Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Prince came and went since 1959, when Guitar Center first opened, but the company is still here -- and so is its debt.

The company got its start in Hollywood as the Organ Center and then became Guitar Center in 1964 after Thomas Organ approached it with a plan to market guitars and amplifiers. The company went public in 1997 but later became a public equity hot potato.

The Westlake, Calif., musical instrument and equipment chain carries $1.23 billion in debt on its balance sheet, according to FactSet. Its 2016 sales added up to $2.14 billion.

According to Moody's and Bloomberg data, the debt includes a $375 million first-lien asset-based credit facility due April 2, 2019; $615 million in 6.5% first-lien notes due April 15, 2019; and $325 million in 9.625% senior unsecured notes due April 15, 2020.

While clothing retailers have been the most obvious losers in the battle between mall-based and online selling, the conflict is taking its toll on Guitar Center. The company is threatened by online retailers as well as direct sales by manufacturers.

At the same time, the company has been burdened with debt since Bain Capital acquired it for $2.1 billion in 2007 with financing including payment-in-kind notes with a coupon of over 14%.

The company -- and the country -- was hit by the recession in 2008.

More recently, as mall retailers continued losing traction to other venues, Guitar Center continued to stagger under its debt load.

This month, Moody's downgraded the company's outlook to negative from stable on April 12 and further expounded its views on April 18.

"Moody's does not expect that the company will generate enough free cash flow in the next 12-18 month period to materially reduce debt and improve leverage, most of which will depend on the success of GCI's strategic initiatives to generate more consistent and sustainable revenue and earnings," the ratings agency said when it lower the outlook to negative.

Later in the month, Moody's noted the company's looming debt maturity and the need to do something about it.

"The negative rating outlook also considers that a substantial amount of GCI's debt matures within our two year rating horizon ... GCI's rating outlook could be revised back to stable if GCI is able to extend its maturity profile as well as demonstrate some positive revenue and earnings momentum."

Editors' pick: Originally published April 27.