Elvis' 1956 Gibson J200

1956 J200N (like Elvis' was)

In October of 1956 as a result of Scotty's recent endorsement with Gibson, Elvis acquired and began using a new Gibson J-200N guitar, serial number A22937.  Sid Lapworth of the O.K. Houck Piano Co. said that they had hoped to present Elvis with it after the store had closed but Elvis was delayed and never made it to the store*.  Scotty picked up the guitar and Gibson invoiced it to him because the Colonel wouldn't allow an endorsement for Elvis.  It was used in concerts and to record.

Elvis first time with J-200 onstage at the Cotton Bowl - Oct 11, 1956
Photo courtesy web

Elvis and Bill onstage at Bexar County Coliseum - Oct 14, 1956
Photo by Gilbert Barrera © Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio Light Collection courtesy Cristi Dragomir

Elvis with his 1956 Gibson J200 for his last Hayride appearance - Dec. 15, 1956
Photo © Joey Kent

Elvis used the J-200 for the shows he performed in October.  In November he used his D-28 but for his return to Shreveport for his final Louisiana Hayride commitment he again used the J-200. One like his was purchased by Paramount for use in the movies Loving You and King Creole.

1957 Gibson J-200N identical to Elvis' 56 (originally)
courtesy Gary's Classic guitars

The Gibson J-200 flat-top guitar has a 25 1/2" scale length and features a 17" x 21" x 4.5" body with a solid Sitka Spruce top, Solid eastern curly maple back, sides and neck, Rosewood fretboard and "moustache" bridge with Mother of Pearl Crown inlays on the fretboard and double inlay on the bridge, gold Kluson tuners with pearloid Keystone buttons.  J-200s Mfg. 1937 - present.

Elvis, Scotty, DJ and Bill rehearse for the Ed Sullivan Show - Jan. 6, 1957
Photo courtesy FECC/rizzy56

Hoyt Hawkins, Elvis, Hugh Jarrett, Scotty, and DJ  - Jan. 6, 1957
Photo courtesy FECC/rizzy56

Photo courtesy FECC/rizzy56

In January of 1957 the guitar appears during rehearsal shots for Elvis' final Ed Sullivan Show appearance sporting a tooled leather cover custom made by his friend Charles Underwood.  The guitar was, however, used (sans cover) in several publicity photos for MGM's Jailhouse Rock.

Elvis and Bill at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © courtesy Robert L. Smith

Elvis with leather covered J200 in Los Angeles, CA - Oct. 28, 1957
Photo courtesy Movie Stage Parade

Elvis and Bill at Honolulu Stadium - Nov. 10, 1957
Star-Bulletin Photo courtesy FECC/PEP

Elvis used the J-200 with Underwood's cover exclusively for all 20 live appearance in 1957. In 1960, when he returned to civilian life after two years in the U.S. Army, Elvis asked Scotty to send the well-worn instrument out to be refurbished. The work wasn’t done in time for Elvis’ March 20 recording session in Nashville, so a new 1960 J-200N was shipped as a replacement.  In G.I. Blues, his first movie after returning from the Army, he can be seen playing the Paramount J-200 almost identical to his own '56 (before mods).

Elvis Presley's 56 Gibson J-200  modified at Scotty's request
Photo © James V. Roy

Serial # A 22937
Photo © James V. Roy

name inlaid on the fretboard
Photo © James V. Roy

Scotty wrote to Gibson reps, Gerry Woodworth and Clarence Havenga, requesting that the guitar be refinished, repaired and Elvis' name inlaid on the fretboard.  He also requested some additional inlay work on the front, nothing elaborate but something different that Elvis might like, a design of their own discretion.

mod pickguard design
Photo © James V. Roy

note the heavy wear due to Elvis' aggressive strumming
Photo © James V. Roy

Photo © James V. Roy

The Headstock to Elvis' '56 J200 with gold kluson tuners
Photo © James V. Roy

When the ’56 model came back, the old red floral design pick guard had been replaced with a new black pick guard with a mod design and the name ELVIS PRESLEY inlaid on the finger board as requested  – a beautiful new look.  However, there has been a discrepancy through the years though, Scotty had recorded the serial number of the original 56 that was sent out and noted that the one returned was different.**  It was believed that the guitar had been replaced, however, the serial number of the J200 does match the one that Scotty sent out.

Elvis with refurbished '56 J200 in a publicity photo for Wild in the County - 1960
Photo © EPE, Inc.

Elvis with refurbished '56 J200 in a publicity photo for Wild in the County - 1960
Photo © EPE, Inc.

Elvis with the '56 J200 in Memphis and Hawaii - Feb. 25 and Mar. 25, 1961
Photos by Bob Williams © The Commercial Appeal, and courtesy David English

Elvis used the customized '56 in his first few of only a few live appearances of the '60s, in Memphis and Hawaii.  In 1969 when he returned to performing live he used this guitar onstage again.  He continued to perform with it in concert as late as 1971.  The guitar, and Underwood made cover, are part of the permanent collection on display at Graceland.

Elvis in Las Vegas with 56 J200 - August 14, 1969
photo courtesy Per´s Elvissida

Elvis in Las Vegas with 56 J200 - August 1969
Photo courtesy web

EPE, Inc. released the following about the 56 J200 on May 13, 2003:
"In 1960, Scotty Moore sent this guitar to Chicago through a Memphis music store to be refurbished. Elvis needed a guitar within a couple of weeks for a session so Gibson sent him a new 1960 model with the same red pick guard. To Scotty's knowledge, they never received the original guitar back and assumed it was lost forever. When the archives department checked the serial numbers of Elvis guitars in 2001, they were shocked to discover they had the original ‘56 Gibson in their possession. Gibson had finished the reverberations to the '56 Gibson that included a custom pick guard and adding Elvis’ name in the neck of the guitar and returned it to Elvis. His new customized guitar first shows up in promo pictures for the movie “Wild In The Country.” But, how or when exactly did it return? No one will ever know."

1996 EP Signature J200 #41 of 250
Photo © James V. Roy

In 1996 Gibson began a limited run of 250 replicas of this signature model of the J200.
Photo © James V. Roy

(original) page modified May 31, 2011

* Initially Sid Lapworth believed that Elvis was delayed enroot to the store as a result of an altercation at a Gas Station in Memphis (on October 18th).  This can't be the case since he is pictured with the guitar as early as October 11th in Dallas.

** When Scotty shipped the guitar in 1960 he wrote two letters to two different Gibson reps to anticipate its delivery and kept copies. On each he had recorded the serial number, however, on one he transposed two digits.  It's possible that when he made his comparison at the time he did so with the incorrect letter.


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