Elvis Presley: Story Behind His Gorgeous Handmade Leather Guitar Cover

by Josh Lanier

If you were lucky enough to see some of Elvis Presley’s earliest performances, you’d likely have noticed his one-of-a-kind guitar. The King of Rock and Roll bought a Martin D-28 from O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis, where he bought a lot of his instruments, but noticed something on the way out.

A guitar with a leather cover on top with Hank Snow’s name emblazoned on it, the store owner’s son Jimmy Rodgers Snow said. Elvis had to have one. A prisoner made Hank’s by hand years earlier, but a shop employee fashioned Elvis’ in the basement of the shop, the story goes.

According to the Graceland Blog, Elvis used the guitar extensively on his first album. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the guitar looked and sounded, the leather interfered with Elvis’ aggressive playing style. He had the leather trimmed away from the strings and soundhole to keep it out of the way, but eventually found a different guitar to tour with.

After Elvis switched to using a Gibson J2000, the leather studded Martin went missing. Though there are plenty of rumors about what happened to it.

Iconic Elvis Guitar Up For Auction This Week

While you can’t get own the leather-covered Martin, there is one guitar in Elvis’ collection you can purchase if you have the cash.

Kruse GWS Auctions plans to auction off the bright-red Hagstrom Viking II guitar he played during his televised “Comeback Special” in 1968 on March 27. The opening bid is $250,000, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said, but the auction house expects the price to reach $750,000 to $1 million.

The instrument originally belonged to Elvis’ band Al Casey who loaned Presley the semi-hollow body guitar for the show, Guitar World said. Producers wanted it because of its bright-red, flamboyant finish that they thought would look good on camera. And they were right. Elvis Presley liked the look of the guitar so much that he included it on the cover of his 1969 album From Elvis in Memphis.

Elvis’ famed “Sun Sessions” guitar recently sold for $1.32 million at auction, Guitar World reported. He used it often while recording and touring from 1954-1956. While that’s a lot of cash for a guitar, the seller had hoped it would fetch between $2 million- $3 million, however.

If guitars aren’t your thing, there are several other iconic items up for bid at the March 27th auction. Those include Michael Jackson’s crystal-studded glove, Elizabeth Taylor’s blue rhinestone drop earrings, and a 1950 Fleetwood-model Cadillac from the movie The Godfather previously owned by Mae West.