Johnny Ramone's 1965 Mosrite Ventures II is heading to the auction block. His number one electric guitar throughout his time with the Ramones, this Mosrite saw plenty of action, racking up an estimated 1,985 shows between 1977 and 1996.
The Mosrite is one of many Ramones-related items going under the hammer at RR Auction. It joins an Electro-Harmonix Mike Matthews guitar amp owned and played by Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) during the band's early years at CBGBs. The 4x10 combo was one of two amps he bought in 1974, and was there at the beginning when the band honed their antic pop-inflected punk sound.
Other items include handwritten lyric sheets and microphones of Joey Ramone's, and a veritable trove of Ramones ephemera from Daniel Rey's archives.
But it's the '65 Mosrite that's the big ticket item here, and is forecasted to go for over half a million dollars. For what is arguably the most important and instantly recognisable guitar in punk rock history, that might seem like a conservative estimate, though you never can tell with auctions.
The chances are, if you have heard a Ramones record, seen a live video on YouTube or heard a bootleg of any recording post-1977, you will have heard this Mosrite. And after nearly 2,000 punk shows, perhaps it is not surprising it is showing a little wear and tear.
The rear of the guitar is signed by Cummings in black felt tip, “Johnny Ramone, My Main Guitar, 1977-1996.” Formerly on display at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the guitar comes with a letter of authenticity from Chris Lamy, a friend of the band since 1980 when he and Cummings bonded over a shared love of baseball, music and movies, and who became a historian of their career.
The white Mosrite came into Cummings' life after the theft of his blue Ventures II model on 22 October 1977. The Ramones lost all of their gear that night when their van got broken into after a show at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom.
Cummings had already been offered this guitar for $500, which RR Auction says was nigh-on 10 times the price he paid for the original blue model he had owned since 1974. Little wonder he passed on it.
By the time Cummings eventually bought it, his hand forced, the guitar had been refinished in white, with the original vibrato replaced by a hard-tail, and the original screw holes plugged.
The neck plate had also been replaced by the owner and prior to Cummings receiving the guitar, his tech, ‘Little Matt’ Lolya swapped out the Kluson tuners for a set of Grover kidney bean-style tuners, which remain on the instrument to this day.
Many collectors love the Mosrite Venture II's stock pickups for their unique tone profile, but these similarly have been swapped out over the years. In late 1979, early 1980, Cummings fitted a DiMarzio FS1 single-coil pickup at the bridge position, and fitting a Seymour Duncan SM model mini-humbucker at the neck position in 1983.
Other spec of note includes the Gibson-style three-way toggle switch mounted on the lower horn, and the mismatched controls, with one of the two original Gibson-style reflector knobs replaced by a knurled chrome Tele-style knob for the volume control.
While there is no serial number on the guitar, Sire Records listed the guitar on all manifests as RM1, and was probably wise to do so given that the band's gear would be stolen once more in 1983. Ironically, Cummings' white Ventures II was the only item the thieves didn't get.
These slab-bodied Ventures II models are highly collectible, with only 100 to 150 thought to have been made. A pristine 1965 model will set you back in the region of £8,000 (including international shipping) if you are fortunate enough to find one online.
But Johnny Ramones? Until this day, that'd be priceless. It ships with a case, some picks, a gaffa-taped strap and the original strings from the Ramones' final show on 6 August 1996. Pre-bidding has opened on the auction with the online auction opening on 25 September at 8pm UK time. See RR Auction for more details.