Elvis' 1968 Ebony Gibson J200

Elvis' 1968 Ebony Gibson J200  serial #618195
Photo © H. Mozart

the rear Elvis' 1968 Ebony Gibson J200 serial #618195
Photo © H. Mozart

When Elvis began his first tour of 1974 on March 1st in Tulsa, OK he performed onstage for the first time with this Ebony 1968 Gibson J200.  The guitar is similar in construction to his 1960 J200 except for the 'closed' rosewood moustache bridge with adjustable saddle, Kluson keystone keyed "waffle back" tuners and a 3 piece maple back, typical for the model year.

Elvis in concert with Ebony Gibson J200 Houston, TX - March 3, 1974
Photo© courtesy Eter Silvester

Elvis' Ebony Gibson J200 serial #618195
Photo© courtesy Lawrence Long

He performed with this guitar as is through most of 1974 but sometime in September the same Kenpo Karate decal was applied to the lower portion of the body like his Ebony Gibson Dove.  It was reported that during this time at some of his performances in Las Vegas that he would often talk at great lengths onstage about Karate which may have influenced his decision to apply the decal.

Elvis in concert with Ebony Gibson J 200 Indianapolis, IN - October 5, 1974
Photo© courtesy 
Keith Alverson

Elvis in concert with Ebony Gibson J 200 Huntsville, AL (evening) - May 31, 1975
Photo© courtesy 

the three piece rear of Elvis' 1968 J200 (note the belt buckle scratches and finish flaw from the strap)
Photo © H. Mozart

With a three piece maple back, the guitar was probably built intended for an opaque finish, such as Ebony which would allow Gibson to use of smaller pieces pieces of unmatched maple which might be considered unattractive on a translucent sunburst or natural finish model.  The neck is probably a three piece construction as was the norm of that era (though four piece were used on some).

The label in Elvis' Ebony Gibson J200 bearing serial #618195
Photo © H. Mozart

The rear headstock of Elvis' Ebony Gibson J200 with Kluson "waffle back" tuners
Photo © H. Mozart

A four piece J-200 maple neck construction compared to three piece
Photos courtesy Gbase

Elvis continued to perform with this guitar until July 15, 1975.  On this date while performing at the Springfield Civic Center in Springfield, MA he broke a string and in frustration went to the rear of the stage and tossed the guitar, presumably to a roadie or stage hand in the exit area.  A member of the audience, Lawrence Long, who was in attendance that night with his wife Heather at the invitation of friends and sitting in one of the worst possible ($5.00) seats behind the stage (Sec 19, Row B, seats 1-4) took the only opportunity he thought he would get to take a photograph. Fortunately he captured the image of the guitar in flight and Elvis' aim was a little off.  He lowered his camera in time to reach out and catch the guitar as it hit the side railing.  He handed it to his wife who held it up and Elvis said something to the effect "I hope it didn't hit the little lady. She can keep it."

Elvis on stage in Springfield - July 15, 1975
Photo courtesy 
Brian Petersen

Elvis tossing the J200 at the Springfield Civic Center - July 15, 1975
Photo© courtesy Lawrence Long

seating plan for the Springfield civic center 
(Long's seat location sec 19, row B, seats 1-4 circled)

Heather and Lawrence Long with Elvis' Ebony Gibson J200
Photo © 1997 The Republican Company, All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

The neck of the guitar was slightly cracked and damaged when it hit the railing but they had it repaired and the broken string replaced. Larry said that a police officer approached them at the concert and recommended they leave early with it though they offered no escort.  Surrounding fans at the show kept coming up to them, some in tears wanting to touch it, with one lady actually trying to remove the broken string for a souvenir.  After the show was over he literally made a mad dash for his vehicle with the guitar under his coat to his vehicle parked 4 blocks away.  They kept the guitar over the years and finally put it up for auction.  The guitar was auctioned by Guernsey's in New York on October 13, 2002 as part of a 2 day auction that included several other reputed Elvis guitars.  The J200 sold for $55,000.00.  Till the day they sold it they said they could still smell the cologne Elvis wore that permeated the strap.  They still have the broken string.

Scotty's original 1956 Super 400, 1954 L5 and Elvis' 1968 J200 (Elvis' record awards in rear)
Photo © H. Mozart

Elvis 1968 Ebony J200 was purchased from Guernsey's in 2002 by Heather Mozart. It, along with Scotty's 1954 L5, his 1956 Super 400 and many other items remain part of her collection.  The strap is also believed to be the one used initially on his Ebony Dove, as seen in the Aloha from Hawaii concert in 1973.


On April 7, 2008 I received an email from another fan in attendance in Springfield that evening that offered another recollection of the event:

Hi James,

In regards to the Springfield Civic Center incident regarding Elvis Presley’s guitar throwing episode that I just saw on your web site, I was sitting in row A directly in front of the woman who got the guitar. I went to the show with my friend Peter Robare and his wife.  I was a poor student at U-Mass Amherst then!!! 

I can tell you that Elvis was not upset over a broken string. A man about 6 rows over from us was heckling Elvis all night. He said something very very obnoxious that finally set Elvis off. I usually do not quote obnoxious stuff, but I want to set the record straight. The man after screaming at Elvis finally yelled, “Elvis, my wife would have been here to go to the concert but she had to take a sh** instead”.

Elvis then turned around and whipped the guitar at him. The guitar hit the metal bar and bounced over my head (I was in Row A and the bar was right in front of me). It was then grabbed by the 2 people sitting right behind me. The neck was cracked, but looked repairable. The scowl that Elvis gave to the guy who was heckling him was something I will never forget!! I can tell you that Elvis really threw that guitar hard because it literally bounced over my head.  

The guy who was heckling Elvis was really really obnoxious. You could see Elvis scowl at him after he through the guitar. I thought he was going to come into the stands and hit him. You just don’t forget things like that!!!

Elvis then said, “ I hope nobody was hurt”.  This is the true story. I don’t have my ticket stub. I don’t know if Peter still has his. We never thought to keep those things. I’m sure Peter could collaborate the entire story. Like I say I was sitting on the rail and the guitar hit the rail and bounced over my head. The woman who got the guitar was directly behind me.  Also those seats were awesome, not as bad as reported. Great views of Elvis (you were looking down on him) and they had speakers back there so you could hear the sound. We thought it was cool.

The weirdest thing about the show were these women who would run up to the stage and kiss Elvis to get a scarf. They even had a guy on stage following elvis around replacing the scarfs.  Here we are music fans of Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Alllman Brothers and we got a bit taken aback by the women rushing the stage. We never saw that at other concerts!!! Little did I know that Ron Tutt, Elvis’s drummer would be Jerry Garcia’s drummer in his band.

PS – I also got to shake the hand of Eddie Shore, the Edmonton Express who was checking ID’s that night at the bar and who owned the Springfield Indians Hockey Team. He is an NHL Hall of Famer

Michael J. Schwartz
Regional Sales Manager

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