Elvis Presley's guitars

Elvis Presley's 1956 Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar

Elvis Presley's guitars were a major component of the iconic rock and roll image created by Elvis Presley that revolutionized popular culture in the 1950s and 1960s. It is impossible to gauge the impact of that image on millions of young people around the world who were inspired to learn to play guitar after watching Presley in performance, on television, or in films.[1] Although not known for his abilities as a guitarist, Presley had a profound musical influence on some of the most important rock and roll artists to emerge since the 1950s, including Buddy Holly, John Lennon,[2] Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bob Dylan,[3] and Bruce Springsteen.[4] The extent of Presley's impact on their lives and music is captured in John Lennon's famous quote: "Before Elvis, there was nothing."[2]

According to his first lead guitarist, Scotty Moore, Presley was not "an accomplished musician", yet he possessed "an uncanny and amazing sense of timing and rhythm."[1] In the early years of his career, Presley's rhythm guitar accompaniment played a major role in the sound of his early performances and recordings.[1] Moore noted that as Presley began to learn to move on stage and to work the audience with his physical performance, his guitar became more of a "prop".[1]

Presley was not known to treat his instruments in a gentle manner. His very aggressive strumming style would frequently break strings during his performances. The lack of a microphone on his guitar throughout those years contributed to the development of his "aggressive style in attempt to be heard".[1] As his career progressed, he became even more aggressive toward his instruments, frequently tossing his guitar to Charlie Hodge, who sometimes failed to catch it. The impact of the large belt buckles and jewelry he wore left their marks on most of his instruments.[1]

Performance guitars

The following is a list of guitars that Presley owned or used for his performances and recordings.[1]

Year Guitar Serial No. Used Notes
1940s Kay (Tupelo Hardware) January 1946 – August 1954 This was Presley's first guitar, purchased at Tupelo Hardware Co. for $7.75 (US$94 in 2016 dollars[5]) on his eleventh birthday, January 8, 1946. He used it throughout his high school years and on his first Sun recording sessions.[6]
1936 Martin 000-18 August 1954 – November 1954 Purchased at O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis for $79.50 (US$702 in 2016 dollars[5])[7]
1939 Recording King 1954 Purchased at Montgomery Ward in Memphis. The guitar was given to Hall of Fame harness horseman Delvin G. Miller May 28, 1964 and includes a typed and signed note from Elvis to Miller which he affixed to the inside of the instrument. It is now in a private collection.
1942 Martin D-18 80221 November 1954 – June 1955 Purchased at O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis, trading in his Martin 000-18[8]
1953 Martin 00-21 1954 – 1960 Used by Elvis for performances during the mid 1950s[Note 1]
1955 Martin D-28 April 1955 – October 1956 Purchased at O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis, first used on April 16, 1955 in Dallas, fitted with a custom made tooled leather cover with his name, appeared on the cover of Presley's first album[9] [Note 2]
1956 Gibson J-200 A-22937 October 1956 – November 1970 Purchased through O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis in October 1956, first used on October 11, 1956 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, used with a tooled leather cover on The Ed Sullivan Show in January 1957made by Charles Underwood[10]
1950s Isana Jazz 1958 – 1960 Purchased by Lamar Fike in Bad Nauheim, Germany, a handmade German S hole jazz guitar used by Presley while serving in the U.S. Army[11]
1960 Gibson J-200 A-32944 March 1960 – June 1968 Purchased through O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis for his March 20, 1960 Nashville recording sessions while his original Gibson J-200 (A-22937) was being refinished and repaired, shipped to Scotty Moore c/o Chet Atkins, used for the Elvis 1968 Comeback Special[12]
1968 Hagström Viking II June 1968 Borrowed from session player Al Casey for several segments of the Elvis 1968 Comeback Special
1963 Gibson J-200 Ebony 61952 Mid 1960s – 1976 This guitar was given to Presley during a Nashville recording session at Studio B in the mid-1960s. Played on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton during the 1970s, the guitar has Elvis' Kenpo karate patch attached to honor his friend, Ed Parker, the founder of Kenpo karate.[13][Note 3]
1963 Gibson Super 400 62713 June 1968 Borrowed from Scotty Moore for the live segments of the Elvis 1968 Comeback Special, purchased from Gibson in October 1963 for $237 (US$1,835 in 2016 dollars[5]).
1964 Gretsch Country Gentleman 80736 February 1970 – March 1970 Developed as a signature model by Gretsch for Chet Atkins, similar to the 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet used by George Harrison for early Beatles performances and recordings
1969 Gibson Dove Ebony 539461 November 1971 – September 1973,
July 1975
Given to audience member Mike Harris during a concert on July 24, 1975 in Asheville, North Carolina, saying, "This is yours. Hold on to that. Hopefully, it'll be valuable one day."
1968 Gibson J-200 Ebony 618195 March 1974 – July 1975 First used on March 1, 1974 in Tulsa, applied a Kenpo Karate decal to the body in September, thrown into the audience on July 15, 1975 at the Springfield Civic Center in Springfield, Massachusetts after breaking a string
1970s Gibson Dove Custom A004051[Note 4] August 1975 – April 1976 First used on August 18, 1975 at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, used exclusively on subsequent tours through April 27, 1976
1974 Guild F-50 96648 May 1976 – September 1976 First used on May 27, 1976 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Illinois
1976 Martin D-35 377704 October 1976 – February 1977 Damaged during a performance on February 14, 1977 at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Florida when Presley's guitar strap broke, given to an audience member, and later sold at auction for $20,000
1975 Martin D-28 369735 February 1977 – June 1977 Used during Presley's last 56 concerts, including the final show at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977[14]

Film guitars

The following is a list of "prop" guitars that Presley used on screen during musical numbers in his 31 theatrical films. These guitars were purchased by the studios, and in some cases, were identical to Presley's own performance guitars. The Gibson J-200 used in Loving You, King Creole, and G.I. Blues, for example, was identical to the Gibson J-200 he purchased in October 1956 (serial number A-22937).[15]

Year Film Studio Guitars Notes
1956 Love Me Tender Fox Fox prop guitar
1957 Loving You Paramount Gibson J-45
Gibson J-200
1957 Jailhouse Rock MGM Stella H929
Maton HG100
1958 King Creole Paramount Gibson J-45
Gibson J-200
1960 G.I. Blues Paramount Gibson J-45
Gibson J-200
Harmony H950
1960 Flaming Star Fox Fox prop guitar
1961 Wild in the Country Fox Parlor style steel string
1961 Blue Hawaii Paramount Gibson J-45
Soprano ukulele
1962 Follow That Dream UA Old Kraftsman
1962 Kid Galahad UA Old Kraftsman
1962 Girls! Girls! Girls! Paramount Martin 0-17
Harmony H165
1963 It Happened at the World's Fair MGM Gibson LG-1
1963 Fun in Acapulco Paramount Harmony H950
Harmony H165
Classical guitar
1964 Viva Las Vegas MGM Gibson LG-1
Fender Stratocaster
1964 Kissin' Cousins MGM No guitar used
1964 Roustabout Paramount Harmony H950
1965 Girl Happy MGM Gibson LG-1
Fender Telecaster
Fender Precision Bass
1965 Tickle Me Allied Artists Gibson J-200
Classical guitar
1965 Harum Scarum MGM No guitar used
1966 Frankie and Johnny UA Harmony H929TG
Stella Tenor
1966 Paradise, Hawaiian Style Paramount Harmony H950
1966 Spinout MGM Burns Double Six
Fender Precision Bass
Hoyer 12-String
Gibson LG-1
Gibson EBS-1250
1967 Easy Come, Easy Go Paramount Fender Precision Bass
Gibson SG
1967 Double Trouble MGM 1960s Ampeg Baby Bass
1967 Clambake UA Classical guitar
Fender Electric XII
Fender Wildwood VI
1968 Stay Away, Joe MGM No guitar used
1968 Speedway MGM Fender Coronado II
1968 Live a Little, Love a Little MGM Gibson LG-1
1969 Charro! National General No guitar used
1969 The Trouble with Girls MGM Kay dreadnought
1969 Change of Habit UA Classical guitar
Old Kraftsman
Harmony H162 style acoustic



  1. The guitar, as well as a gold-plated Walther PPK handgun, was given to Hawaii Five-O star Jack Lord backstage during Elvis's 1973 engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton. The instrument was later acquired from the estate of Jack Lord, and includes a letter from Joe Esposito, who retrieved the unique guitar from Graceland.
  2. Soon after purchasing the 1955 Martin D-28, Presley received a custom-made tooled leather cover with his name across the front, made by Marcus Van Story in the basement of O.K. Houck Piano Co. where he worked occasionally repairing pianos. Presley admired a similar one used by Hank Snow. One of the most famous photos of Presley's 1955 Martin D-28 with the leather cover appeared on his first album, Elvis Presley, which was released March 23, 1956. Known as the "tonsil photo", it was cropped from a larger photograph taken during a performance on July 31, 1955 in Tampa, Florida by William V. "Red" Robertson.
  3. In 1976, the Gibson J-200 Ebony was passed on to Presley's chief personal aide and Memphis Mafia member Marty Lacker at Graceland. Lacker was one of Presley's closest friends and served as the best man at his 1967 wedding in Las Vegas. Acquired directly from Marty Lacker, this guitar was formerly on display at the Elvis-a-Rama in Las Vegas, Nevada for a number of years before being purchased in a private sale.[13]
  4. On March 16, 2003, a Gibson Dove Custom purportedly owned by Presley was auctioned in Los Angeles with documentation indicating, "Given by Presley's aunt Delta Mae Biggs to Don Wilson, 1977". The authenticity of the guitar has been questioned because the Grover Rotomatic tuners and the two screw truss rod cover do not correspond to photos of the guitar used by Presley. The guitar sold for $29,375.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Roy, James V. (August 15, 2010). "The Performance Guitars of Elvis Presley". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  2. 1 2 Nizza, Mike (August 16, 2007). "Elvis Is Everywhere". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  3. Shelton, Robert (July 29, 1978). "How Does It Feel to be On Your Own?". Melody Maker. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  4. Garner, Dwight (November 6, 2012). "Americans May Never Get Weary of the Boss". The New York Times. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  6. Roy, James V. "1940s Kay (Tupelo Hardware store) Guitar". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  7. Roy, James V. "Elvis' Martin 000-18". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  8. Roy, James V. "Elvis' 1942 Martin D-18". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  9. Roy, James V. "Elvis' 1955 Martin D-28". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  10. Roy, James V. "Elvis' 1956 Gibson J200". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  11. Roy, James V. "1950s Isana Jazz Guitar". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  12. Roy, James V. "Elvis' 1960 Gibson J200". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  13. 1 2 "The Elvis Personal Guitars: Gibson J-200, 1963". Elvis.net. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  14. Kies, Chris (April 2012). "Elvis Presley's 1975 Martin D-28". Premier Guitar. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  15. Roy, James V. (August 15, 2010). "The Movie Guitars of Elvis Presley". Scotty Moore. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
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