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VOL. 129 | NO. 128 | Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Still Rock ‘n’ Roll

Hard Rock Cafe blends mix of artifacts at new Beale Street digs

By Bill Dries

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When Jeff Nolan, the Hard Rock Café’s music and memorabilia historian, got to Memphis Sunday, June 29, to prepare for the next day’s preview tours of the new Hard Rock location at Beale and Second streets, he grabbed a bite to eat at nearby Rum Boogie Café.

Hard Rock Café music and memorabilia historian Jeff Nolan says Scotty Moore's Super 400 Gibson guitar, which Elvis Presley played in his '68 Comeback Special, is "the single most important guitar in Hard Rock's collection" of 80,000 artifacts.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

And he discovered the other part of a stage costume worn by Memphis music legend Isaac Hayes that is in one of the glass cases in the new Hard Rock location.

Rum Boogie, a block to the east, has the cape that goes with the suit at Hard Rock.

“You can see the whole outfit if you walk around Beale,” Nolan said during a tour of the artifacts in the new Hard Rock.

The restaurant includes such gems as the Flexatone used by Jimi Hendrix in the recording of his “Electric Ladyland” album to a pink paisley Stratocaster belonging to James Burton, the guitar player known for his early work with Ricky Nelson and his later work with Elvis Presley.

The old Hard Rock location at Hernando and Beale closed Sunday evening and one of the rock ‘n’ roll artifacts from that location that went to Second and Beale was what Nolan describes as “the single most important guitar in Hard Rock’s collection” of 80,000 artifacts.

It is the Super 400 Gibson guitar played by Elvis Presley’s original guitarist, Scotty Moore, that Presley played during his 1968 comeback television special.

Workers prepare the last touches on the new Hard Rock Cafe location on Beale Street that is set to open its doors at the corner of Second Street on Thursday.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“There are certain pieces from our collection that live in Memphis and will continue to live in Memphis,” Nolan said of the guitar, which, more recently, was played by Jeff Beck, adding to its lore. “Usually with Hard Rock things move around every few years. But there are certain towns – and Memphis is at the top of that list – where there are pieces that they just have to live here. That thing is home right now.”

Nolan describes himself as a geek about the items he curates and buys on the market. He can tell visitors when a guitar was made, who played it and when. But he is also partial to handwritten lyrics and letters that are also featured in the décor of the new Hard Rock. Those are items that probably won’t be around in large quantities in the future.

“We’re not going to print out Rihanna’s lyrics on email and hang them on a wall,” he said.

As Nolan gave reporters a tour, Hal Lansky was in another part of the building supervising work on the new Lansky shop that will open in late July in what was the original home of Lansky Bros., the apparel and tailor’s shop where Presley and numerous other entertainers bought their stage costumes and other clothes.

“There’s a lot of ghosts flying around in this building,” Lansky said, noting that two Elvis outfits with the Lansky label are over the Hard Rock stage, one on each side of a portrait of Presley.

“We still love The Peabody hotel. We are going to be at The Peabody,” he said of the Lansky shops at the hotel just a few block away. “This store is going to be called Lansky Bros. Clothier to the King. … This is our heritage collection, some of the same items that my dad sold in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. We have a lot of them that we are bringing back. There will be a little overlap with The Peabody. We are going to tie into the Hard Rock.”

The Lansky shop at the Hard Rock will also feature some of the history of the store and the entertainers who shopped there.

Like the original Hard Rock location, the new location will feature 10 to 15 live music events a month, said Deanna Brown, director of sales and marketing for Hard Rock Memphis.

The Hard Rock will continue to feature performances by students at the Germantown and Memphis Schools of Rock.

“We are going to be trying to do a lot more things that are kid related,” she said. “It gives the family a chance to come down here and see the kids perform. There are not a lot of places on Beale that are kid-friendly.”

Coming up with more family-type events and places is one of the goals set by the Downtown Memphis Commission as it manages the entertainment district on an interim basis for the city of Memphis.

Brown said other performers will play the blues that were born on Beale along with a mix of music.

“We’re not just featuring a lot of cover bands,” she said. “There may be some nights where you do see a cover band, but then you are going to get those local artists that are able to come in here with their original music and perform on the Hard Rock stage. We’ll incorporate all genres of music.”

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