Bill Russell, Elastic Strap Capo, 1966 - George Harrison


Bill Russell
Elastic Strap Capo
The Story Behind

The term “capo” is derived from the Italian words capo tasto which mean head fret. This term was first used to describe to the nut of a guitar, however as many later on the term was used to describe devices which temporarily altered or changed where the “head fret” was placed, by simply resting on the fret-board and fretting the strings for the player which altered the tuning without any other manual force.

The first capo known to mankind was invented in the mid 1700’s and this device was basically a single piece of brass which was bent to a C-shape. This piece of brass was pressed on to the selected instrument’s neck from the side and was held tightly in place by the brass piece’s own tension. This device was not considered to be ideal since it caused significant scratches on the neck, due to not having any padding. However, this was the start of creating better capos that ended up helping musicians play stringed instruments with ease.

In the late 1700s, two other types of capos were invented and these devices were called, the English yoke and the Spanish cejilla. The English Yoke got its name since it was shaped exactly like an egg yoke but had a crossbar padded along with that rested primarily on the strings. This type of unique capo was secured through a screw that was in the middle of the yoke, which pressed against the neck of the stringed instrument. In the case of some English guitars, the egg yoke capo had a screw that penetrated the neck of the guitar. The cejilla was shaped like a “little eyebrow” due to the shape of its string. This uniquely shaped capo was a large block made of wood that has a screw at the top and a string was threaded through a hole in this screw which was then looped around the stringed instrument that is guitar and tied to the other side. The capo was then fastened to the stringed instrument or guitar by the means of turning the screw and drawing the strings tighter.

In 1931 W.H. Russel was the first person to patent the elastic capo. This device was one of the simplest capos invented in its time. The capo was a hard, padded bar that held firmly to the guitar by means of an elastic strap that winded around the neck of the instrument. 

“Here Comes the Sun” written by George Harrison for the 1969 Abbey Road album by The Beatles is one of those immediately recognisable songs that has stood and will continue to stand the test of time. The famous guitar riff is fairly easy for a beginner to pickup and with the use of a Capo on the 7th Fret as George Harrison shows, the song is easy to play and sound like the real thing. 

George acquired this Capo early in his career, there are many images of George with his Rickenbacker 12 string with this capo fitted ready to be played, it is unmistakable. The capo was also used by George during The Beatles final American tour, primarily on his Rickenbacker 360/12 & almost exclusively at the 7th fret for the key of G Major.

The capo can also be seen in images from the Revolver sessions and on Saturday Night Live with Paul Simon – November 20, 1976. In the 1980’s he gifted the capo to his long life assistant.

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