A pair of instruments owned by Elvis Presley were amongst the biggest-sellers in New York this weekend, at a sale of iconic music memorabilia hosted by Julien’s Auctions.
Topping the sale was the black guitar played on stage by Elvis during his famous ‘Aloha From Hawaii’ concert in January 1973.
Presley’s 1969 Gibson Dove acoustic guitar was originally a touching gift from his proud father Vernon, to commemorate his son achieving a black belt in karate.
Vernon purchased the guitar from Guitar City, a music store across the street from Graceland, and had it customised to include mother-of-pearl inlays on the fretboard by craftsman Randy Wood at Gruhn Guitars of Nashville. He also had the guitar finished in black lacquer to signify his son’s new black belt, and applied a Kenpo Karate Association of America decal to the front (the organization founded by Elvis’ instructor, bodyguard and friend Ed Parker).
Elvis finally received the guitar in 1971, and played it extensively on stage for the next four years, including his televised Hawaii concert which was broadcast to an estimated 1 billion people around the world.
Then on July 24, 1975, during a concert in Asheville, North Carolina, Elvis gave the instrument away in one of his customary acts of generosity. Fan Charlie Hodge was amazed when he was called up to the stage from his front-row seat and presented with the guitar, along with Elvis’ words "You keep the guitar. I gave it to you for a reason. Someday it will help you out."
Hodge kept the guitar for decades as his most treasured possession, and more than 40 years on it certainly did help him out, as it sold for $334,000 – making it the second-most valuable piece of Elvis memorabilia ever sold.
The second Elvis instrument was the first piano he ever owned, bought at the tender age of 20 as he graduated from a regional star into a national superstar.
He purchased the Stroud maple and mahogany upright piano from the O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis in September 1955, paying $50 up front and financing the rest over the next 11 months. By the time those 11 months were up, Elvis had signed to RCA, released his debut album and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in front of 60 million people.
He kept the piano for many years, taking it with him when he moved into his new Graceland home in 1957, and eventually gave it as a gift to his cook Christine Strickland.
Having previously been owned and exhibited by the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum, the piano sold at Julien’s for $140,025.