The day before their 1965 UK tour began in Glasgow, The Beatles and their equipment were driven to Berwick-upon-Tweed on England’s border with Scotland.
As they travelled up the M1 motorway, a passing lorry signalled to The Beatles’ chauffeur Alf Bicknell to pull over.
I went back to this great big articulated vehicle and the driver said to me, ‘I think you’ve dropped a banjo back down the road.’ I couldn’t believe it. So I went back to my car and Neil [Aspinall] and I just stood there looking, we both couldn’t believe it. We just stood there, staring at the back of my car, noticing that the straps were broken. There were two guitars there, but now there was only one. I remember thinking, ‘I can get a lift home,’ I thought that was it. I said to Neil, ‘You’d better tell them.’ He said, ‘No, you tell ‘em.’ So I went round to the car and said, ‘I think we’ve lost a guitar.’ In the darkness, a voice comes out, ‘Well if you can find it, you’ll get a bonus.’ This was John. I was always frightened of John more than anyone else, so I said to him, ‘Well, what’s the bonus then?’ He replied, ‘You can have your job back!’
So anyway, we got back in the car and we got to the end of this 12-mile stretch of motorway to turn round to come back. We are coming back on the other side in the fast lane, and I’m going along as slow as I can, and if anyone came, I had to move over to let them pass, and then go back out into the fast lane. But I couldn’t see a thing, nothing. It was raining and it was dark. I told them, ‘I want to go home now.’ We got right to the other end where we started from and we started to come back, but there was nothing. The roads were clear as anything. Then, we started finding little bits of wood, and then a guitar string. We ended up with a little piece of the guitar each. Anyway, there was no more said about it, and I was quite pleased. But I was very sorry it happened, believe me.
The guitar was a Gretsch Country Gentleman belonging to George Harrison. He later recalled the incident in a slightly different way.
Fourteen of our guitars were strapped to the roof of our Austin Princess and the only one lost was my Gretsch. It fell onto the road and into the path of the oncoming traffic. About thirteen lorries went over it before our chauffeur could get near it. Then, one of the lorries stopped and the driver came up with the dangling remains of it and said, ‘Oi, is this banjo anything to do with you?’ Some people would say I shouldn’t worry because I could buy as many replacement guitars as I wanted, but you know how it is, I kind of got attached to it.