Monthly Archives: March 2009

DJ Fontata and Max Weinberg


I recently e-mailed DJ Fontana’s wife Karen to ask who would be introducing DJ at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 4.  She graciously wrote back and told me it would be Max Weinberg.  Although this made perfect sense to me, I knew many Elvis fans might wonder “who?”  So, here is the story of Max Weinberg’s connection with DJ.

First, Max Weinberg is a noted drummer in his own right.  Max became a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1974, and he recorded and toured with Springsteen for fifteen years.  Since 1993, he has been musical director of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, where his Max Weinberg 7 is widely regarded as the best band on late night TV. 




Neither of these achievements provided the important contact with DJ.  That occurred when Max did research for his critically acclaimed rock history, The Big Beat, in which he interviewed fourteen of rock's greatest drummers.

One of the famous drummers he interviewed was DJ Fontana, who had been his boyhood idol.  At the age of five Max saw the 1956 “Ed Sullivan Show” on which Elvis Presley appeared.  Unlike other people, Max was not fascinated with Elvis, but with Elvis' drummer, DJ Fontana.

In 2003, the Hall of Fame inducted its third drummer into the Sidemen category.  It was Motown’s Bennie Benjamin, who was certainly deserving, but this caused Max Weinberg to think “Why not DJ?”  Max contacted three other famous drummers from his book to ask them to co-sign a letter to the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.  It would extoll DJ achievements and urge that he be inducted in the upcoming Class of 2004.  These drummers were already members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:  Ringo Starr of the Beatles, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, and Levon Helm of the The Band.  All three drummers jumped at the chance to help.

You would think a serious letter from esteemed Hall of Fame members would get serious consideration, but it did not.  The Hall turned down their proposal in a form letter.  What a total lack of respect for these top-echelon drummers, who pointed out the major omission of recognition for one of their peers.

In 2005, Max Weinberg was still campaigning for DJ’s induction into the Hall of Fame.  He authored an article in Elvis… The Magazine titled “Presley’s Drummer and Bassist Unjustly Excluded from Hall of Fame.” 


Here are excerpts from his article.

…October 16, 1954… was the date of the first historic meeting between Presley and Fontana, his original and longtime drummer.  Of course, as millions of Elvis fans around the world are aware, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black were with Elvis that evening when their struggling trio was booked to debut on the famous “Louisiana Hayride” radio show…

Elvis asked DJ, the house drummer at the “Hayride,” to sit in.  When DJ laid into that big backbeat, the world exploded.  Levon Helm… remembers seeing this new Memphis band play at a high school dance in Marianna, Ark.  “With DJ planting the beat, the music suddenly had some architecture,” he said.  Can you imagine? A high school dance?

From that fateful autumn day in 1954, DJ Fontana, along with Elvis, Scotty and Bill, cut a path unequalled in rock ‘n roll history….

Presley was among the first Hall of Fame inductees in 1986. Scotty Moore was in the first class of so-called “sidemen” inducted.  In that light, DJ’s and Bill’s current status is simply unjust… These specific exclusions will not be satisfactorily addressed until time as DJ Fontana and Bill Black join their bandmates in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



Max Weinberg’s magazine article had the very accurate subtitle “Two Sidemen Deserve Rock Honor.”   On Wednesday, April 4, 2009, this will finally happen, and no one will be happier than Max Weinberg.  He is the perfect choice to introduce DJ at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.


©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved



This is a first.  Reader Jean Pyle didn't just send a caption; she sent a poem.  Congratulations and thanks, Jean.  Another Caption Contest next week.


“I'm all right, Mama
I'll be all right you'll see.
Driving off a bridge,
Is better than hitting a tree”

Countdown Clock Makes this Elvis Auction Fun

Every ten years or so, there is a big auction of Elvis memorabilia and collectibles.  Back in 1999, I was fortunate to be in Las Vegas for a convention during the time that the Archives of Graceland  auction had all the items on display at the MGM Grand Hotel.  I spent three hours studying every item and reading all the information placards that accompanied them.  My wife stayed with me for about twenty minutes but quickly lost interest and left to play the slots until I had seen everything.

I did not bid on any of the items at that Elvis auction, nor will I bid on the Gotta-Have-Rock-and-Roll auction going on right now.  I just don’t need any more Elvis stuff, and money is tight as well.  Fortunately, there does seem to be many collectors out there who are interested in owning these latest offerings and are bidding to get them.  I know, because I have accessed the auction website several times since the bidding opened on March 16, and I enjoy following the changes in the latest bids on several key items.

Naturally, this includes the star of the whole deal – Lot # 1, the powder blue jumpsuit with gold cape that Elvis wore during his famous June 10, 1972 performance at Madison Square Garden.  The auction set a minimum bid of $100,000, but the estimated bid range is projected to be $150,000 to 200,000.  The last jumpsuit to sell, the Peacock jumpsuit, went for $300,000, so, we might expect to see a level like that this time.



The highest bid should be on Lot # 506, the white Wm. Knabe Grand Piano that Elvis used in Graceland from 1957 to 1969.  Should be highest, that is, if anyone exceeds the minimum bid of $500,000.  Right now there are no bids, although the estimated range is $750,000 to $1,000,000.  One reason this is so high is that the piano had a substantial history before Elvis owned it, having been played W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Jerry Lee Lewis.



There are a few items of Elvis’ jewelry in this auction.  Both the 14KT gold and diamond owl ring (Lot # 12) and the 14KT gold diamond pavé bracelet (Lot # 13) and have minimums of $5,000 and estimates of $7-8,000.  The ring is getting close to that range now with just three bids, and the bracelet is already past it with six.




Anything with Elvis’ autograph brings big bucks at auctions, but here is something with both his signature and his thumbprints.  Lot # 15 is Elvis’ seventh degree black belt karate card.  The minimum bid is $10,000.  It is already there, and it should blast right by the high-end estimate of $13,000.



There are hundreds of Elvis-related items (that he never owned) in the auction.  They go for much more reasonable prices, and I am following a few.  Here is a 3-pack set of Graceland View-Master cards (Lot # 326).  My son collects View-Master sets, so I’d love to buy these and give them to him.  However, if I did get them, I’d have a hard time parting with them.  In reality, the price will certainly end up prohibitive; it is already at $150 with nine bids, the most I’ve noticed on any item.  I can’t imagine why the opening bid was set at just $10.


Here’s a set of sixteen Elvis mini-buttons (Lot # 260).  This set is running parallel with the View-Masters: a dumb opening bid of $10 and nine bids up to $150 already.


The last item I’ll mention here is one I hope several other people would like to own.  I already own a copy of this album, Between Takes, so I’m interested to see what it will go for.  The minimum bid on Lot # 496 is $10 and only one person has bid for it so far.  Actually, it is a fairly unique album with hours of chatter at recording sessions and backstage at concerts, but the auction description does not tell you that.


Like I said, it’s been fun following the progression of this auction.  However, the real fun begins at 9PM Wednesday night, March 25.  That’s when the Countdown Clock begins.  You know how some serious bidders on on-line auctions get screwed when somebody else jumps in with ten seconds left and ups a bid while leaving no time for another to be made.  Not with the Countdown Clock.  Each bid received after 9PM will extend the entire auction closing by ten minutes.  All items remain open for bidding until there are no new bids on any items for a period of ten minutes.  So, as you can imagine, the real bidding on this auction will occur after 9PM next Wednesday.  The auction company estimates things will go on for several hours, and I plan to be on-line and follow the action.  If you would like to take a look, too, click on and have some fun.  If you think you might like to bid on anything, click on it now and get registered.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All Rights Reserved

An Udderly Stupid Elvis Blog


Two weeks ago, I posted an article that chronicled an element of Elvis’ stature and importance – his painting in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.  Hopefully, that respectful column will be enough to balance out this week’s post, which admittedly is stupid and irrelevant.

A late November ElvisBlog article covered M&M Elvis Christmas ornaments, some made by noted designer Kurt Alder.  The article ended with a picture of another Alder Elvis Christmas ornament, and I even made fun of it for obvious reasons.

Elvis Dancing Cow Christmas Ornament


To my surprise, this picture was picked up by  Even more surprising were all the links that came from that picture to ElvisBlog.  Every day, three or four people visited the site this way.  I was curious what category such a strange picture would be in, so I linked back.  There were several:  Dancing Cow, Silly Cows, Alder Elvis, and others.  I can’t imagine why anyone would be looking for images of silly cows, but I guess I’ve searched for some weird stuff myself.

Then, I decided to type “Cow Elvis” into the Google Images category search to see what would come up.  Here’s the best of what I found.


How do you like the jumpsuit on this one?  Too bad about the little flaw in the left photo up by the horn.  Check out the hair, sideburns and sunglasses, which are good, but it’s also got udders.  What’s up with that?  And what the heck is that companion cow in the other photo? 


 This one came from a food website, and it was something about special ways of serving beef.  Having a cow bring it to your table wouldn’t seem like such a good idea.  And I guess the stupid cow doesn’t know what’s on the platter he is carrying.


 This Cow Elvis even has a name:  “Love Me Tenderloin.”   The blue scarf is a nice touch.


Someone thinks this one looks like an Elvis cow, but I don’t really see it.  Sure, it’s holding a guitar, but what else?  The sunglasses aren’t in the Elvis style, and there is no jumpsuit or other Elvis clothes.  This cow almost didn’t make the cut.


 I’m not sure, but this looks like a real stuffed cow wearing an Elvis jumpsuit.  It’s hard to imagine why anyone would go to such trouble.

This one is obviously plastic and the sunglasses aren’t quite right.  However, it’s got good Elvis hair and a jumpsuit.


 This one is a bit of a stretch, because it is a Sea Cow Elvis.  I like the ’68 Comeback black leather and the guitar, so it gets selected for this pictorial essay.


Too bad this one doesn’t show more than the head.  We can see the sideburns and sunglasses, but I’d sure like to see a front shot.



Uh-oh, more udders.  In spite of that, this is my favorite Cow Elvis.  Boy, it does sound kind of stupid to say that.  I apologize to anyone offended, but remember, I did the Smithsonian article too, so cut me a break.  One other note: during my search, I found a Cow Madonna.  Somehow, that doesn’t sound so stupid.  (And you should see the udders on it.)

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved



Congratulations to reader Susan Boyer for her winning caption below.  Look for another Caption Contest next week.


This is a great sandwich, Mama.  You wanna pass me four or five more.



What do you get when a 3D animation manager is also a huge Elvis fan?  I found out in an e-mail from Tim Jones of Los Angeles, and what he sent me is simply spectacular.  It is a YouTube video that knocked me over.  I’ve watched it a dozen times and don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

In fact, it was so good I decided to learn how to post videos on ElvisBlog.  I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for four years to keep my blog simple, but as of today, YouTube videos will be another part of ElvisWorld that is presented here.  Now, every time I run across a nifty one, I can no longer use the excuse that I don’t know how to post them.  What’s next?  A podcast?

Back to Tim Jones.  He works for a company called Knowledge Adventure and has the dual titles of 3D Art and Animation Manager and Lead Character Modeler.  So, he knows some stuff.  Knowledge Adventure makes educational games like Jumpstart and Math Blaster, which teach children math, reading, critical thinking, and more.  Tim has been working the past few years on adventure-based 3D virtual worlds for kids 3 to10 years of age.

Tim first got the idea to mix some Elvis moves into a dance game that is part of Jumpstart.  That was so much fun, he decided to make his own video of one of the characters singing an Elvis song, complete with many familiar Elvis moves.  He chose Pierre, a rotund Panda Bear.  Tim says, “I picked him over our other characters because I thought his size would accentuate the animation.”

So, what Elvis performance did Tim use for his video’s model?  How about the one on TV that shook up America on June 5, 1956.  This was Elvis’ second performance on the Milton Berle Show, and the last song he sang was “Hound Dog.”  When Elvis finished it with suggestive bump–and-grind moves, it set off a fury of outrage.  Tim did not include this infamous finale in his video, but everything else Elvis did that night is here for your enjoyment.  ElvisBlog is proud to present the Tim Jones video “3D Elvis sings Hound Dog.  As a big happy panda.”




Tim has said, “Someday I’d like to create a 3D version of Elvis and animate it to one of his classic performances.”

I can’t wait.  If Tim chooses the song “Hound Dog” again, I sure hope he uses Elvis’ complete performance on the Milton Berle Show.  It wouldn’t be nearly so shocking today, but it sure would be cool.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved

Elvis in The Smithsonian


Did you know you could find Elvis in the Smithsonian Institution?  You can, if you check out the National Portrait Gallery’s “Bravo” exhibition.  Here’s a group of Smithsonian visitors looking at the oil painting of Elvis that hangs there.


As with just about everything else involving Elvis, this brings up an interesting story.  The artist who painted the Elvis portrait is Ralph Wolfe Cowan, who, according to several websites, is considered the number one portrait painter in the world.  He has been recognized for painting more reigning monarchs and world leaders than any other painter in history.  His work includes portraits of four US Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Reagan.  So, the stature of the artist certainly had a lot to do with the National Portrait Gallery selecting this particular painting.

However, this is not the first painting Ralph Wolfe Cowan did of Elvis.  Back in 1962, Mr. Cowan was selected to open the first portrait-painting studio at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  Elvis was staying nearby at the Aladdin Hotel when he learned about the studio.  He sought out Mr. Cowan and commissioned a portrait at a cost of $10,000.  Mr. Cowan started sketching on a 48-inch round canvas the very first night.

However, Elvis was very impressed with the album cover titled Heavenly that Cowan had created for Johnny Mathis.  Elvis decided he wanted a similar full-length portrait of himself and asked Mr. Cowan to start over.


The result was a painting that is now familiar to all Elvis fans.  Elvis loved it.  According to Mr. Cowan, “Elvis came by and personally carried the four-foot by seven-foot painting across the street to his room at the Aladdin.” 


This painting now embellishes the main wall at the Graceland Trophy Room.  The prominent gold hue of the portrait is a great compliment to the display of hundreds of Elvis’ gold records.  Mr. Cowan’s full-length masterpiece was the only portrait Elvis ever allowed to hang in Graceland.  Over the years, Priscilla and others would refer to the painting as “Heavenly Elvis.”  Here’s an interesting piece of trivia:  During the 1999 Archives of Graceland auction of Elvis memorabilia at the MGM Grand, somebody paid $3,500 for the check that Elvis wrote to pay for the painting.

Mr. Cowan astutely saved his original round sketch.  He has said, “After Elvis died…I was able to restore and repair the circular Elvis portrait.  As you can see, I added the red shirt and blue sky to make it different from the Graceland painting… I’ve heard from clients who have seen the portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery that it gets great attention.”  Mr. Cowan has referred to this painting as “Loving Elvis.”


In 1969, Ralph Wolfe Cowan created a third Elvis painting he titled “Coming Home Elvis.”   It was also part of the Archives of Graceland auction and sold for $45,000.



Mr. Cowan has painted at least three other Elvis portraits, and they are now offered at the upcoming The Elvis Presley Collection presented by the auction firm Gotta-Have-Rock-and-Roll on March 16-25.  All have a minimum bid of $25,000 and are projected to bring $35-45,000.  There is “Praying Elvis” depicting him in the famous American Eagle jumpsuit, and “Hound Dog Christmas” where Elvis is in a Santa suit and holds a hound dog puppy.



Certainly the most unusual Ralph Wolfe Cowan portrait of Elvis is “Elvis Presley Pink Cadillac.”  The painting is framed by an actual car door painted pink.


So, check out and put in your bid on an Elvis painting by the number one portrait painter in the world.  Or, if you don’t have $45,000 to spare, go to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian and see one there.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved