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Lot 523: Elvis Presley's Martin D-35 Concert-Used Guitar
22 October 2009
Uncasville, CT, USALive Auction
Elvis Presley's Martin D-35 Concert-Used Guitar
Here is a rare opportunity to obtain a historically important musical instrument owned and stage-used by the "King of Rock & Roll," Elvis Presley. One couldn't ask for more solid, ironclad provenance than that which accompanies this Martin D-35 guitar; an instrument which met with an unfortunate accident on the stage of the Bay Front Center Arena in St. Petersburg, Florida, on the evening of February 14, 1977. It was at the conclusion of the concert's first song, "See See Rider" that Presley broke a guitar string and the blue corduroy guitar strap while performing one of his trademark karate moves. According to a story describing the performance in the February 15, 1977 edition of the Tampa Times, Elvis "...ended it with his usual quick toss of the guitar. No one caught it, though, which was a surprise....Who waited in line the longest?' the Pelvis asked. Hundreds of women cried they did, which was interesting since the Bay front Center requested mail-order only. Elvis leaned over and handed his guitar to a disbelieving woman in the first row. St. Petersburg policemen finally escorted her out for awhile, probably realizing she wouldn't be safe leaving with the guitar after the show." That woman, seated in the front row, was Kathy Waldrop, who attended the concert with her mother. The guitar remained in her possession until 2004. Presley, who purchased the 1975 Martin D-35 (serial # 377704) from Amro Music in Memphis, made his debut with the guitar, which is accented with a brown patterned strap, at Chicago Stadium on October 17, 1976. By year's end, the guitar was played by Elvis in all 26 concerts he performed, including his New Year's Eve concert in Pittsburgh. Once he resumed touring on February 12, 1977, he was using the same Martin D-35, but had switched to a solid blue corduroy strap. It was on the third night of the ten-date southern tour that the Martin D-35 and the blue corduroy strap met its demise. By the following night in Orlando; however, a replacement Martin D-35 purchased locally was used for the first time by Presley. The replacement Martin D-35 was last played by Elvis, on the stage of the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977; a show which would turn out to be his final concert appearance. That particular guitar has been on exhibit at Graceland for many years. The important guitar we offer here still has the original set of strings, including the broken string, corduroy strap, and hard plush guitar case. Accompanying the guitar are copies of several newspaper articles and concert reviews in which the guitar's demise is detailed, including quotes from Kathy Waldrop. An additional story with pictures of Waldrop and the guitar on display at a Tampa radio station a day after Presley's death is also included. Nearly fifty photographs by noted photographer Bob Heis of Elvis playing the guitar at more than a dozen concerts can be seen at www.thekinginconcert.com. We owe a special thank you to Bob Heis for allowing us to reproduce two of those images in our catalog. Please go to www.elvisconcerts.com to see nearly fifty more color photographs of Elvis playing this guitar at more than twenty concerts. The unique wood grain of the spruce top is easily detected on many of the photos. 8mm color footage taken by fans can also be accessed online in several compilation DVD's. Incidentally, the guitar was also featured in a segment of "Entertainment Tonight" several years ago.