SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — An acoustic guitar Elvis Presley smashed during his final tour has sparked a custody fight between the South Dakota museum that currently displays it and a collector who insists the instrument never should have ended up there.
Now a federal judge must sort out whether blues guitarist Robert A. Johnson even technically owned the broken instrument last year when he donated it to the National Music Museum along with one of Bob Dylan's harmonicas, a guitar made for Johnny Cash and two other items.
The museum, based in Vermillion, insists in a lawsuit that it is the legal owner of the Martin D-35, which the rock-and-roll king played during his 1977 tour and gave to a fan in St. Petersburg, Florida, after he broke it when a strap and string snapped.
But Larry Moss, who has a long history of litigation against Johnson, contacted the museum, arguing that Johnson agreed to sell the guitar to him before it was donated. Johnson and Moss, both of whom live in Memphis, Tenn., are each listed as defendants in the museum's complaint.
The museum in court filings argues that even if Moss was the owner of the Elvis guitar before Johnson donated it to the facility, his ownership ended when the museum acquired it. The complaint states that if Moss feels he was wronged, he should sue Johnson for damages.
"There are significant issues with his claim including the fact that this guitar was apparently on display for an extended period of time in his hometown and he made no effort to go get the guitar," the museum's attorney, Mitchell Peterson, said Thursday.
Johnson, who played with singer Isaac Hayes and the band John Entwistle's Ox in the 1970s, donated the Elvis guitar and other items to the museum in April 2013, and in exchange received $250,000 for his 1967 Gibson Explorer Korina wood guitar. That instrument was formerly owned by Entwistle, who is best known as a member of The Who.
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