music morsels scott turner September 2006 


The Legend of the Lyric Harp Guitar by Mark Paul Smith

Scott Turner
The telephone awakened Scotty Turner in the middle of the Los Angeles night. It was also the middle of the 1960’s and the caller was legendary musical producer Phil Spector.

“Scotty, what you doin’?”

“Nothin’, Phil.”

“You got ‘The Animal’ with you?” Spector asked excitedly.

“Sure do.”

“Can you get down to Gold Star right away?”

“I’m on my way.”

Scotty made it to the legendary Gold Star Studio in quick time and didn’t walk out until 9AM that morning. “It took us too long,” Scotty tells the story. “I was puttin’ down rhythm guitar with ‘The Animal’ and Sony Bono was having a tough time getting the tambourine part right. And Phil was on a roll, you know how that goes. Anyway, it took us all night but when I walked out of the studio and the sun made me shield my tired eyes, I knew I’d just played on one of the greatest rock and roll records of all time.”

The song was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and the band was “The Righteous Brothers.” It wasn’t the first time or the last time “The Animal” would be making recording history.

The custom made, 12-string guitar was there when Harry Nilsson recorded his first demo in a Nashville, Tenn., studio. It was featured on Waylon Jennings’ first hit for A&M Records, “Just To Satisfy You,” and it was especially prominent in Jerry Wallace’s number one hit from the late 1950’s, “Primrose Lane.” Scotty used the full, mid-range presence of “The Animal” on most of the songs he wrote with Audie Murphy, including their number one country song, “Shutters and Boards.” Not everybody knows that Murphy, the movie star and America’s most decorated combat veteran from World War II, was also an established and successful songwriter. Scotty recalls, “Audie always said ‘The Animal’ was his ‘favorite writin’ guitar.’”

  The Animal
The Animal
Scotty Turner’s real name is Graham Turnbull. He recorded with Spector as part of “The Wrecking Crew” at Gold Star Studio in Hollywood, California, where they created the “wall of sound” that sold millions of records. In fact, Turner was working with Harry Nilsson at Gold Star when Spector first heard the amazingly clean ringing of Turner’s custom 12-string. Spector eventually named the lyric harp guitar, “The Animal,” partly because of its sound and partly because of its beastly appearance. The sound chamber of the guitar extends up both sides of the neck  in hollow swoops that look like the horns of an antelope. The tips of the hollow horns are connected to the neck by a hand-carved, wooden rod. String vibrations are transferred to the horns by way of the rod and resonate down to the string vibrations from the body of the guitar. The resulting sound cuts through without the predominant overtones of almost all other 12-string guitars.

This unique tone was most clearly heard when “The Animal” stepped out in front of the “wall of sound” on the intro, four-note guitar lick that starts out the song, “Then He Kissed Me,” by the Crystals in 1963. The lick is simple. The first note is an open D. The second note is an F#, played on the fourth fret of the D strings. The third note is open on the G strings and the fourth note is the same as the second. Simple as that lick is, it changed everything. “The Animal” made that lick so full and supercharged that the notes sounded ominous and inviting at the same time. It was the best four notes of the sexual revolution. Spector and Turner had that guitar saying, “Come and get me before I come and get you.”

Spector would look back years later and declare that song to be his best one ever. Too bad “The Animal” can’t tell us what really went down in the studio on that recording. Or how it felt to make cameo appearances in such M.G.M. classic movies as “Hootenanny Hoot,” one of the first Bikini films ever shot.

Mark, Scott and the Animal  

Mark Paul Smith plays "The Animal" accompanied by Scott Turner

The amazing biography of “The Animal” cannot be fully appreciated without tying the twelve-string to its owner, Scott Turner. Turner wrote with Buddy Holly. The two of them had a song book in the works when Buddy’s plane crashed. Turner also wrote with Nilsson, Herb Alpert and Doc Pomus to name a few. He was lead guitarist and a writer for Tommy Sands and The Raiders from 1957 to 1960; Guy Mitchell 1960 to 1961; and Eddie Fisher from 1961 to 1963. He then went to work for the brand new A & M Records as a writer producer and eventually went to Nashville in 1968 to take over the Country division of Liberty/Imperial/United Artists. He still owns and operates Buried Treasure Music in Nashville.

Turner writes about the birth of “The Animal", “I really can’t remember if it was 1958 or 1959 that I asked a retired cabinet maker in California to build me a 12-string version of a guitar that I had seen a tenor, four-string version that he had made for Wayne Shanklin, an accomplished songwriter in Hollywood. I do know that it took over five months to build it as he had to let the wood ‘age’ before he started to work on it. I did have to ‘borrow’ it before the final sunburst finish was applied because I was asked by the director of a film titled ‘Hootenanny Hoot’ to use it in a scene in the movie. Upon completion, I started to use it on  many sixties recording sessions because of its unique sound.”

The guitar itself is 37 inches long; 13 1/2 inches wide; 3 _ inches deep; with a sound hole diameter of 3 _ inches. It has 19 frets with seven, round, mother of pearl, circular inlays. The nineteenth fret has six, screw-top pickups as “The Animal” is an electric instrument. Its inside label reads, “Lyric Harp Guitar, Made By, F. B. Behee, 7612 Marshall, South San Gabriel, California. There is no date of manufacture nor any serial number.

You don’t really play “The Animal.” It plays you. The first time I picked it up to really  play it I was with my manager, Greg Patrick. It was a magical moment as Mr. Patrick is my witness. Before I knew what had happened, I had played and sung “House of the Rising Sun” and “Here Comes the Sun” better than either of us had ever heard them done. Author’s note: I’m a songwriter, not a gifted singer or guitar wizard.

Editor's Note: The lyric harp guitar is for sale. Check out photos posted at Serious inquiries only may contact Sandy Serge at
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