Elvis Presley's Guitar on Display at the Musical Instrument Museum

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Photos by E. Groves
Elvis' 1975 Martin D28 acoustic guitar. In the background are guitars from Eric Clapton (left) and Johnny Cash (right).
The Musical Instrument Museum already boasts some cool rock 'n' roll relics, including an Eric Clapton guitar and John Lennon's piano. But on Sunday, June 19, the museum will unveil perhaps its most iconic instrument yet: a 1975 Martin D28 acoustic guitar that belonged to Elvis Presley.

Presley played the guitar on his final tour in 1977, including his final concert on June 26 of that year. During a media preview of the exhibit today, MIM spokesperson Alan di Perna said, "It may not be the last guitar he played. We don't know what happened at Graceland. But in terms of his final public performance, this is it."

Presley's Martin D28 guitar is just one part of a much larger Elvis Presley exhibit at MIM, scheduled to open in the gallery on August 6. The exhibit is permanent and will constantly have new items over the years. The museum's working with Elvis Presley Enterprises on the exhibit, which will cover the three phases of Presley's career: his '50s rock period through his Army years, his '60s movie years, and the '70s Las Vegas comeback-era. In addition to hosting items from Presley's career, MIM has also been contracted to restore the Martin D28.

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A closer look at Elvis' acoustic guitar.
The guitar, di Perna explained, was found in an upstairs closet at Graceland in 1982. Irene Peters of MIM will restore the guitar, including fixing cracks near the top and bottom of the body, a crack by the strap pin, and removing excess glue from a pick guard that was re-glued sloppily. She'll also restore the finish worn off the guitar surface, where it looks like Presley's guitar strap slipped and scraped the finish. Peters estimates restorations -- including documentations --- could take about ten hours total. 
Di Perna says the point of restoration is not to restore the guitar to factory-new condition, but to restore it to the condition it might have been in when it left Presley's hands in 1977. The public can watch some of the restorations from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on June 19, in the museum's conservation lab. It's just one of the many events taking place at MIM that day, as part of the Father's Day weekend/Elvis Presley exhibit celebration. "Elvis was the king of rock 'n' roll, and everybody knows dad is king," di Perna said. 
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A signature Elvis Presley guitar, also on display at MIM.
Dads can have their photos taken with a signature model Elvis guitar, and the whole family can enjoy performances by Kuniko Yamamoto (masks, mime, and music of Japan), a Q&A with a museum spokesperson, and a rendition of Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" played on a 1936 Apollonia dance organ. There will also be $3 local beers at the MIM Cafe.

Everything is free with museum admission except for the Yamamoto performance, which costs an additional $15. For more information, visit www.theMIM.org.

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