Elvis' 1955 Martin D-28
Elvis with his new(er) Leather covered Martin D28 in Tampa -
July 31, 1955
Photo © EPE
after the 15th of June 1955 (approximately) Elvis replaced his 1942 Martin D-18
for a Martin D-28 (believed to be a 55 or 54) purchased at
the O.K. Houck Piano
Memphis. Sid Lapworth, who sold it to him seems to think it may
have been a used instrument and can not be certain if he took the D-18
in trade for it*. At the time, a D-28 sold new for $210, this one
would have sold for less than that used. One of
the earliest pictures of him with it is at the Joy
Drive-In in Minden, LA in mid July.
1955 Martin D-28 similar to Elvis Presley's
Photo © Greg
Not long after the purchase of this guitar, he
also received and began using a custom made tooled leather cover with
his name "Elvis Presley" blazoned across the front.
According to Jimmy
Rodgers Snow, Elvis had seen the one that his father, Hank Snow had
and liked it. Hank had his made by a prisoner years earlier.
cover was made by Marcus Van Story in the basement of O.K. Houck's where
he worked occasionally in the piano repair shop.
Elvis with D-28 backstage at Overton Park Shell
- Aug 5,
Photo by Robert Dye © EPE
One of the most
famous pictures of Elvis with it and the leather cover was taken on July
31st in Tampa, Florida by
William V, "Red" Robertson and
has become known as the "Tonsil
photo." Scotty has said
that Elvis used this guitar most for performing
and recording until he got the J200 in October of 56. Though
he began using the J200 in October, he used the D28 on occasion at least
as late as November 25, 1956.
Scotty, Elvis (D-28 with trimmed cover), and Bill in Conroe,
TX - Aug. 24, 1955
Photo © Mary McCoy Coker
during the week between August 13th and 20th in 1955 Elvis had the
opening of the leather cover trimmed back, possibly by Marcus, probably
as a result of interference with his strumming. Like the D-18 that preceded it, it soon had excessive
wear due to Elvis' aggressive strumming style (Note the broken
strings in the "tonsil
Elvis' tooled leather cover (trimmed) and D-28 - Aug 5, 1956
Photo © Bob Moreland courtesy Ger Rijff's The
Around the time that
he started using the J200, the D-28 completely dropped out of sight and
remains unaccounted for to this date. According to Jimmy Velvet
however, the tooled leather cover had been in the attic of the home of
Alan Fortas, Elvis' friend and bodyguard, but is believed to have been
sold sometime before Alan's death and is now in Japan.
Jimmy Velvet and Elvis in Jacksonville, FL
- Aug 10, 1956
Photo © J. Velvet courtesy Ger Rijff
Elvis' D-28 featured Kluson Super tuning machines as did
many built in the 1950s.
1950 Martin D-28 with Kluson Super tuning machines
Photos © Greg
The Martin D-28 has a 40 1/2" total length, a 20" body length, 15 5/8"
body width and a 4 7/8" body depth. It features a solid
Mahogany neck, 20 fret Ebony fingerboard with a 25.4" scale
length, solid Spruce top, Rosewood back and sides, Ebony bridge, White Boltaron®
endpiece and binding, White/Black top and back inlay.
specifications courtesy C.F.
Elvis and Scotty at the Cleveland Arena - Nov. 23, 1956
Photo © Lew Allen
*Elvis owned and traveled with second D-18 for a time
while regularly performing with his D-28. It seems to always be
held on with a knotted string as a strap and identifiable by the bright
spot on the tortoise pickguard.