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Eiteljorg Museum Opens One-of-a-Kind Guitar Exhibit

More than 130 guitars-owned by greats including Roy Rogers, Charlie Christian, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Woody Guthrie, Buddy Holly, Les Paul and others-will be displayed together for the first time ever, when Guitars! Roundups to Rockers, presented by Eli Lilly & Company, opens at The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art on Saturday, March 9. The exhibit explores the Western connections of guitars and artists who have provided the soundtrack for America. The experience, including interactive content, is guaranteed to appeal to guitar gearheads, musicians and everyday music lovers of genres from Western swing to wailing rock, thrashing punk to bouncing jazz.


The guitars in this exhibit have never been displayed together before and likely never will be again. Normally, one would have to travel the world and gain entry to some of the best museums and private collectors' homes to have this experience. Guitars! is a one-time-only chance to see these phenomenal instruments in one place.

Guitars! isn't simply about instruments, but also artists, including Patsy Montana, Jerry Garcia, Metallica, The Decemberists, Stephen Stills, Sleater-Kinney, Barney Kessel, Keith Richards and Gene Autry-a veritable who's who of 20th and 21st century music.

The exhibit features rare guitars, including the oldest known Fender (1942), a New York Martin (1837), and a brilliant Gibson Lloyd Loar Quartet, (There are only a few of these sets in existence.).

See "The Flying V"-- the actual axe used to create the tunes in the game Guitar Hero, plus a plethora of unconventional instruments.


The story of the guitar is inextricably linked to the West. Guitars! begins with a look at Spanish/Mexican residents who played guitars in 18th century California and Texas. Later immigrants from the East Coast and Midwest, Germany, England, Scandinavia, and elsewhere contributed to the cultural mix of the region, establishing communities in the West and bringing their musical traditions that influenced the genres of Western swing, cowboy or Western music, country, big band, jazz, and blues. From Los Angeles to Seattle to Kansas City, the exhibit also explores the movements that contributed to rock and roll, including surf music, acid rock, punk, grunge and heavy metal.

In addition, Guitars! honors design, invention, and workmanship. For instance, the exhibit demonstrates how the quest to amplify and electrify the guitar is essentially a story of Western American inventiveness. Chris Knutsen, a Scandinavian immigrant who began creating acoustic Hawaiian, harp, and other guitars in Washington state, developed instruments with hollow necks and greater resonance. He later moved to California, influencing Hermann Weissenborn, a German-Jewish immigrant who developed similar instruments from 1900 to 1936. John Dopyera invented and designed resonator guitars for the National Company and created the "Dobro" in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Adolph Rickenbacker, a Swiss immigrant, arrived in Los Angeles in 1918 and later formed a partnership with George Beauchamp and Paul Barth. Together, their work led to the production of the first commercially successful electric guitar in 1931 and formation of the Rickenbacker Company, whose later products were used by major players, including Tom Petty and members of the Beatles .


Guitars! is supported by ongoing programming, including films, guitar instruction, a guitar "corral" that offers guests a chance to pluck and strum, live performances and more. Highlights include:

Opening Day featuring a performance by Cowboy Celtic (March 9)
On opening day (and the second Saturday of each month) guests can live out their rock star dreams. Get a rock 'n' roll airbrush tattoo or a guitar-wielding caricature from artist Mike Altman. Plus, listen to local bands and take in a guitar-related flick. Cowboy Celtic's afternoon performance, beginning at 2 p.m., is included in museum admission.

Film Screening: "The Wrecking Crew" (April 13)
Guests are welcome to join us for the Midwestern premiere of The Wrecking Crew at 4 p.m. Denny Tedesco, producer and director of this award-winning film will introduce the story of the nearly-anonymous LA studio musicians who were Phil Spector's "wall of sound" and played on the top hits of the 1960s. Screening is included with general museum admission.

Performance: Riders In The Sky (May 11)
At 7 p.m., see the Grammy Award-winning Western music and comedy troupe who have performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to The Disney Channel. Ticketed event. Call 317-636-9378 to purchase.

Performance: The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band (June 1)
Get ready for raucous, Hoosier-grown, three-piece, American country blues! Concert begins at 7 p.m. Ticketed event. Call 317-636-9378 to purchase.

The Eiteljorg Museum seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. The museum is located in Downtown Indianapolis' White River State Park. For general information about the museum and to learn more about exhibits and events, call (317) 636-WEST (9378) or visit

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