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.

Here are several of Elvis' guitars on the stairs of Graceland.

Here are several of Elvis’ guitars on the stairs of Graceland.

 

1955 Martin D-28

 

Elvis used this guitar at many concerts, including in Tampa, Florida, where this photo was taken, and at the Overton Shell (now Levitt Shell) in Memphis.

Elvis used this guitar at many concerts, including in Tampa, Florida, where this photo was taken, and at the Overton Shell (now Levitt Shell) in Memphis.

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 is Elvis' 1956 Gibson J200.

This is Elvis’ 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 Bass

 

Even in his free time, Elvis made music.

Even in his free time, Elvis made music.

Many fans know this guitar as the one Elvis is seen playing in Graceland’s living room in this March 1965 photo.

This pretty guitar can also be spotted in his film “Spinout,” and it’s currently on display at Elvis at The O2 in London.

But maybe the most famous guitar seen in “Spinout” is the…

 

1965 Gibson EBS-1250 Double Bass

 

This red double bass is featured in many publicity shots for "Spinout."

This red double bass is featured in many publicity shots for “Spinout.”

This stunning instrument is seen in lots of publicity shots and artwork for “Spinout,” but it’s only seen being played by Elvis very briefly, and toward the end, of the film. (His co-star, Jimmy Hawkins, is seen playing it earlier in the movie)

Elvis owned the Gibson after production wrapped, and it became one of his favorite guitars. This Gibson is part of the Graceland Archives.

 

Gibson Ebony Dove

 

See this guitar now at Graceland! It's on display until January 7, 2016.

See this guitar now at Graceland! It’s on display until January 7, 2016.

This guitar is the one on everyone’s lips right now.

This Gibson Ebony Dove, which Elvis played on his groundbreaking “Aloha from Hawaii” special, will go on the auction block in next week’s Auction at Graceland. The guitar (and all items in the auction) is from a third-party collector; nothing in the Graceland Archives will ever go up for auction. Like in all previous auctions, Graceland will be bidding to try to bring these beloved Elvis artifacts home to Graceland.

In addition to “Aloha,” Elvis used this guitar during many concerts. The guitar features a Kenpo Karate Decal and Elvis’ name inlaid in the fingerboard. Elvis gave it to a fan in the front row of an Asheville, North Carolina, concert, and that fan is the one who has consigned it to the Auction at Graceland.

Many of the items in the auction, including the guitar, are currently on display at the car museum here at Graceland, and they’ll be on display until the auction.

Learn more about all the guitars used or owned by Elvis.

Want to learn more about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll? Visit Graceland and explore the life and career of Elvis Presley!


24 Comments

  1. well that’s why elvis is the guitar man tcb William from ny

  2. Ruth Larsonhummel

    Loved seeing Elvis guitars while in Phoenix Az, too!

  3. Joyce Parker

    Love the Guitars especially the Gibson Ebony Dove. amazing

  4. Anthony Dembek

    I came to Elvis late in my life, but his love for people, especially his friends and family, shines through the ages. These beautiful artifacts are a testament to his life and those he touched.
    I loved my trip to Graceland a few years ago and enjoy seeing the pieces of his life online and reading the works about him but those who knew him best.

  5. I am Elvis fan

  6. Jo Ann Taylor

    Went to Graceland to see Graceland with the
    Christmas lights….wow…it was so beautiful
    could not stop taking pictures….have been a
    loyal Elvis fan for over 60 years….there will
    never be anyone to compare to his talent!

    Happy New Year! Jo Ann Taylor….Sport La..

  7. Letitia Ryan

    Thank-you for sharing this great information and beautiful pictures of Elvis with some of his guitars.

  8. Anthony Luizza

    Only the best for the best

  9. The black dove Gibson guitar belongs at Graceland. I really hope they bid on it.

  10. Patty Snow

    Enjoy your blogs. Love Graceland!!!!

  11. Judy Lindley

    it is amazing that Elvis Fan’s have a chance to see so many of Elvis guitars. My husband is 79 years old & he plays guitars every day of his life. I am so glad he enjoys them & he plays along with Elvis music. I never got to see Elvis but I have been in numerous newspapers & magazines with my Elvis collection. Elvis music & his life will never fade in the world.
    Elvis Fan,
    Judy Hunt Lindley

  12. Caroline Jaoude

    Never tireof learning more about the king .thank you for all the info

  13. John Balthus

    These are totally cool!

  14. Peter Buss

    A side we forget about him, even when it’s right in front of us. Great article…

  15. MARY CHRITINE SMITH

    WENT TO GRACELAND WITH MY HUSBAND AND CHILDREN IN 1978 MY HUSBAND PASSED 2014 AND ALL MY KIDS ARE GROWN AND HAVE THERE ON FAMILY NOW , WENT TO THE CONCERT IN ALEXANDRIA LOUISIANA IN 1977 LOVED THE SHOW ELVIS IS A BEAUTIFUL PERSON LOVED ALL THE SONGS AND WATCHED ALL HIS MOVIES AND STILL DO TODAY , ELVIS IS #1 LOVE HIM ALWAYS BUT WOULD LOVE TO GO BACK TO GRACELAND AGAIN WHEN I CAN AFFORD IT THANK YOU

  16. Linda Kines

    Love seeing all the guitars Elvis owned, and the information about them. Anything that was part of Elvis is part of me.

  17. Carolyn Boyle

    Thank you so much for the information on Elvis’ guitars. I have a question about the auctions that pertains to the following comment from your story,… “The guitar (and all items in the auction) is from a third-party collector; nothing in the Graceland Archives will ever go up for auction. Like in all previous auctions, Graceland will be bidding to try to bring these beloved Elvis artifacts home to Graceland.”…. how did these items get away from Graceland? And why was Elvis’ peacock suit sold?

    Thank you!

    • Over the years, Elvis gave many gifts to both friends and strangers (and those owners are now choosing to put the items up for auction), and Elvis also left items with friends (for example, he left his first recording with a friend, and it was sold at auction last year) – so while these items may have at one time been owned by Elvis, he gave them away/left them, so Graceland doesn’t own them. This is true for many items such as jewelry, guitar, jumpsuits, etc. But, we do bid in these auctions so we can own them.

  18. martin orr

    all of elvis guitars are beautiful they must of cost him alot of money

  19. martin orr

    never been to graceland would like to visit some day be fore i leave this earth

  20. Bid on the Gibson Black Dove Graceland! The fans want to see it at home where it belongs. A very important guitar from Elvis’ career.

  21. Tina Peters

    Never been inside hrscelsmd but have been outside of it and got pictures! Beautiful! Hopefully this yr! We past by every fall.stopping every other time. Really want to do it this time!

  22. Yvonne Hart

    Loved the information about elvis guitars. I looked to see how much the Gibson black dove guitar was sold for and couldn’t believe it wasn’t snapped up if I had $300.000 dollars I would have bought it in a heartbeat just to have held it. I hope the lucky man who elvis gave the guitar to will happily sell it back to Graceland so all his fans are able to see it up close. It is probably the one guitar most people recognise as elvis used it on the Aloha concert so,it was seen by almost a billion people. Love all the elvis information thanks to all at Graceland

  23. John Lowery

    I saw Elvis Presley at the Capitol Center in 1976 in Maryland on his last tour, there were two shows one in the day the other at night. I saw the day one in floor seat tickets. I bought 18 floor seat tickets, for friends and family. I had five left and I still have them in display case. Great Show!!

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