Jack Lord meets Elvis Presley, January 14, 1973 by Charlie Hodge
The Gold Berretta : 1973
Elvis was resting in his dressing room right after the Aloha From Hawaii television special seen by two billion people around the world. One of the guys came in. 'Elvis, there's a guy out here that wants to see you. It's Jack Lord'. Elvis tossed down the towel and looked up with a big smile. 'Oh, yeah? Send him on in'.
Elvis was tickled to death.
Jack Lord lived on the island of Oahu and starred in the Television series, 'Hawaii Five-O.' Each television segment opened with a close shot of Jack standing on a balcony of the Ilikai Hotel. Elvis watched the show every week, back at Graceland or wherever he was. He admired Jack but had never met him.
Elvis wiped the sweat off his face and neck again. He always worked like a horse on stage. He gave his fans all he had. Jack came in and shook Elvis' hand. They liked each other from the start.
'The show okay?' Elvis asked.
Jack smiled. 'You didn't see me standing up on my chair and whistling?'
Elvis laughed. 'The spotlights pretty well blind me, after I'm out there so long', he said.
'You know, a whistle can be the highest compliment', Jack said. 'It's a tradition of the theater world, a high compliment between one actor and another. 'At that moment, I wanted every person in this auditorium to stand up and cheer. 'I don't mean that as flattery. It means I suddenly got a gut feeling of the kind of thing you were going through on stage. 'I have never heard such dramatic music in my life. Not anywhere. From anyone.'
Elvis pointed a finger at me. 'Charlie, get this man a chair. We don't want to lose him'.
Lord took a chair and crossed his slender legs.
'Marie, my wife, and I want you and Priscilla to bring your entire party over to our place one night this week. Please, come.' He looked around the room. 'Everyone. Please, come. We want you to.'
Lord's condominium faced the ocean on the Oahu side of the island. It was gorgeous. The walls were covered with beautiful paintings. Jack and Marie took Elvis and everyone on a tour of their place as soon as we all arrived. Elvis kept noticing Jack's signature in the lower corner of the paintings.
'You're also an artist, Jack?' he said.
'That was my first career ambition', Jack said. 'I studied art back in New York. The acting thing just sort of happened.' 'It's amazing how a thing like that can run away with you', Elvis said.
Jack nodded. 'You've noticed'.
The other thing Elvis kept noticing as he wandered through the place was all the guitars and other kinds of musical instruments. In one music case by a window was a banjo. It was no ordinary banjo. I had heard stories about this one but I had never seen one. There were only about 20 of them made.
Jack took it out of the case and handed it to Elvis. It was an early 1900s Gibson. The remarkable thing was that it had six strings instead of the normal five strings. This banjo could be tuned and played like an ordinary guitar. Elvis strummed it. It was out of tune. 'Do you play all these instruments around here?' Elvis said.
'Not well', Jack said. 'I try, of course. I've loved music all my life. All kinds of music. Marie is a great lover of music, as well. We're two of your greatest fans, Elvis'.
Elvis patted his shoulder affectionately and said, 'Thanks, Jack. That's something special to me, coming from you guys'. Jack seemed really touched. Elvis and Priscilla wandered off toward the punch bowl.
I bumped into Jack a few minutes later, in one of the halls. 'Charlie, I want you to do something for me', he said. He found the case with the Gibson banjo and he got it out. 'I've decided to give this to Elvis', he said. He turned it in his hands, looking at it. 'When you get back to Los Angeles, would you see that new strings are put on it for me?' 'Don't do it, Jack', I said. He had started down the hall. Now he turned back. 'Why not?' he asked.
'Don't do it', I said. 'I'm very serious. Oh, Elvis would appreciate it. But he just wouldn't play it very much. Maybe a little. Then he'd put it aside and forget it. I know him'.
Jack shook his head. 'Did you see what he handed me when he walked in tonight?' he said.
'What was that?' I said. 'He walked in with a matched pair of Berrettas', Jack said.
'For personal security', I said.
'I admired them', Jack said. 'He gave them to me. So I want to give him something'.
'I really want him to have this banjo. It's very rare, you know.'
'Very rare', I said. 'I know all about them. Well, I'll make you a promise. It won't get stacked away somewhere in the attic with all the other stuff he gets. Even if I have to keep it out in my room where he'll be sure to see it'. I kept my promise as long as I lived at Graceland-which was many months after Elvis died.
In Elvis' upstairs suite was his private office. In it, Elvis kept a piano, an organ and his own personal guitar.
Leaning in one corner of the office was Jack Lord's six-string banjo.
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