“The King” has made his way to South Dakota – well, at least one of Elvis Presley’s Martin D-35 acoustic guitars has made its way to Vermillion, as it is displayed front and center in the National Music Museum.
Used during the rock ‘n’ roller’s final tour in 1977, his guitar was slightly smashed after a string and the blue corduroy strap broke. Presley proceeded to toss it in the air and the guitar fell onto the stage, said Cleveland Johnson, director of the National Music Museum.
“This guitar has been on a long journey to end up at our door,” Johnson said. “The instrument was damaged, and (Presley) handed it to a young woman in the front of the audience. It landed in the circuit, and the guitar has been in the hands of various owners.”
The Presley guitar is part of a new celebrity collection that includes guitars from famous musicians like Muddy Waters, John Entwistle, Johnny Cash and a harmonica played by Bob Dylan. The instruments will be featured at a two-day open house by the museum May 3-4.
The open house includes free admission to the museum May 3 from 4 to 8 p.m., and May 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The free event will also feature the “King’s Bike,” a 1976 Harley Davidson Electra Glide 1200 CC, courtesy of the Pioneer Auto Show from Murdo, S.D., and Memphis-style barbecue from Heck’s Dakota Style Barbeque, which is available May 3 from 4 to 8 p.m. and May 4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The commencement weekend festivities mark a new dawn for the museum, said Johnson, who was selected as its director six months ago.
“It is kind of the first time we have let our hair down like this,” Johnson said. “The museum is a quiet, distinguished institution, with a measured, sophisticated aura about it. Mix in some barbecue and Harleys, it is a new day for the museum.”
The goal with events like the open house is to make the museum more welcoming and connected to the community. Johnson said events like the unveiling of the celebrity collection can bring more energy to the museum and get more people through the doors.
“I would bet my bottom dollar that anyone could step through our doors, and find something that would pull them in,” Johnson said. “(The National Music Museum) has a collection for everyone.”