Monthly Archives: January 2011

Goodbye Lamar Fike

It has now been over a week since the passing of one of Elvis’ oldest friends.  Lamar Fike died from complications of lymphoma on January 21.  Sorry it took so long to post a fitting tribute to him. 

Lamar Fike was an intriguing member of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia, and he is notable for several reasons.  At 270 pounds, he was certainly the heaviest member of Elvis’ entourage.

There is some confusion about how Elvis and Lamar had their first contact.  According to one report, Lamar first met Elvis by just hanging around the front of his house at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis until he was finally invited in.  Elvis lived there from May 1956 to March 1957.  However, it is likely that Elvis and Lamar first met in 1954 at Sun Studios.  Nineteen-year-old Fike was learning how to be a disc-jockey under the tutelage of George Klein, a classmate of Elvis’ and one of his friends.  Klein and Sam Phillips introduced Lamar to Elvis
  
With the exception of Klein and Red West, another of Elvis’ friends from high school, Lamar Fike knew Elvis the longest. Klein never lived at Graceland or worked for Elvis, but he remained a lifetime friend.  West was a year behind Elvis in high school, stayed friends with him after that, and become part of the earliest Memphis Mafia in 1960, as did Lamar Fike.

Jamming at Graceland, August 1957.  Fike on left.  Back of Anita Hill’s head at bottom.

 

In 1958, during the filming of Jailhouse Rock, Elvis was hospitalized for swallowing a cap for his tooth.  When Lamar learned about it, he got in touch with Elvis, who immediately told him to fly out to Hollywood and join him.

 

Lamar Fike and Elvis at RCA studio in Los Angeles during soundtrack recording.

After the movie wrapped, Elvis brought Lamar to Graceland, and he was the first friend to be given a room in Graceland.  So, Elvis had his pal around full time.

When Elvis was drafted, Lamar tried to enlist so he could be with Elvis, but he was turned down because of his weight.  However, Elvis took care of that problem.

Elvis was transferred to an Army post in Germany later in 1958, and he asked Lamar  to come over on the plane with Elvis' father and grandmother Minnie Mae.   Fike stayed and became part of Elvis’ extended family.  While in Germany, Lamar endured many jokes about his big size and served as the court jester for Elvis and other friends.   Elvis could kid him without Lamar ever getting upset.  He was happy to be close to his idol, and Elvis genuinely liked to have him around.  The German press called him the “Wrestler,” but Elvis liked to call him “Buddha.”

                   

Elvis and Lamar Fike while on furlough in Paris, June 1959

 

After Elvis was discharged in 1960, Lamar returned with him to Graceland.  A group of Elvis buddies – Red West, Joe Esposito, Charlie Hodge, and Lamar Fike – morphed into what became known as the Memphis Mafia.  Other members came and went over the years.
  

Col. Parker, Elvis, Lamar Fike, Joe Esposito, and Charlie Hodge, June 1968.

Lamar’s responsibilities for the next year or so, while Elvis’ was off making movies, are not well documented.  It’s seemed like he just stayed at Graceland, keeping an eye on the place until Elvis returned during breaks from movie filming.   His job responsibility seems to have been simply to be Elvis’ buddy.

In 1962, Lamar left Graceland to become road manager for singer Brenda Lee.  The following year, he moved to Nashville to run the Hill and Range Publishing office.  This housed Elvis' publishing companies, so the connection with Elvis continued.

 

Lamar Fike at International Hotel, Las Vegas, 1969

 

Photos from 1969-70 period.

                  

Lamar Fike was definitely a big guy.

In the 70s, when Elvis was once again performing live, Lamar came back into the fold and was given the job as Elvis’ lighting director at the concerts.  He got to travel to Las Vegas and every other place Elvis performed.  On tour with the King.  Great job.  Occasionally, he also took care of transportation in Las Vegas and Memphis.

 

Elvis, Jerry Schilling, Lamar Fike, Joe Esposito

 

Lamar Fike Gives Elvis a Ride on Stage

Lamar eventually married, and moved out of Graceland, but continued in Elvis’ entourage until 1977.

 

Lamar Fike is on Far Left

The photo above is a promo still from the 2005 CBS miniseries Elvis, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Elvis.  The actor on the far left is portraying Lamar Fike.  The other guys, left to right, are Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, Red West, and Charlie Hodge.  Elvis had his Memphis Mafia boys dressing sharp when they were with him.

 

So, now we say goodbye to Lamar Fike.    ElvisWorld seems smaller as we lose another of his buddies.  But, I’ll bet Elvis was really happy to see Lamar show up in Heaven.

 

©  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 Silhouette Extravaganza

Three years ago, I posted an article called “Another Chance to Vote on Elvis Images.”  It offered two contrasting pictures for a dozen different Elvis categories, such as Jumpsuits, Lip Curl, etc.  Readers could decide which option they preferred.

image

The first thing they got to pick was the better Elvis Silhouette, and the choices were a young 50s Elvis and a 70s Elvis in a jumpsuit.

Since then, I have been impressed with the number of people who search for Elvis silhouettes on Google.  ElvisBlog gets links from that nearly every day, in spite of being down low on the third page of the Google results.  I can imagine all the hits those sites at the top of Google list get.  Well, ElvisBlog is about to move up there with them.  Here is a collection of Elvis silhouettes that have taken about four years to accumulate.

50s Elvis:

image                             image

These are my only two 50s Elvis silhouettes that do not have a microphone or guitar or both.  The one on the left looks like it was derived from a photo of Elvis’s second appearance on the Milton Berle Show.  The other one may have come from a Jailhouse Rock dance sequence image.

 

image                    image

Here are two with microphones.   The one the left is an image on a globe light.  The other is taken from a small image on some other Elvis product.  It got a little fuzzy when blown up to a larger size.

 

image                                     image      

I’m surprised how many Elvis silhouettes include microphone stands.  Sorry the one on the left got fuzzy when I blew it up from a thumbnail image.  The one on the right is similar to the first picture of this article, except it is in gold, has a mic stand and has been flipped from side to side.

 

image                    image

Here are two more Elvis silhouettes with mic stands.  Can you imagine what percentage of the world’s population could look at these pictures and easily identify them as Elvis?

 

  
image                    image

 

image

These last three are my favorites – Elvis with guitar and mic stand.  The one directly above is a variation of the 50s Elvis silhouette used in the earlier blog article.  I flipped it from a white image on black background to a black image on a white background.  It has also been flipped from side to side.  Playing around with Microsoft Paint is fun.

 

70s Jumpsuit Elvis:

image                     image

image                   image
                             

There’s not as many 70s Elvis silhouettes out there, but here are four I found.  I think the first one would be the most easily recognizable as Elvis.

 

Well, there it is – fifteen Elvis silhouettes — many that you may not have seen before.  From now on, people searching for Elvis silhouettes on Google will have a website showcasing what they want.  Hopefully, ElvisBlog will move up in the results, so they won't have to scroll through three pages to find it.

 


© 2011    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net
image
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.
 

Caption Contest # 25 — Winner

 

Congratulations to Kyle Brady for his funny winning submission.  We’ll do another contest soon.

 

Hurry up, Doc.  Are you sure this will cure air guitar cramping?

Elvis Writes A Form Letter

Recently, I learned about an interesting item of Elvis memorabilia that is on display at the Berlin Hard Rock Café.  It is a handwritten draft of a letter that Elvis wrote while he was in the Army serving in Germany.  According to the Hard Rock website, this two-page letter was written in 1959, and they consider it one of their better pieces of Elvis memorabilia.  That’s big praise, because they’ve got a whole lot of Elvis stuff, including jumpsuits.

The website also says, “He [Elvis] was receiving hundreds of pieces of mail from fans back home who were beside themselves at the loss of their idol.  Since it would have been impossible for Elvis to pen a personal response to each fan, he wrote a form letter that would be sent to those who wrote.”

Elvis reading fan mail in 1958

 

The letter is reproduced below, followed by an easier-to-read text of the message.

 

As you read the text, notice how Elvis tries to keep it personal but also generic enough to work as a response to many different fan questions.

Received your letter today and appreciated hearing from you very much.  It helps me a great deal to hear from my friends and fans from back home.  I’ll be counting the days and looking forward to the time to come, when I can return back to my homeland and start entertaining again, and doing the things I really love to do.

I’m sorry that I can’t answer each letter personally, which I would like to do, but due to my regular Army schedule, I do not have time, which I know you understand very well.  My mind is constantly thinking of all my friends and fans that I had to leave behind.

I’m trying very hard to be a regular soldier and do my job the best that I can, as all other soldiers have to do, which is very hard for me to do, due to my tremendous request I have from the public to do so many things, which to my regret I am unable to fulfill.  But I appreciate each and every one of you as friends, fans, and every letter that I receive helps me so much to carry on.  Please except this very short note for this time and I hope to hear from you again real soon.

If you do not get a reply from your letter soon and I know that you will understand why.

Until I see you again take care of yourself, and keep up the good work and I know you have done a great job.

I’m very sorry that I cannot answer question that people ask me, but maybe there will come a time soon, when I meet you in person and then I will be able to tell you things about myself.

But until that time:  “May God bless you and keep you always.”

                                                                                     Best Wishes,

                                                                                     Elvis Presley

P.S.  Don’t believe those rumors you read or hear about marriage.  I have not found anyone I care that much about yet, and when I do, I will make the announcement, and then you can be sure.
                                                                                  E.P.

————————————————————————————————————

!!!  Get this typed up on E.A.P stationary.   !!! Need 500 of them. 

                                                                                         E.P.

You will notice that Elvis considered three different closing messages.  The first was:  “Sincerely your friend,  E.P.”  Next he tried:  “Loving you,  Elvis Presley.”  And finally, the one he chose:  “Best Wishes,  Elvis Presley.”

I like the little P.S. about marriage.  We don’t know the date when this was written, so it may be before Elvis met Priscilla.  If so, the part about “I have not found anyone I care that much about yet” would be true.  However, if it was after Priscilla came into the picture, he may have been telling a little fib just to keep the fans happy.

It sounds like Elvis took plenty of personal stationary with him to Germany.  I wonder if 500 copies of this letter were enough.  I once read that Elvis received over 3,000 fan letters at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, and he was there only a few days.  Think how many he received in a year-and-a-half in Germany.

 

One of the more unique fan letters Elvis received while in Germany
(Photo thanks to Jerry Osborne:  Elvis – Like Any Other Soldier)

Elvis won’t win any literary award for this letter, but, all in all, I think he crafted a pretty sincere message that effectively begged off responding to each fan letter while still sounding personal.  Don’t you wish you were one of the lucky fans that received a copy of 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.

 

Happy Birthday, Elvis

I was pleased when I checked my “Elvis Birthday” file and saw how many new pictures I added since last year.  Here are some of the more interesting ones.

Actually, there are two versions of Elvis with a party hat Photoshopped onto his head, but we’ll save one for next year.

 

 

I like the little dog in this Elvis birthday cartoon.  He’s got the hair, sunglasses and a broom for guitar.  What, no jumpsuit?

 

 

This one uses a photo from the ’68 Comeback Special that we don’t see very often.  Elvis looks like he is taking care of business big time, doesn’t he?

Last year we presented a photo essay of Elvis birthday cakes, and my file contains plenty of new ones.  Let’s narrow it down and just look at ones that include a tiny Elvis made out of icing.  It must take a lot of skill to create a recognizable likeness of someone using icing as your medium.                 

                         

This one does a good job on Elvis’ jumpsuit.  There are nice red stripes on the legs, topped with little round silver balls.  There are more of these balls down the sleeves.  But I just don’t get the other two in the middle of the picture.

                   

I don’t think Elvis ever wore sunglasses with pink frames, but they work here.  I wish we had a back view, because it looks like Elvis has a cape.

 

                              

The hair gets a different treatment here, and check out the big jumpsuit collar.  This is the third icing Elvis sitting on the cake.  I guess it’s a lot harder to do him standing up.

                            

For some reason, this reminds me more of Andy Kauffman doing Elvis, rather than Elvis himself.  Too bad there isn’t enough detail to see the design on the jumpsuit, which appears to be modeled after the early jumpsuits with a big sash belt.

   

                                   

The first four cakes celebrated someone else’s birthday: 40th, 70th, 50th, and 30th.   It is interesting that folks would consider Elvis to be a cool decoration for people of such varying ages.  The last two cakes appear to have been created to celebrate Elvis’ birthday.  This icing Elvis is another with hair that comes to a point on top.  Notice the bling around his neck.  The cake artist gets extra points for having Elvis appear to pop out of the cake.

 

                                

We know this cake was created just for Elvis because it says “The King.”  It is either a small cake, or the icing Elvis is very large.   I like that he is sitting on a record.  Nice bling, too.

So, that’s our Elvis birthday celebration for this year.  Elvis, we wish you were still around to have some cake with us.  You can’t, so there’s just one more thing we want to say:

©  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.

The Most Significant Month In Elvis' History

Back in late 2005, I was trying to think of something to write for the upcoming Birthday Tribute Issue of Elvis International magazine. 

I always try to submit something for each issue, and Darwin Lamm, the publisher, likes to do anniversary themes.  So, I checked out what went on with Elvis fifty years earlier in January, 1956.  I quickly realized that lots of important stuff happened, and I had my story idea.  The result was an article with a short title and the longest subtitle I ever used:

 

Fast forward five years, and my buddy, Alan Hanson, posts an article on his Elvis-History-Blog.  Check out his title:

 

Hot dog, I thought.  Alan is pushing a different month.  I couldn’t wait to compare both arguments and see which month won.  In all honesty, it seems like March 1956 probably was the most significant, or pivotal, month in Elvis’ career.  Congratulations, Alan.  However, let’s look at Alan’s summary of life-changing events for Elvis in March and see how those in January 1956 compare.

First Hit on the Charts:  That, of course, was “Heartbreak Hotel,” and it appeared on the Billboard Top 100 pop chart at #68 on March 3. 

 
Elvis’ first national hit was a big event for sure.  But, not so fast.  When was it recorded?  On January 10, Elvis had his first recording session for RCA in Nashville.  Before that, all his recording had been at Sun Records in Memphis, and they were mostly Rockabilly numbers.

 
At RCA’s famed Nashville Studio B, Elvis recorded two songs that had previously been hits for other performers:  “Money Honey” (Drifters) and I Got A Woman” (Ray Charles).  But he also recorded one new song, a slow, bluesy number unlike anything he had done at Sun.  America’s teenagers would ultimately take “Heartbreak Hotel” to #1.

So, which month wins?  I’m sticking with January.  If you are talking about a pivotal event, you can hardly beat changing your record company, your studio, your musical style, and the make-up of your backing band – and getting a #1 hit out of it.  Sure, “Heartbreak Hotel” first reached the charts in March, but that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been recorded in January.

First LP Release:  Alan correctly notes that Elvis Presley was released on March 23, and it quickly rose to the top of the charts where it stayed for ten weeks. 

 

But once again, we can ask which is more important – when it was recorded or when it was released?  Elvis Presley contained twelve songs, but five of them had been recorded at Sun Records in 1955.  The other seven were all recorded in January 1956.  If all twelve had been recorded then, this would be another win for January.  So, we’ll be generous and call this a tie.

There is one interesting side note on the album Elvis Presley.  It did not contain the huge hit “Heartbreak Hotel.”  Apparently, Col. Parker decided the fans would buy the album anyway, and he was certainly correct.  He followed the same plan with the second album, Elvis, which did not contain the huge hits “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Final Appearance on the Louisiana Hayride:  In addition to new firsts for Elvis, March also contained some lasts.  However, so did January.  On January 2, 1956, Elvis performed at a high school auditorium in Charleston, Mississippi.  This was his last show in small venues.  From then on, it was all big theaters and arenas.  Is this more significant than the last of a long run at the Louisiana Hayride?  I think so.

 

However, there was one other important last for Elvis in January.  On January 20 in Fort Worth, he did his last appearance as a supporting act.  From then on, Elvis would always be a headliner.  That’s a pretty pivotal event.

Elvis had seventh billing on May 10, 1955

 

Final Appearance on Stage Show on TV:  Elvis made six appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show on CBS, and the last was on March 24.  How could that be more pivotal than his first appearance on the show on January 28?   Chalk up another win for January.

Elvis’ on His First TV Appearance – Jan 28, 1956

 

Ever Explosive Personal Appearances:  Okay, you have to give it to March on this one, but just barely.  Elvis did plenty of very explosive personal appearances in January, too.  Of course, this trend started before January 1956 and continued well beyond March, so it’s impossible to pick any month as the pivotal one.  Maybe this category should be skipped.

Hollywood Screen Test:  January had nothing similar to this for Elvis, so March gets the nod again.

Elvis Hooks Up With Colonel Parker:  This was a major significant event, and nothing occurred in January of comparable importance.

 

It looks like Alan’s last three points tipped the scales in favor of March 1956 as the most pivotal month in Elvis’ history.  If my focus had been different five years ago, I would have picked the same month as Alan, but, I was searching for a fifty-year anniversary theme to publish in January 2006.  If I had been searching for the Elvis’ most significant month, I would have written about March 1956, but I couldn’t have done any better job presenting the case than Alan Hansen did.  Be sure to check it out.

 

©  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.