Norman’s Rare Guitars owner warned Back to the Future producers about historical inaccuracy of Gibson ES-345

Norman Harris told filmmakers to use a Strat or Bigsby-equipped Gretsch, but they said it didn’t matter as they had “artistic liberty”.


Image: Back To The Future/ Universal

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With its cult following, Back to the Future‘s historical inaccuracies are well-known. One of which is the use of a 1958 Gibson ES-345 in the famous scene where Marty McFly gets on stage to play Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, AKA one of the most iconic guitar film moments ever. The only issue is that the scene was set in 1955, three years before Gibson launched the guitar.

But as revealed by Norman Harris – owner of LA store Norman’s Rare Guitars – the electric guitar in question was almost a more historically accurate Fender Stratocaster, which was released in 1954.

In an interview with Joe Bonamassa, Harris not only revealed the interesting detail that his shop supplied Back to the Future with instruments, but he also suggested that they use a more historically accurate instrument.

“The propmaster came to us because they knew that we had guitars from certain time periods,” explains Harris. “And they originally came in and said, ‘We want something red with a whammy bar. It’s 1955.’ So I said, ‘Well, maybe a Stratocaster, or certain Gretsch guitars that have Bigsbys.’”

“They came in and the art director chose another guitar – an ES-5,” Harris continues. “Then the day that they were gonna shoot, whoever was in charge said, ‘Wait a sec! I want a red guitar with a vibrato on…’ So they ran back to us, brought back the ES-5 and took this ES-345.

“I said, ‘Look, they didn’t come out with these guitars until 1958. I just wanna warn you…’ They said, ‘We’re taking artistic liberty!’”

The producers of Back to the Future certainly extended their “artistic liberty” considering that they thought we’d be using flying cars in 2015, and that Michael Jackson would still be alive…

“Now I think people are a little more conscious of time periods and getting things right, Harris states. “But back then, they figured, ‘It’s a guitar, who’s gonna know?’”

You can watch the full interview below:


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