If Bob Dylan’s Newport Folk Festival sunburst Fender Stratocaster sold for nearly $1 million recently, Athens guitar maker Scott Baxendale thinks Presley’s almost-60-year-old acoustic could fetch 10 times that amount.
If so, the J200 will be the most expensive guitar Baxendale has ever handled as he’s been charged with rehabbing the entire Elvis guitar collection housed at Graceland.
“I’m Elvis’ posthumous guitar tech,” Baxendale said.
Baxendale will begin traveling in February to Memphis, Tenn., the first of many periodic trips to repair, restore and document the King’s collection of guitars, which Baxendale estimates number less than 25.
Most of the maintenance is general, he said. He’ll be setting up a workstation in a warehouse on the Graceland property, keeping the treasures close to home.
“I’d hate to be responsible for transporting Elvis’ guitars,” he said.
A musician close to the Presley family chose Baxendale for the job. Michael Lockwood, married to Presley’s only daughter, Lisa Marie, since 2006, found out about Baxendale’s conversions of antique 1940s Harmony guitars for Nashville musicians, including former Athenian Lera Lynn.
Baxendale said Lockwood researched him and found out about his experience maintaining the Roy Acuff guitar collection.
Lockwood reached out to Baxendale about Elvis’ collection and the rest is restoring history.
Some of the guitars, Baxendale said, aren’t on premises at the moment, including one that’s on loan to a museum in Liverpool. Waiting for them to return will stretch out the process.
Becoming Elvis’ guitar librarian isn’t the only piece of good news Baxendale has received recently.
American Craft magazine, which shines a light on domestic craftspeople carrying on traditional methods, has selected Baxendale as a finalist in its excellence awards. (The magazine, part of the American Craft Council, profiled the guitar maker last year.)
Baxendale will head to New York in February for an awards luncheon. If he wins, he’ll then travel to Scotland for a two-week residency at the Belvenie Scotch distillery, the sponsor of the awards.
The nomination, he thinks, is mostly due to the luthier school he runs in Athens, but “I have a feeling the Elvis thing will help me out with that,” he said.