Paul McCartney’s 1961 Höfner 500/1 bass is stolen

Tuesday, October 10, 1972


While Paul McCartney enjoyed playing several Höfner violin basses throughout his career, his very first, a 1961 Höfner 500/1, held a special place. Sadly, this iconic instrument was lost for over five decades. Its last confirmed sighting came during the filming of The Beatles’ “Get Back” sessions in 1969, fueling rumours of its disappearance from Apple Studios in Savile Row around that time.

However, the bass remained in Paul’s possession until October 10, 1972, when it was stolen from a truck parked overnight. In 2023, Ian Horne, a roadie with Wings, explained that the bass was stolen sometime after 10 pm from the Ladbroke Grove area of Notting Hill, west London. Press pleas for its return were published a few days later, but the bass disappeared for good.

In 2019 and 2023, Höfner, the manufacturer of the bass, launched online campaigns to trace the bass and get it back to Paul. Their efforts, combined with dedicated fans and investigators, finally bore fruit. The lost treasure was discovered abandoned in an attic, returned to Paul McCartney in September 2023, and announced in February 2024.

In 1972, Paul McCartney was preparing for his first UK and European tours with Wings, and the band was recording their second album, Red Rose Speedway. We had rented a truck to move the gear – guitars and amplifiers – to various recording studios and rehearsal spaces across London. We were often criss-crossing London to rehearse or record at Morgan Studios in Willesden Green, the ICA in The Mall, Manticore Studios in Fulham, Island Studios in Notting Hill, and Abbey Road in St John’s Wood.

One night, after a long day, we got to Notting Hill, where Trevor lived, and decided to park the truck up there for the night. We knew there was a huge padlock on the back doors, but when I got up in the morning and saw the van, with the broken padlock lying in the road, I knew it was bad news. I looked inside and the bass, along with one other guitar and two Vox AC30 amps, had gone.

We instantly suspected people living in and around Ladbroke Grove were responsible. One or two people living close by knew that we worked for Paul, so they would have known there was a chance that the kit in the back of the truck belonged to McCartney. We went from door to door, asking people if they’d seen anything or if they knew anything, but nobody said a word.

I knew it was Paul’s original Hofner bass that had been stolen, and I knew what it meant to him. Trevor and I did all we could to find it, but it was gone. Eventually we had to go to Paul’s house and tell him that the gear had been stolen from the back of the truck. He told us not to worry, and we kept our jobs. He’s a good man, Paul. I worked for him for six years after the bass went missing. But I’ve carried the guilt all my life.

Ian Horne – From Sir Paul McCartney’s missing bass guitar was stolen from a van in Notting Hill ( – September 27, 2023

When we saw Ian Horne’s message, we knew we had made our first major breakthrough. It simply said, ‘I was working with Wings, I was his sound engineer, when the bass was stolen from a hired truck.’ To hear from someone like Ian, who was there at the time, and who still cares deeply to this day about getting the bass back, we were blessed at a very early stage in the investigation.

Nick Wass – Bass expert and Höfner executive – From Sir Paul McCartney’s missing bass guitar was stolen from a van in Notting Hill ( – September 27, 2023

From Peter Jackson’s film “The Beatles: Get Back“, 2021. Paul McCartney playing his 1961 Höfner 500/1 during the Get Back sessions, Twickenham studios, on January 3, 1969. It is briefly seen again at Apple Studios, Savile Row, on January 21, 1969.

Last updated on February 17, 2024

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