Johnny Ramone's number one electric guitar, played in almost 2,000 shows during his time as riffer-in-chief of NYC punk legends the Ramones, has been sold at auction. The white 1965 Mosrite Ventures II went for an eye-watering $937,500, almost double the estimate.
The guitar is one of the most iconic instruments in punk history. Battered and bruised but still in excellent playing condition, it sold with the original strap, case and towel, and even the original guitar strings from the Ramones' final show on 6 August 1996.
Ramone, whose real name was John Cummings, played Mosrite guitars since 1974, with his number one white Ventures II a replacement for his original blue model that was stolen on 22 October 1977 when the band's van was broken into outside the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.
Ironically, Cummings had been offered the chance to buy the slab-bodied Mosrite before the Ramones van was burgled, but baulked at the price. The theft made him think twice. When he did pick it up, the guitar's basswood body had been refinished in white and its original vibrato had been replaced by a hard-tail. The neck plate was not original
Cummings soon made some mods of his own. His tech, ‘Little Matt’ Lolya, installed kidney-bean Grover tuners, and by late 1979, early 1980, he swapped out the pickups too, fitting a a DiMarzio FS1 single-coil pickup at the bridge position, and a Seymour Duncan SM model mini-humbucker at the neck position in 1983.
With its offset body and unconventional headstock, the Ventures II already has a strong oddball vibe, and this was only heightened on Cummings' model with its mismatched controls – a knurled chrome Tele-style knob for the volume control joining an original Gibson-style reflector tone control.
The back of the guitar was signed by Cummings in black felt tip, “Johnny Ramone, My Main Guitar, 1977-1996”, and it came with a certificate of authenticity from Ramones historian and friend of the band Chris Lamy.
The Mosrite, offered by RR Auction, was one of several items under auction from Daniel Rey's personal collection. Rey had collaborated with the Ramones since the mid-80s, and produced three albums for the band, Halfway to Sanity, Brain Drain and ¡Adios Amigos!
A Teal Mosrite Mark II Johnny Ramone (Serial No. JRB000), that was the first of its kind and owned and played by Cummings, also went under the hammer, with the Japanese-built electric fetching $46,875.