Elvis Presley’s Guitars

It’s hard to picture Elvis Presley without a guitar in his hand. From his iconic first album cover to his many movies, from the ’68 Special to “Aloha from Hawaii,” from Graceland to Vegas, Elvis always had a guitar nearby, and he was always ready to play. He enjoyed playing both the guitar and bass guitar. Elvis received his first guitar when he was 11, and for many years, that was his only guitar. But as he grew older – and eventually became the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – he started collecting guitars, and many of them are part of pop culture history. Here are a few of the guitars made famous by the king.   1955 Martin D-28   Elvis used a 1942 Martin D-18 in 1954-55, until he traded it in for the newer D-28 in 1955 at O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis, and he used it for a little over a year. Elvis often purchased his instruments from that store. This guitar is the one Elvis is playing on the cover of his first album. It’s also well-known for its gorgeous leather cover, handmade by an employee at the music store where Elvis purchased the guitar.   1956 Gibson J200   This guitar definitely looks like it belongs to a member of rock ‘n’ roll royalty. Elvis loved this guitar and used it often. He used it in many of his 1957 concerts and appearances. After returning home from the Army, he asked his guitarist Scotty Moore to send the well-worn guitar out to be refurbished. The work wasn’t done in time for Elvis’ March 20 recording session in Nashville, so he was given a brand-new 1960 J200 that looked almost identical. Meanwhile, the 1956 model got a beautiful facelift: Gibson replaced the red pick guard with a new black one, and Elvis’ name was inlaid on the finger board. The stylish new guitar was debuted in publicity shots for “Wild in the Country” and can be seen in “Elvis: That’s The Way It Is.” He loved the 1960 J200, too, so he kept it. He used it in the ’68 Special and many live performances. These guitars were favorites of the king. They’re both part of the permanent archival collection at Graceland. See the 1956 guitar on display now at Elvis at The O2 in London (which closes on January 10, 2016!).   Fender Precision...
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Elvis Presley’s Graceland – Top 15 Moments of 2015

Wow – where did the year go? It seems like yesterday we were celebrating Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday, and now we’re just a few weeks from the 2016 Elvis Birthday Celebration. 2015 was a busy year here at Graceland, full of many special and unforgettable moments. From new music to new exhibits, from Elvis’ birthday to Elvis Week, 2015 gave us many reasons to celebrate. Stroll down memory lane with us as we look back at our top 15 moments of 2015. Elvis Turns 80   We kicked off 2015 with the Elvis Birthday Celebration. The Presley family celebrated at the Elvis Birthday Proclamation Ceremony, where Lisa and Priscilla cut Elvis’ beautiful birthday cake. The festivities continued with the Official Graceland Insiders Reception, Fan Club Presidents’ Event and screenings of “Jailhouse Rock” and “Viva Las Vegas.” Elvis’ First Acetate   Elvis’ very first acetate went on the auction block at the Auction at Graceland in January. The winning bidder was none other than award-winning musician, songwriter and producer Jack White, who, through his Third Man Records label, reissued copies of the acetate for Record Store Day on April 18 (the acetate was also put on display at Third Man Records in Nashville for Record Store Day only). It was just announced that the acetate reissue’s packaging – which also an exact copy of the original packaging – is nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package. Graceland: World’s Best Music Attraction   In summer 2015, Graceland was voted # 1 in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice contest for World’s Best Musical Attraction from a field of iconic music-themed landmarks. USA Today readers were asked to cast their online ballot for their favorite global music attraction from a pool of 20 museums, historic studios and epic record stores – and the king’s castle was voted as the world’s must-see. As the king himself would say, “Thank you, thank you very much.” Graceland was also named Best Southern Historic Attraction in this year’s 10Best Readers’ Choice. Elvis Commemorative “Forever” Stamp   In 1993, the first Elvis commemorative stamp was released, and it became the best-selling commemorative U.S. stamp of all time. In 2015, Elvis was honored with a second U.S. commemorative stamp – a very rare honor. The Elvis Forever stamp is part of the United States Postal Service’s Music Icons series. The stamp was officially released with a ceremony at Graceland during Elvis...
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Memphis Jones’ Favorite Things to Do at Elvis Presley’s Graceland

There’s a tour of Elvis Presley’s Graceland… and then there’s a Memphis Jones tour of Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Memphis Jones loves Elvis and Graceland, and he sees the king’s castle like no one else. Even when he’s not hosting one of our online videos for Elvis Week or any of our other special events, he loves visiting Graceland, where he can soak up even more Elvis knowledge and meet Elvis fans from across the globe. Memphis isn’t an official tour guide here at Graceland – we have our award-winning iPad tours narrated by John Stamos for that – but we asked Memphis to give fans his own tour of Graceland. Check out his Favorite Things to Do at Graceland video below, and follow Memphis on Facebook and Twitter.     Experience Graceland for yourself! Book your visit...
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The Chairman and The King: Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley

When the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll returned from his stint in the Army, he was welcomed home by none other than the Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the most beloved and respected artists in music, teamed up for a television special back in 1960, and the show resulted in a truly unique and special duet. In celebration of Sinatra’s 100th birthday on Saturday, December 12, let’s look at this historic “Welcome Home Elvis” special. It was announced in July 1959 that Elvis would appear on Frank Sinatra’s variety TV show upon his release from the Army. He didn’t have to wait long: He was released on March 5 and returned home to Graceland on March 8, and the show was taped on March 26. “The Frank Sinatra Timex Show” – the variety show was sponsored by Timex –  was filmed at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, Florida. Elvis traveled to Miami on March 21, and rehearsed for several days before the March 26 taping. He shared the stage with, of course, Sinatra, as well as his daughter, Nancy, who would later become his co-star in “Speedway” in 1968. Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford were also special guests. On the show, Elvis performed “Stuck on You” and “Fame and Fortune,” the two sides of his first post-Army single. Jazz and rock ‘n’ roll collided when Frank Sinatra and Elvis sang a mash-up of their hit singles, “Witchcraft” and “Love Me Tender,” respectively. Sinatra sang “Love Me Tender,” while Elvis crooned “Witchcraft.” It’s so interesting to see these two great singers offer such different versions of each other’s greatest hits. See this duet in the video below. Elvis was paid $125,000 for this show, an unheard of amount in the entertainment industry in 1960. The special aired on May 12, 1960 with high ratings, drawing an impressive 41.5 percent of the American viewing audience that evening. While Elvis and Sinatra never worked together again, they often kept in touch over the years. Sinatra let Elvis and Priscilla borrow his private jet in 1967 to go from Palm Springs to Las Vegas to get married, and travel back to Palm Springs for their honeymoon. Elvis’ personal record collection here at Graceland contains many Sinatra records, and, of course, both men sang powerful versions of “My Way.” Want to learn more about the King of...
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Elvis Presley, the Musician

Elvis Presley built a legendary career around his unforgettable voice, but it wasn’t his only instrument. What instruments did Elvis play? He played guitar, bass and piano, and often toyed with instruments like the drums, accordion and ukulele. While he couldn’t read or write music and had no formal lessons, he was a natural musician and played everything by ear. He could often hear a song, pick up an instrument, and play. He often played an instrument in his recordings, and always produced his own music. Elvis was simply born to create music and he was always learning new ways to do it. Endlessly creative, Elvis often jumped at the chance to play around and practice with whatever musical instruments were available. Elvis famously picked up a guitar as an 11-year-old in Tupelo, when his mother, Gladys, purchased a guitar for him for his birthday from Tupelo Hardware. He used that guitar all through high school, and even in his early career.  He owned many more, and much nicer, guitars during his career, and used many prop guitars in his movies. The guitar is the instrument most associated with Elvis, and while he was a good player, he wasn’t a virtuoso. But what may be more important than that was the whole appearance: Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, always looked even cooler with his guitar in hand. He influenced many young fans to pick up a guitar, just like he did. If it wasn’t for Elvis and his guitar, we probably wouldn’t have The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and many, many more. Speaking of guitars, Elvis played bass, too. On May 3, 1957, Elvis and his band were working on a soundtrack session for “Jailhouse Rock.” Bill Black had a difficult time laying down the bass line for “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” on his new electric bass, and he eventually gave up, frustrated. Elvis surprised everyone by picking up the bass and playing the part – so perfect that Jerry Lieber performed a scratch vocal, and the two recorded the perfect instrumental master for Elvis to sing a new vocal track over. When The Beatles visited Elvis in California in 1965, they all jammed, with Elvis on bass. “He had a massive amplifier with a bass plugged into it, and he was up playing bass all the time…” John Lennon later recalled. “So we just...
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