Paramount's 1956 Gibson J-200
(used in Loving You, King Creole, G.I. Blues, Tickle Me)


Elvis with J-200 in a promotional shot for Loving You - 1957
Photo Paramount

Elvis' second and fourth movies were filmed for Paramount, Loving You early in 1957 and King Creole in 1958 for which he received a temporary deferment from entering the Army to complete.  He uses the same guitars in both films, the first of which is a Gibson J-45 from Paramount's prop department and then a 1956 Gibson J-200.  Having made their debut in Loving You, King Creole was the last film of three that featured the complete band, Scotty, Bill and DJ, and the Jordanaires.


Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill in Loving You - 1957
Screen capture Lions Gate Home Entertainment Inc.

He received a Gibson J-200 of his own in October of 1956 identical to the one used in the movie and it was thought that the guitar in the films was actually his own, at least for Loving You and possibly King Creole, but that is not the case.  After his return from the Army in 1960, and modifications to his own, he would be seen in several more movies made for Paramount and promotional shots for others with one identical to the earlier films.


Original half-sheet for King Creole - 1958
Photo courtesy web


Scotty, Elvis, Bill and the Jordonairs in King Creole - 1958
Screen capture Paramount

The prop guitar was the one used subsequently in all of Paramount's products where he is pictured with a J200, however, his personal guitar was used in promotional pictures shot for Jailhouse Rock, an MGM film.  In King Creole, the finish on the J-200 used appears slightly dull as if oversprayed and by 1960 though, the Paramount guitar had a heavy overspray on the body and neck that was likely applied to facilitate filming by reducing hotspots and minimizing glare.


Elvis with J-200 (and J-45) in a lobby card for G.I. Blues - 1960
courtesy web

After returning from Germany and his release from the Army in March of 1960 Elvis began production at Paramount on G.I. Blues, his fifth movie (third for Paramount), playing the role of a soldier stationed in Germany with the 3rd Armored Division who of course finds time to moonlight as a singer fronting a trio with onscreen Army buddies (see uniform).  


Robert Ivers, Scotty, Elvis with  J-200 and James Douglas with J-45 in a scene from G.I. Blues - 1960
Screen capture Paramount Pictures

This is the last film that featured any of his actual band mates, Scotty and DJ, who had minor roles as lederhosen clad musicians performing in a German tavern (set).  In this film Elvis uses the prop department's J-200, Harmony Monterey archtop, and the J-45 from the previous Paramount films, though used by co-star James Douglas first.


Elvis with J-200 in a scene from G.I. Blues - 1960
Photo courtesy web

Paramount's J-200, like Elvis' featured a maple neck and body with a spruce top and is immediately distinguishable from 1959/60 and later models by the keystone/tulip tipped Kluson tuners.  For more on the history of Gibson J-200s, see the page here on Elvis' 1956 J-200.  Like many of the guitars used in Elvis' films the logo on the headstock was blacked out.  It was likely done at the suggestion of the Colonel due to his policy toward "free" endorsements.


Elvis with J-200 in a publicity shot for G.I. Blues - 1960
Photo courtesy web

G.I. Blues also starred Juliet Prowse as the female lead and love interest opposite Elvis. Incidentally, or maybe of little coincidence, was the fact that she happened to be the girl friend of Frank Sinatra at the time.  Only a few short month's earlier Frank hosted a Welcome Home Elvis TV special at the Hotel Fontainebleau in Miami.  Of the costumes used in the film, Scotty and DJ weren't too thrilled about them.  At one point during filming, Dan Blocker, who starred in the show Bonanza, visited the set.  Scotty, who was a fan of his and the show, refused to go out and meet him while dressed in the Lederhosen.


Elvis with J-200 in a publicity shot for G.I. Blues - 1960
Photo courtesy web


Elvis in a promotional shot with J-200 for Paramount's Blue Hawaii - 1961
 Photo courtesy FECC/thefool

Elvis began production of Paramount's Blue Hawaii in March of 1961 immediately after performing a benefit show at Bloch Arena for the USS Arizona Memorial Fund.  The J-200, though not seen in the film, was again used in several publicity shots for it.


Elvis with J-200 in a scene from Allied Artists' Tickle Me - 1965
Screen capture Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


Elvis with J-200 showing dings in the top in a scene from Allied Artists' Tickle Me - 1965
Screen capture Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In late 1964 production began on the picture Tickle Me which was released in 1965 by Allied Artists Picture Corporation.  Oddly enough, Elvis cast as a singing rodeo rider / ranch hand at a health ranch, uses Paramount's J-200 extensively throughout the movie (aside from one scene with an antigua burst classical guitar), in promotional photos and in one scene risks damaging it as he's called to distractedly trip over lawn furniture.  The guitar is pictured in later scenes with a couple of dings and finish checking in the spruce top.


Elvis with J-200 in a promotional shot for Allied Artists' Tickle Me - 1965
 Photo courtesy web


Elvis with the J-200  in promotional shots for Allied Artists' Tickle Me - 1965
 Photos courtesy web

For the first time in his career, the budget did not allow new songs to be commissioned for a Presley film. The soundtrack was assembled from previously released recordings, recycling nine songs in total with some dating back to recording sessions from 1960.  Tickle Me is said to have single-handedly saved the Allied Artists studio from financial despair, averting bankruptcy with one of the songs from its recycled soundtrack, "(Such an) Easy Question" a Top 40 hit in the U.S.*


Elvis with J-200 in a promotional shot for Paramount's Paradise Hawaiian Style - 1966
Photo courtesy eBay

In the summer of 1965 Elvis began work on Paradise, Hawaiian Style, released by Paramount in 1966.  This was the third of his films set in Hawaii and with scenes shot on location there.  Though he only played a Harmony Monterey archtop in one scene of the film, the property dept.'s J-200 makes its final appearance with Elvis in promotional shots for the movie.


Albert Lee with the refinished 1956 Paramount Prop J-200 (?) in 1981
Photo courtesy Albert Lee

Today, the prop J-200 from the Paramount films is believed to have been recently bought by one of Scotty's friends, guitarist Albert Lee.  According to Albert, the serial number, A22052, dates it as a 1956 J200. It had been sitting in the Paramount Studios props dept for a few years until my friend's father who was a famous screen writer in Hollywood acquired it in the seventies.  It had a matte finish to cut down the reflection of the lights. Apparently, it looked a bit sad and dingy so he had it refinished. It also needs the correct tuners and truss cover as the originals have long gone. The photo was taken in 1981, the day I first set eyes on it, hence my smile. I told my friend then to give me first chance at it if he ever sold it.**

This page added August 15, 2010 is part of the section The Movie Guitars of Elvis Presley.

* according to wikipedia
** courtesy Albert Lee - November 2009



Albert Lee and his recently acquired '56 J-200 - 2010
Photo Vintage Guitar Magazine

Vintage Guitar magazine recently published an article and interview with Albert Lee in their October 2010 issue.  The article also lists and describes several of the guitars in his collection, including the '56 J-200 he recently purchased that he believes to be the Paramount prop guitar used by Elvis.


Albert Lee's recently acquired '56 J-200 - 2010 #A22052
Photo Vintage Guitar Magazine


Albert Lee's '56 J-200 - 2010 #A22052, handwritten Paramount prop #M7767
Photo Albert Lee

Prior to 1960, the plastic Gibson used for the pickguards on their J-200 and other guitars was rolled and cut which left unique lines and roll marks in the plastic.  In addition there are regularly random areas of varying degrees of translucency in the plastic. These characteristics, like the grain in wood, are almost as distinguishable as fingerprints.


Pickguards from Albert's, Tickle Me and King Creole guitars
Photos Vintage Guitar Magazine and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

After reviewing the photo published and comparing peculiarities in the plastic of the pickguard with those from a capture of the J-200 used by Elvis in the film Tickle Me I would have to conclude that the pickguards are one and the same which suggests that Albert's guitar is in fact the one used by Elvis in the Paramount films described above.  When further comparing captures of the guitar from King Creole, there are also similar characteristics in the guard to suggest it also is probably the same guitar.


Comparison of the flame and grain in Albert's J200 with that used in Photos Vintage Guitar Magazine and Paramount


Comparison of the flame and grain in J200 used in G.I. Blues publicity shot with that in Albert's
Photos Paramount and Albert Lee


Comparison of the flame and grain in J200 used in Blue Hawaii publicity shot with that in Albert's
Photos Paramount and Albert Lee

Lastly, comparing the grain in the flame of the maple on visible portions of the guitar used in Loving You, G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii with that of Albert's also reveals a very identifiable distinguishing pattern.  This suggests beyond any real doubt that the prop J200 that Albert now owns was the only one ever used in any of Elvis' Paramount pictures.

James V. Roy
August 15, 2010
updated June 9, 2011

 

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