed to the full story.

When I first saw this, I was immediately reminded of a story that my late-sister Judy told me about when I was eight or nine-years-old. That would have been 1965-66 for those that are keeping count.

Judy said that George Harrison of the Beatles had been in Mt. Vernon a few years earlier.

Now remember, at that point the Beatles were at the height of their popularity in the United States.

Years later, I did some investigating... because that’s what I do.

I found that Harrison did indeed visit the King City in 1963. And he came with a mission.

Turns out that Harrison, whose sister lived in Benton, 23 miles south on Illinois 37, came for a visit in Southern Illinois and decided that he wanted to buy a new electric guitar while here.

Also turns out that a King City music store owner had exactly what he wanted... almost.

Mt. Vernon guitar (and any other musical instrument that he desires to play) virtuoso Del Herbert has kept up with the local story over the years.

“I’ve seen some recent articles about this, what you’re talking about with Red Fenton,” said Herbert. “George Harrison, on one of his early, early trips, bought a Rickenbacker guitar from Red Fenton, when Fenton’s (Music Store) was down on South Tenth.”

But, Herbert said, the color may have posed a slight problem.

“The guitar was a different color (fire red). The story goes that George wanted a black guitar because, he said, ‘we’re playing black guitars’,” Herbert said. “Red told him to come back in a few days and it would be black.”

And it was. Now, the simple thought of that scenario has apparently provided the thought process that Herbert has used for these many years.

“When I see a Rickenbacker, I want to paint it black,” said Herbert, digressing again. “Like the beginning of that Rolling Stones song.”

George Harrison used that guitar on the next television show that the Beatles were on in England, one called “Ready, Steady, Go!”

The guitar now resides in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard stories that Red Fenton may have seen a long-haired country boy back in the early sixties messing with a guitar,” Herbert said with a laugh. “He probably said to put that back up unless you mean to buy it. But, that may have been me that he was talking to, because that happened. But, like I said, that’s a rumor.”

With Del Herbert, you just never really know, do you?

Oh, by the way, Fenton’s Music Store was located in same building that is now occupied by our good friends at Main Street Records.

I hope that you have had an opportunity to hear last weekend’s MS show.

We were afforded the right to air quite a bit of music from the new double CD from our old friend Rob Whisenhunt. The new set is entitled, “Castles I (The Constant).”

Rob, Brian Alvis, Mike Ogle and I talked about the recording of the new tunes and they shared some of the inevitable stories that you would obviously expect from such sessions.

This Sunday, it is my intention to discuss a multitude of things with Jeff “Miller-Time” Miller.

Although Jeff has performed on MS numerous times (with the Swivel Rockers and Snake Lane Revue among others), this will be Jeff’s first interview appearance on this very program. That is, if the technological problems don’t continue to plague me as they have recently.

I intend to ask Miller-Time if he is on a personal-basis with John Denver, who got me to thinking about the Blue Ridge Mountains to begin with.

If Miller-Time doesn’t work out, I may just play some new renditions of classic Shawnee Indian tunes that my family may have handed down for generations, as far as you know.

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Enjoy this weeks internet-radio show, and please be careful out there.

Don’t drink and drive or text and drive.

The Illinois State Police are counting on it.