Monthly Archives: June 2010

Julien's — Another June Auction of Elvis Memorabilia

I follow the Elvis collectibles offered at Julien’s Auctions, and it is getting to be an annual spectator sport.  Last June, they had one called Julien’s Summer Sale, and it originated from the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  It featured about two dozen items each from Michael Jackson and Elvis, and I wrote this blog about it.  Exactly a year later, Julien’s returned to Planet Hollywood for their Music Icons auction.  It had several hundred Michael Jackson items and about 130 Elvis goodies.  Here are the Elvis items I found interesting.

The Big Winner:   When I saw that the expected bid range for this shirt was $6,000 to 8,000, I said, “No way.  It will go for five or ten times that.”  And it did — $51,000.  Elvis wore this black rayon shirt with a pink yoke on June 5, 1956, for his appearance on the Milton Berle Show.  This was the event that shook up the whole country.  Elvis’ moves during his performance of “Hound Dog” brought on incensed responses from parents, the press, preachers and even some disc jockeys. 

                     

     Pink & Black “Hound Dog” Shirt                    Elvis Wearing it on the Milton Berle Show

 

Where has this shirt been hiding for the past 54 years?  In my opinion, if a color photo of Elvis in this pink and black “Hound Dog” shirt had existed over these years, the shirt would rank right up there with the other iconic Elvis clothing:  the ’68 Special black leather outfit, the Aloha from Hawaii American eagle jumpsuit, and the gold lame suit. 

                               

 

 

Other Clothing Items:  This blue velour shirt had another low estimate at $4,000 to 6,000, because it brought in $17,000.  The key to any Elvis clothing item bringing maximum collectible value is for it to be accompanied by a photo of Elvis wearing the item.  In this case, the shirt is seen on the cover of the 1956 four-song EP titled Christmas With Elvis.

                    

Blue Velour Shirt on Cover of Christmas with Elvis

By comparison, this red corduroy smoking jacket with black satin lining and red-tassled belt went for just $3,300.  It had a letter of authenticity from the wardrobe assistant Elvis gave it to, but it was not accompanied by a photo of Elvis wearing it.  If the new owner can ever find one, he can put the jacket back on the market and make a quick ten grand.

 

Red Corduroy Smoking Jacket

 

The Jewelry:  What would an Elvis auction be without some jewelry?

 

                 

Gold, Onyx and Diamond Ring Elvis Wore in The Trouble With Girls

Elvis gave away this ring to his buddy Alan Fortas years ago, and it has now reappeared.  I can understand Elvis’ personal rings bringing a nice price, but it is surprising that a movie ring would go for $15,000.  Obviously, the picture from the movie helps.

 

                      

                                             Seven-Diamond Cocktail Ring Worn by Elvis in Concert.

These diamonds are small, totaling only 1.3 carats, so this is not nearly as impressive as other Elvis rings that have brought in much more money at auctions.  The photo supposedly shows Elvis wearing the ring.  Even when blown-up, it’s not very clear, but it was enough to generate a bid of $13,000.

 

                              

          Gold TCB Pendant                                                Lucky Chinese Pendant

A gold TCB Pendant is one Elvis collectible that doesn’t need a collaborative photo.  We all knew he wore them.  The unique element is that Elvis gave so many of them away… to his Memphis Mafia buddies initially, and then to several other people who interacted favorably with him.  In this case, the lucky recipient was stuntman Dan Koko.  He played handball with Elvis and probably hung out with him during the filming of a movie, and Elvis gave his new friend one of the fabled TCB pendants.  I wouldn’t have let it go for just $10,000, and the guy that bought it got a steal in my book.

Last year, Julien’s had another TCB pendant, and it went for $117,000.  Of course, it had thirty-two full-cut round diamonds that this one doesn’t.

The other pendant is not solid gold.  It is just goldplated wire, but it still brought in $7,500.  Value was certainly added because Elvis called it his Lucky Chinese Pendant, and he wore it for good luck.  How many different pieces of jewelry do you think Elvis had names for?  A bunch, I’ll bet.  Kind of the way the jumpsuits all had names.

Guitars:  These two guitars look nearly the same, but they have different stories and vastly different prices.

 

                           

                    1972 Martin D-28                       Martin 0071 Guitar Elvis Gave Jack Lord

 

The 1972 Martin D-28 went for $47,500, but the guitar Elvis gave to Jack Lord brought in just $13,000.  The auction website offered several photos of Elvis playing the Martin D-28 in concerts through the mid-70s, but I guess no photo was taken when Elvis gave the other guitar to his friend, Hawaii Five-O star, Jack Lord.

Elvis with 1972 Martin D-28 Guitar on Stage in his Famous Sundial Jumpsuit

 

That’s it for all the big-ticket marquee Elvis items at Julien’s Music Icons auction.  Next week we will look at the odd-ball fun stuff, especially the lot I consider to be the absolute steal of the day.  A computer hic-up may have caused many potential bidders to not know about it.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Elvis Talks about Opera, Rock & Roll, and Payola Fifty Years Ago

In May 1960, while he was in Los Angeles filming G.I. Blues, Elvis consented to an interview with New York Times reporter Murray Schumach.  It had been two months since Elvis returned from the army, and a lot had changed in the two years he was gone.

The two men withdrew to Elvis’ small dressing room on the Paramount lot and discussed acting and singing.  Schumach published a lengthy summary of this interview in the Times on May 22, under the title of “Hollywood Civilian:  Elvis Presley Returns to Movie Maneuvers.”

Would it surprise you to learn that Elvis denied he would sacrifice his singing career for acting?  Of course, we all know that’s just what happened – for almost all of the 60s.  In 1960, Elvis could not have foreseen how the next eight years would pan out under the reign of Col. Parker.  If Elvis had been asked if he expected to continue touring and giving live performances, I’ll bet he would have said “Yes.”  But, it turned out that Elvis gave only two concerts in 1961 and no more after that until the movie career ended.

In the exchange with Schumach about his singing career, Elvis said he liked singing too much to let it go.  He also said he liked all kinds of music.  It’s common knowledge that Elvis liked country, and blues, and gospel.  But who would guess that he also appreciated opera?  Elvis offered this anecdote as an example.

“The other night at the Milton Berle show – you know, his night club show – he put on six opera singers.  I flipped my lid.  They had great voices, great arrangements.”  (Note: The Met Sextette is listed below as an act in the revue).

 

Mr. Schumach asked Elvis if he been to any opera while stationed in Germany.  Elvis said he had not, but he regretted it.

“I was just too tired at night to go anywhere.”

Maybe, but it seems like Elvis got to do lots of stuff while he was off-duty.  Probably stuff that was more fun than going to the opera.

            
           

Concerning his own singing, Elvis admitted he couldn’t read music and explained his personal technique for recording songs.

“I just listen to it get played a few times.  No one can tell me how you should do this song or that one.  I work strictly my own way.  If the day ever comes when I listen to anyone else, I’ll get mechanical and I’m dead.”

Apparently, Schumach asked Elvis if he would make any adjustments to his method to fit the current style of music.

“I don’t see why I should change my singing style, right now.  Seems pretty foolish to me.”

Then, Elvis tilted his head up toward the ceiling and squinted at it, before adding:

“Of course, if things change, I’ll change, too.  You have to.  That’s show business.”     

Next, Shumach asked him about the general state of rock & roll music.  Elvis said,

“Rock & roll music is getting better than ever.  The sound engineers are learning about how to handle the stuff.”

I’m surprised that Elvis didn’t go into more detail with his answer, but it’s interesting to note how his involvement in the recording process included an understanding of sound engineering.

Schumach must have asked Elvis about the recent Payola scandal in rock & roll music.  Perhaps many of you readers are not old enough to remember Payola, so a little history lesson is advisable.

In the late 50s, there was a problem with record companies paying some disc jockeys to play their records.  This would result in higher rankings on the charts, which led to additional record sales.  Payola, the word for the scandal, was coined by the press and came from ‘pay” and “Victrola,” a brand of early record player produced by RCA Victor.

The most famous disc jockey caught up in the Payola scandal was Alan Freed, the man generally given credit for coining the term rock and roll. His career and reputation were harmed so greatly that he had difficulty finding work, and he died of alcoholism in 1965 at age 43.

Dick Clark’s early career was nearly derailed by a Payola scandal, but he avoided trouble by selling his stake in a record company and cooperating with authorities.  Some people thought Payola would result in the downfall of rock & roll.  They were wrong.

In response to the Payola question, Elvis said he did not think rock and roll music was dying.  He insisted it was ridiculous to think that Payola to disc jockeys for plugging certain records could be solely responsible for the success of rock and roll.

“It couldn’t have been made popular by Payola only.  Too many Americans love it.”

And we still do today, fifty years later.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Jimmy Dean and Elvis

The internet news accounts of entertainer Jimmy Dean’s recent passing contained this information:

“In 2009, a fire gutted their home… Lost were a collection of celebrity-autographed books, posters of Dean with Elvis Presley, and other prized possessions.”

Naturally, I had to do some quick research to learn about the connection between Elvis and Jimmy Dean.

Jimmy Dean and Elvis in 1956

Dean was best known for his 1961 song about a heroic miner, “Big Bad John,” which went to number one on the Billboard pop charts and inspired many imitations and parodies. It sold over one million copies, and won Dean the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording.  He had several more Top 40 songs on the pop and country music charts, including a Top 10 in 1962 with “PT-109”, a song in honor of John F. Kennedy's bravery in World War II.  He achieved a second number 1 country hit in 1965 with the ballad “The First Thing Every Morning (And The Last Thing Every Night)” and had a Top 40 hit that year with “Harvest of Sunshine”. In 1966, Dean signed with RCA Records and immediately had a Top 10 hit with “Stand Beside Me”.

Jimmy Dean also had success as a businessman.  In 1969, he founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company with his brother Don. The company did well, in part because of Dean's own extemporized, humor-themed commercials.  The success of his sausage led to the company’s acquisition in 1984 by Consolidated Foods, later renamed the Sara Lee Corporation.

What is less known about Dean is his early career as a TV personality in the mid-50s. He was the host of the popular Washington D.C. TV program “Town and Country Time” on WMAL at 6:30 PM.  Both Patsy Cline and Roy Clark got their starts on this show.  Elvis was a guest on March 23, 1956, the night he was to perform on a cruise down the Potomac River aboard on the S.S. Mount Vernon.  In his autobiography, Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham, Dean remembered the interview as “possibly the worst I’ve ever done.”

Jimmy Dean and Elvis on “Town and Country Time”

It is reported that the on-air chat went something like this:

Jimmy:  “So, you’re gonna be on the S.S. Mount Vernon tonight, are you Elvis?”
Elvis:     “Yep.”

Jimmy:   “Have you ever worked on a boat before?”
Elvis:      “Nope.”

Jimmy:   “I imagine you’re looking forward to this, aren’t you?”
Elvis:       “Yep.”

Gee, what’s wrong with that interview?  Unfortunately, Elvis was still very quiet and reserved during interviews back in 1956.

When both he and Elvis were Las Vegas regulars years later, Dean recalled that
Elvis apologized for his brevity in the D.C. studio, saying he was simply scared of
the camera.

Jimmy Dean and Elvis in Las Vegas in the 70s.

By then, Elvis was much more talkative and had traded his argyle socks for jumpsuits.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Mr. Potato Head Elvis — Yikes!

I told my wife that they were coming out with an Elvis Mr. Potato Head, and she replied, “Oh God, what’s next.”  I think I have the answer to that question, but first let’s take a look at the latest in themed Elvis collectibles.

Elvis Mr. Potato Head

According to a report on www.elvis.com/news dated 6/9/10, Elvis Mr. Potato Head will be unveiled at Elvis Week this year.  Want to bet they will sell a lot of them – even at the inflated price of $20.

Of course, Elvis Mr. Potato Head is just the latest in a long line of Elvis figures in white jumpsuits you can buy:

                 
                       
      M&M Elvis                   Elvis Whisky Decanter              Plush Piggy Elvis

                              

Bobble-Head Elvis                      Elvis Teddy Bear                             Pez Elvis

 

The news release stated that a second version of Elvis Mr. Potato Head wearing his ‘68 Special black leather outfit will be out in time for the 2010 Christmas season.  It was unstated, but you can be sure there will be other iconic themes to follow.  All the Elvis collectibles pictured above have several models, including Jailhouse Rock, Private Elvis, 50s Rocker, etc.  I’ll bet the third Elvis Mr. Potato Head is decked out in gold lamé.

The news release also stated:  “components such as hairstyles, costumes, faces and musical instruments will be compatible with every version so fans can mix and match the styles with hilarious results.”   That doesn’t sound so hilarious to me, but it might be if you used other available Mr. Potato Head accessories.

                     

 Party Spud Accessories                                               Halloween Spud Accessories

Can you imagine Elvis with buck teeth, Dracula hair, or a clown hat?

Hasbro Toys has been making Mr. Potato Head since 1952, and they have developed many versions over the years.  Here are a few that are pretty cool:

         

  Santa Potato Head                       Darth Tater                  Princess Sweet Potato

 

Unlike these examples, Elvis Mr. Potato Head is actually produced by PPW Toys as a licensee of Hasbro.  PPW has previously developed a series of sports-themed Mr. Potato Head figures.

             
     
  Atlanta Braves                                Dallas Cowboys                           Duke Blue Devils

 

Elvis was not the first rock and roll Mr. Potato Head produced by PPW Toys.

 
KISS Potato Heads

EPE has been trying to find as many ways as possible to get youngsters interested in Elvis, and I think Elvis Mr. Potato Head will work just fine.  However, to answer my wife’s question about what’s next, Graceland should look at the latest craze with the kids — Silly Bandz.  They are wearing hundreds of different shapes on their wrists.  There are the only a few available shapes with a musical theme, so here’s a tip for EPE.  Sign up Silly Bandz as yet another licensed vendor and add this to their product line.

                                                      

              Musical Silly Bandz                                                               Future Elvis Silly Bandz? 

 

I’m too old to ever wear an Elvis Silly Bandz, but this big kid has already told his wife he wants one of those Elvis Mr. Potato Heads for Christmas.  I will put it on the shelf above my desk, right next to my set of Elvis M&Ms and my Pez Elvis.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Loving You — Starring Scotty, DJ, and Bill (Plus Elvis, of Course)

I recently found something interesting on the website for a Rock and Roll memorabilia auction.  It was a movie theater lobby card from Elvis’ 1957 film Loving You.  Most Elvis movie cards and posters show pictures of him with one or more of his lovely female co-stars, but this one included Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, his original guitarist and drummer.  I would guess neither man ever knew this lobby card existed, so I am sending copies to their webmasters.


Lobby Card showing DJ Fontana (far left) and Scotty Moore (far right)

 

Loving You was Elvis’ second movie, his first in color, and also the first of several (many?) where Elvis’ character was a singer.  There are elements in this film that are considered auto-biographical.  Elvis’ character, Deke Rivers, parallels Elvis’ start as a truck driver; for a beverage distributor in the movie and for an electric company in real life.  Once he starts singing in the movie, all the famous frenetic leg-gyrations and hip-swinging are there to produce loud squealing by the young girls in the audience.  There is even a female Col. Parker-like manager who gets Deke to sign a personal services contract giving her 50%.

The lobby card reminded me that all three of Elvis’ original bandmates, Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black, have considerable screen time in the movie, so I checked it out again to note all their appearances.  Within seconds after the opening credits finish, they are up on a town square stage, in a country band providing music for a political candidate.  DJ, unfortunately, is directly behind Scotty, and is not seen much.

Scotty Moore and a Politician – Bill Black in Background

 

After a few minutes of dialog by other characters, it’s back to the bandstand where we get a similar, but longer look at Scotty and Bill.  In fact, Scotty gets his best screen time in any of the Elvis movies — fifteen seconds in a close shot, standing beside the politician.

About seven minutes into the picture, Deke Rivers is persuaded to get up on the stage and sing a song. He chooses “Got A Lot of Livin’ To Do.”  This song is now used in Viva Elvis in the big trampoline sequence, which is generally considered one of the highlights of the Cirque du Soleil show.

Bill Black and Scotty Moore flank Elvis during “Got A Lot of Livin’ to Do”

 

At the eighteen minute point of Loving You, Elvis’ character is now a full time member of the band.  He sings “Let’s Have a Party.” Scotty again fares best with screen time, followed by Bill, and last again, DJ.

 

Bill, Scotty, Elvis, and DJ Playing “Let’s Have A Party”

 

However, DJ has a solo scene five minutes later when he comes out of a high school after a spring hop and removes the sign that announced the performance they just finished.


DJ Fontana in His Solo Scene

 

Seconds later, the band is presenting Elvis’ character a new guitar. Check out Bill Black, looking very dapper as he chomps on a long stogie. 


 
Bill Black Watching Elvis Get a New Guitar

 

About five minutes later, we see what is in essence a 1957 version of a music video. The beginning is striking, thanks to some very imaginative lighting used on Elvis.  The song, “Lonesome Cowboy,” changes mood and pace several times, and the three bandmates all get lots of screen time. The bad news is they are now a little farther back behind Elvis and in dimmed lighting. Near the end, DJ is clearly visible behind Elvis in a close shot, but you’ll never notice him, because Elvis does that incredible eye thing of his. This is where he bends his head down and looks out of the top of his eyes. Elvis’ presence in this scene is very powerful.

Elvis Singing “Lonesome Cowboy”

 

The next song in the movie is “Hot Dog.”  For a few seconds, the camera shot cuts off the actor members of the band and shows only Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill. It’s fun to watch Scotty, because smiles so much and seems to be having a wonderful time.  It is during this song that the manager creates a fake riot, very reminiscent of some of Col. Parker’s publicity stunts.

 

Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill Black Playing “Hot Dog”

 

The next appearance of Scotty, DJ, and Bill is in the scene that produced the lobby card.  The band is killing time on the road, and DJ and Scotty are at a table, playing cards with some other guys.  Bill Black is nearby in an armchair. He actually gets two lines of dialogue, including, “Hey, Deke. See the picture in the paper of the gals fighting over you?”
 

Bill Black Delivering his Speaking Part in Loving You

 

About 45 minutes into Loving You, Scotty, DJ, and Bill make their last appearance.  Elvis’ character sings “Teddy Bear.”  Although the band is visible, they are well behind him, and again the lights are dimmed until the song finishes.  In this scene, as others, the bandmates move their lips as though singing.  In truth, all the very fine vocal accompaniment in the movie came from the Jordanaires, an arrangement that would continue in many more Elvis films.
 

Taking a Bow after Singing “Teddy Bear.”

 

Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black also had significant screen time in Elvis’ third and fourth movies, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole.  It would be so cool to find lobby cards showing them in these films as well.  I’ll keep looking.

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.