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|PRESLEY'S PIANO: SIGNIFICANT ARTIFACT RETURNS TO GRACELAND
December 21 2017 - EPE Press Release / Elvis Express Radio
|A white, baby grand piano with gold accents and a custom-made, gold, metal bench designed by Elvis with a white, leather cushion made its return to the Music Room at Graceland
this past weekend during Graceland’s holiday concert events.
It was the first time guests to the mansion have ever been able to see the instrument in the home since it was opened to the public in 1982.
Additional 1960s-era artifacts which are now on display in the Music Room include the original drapes and original gold couch, which was part of the room’s décor in 1964.
Prior to Elvis purchasing and refurbishing the 1912 instrument, it was the house piano at Memphis’ legendary Ellis Auditorium from the early 1930s through 1957. Ellis Auditorium
hosted the greatest local and national touring musical acts of the period, including W. C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and many others.
This was the very piano played by his favorite gospel and blues performers in shows Elvis attended as a boy, during which, as a member of the audience, he dreamed of his own
In the spring of 1957, then 22-year-old Elvis Presley purchased Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, just a year after he shot to super-stardom and worldwide fame. While
he could have afforded any piano on the planet for his new home, when Elvis heard this sentimentally valuable piano was for sale, he jumped at the chance to own it.
On May 28, 1957, Elvis purchased the piano built by Wm. Knabe & Co. of Gallatin, Tennessee, from Jack Marshall Pianos-Organs in Memphis for $818.85. Elvis refurbished the
piano in white and placed it in the music room at Graceland where it remained until 1968. During those years, the piano was the musical focal point of many hours spent rehearsing
and entertaining guests and was played constantly by Elvis, as well as visiting celebrities. Elvis enjoyed playing and singing alone in private moments, but especially enjoyed
gathering family and friends in the music room as they ran through a broad repertoire of favorite songs – particularly gospel and R&B.
The original Knabe piano was placed in storage in 1968, was sold in 1976 (Editor: Actually, the piano was sold in 1971, not '76) and changed hands several times. It was last
refurbished by the C.B. Coltharp Piano Service, who had
maintained it at Graceland and referenced photos and record jacket snapshots to restore the piano to its authentic, original 1957 appearance.
Musical instruments are a longtime key to Presley’s musical passion.
His mother, Gladys, famously purchased Elvis’ first guitar at Tupelo Hardware Company in January 1946 as a birthday present.
“He wanted a .22-caliber rifle and his mother wanted him to buy a guitar,” said Forrest Bobo, an employee of Tupelo Hardware who famously recounted the tale in 1979. “I showed
him the rifle first and then I got the guitar for him to look at. I put a wood box behind the showcase and let him play with the guitar for some time. Then he said that he did not have
that much money, which was only $7.75 plus 2 percent sales tax. His mother told him that if he would buy the guitar instead of the rifle, she would pay the difference for him. The
papers have said the guitar cost $12.50 but at that time you could have bought a real nice one (for) that amount. The small amount of money he had to spend had been earned by
running errands and doing small jobs for people ... he sure made a great life for himself and the rest of the world.”
To learn more about Presley’s piano, or Graceland, visit graceland.com.
(Note: Editors addition info thanks to Tony Stuchbury)
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