Harmony H929TG - Stella Tenor
(used in Frankie and Johnny)


Half sheet poster for United Artists' Frankie and Johnny - 1966
Photo courtesy Movie Poster.com

The 1966 release of Frankie and Johnny was Elvis' twentieth movie and second for United Artists. Based loosely on the song of the same name it is set roughly around the late nineteenth and turn of the twentieth century.  In the film he plays Johnny, a singer and gambler with a losing streak on a river showboat opposite Donna Douglas, of The Beverly Hillbillies fame, as Frankie.


Elvis with Stella Tenor guitar in a scene from United Artists' Frankie and Johnny - 1966
Screen capture MGM Home Entertainment Inc.

Though the film has about twelve songs in it, Elvis is only pictured playing a (tenor) guitar once, briefly as a lead in to a dream sequence during his troubles with Donna Douglas' character.  A tenor guitar was likely chosen for the film for its period correctness but for whatever reason they chose not to replace one of the blatantly missing strings.


Elvis with Stella Tenor guitar in a scene from United Artists' Frankie and Johnny - 1966
Screen capture MGM Home Entertainment Inc.

A tenor guitar is a four stringed guitar tuned in "fifths" to CGDA like tenor banjos but could also be tuned as mandolins or ukuleles. They have been around since sometime after the turn of the twentieth century but major instrument manufacturers like Martin and Gibson, along with some other banjo manufacturers of the period, started to manufacture them in 1927 as America went through its mandolin and ukulele craze.


Elvis with Stella Tenor guitar in a scene from United Artists' Frankie and Johnny - 1966
Screen capture MGM Home Entertainment Inc.

Initially they were developed to allow banjo players and mandolin players to double on the guitar without having to learn the scales and chord shapes for the entirely different tuning of a six string guitar thus linking the beginnings of a trend away from the banjo towards the guitar as the main rhythm instrument in jazz bands and dance orchestras.


Elvis and Stella Tenor guitar in the window in a scene from United Artists' Frankie and Johnny - 1966
Screen capture MGM Home Entertainment Inc.

The guitar makes one final appearance in the film hanging in the window of a store as Elvis walks and sings down a street set in New Orleans accompanied by a boy playing a blues harp (harmonica).  This particular model tenor guitar used in the film is a Harmony made Stella H929TG, the tenor version of the same model as one of the guitars Elvis is seen playing in MGM's Jailhouse Rock.


Harmony Stella Tenor - model H929TG
Photo courtesy Harmony Guitar Database


Harmony Stella Tenor - model H929TG headstock and tuners
Photo courtesy Harmony Guitar Database


Harmony Stella Tenor - model H929TG bridge and soundhole
Photo courtesy Harmony Guitar Database

This Stella Tenor is the same size and shape as the H929 six string versions with the same Mahogany sunburst vertical faux flame figured finish.  It has a pin bridge on a birch body and top and a neck of hard maple with rosewood stained fretboard.  They were made from around 1951 to 1970 and in 1966 listed for $28.50.

This page added August 15, 2010 is part of the section The Movie Guitars of Elvis Presley.

The history of tenor guitars is courtesy of and according to TenorGuitar.com while the specifications for the Stella model was obtained directly from the Harmony guitars database.

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

 
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