Professional Refinisher Hypothesis: Derek Adams
Mr. Derek Adams was an independent refinisher of furniture and instruments in London in the 1960's. He was located at the Railway Arches in London in an area often referred to as SE2. Mr. Adams used a faster curing polyester finish that could be completed in short order and refinishing could be done within a period of a day or so. This process would have allowed for the faster turnaround required by Lennon in the fall of 1962. It has been established by Burns Company and guitar guru Paul Day that Mr. Adams did refinishing work for Burns Company.
While numerous attempts to reach Mr. Adams directly have failed over the period from August 1999 to September 2001. Apparently Mr. Adams has gone on record that there was very little money to be made by refinishing guitars. In any event, his whereabouts is not known and the reader can be assured that trying to locate him is one of the dead ends discussed at the outset of this article.
The first indication that Derek Adams may have been involved in the refinishing of Lennon's guitar came from Burns London Limited in October 2000. Personal correspondence from Mr. Barry Gibson of Burns London on October 3, 2000 was brief but to the point. He was most helpful in tracking down the details and his efforts, in spite of a busy schedule, were truly appreciated. On the matter of spraying the instrument black, Mr. Gibson writes,
"JOHN LENNON'S RICKENBACKER WAS RESPRAYED BY MR DEREK ADAMS WHO SPRAYED ALL THE BURNS GUITARS AT THAT TIME AS A SUBCONTRACTER."
Burns London Ltd.,
39 WINDSOR ROAD
While the Burn's correspondence confirms the expectations of Mr. Day, that Derek Adams may have been involved, recent research argues against the likelihood that Adams did the original refinishing work. This is not to discredit the investigation of Mr. Gibson who was most helpful, however, he did not provide the source of his information and we are researching an event that took place nearly 40 years earlier. The are numerous reasons, in my view, for excluding Mr. Adams as the original refinisher for Lennon's guitar. As it came to pass Burns London did have a later encounter with John Lennon's 1958 Rickenbacker Model 325 in September 1963. They performed repairs to the frets and electronics of the guitar, however, their involvement may not have involved refinishing in September 1963. There are several reasons arguing against Adams' involvment.
To begin, very few people if any were aware that Jim Burn's may have sourced out the job to Derek Adams. If Mr. Burns had done a favor for John Lennon in this way, I am confident that in sometime in his lifetime he would have mentioned it to other members of Burns London and this surely would have become part of the Company history. It is clear, after my dialogue with Mr. Barry Gibson that this was not the case.
Second, Mr. Adams did do work for Burns and other guitar dealers in the London area. He was well known for his work and while he did not fancy refinishing instruments after a while he was, nonetheless, an experienced craftsman. To this end, he would not have returned Lennon's Rickenbacker with the pickguard assembly the wrong way round. Lennon complained that the pickguard was not assembled correctly and this has been confirmed by Billy Kinsley of The Merseybeats and Chris Wharton who took the instrument to the Cavern for Lennon to inspect.
Third, Adams was a busy refinisher and it seems unlikely that he would be able to accomodate a request to have a guitar finished in short order. Lennon had a need for the instrument and would not have settled for letting his number one guitar disappear to London.
Fourth, London was about a 6 hour drive away and in 1962 Lennon did not have the financial resources or connections in London that he would eventually have in 1963. It makes sense that he would at least try to make affordable arrangements locally in Liverpool.
Finally, there is recent information obtained by Chris Wharton of Liverpool explaining that he was the person responsible for arranging the refinishing of this instrument. Mr. Wharton's story is included in its entirety later in this article.
Just in passing, the dedicated Beatle historian will have read that the New York luthier, Ron Demarino, commented on brush stokes on Lennon's then black Rickenbacker when he was asked by Lennon to restore it in the 1970s. Assuming this to be factual, it must suggest that at some point an amateur was involved in refinishing or touching up this instrument. It is possible that another party may have touched up the instrument subsequently, however, this would not have been necessary following a proper finish. It would seem from all accounts, that Derek Adams was an experienced refinisher and had he done the work have sprayed the Rickenbacker as reported by Barry Gibson of Burns London Limited and Paul Day.
A conversation with Chris Huston confirms conclusively that Lennon's 325 was professionally refinished. Mr. Huston saw the instrument shortly after it was refinished and indicated "To my recollection the finish on the guitar looked professional. I would have definitely noticed a 'do-it-yourself' paint job, especially back then, when our instruments were a source of pride." Moreover, both Billy Kinsley and indeed Chris Wharton, as we shall see, confirmed that the paint job was professionally done.