Monthly Archives: August 2011

Baby, I Don’t Care — Some Jerry Leiber Stories

If you read other Elvis websites, you already know about the death of songwriter Jerry Leiber.  The other sites informed you that Leiber and his partner Mike Stoller wrote more than a dozen Elvis hits, including “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “King Creole.”

Jerry Leiber

Mike Stoller, Elvis, Jerry Leiber in 1957

For ElvisBlog, I thought it would be more fun to tell you some Jerry Leiber stories.  They all involve my favorite Elvis song, which happens to be written by Leiber & Stoller. 

Stoller and Leiber in Later Years

My number 1 Elvis song was never a hit.  It was never released as a single, and it was not originally included on any Elvis album.  The song is “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care.”

If you don’t immediately recognize this song, just visualize the swimming pool scene in the movie Jailhouse Rock.  In character as Vince Everett, Elvis sings “Baby, I Don’t Care” in front of a cabana, entertaining everyone at a Hollywood pool party he threw.  Elvis is wearing a grey sweater with a distinctive collar.

                    

Leiber & Stoller wrote “Baby I Don’t Care” as part of the soundtrack for Jailhouse Rock.  Here is an unbelievable piece of trivia.  They composed “Jailhouse Rock,”  “Young and Beautiful,” “Treat Me Nice,” “I Want to Be Free,” “Don’t Leave Me Now,” and “Baby, I Don’t Care” in a period of four hours one afternoon.  They wrote an entire movie soundtrack in four hours.  These guys were really good!!

Here’s another oddity.  “Baby, I Don’t Care” was originally released only on an unusual format that saw some popularity in the 50s and early 60s:  It was the EP (Extended Play).  EPs looked like regular 45 singles, except there were two songs on each side.  Elvis released over twenty-five EPs in his history, including one titled Jailhouse Rock.  However, it had five songs on it, every song from the movie, except “Treat Me Nice.”

 

The EP Jailhouse Rock was an inexpensive way for kids to get a bunch of good songs, and it sold like crazy.  It entered the Billboard EP Chart at Number 1, and it stayed there for 22 consecutive weeks.   It dropped down to Number 2 for a week, and then bounced back and stayed Number 1 for six more weeks.  “Baby, I Don’t Care” was part of the best-selling Elvis EP ever, with over one million sales.  Leiber & Stoller wrote every song on it.

Even though Jailhouse Rock was a huge movie, there never was a soundtrack album.  What a missed opportunity.  RCA could have kept all six Leiber & Stoller songs together and added some filler songs and had a hit album.

There is one more piece of strange trivia involving “Baby, I Don’t Care.”  When Elvis sings the song in the movie, there are camera shots from close in and long shots from the opposite side of the pool.  They were filmed at different times, and when the long shots were filmed, the sun was shining right on the band.  Here is a close-up shot.

  

Notice that Scotty Moore is not wearing sunglasses.  Now, the long shot:

 

If you look close, Scotty is wearing Sunglasses.  Maybe the studio was missing their continuity person that day.

My wife can’t believe my favorite Elvis song is “Baby, I Don’t Care.”  She asks, “Why not Hound Dog” or “All Shook Up?”  I love all of the early Elvis songs, but I’ve heard the big hits so many times they don’t move me like they used too.  However, “Baby I Don’t Care” still sounds new. 

I like to remind my wife that the greatness of the song has been extolled by a pretty important icon of the music world.  Back in the early 90s, MTV often had “Guest VJs” who would showcase their favorite music videos.  One night a true rock god did the show.  It was Robert Plant, lead singer of the legendary heavy metal band, Led Zeppelin. 

 

 

For one of his music videos, Plant chose the film clip of Elvis singing “Baby, I Don’t Care” in Jailhouse Rock.  He called it the best Elvis song that was never released as a single.  So, I’m not the only person who really likes the song.

In their partnership, Mike Stoller wrote the music and Jerry Leiber wrote the lyrics.  So, as a last tribute to Jerry Leiber, here are the words he wrote for “Baby, I Don’t Care.”

You don’t like crazy music.
You don’t like rockin’ bands.
You just wanna go to a movie show,
And sit there holdin’ hands.
You’re so square.
Baby, I don’t care.

You don’t like hotrod racin’
Or drivin’ late at night.
You just wanna park where it’s nice and dark.
You just wanna hold me tight.
You’re so square.
Baby, I don’t care.

You don’t know any dance steps that are new,
But no one else could love me like you do, do, do, do.

I don’t know why my heart flips.
I only know it does.
I wonder why I love you, baby.
I guess it’s just because
You’re so square.

Baby, I don’t care.

 

Thank you, Jerry Leiber.  You gave us some great songs.

 

©  2011    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.

 

Al Wertheimer Reflects on Photographing “The Kiss”

No matter what network you watch the news on, you probably saw a feature two weeks ago about the newly revealed identity of the girl in “The Kiss,” Alfred Wertheimer’s iconic Elvis photo.  She is Charleston, SC resident Barbara (Bobbi) Gray, who is now 75.  “The Kiss” was photographed in 1956, so it took 55 years for her identity to be revealed.

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Alfred Wertheimer Holds “The Kiss”

Image © Tim Mantoani – www.mantoani.com

 

If you would like to read the whole story, there is a lengthy article on Vanity Fair.com by noted author Alanna Nash.  Be sure to check out the twenty-five Wertheimer Elvis images that accompany the story.

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Five years ago, I did six hours of phone interviews with Al Wertheimer as research for an article I wrote for Elvis International magazine.  The article was a 50th anniversary look at the time Al spent with Elvis in 1956 and all those images he took of the future King of Rock.  The interview was preserved on tape, and a short portion of it dealt with the history of “The Kiss” photo.  Alfred has kindly given me permission to reproduce his recollections here.

First, a little history.  From June 29 to July 4, 1956, Alfred Wertheimer spent nearly every waking moment around Elvis.  Colonel Parker had not yet clamped down on the media with strictly limited access to his star.  Wertheimer was with Elvis for the Steve Allen Show rehearsal and telecast, two concerts in Richmond, a major recording session at RCA Victor (“Hound dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel”) three long train rides, an afternoon with Elvis’ family at their home, and a big holiday concert in Memphis.

Wertheimer took photographs almost constantly and finished with 2500 ‘commercially viable’ (his words) photographs.   After he teamed up with EPE, his Elvis photographs have adorned calendars, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and dozens of other collectibles.

“The Kiss” was photographed between shows at the Mosque Theater in Richmond, VA on June 29.   Wertheimer took all shots in black-and-white, and he used only natural light, no flash bulbs.  This enabled him to be as inconspicuous as possible, and Elvis mostly paid him no attention as he clicked away.

 

 

 

Al Wertheimer Reflects on the Snapping of “The Kiss”

 

We were between shows.  I’m down at stage level, and I look down this long narrow passage and I see these two figures at the end.  There is still light enough [to take photographs] because there is a small window at the far end.  It’s probably around 6PM, so there’s still a certain amount of light left.  There’s a 50 watt bulb over their heads.

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It was like, “Leave me alone, give me some privacy, this is what I want to do, stay away.” 

But, I’m thinking, “A true journalist wants to get the story.  And, the story is right there.  A very stark hallway, a little light, two silhouettes… ”   So, I decide to be a human tripod and lean up against the wall.  There’s a railing going back.

She’s on her tippy-toes, and even on her tippy-toes, she only reached Elvis’ chin, so she must have been around all of 4 foot 10.  With her 3 inch heels and whatever she finally gets up to his chin area.  Elvis is about 6 feet.

I squeeze a few frames off and then I say, “Well, I think I’ll take a chance.  However, (You know, this is all going on in my mind) if Elvis doesn’t like it, he may ask me to leave.  Well, that would cut my story short and I wouldn’t want that to happen.”  But, then I say, “But he wouldn’t do that. (You know, I’m playing all the characters in my mind) He’s involved with the girl.  He wouldn’t do that.  Take a chance, Al”

I move in three or four feet, I take another shot. And then I go Hollywood.  I say, “Well, this is not too good an angle.  I can get a better angle than that.”  So, I climb up on the handrail, and now I’m three feet away from them.  Elvis is up against the wall while she is sort of in his arms.

And now I’m clicking away and they still don’t see me.  Totally oblivious to me.  I now get courage, so now I’m doing like acrobatics with my legs, leaning forward.  I’m practically on top of their heads.

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I’m shooting another couple of clicks, or like the British would say, knocking off a couple more snaps. “

So, then I just sort of got everything I could get from that particular point of view, and I kind of back off six or seven feet.  I’m having a conference with myself, and I’m saying, “The real angle is past them on the landing slightly below where they are standing.”  It’s like two steps down and there’s a landing going down.

So, I decide to be like the building superintendant.  I kind of walk up to them and say, “Excuse me.  I’m coming through,” in like a very official maintenance man tone.  I finally settle myself comfortably on that landing area that’s about eight or ten feet beyond them.  Now, the light is coming over my shoulder into their faces, so I’m getting front light rather than back light.  And the 50 watt bulb is still over their heads.

And then she finally puts her pocketbook down.  Elvis has been trying to kiss this lady for a while.  He’s tried everything.  She now was feeling like well maybe she might give in.  So she puts her pocketbook down and they are cuddling real tight.

She says, “Elvis, I’ll bet you can’t kiss me.”  So, she sticks out her tongue, you know, sort-of maybe half way.

He says in a very cool manner, “I’ll bet I can.”  So, he sticks out his tongue and first he moves too fast.  He moves in too fast and bends her nose.  So, then he backs up like nothing ever happened.  Backs up and comes in a second time, and barely touches the tip of her tongue.

This is really like something two ten-year-olds would do.  [laughs]

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And, I’ve been accused of taking the most erotic kiss ever!!

So, anyway, the kiss takes place.  I said to myself, “I’ve got the story.  That’s it.  I can’t do better than that.  So, why don’t I take on my maintenance man’s attitude again and come by them once more and go out to the stage area.

“Excuse me.  Coming through.”  [Laughs]

 

From a photographer’s standpoint, Alfred truly did get the story.  He never dreamed there would be a second story 55 years later, about the girl in “The Kiss.”  And, I think his recollection of how the image came about is another really good story.

 

If you are interested in purchasing Elvis photographs from the Alfred Wertheimer Collection, please visit:

www.photokunst.com

www.govindagallery.com 

http://alfredwertheimer.com

 

©  2011    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

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

The Last Photograph of Elvis Alive

The celebration of Elvis Week is going on right now in Memphis.  I’ve been to four of these so far, and plan to be back next year for the 35th Anniversary.   Elvis fans are quite content to refer to these yearly anniversaries without also including the qualifying phrase of the death of Elvis.   Elvis Week is a certainly a celebration of Elvis’ life, but his passing was the genesis of thousands of fans making the pilgrimage to Graceland every August.

I start early each year trying to figure out a new way to blog about the anniversary of Elvis’ death.  A few weeks ago, when I researched the ElvisBlog article about Elvis on the covers on the tabloid The Sun, I came across my copy of the September 20, 1977, issue of the National Enquirer.   On the cover was a photo of Elvis in a car, and the tag was “Hours Before He Died.”   The caption under the picture was, “The Last Photo of Elvis Alive.”

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This photo, in both color and black-and-white, has been all over the internet for years.  However, I have never read anything about who took it and the circumstance around the event.  Then, I opened up that old National Enquirer, and there was the whole story. 

On Page 57, Enquirer writer Chris Fuller had a two-column article, including a photo of the folks who took the picture. 

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So, in celebration of the 34th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, here is that article, edited slightly for brevity and emphasis.

 Story Behind the Last Picture of Elvis Alive

Robert Call was ready with his camera when the car stopped at the front gate of Graceland in Memphis.  People were shouting – “Elvis!  Elvis!”  Suddenly, inside the car, the King of Rock smiled and waved at Call’s four-year-old daughter Abby.

And that’s when Call took the picture…the last photograph of Elvis alive.

The time was 12:28 on the morning of August 16.  Just a few hours later, Elvis would be found dead.

“We were excited when my husband took the picture,” said Call’s wife Nancy, “but we didn’t realize it would be the last one ever taken of Elvis.

“I’ll never forget the way it happened.  Elvis was driving the car.  There was a lady sitting in front with him and two men in the back.  I had Abby in my arms almost right up against the car window.

“She was hollering – ‘Hi!” – and grinning from ear to ear.  Elvis smiled really big, then he put on the brakes for a second, pointed to Abby and waived to her.  That’s when my husband took the picture.

“Later that day we heard on TV that Elvis had died.  We had just seen this man laughing, smiling and waving.”

The Calls, who live in Pierceton, Indiana, had gone to Memphis “because I was determined to get pictures of Abby and the other children at the Elvis home for my scrapbook,” Mrs. Call said.

Mrs. Call said little Abby…reacted to Elvis’ death with a touching remark.  She said,

“I bet he’s going to be an angel.”

 

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Maybe we should say we are celebrating the 34th annivesary of Elvis' ascendancy to Heaven.

 

©  2011    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

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

 

July 2011 Elvis Auctions — Part 1

July was a good months for auctions containing Elvis memorabilia items.  Gotta Have It had 25 of them up for bidding that closed on July 22, and Heritage Auctioneers had 48 Elvis items in an auction that ended July 29.  The first had a generous assortment of Elvis clothing and could be evaluated as a bigger success of the two.  So, let’s take a look at the Elvis wardrobe items that changed hands at The Rock and Roll Auction from Gotta Have It.

 

1969 Return to Las Vegas Outfit:

                  

 

This black mohair jacket and pants (plus the boots and scarf) attracted the second-most bids and brought in the highest price.  The winning bid of $36,772 (including the auctioneer’s premium) was above the expected $20-30,000 range.  The reason it was so popular is that this is the outfit Elvis wore when he returned to live shows at the Las Vegas International Hotel in the summer of 1969.  It was before the jumpsuits came along, but as the auction website said, “During Elvis’ first engagement in 1969, Elvis’ costumes were more subdued, but Elvis looked the best he ever had, and the suits he had designed for this engagement were simple and stunning.”

Here are two of the hundreds of photos taken during this engagement.  Note the red satin kick pleats in the pants foreshadowing an iconic feature of Elvis’ future jumpsuits.  Included in the ensemble is the pair of the “Verde” boots Elvis loved so much and wore during the engagement.  The buyer also received one of the scarves Elvis wore at that time.  However, these were accessories and not used like the ones he would come to give away to screaming fans several years later. 

There is no question that this set is the genuine thing.  There are custom labels and Elvis’ name in indelible ink inside the coat and pants verifying they belonged to him.  In addition, a letter of providence from Elvis’ long-time wardrobe manager, Richard Davis, seals the deal.  This is a major, big-time Elvis collectible.

 

IC Costume Blue Shirt:

                 

This hand-tailored blue shirt received the most bids, and it went for $8,983, a price near the topside of the expected range.  Because Elvis never gave the shirt a favorite name, the auction website simply calls it the IC Costume Blue Shirt, named after the store where he got it.  The shirt had all the requirements needed to generate bidding interest:  a custom label, a color photograph of Elvis wearing it, and a letter of authenticity from his long time buddy Alan Fortas.

 

Lansky Bros. Outfit:     

           

There was no doubt this suit and shirt combo would go for big bucks.  As the label shows, Elvis got it from Lansky Bros. Men’s Shop.  He subsequently wore it for all sort of photography sessions in 1956.  It even appears in a picture on the back of his first album, Elvis Presley.  The happy new owner of this iconic outfit shelled out $25,725 to get it                              

             

 

Jailhouse Rock Shirt (Sort of):               

                 

The expected range for this brown, black and gray shirt was $5,000 to $10,000, but it brought only $3,146.   The reason can be found in the fine print on the auction website description.  Four color variations of this shirt were bought for the movie Jailhouse Rock, but the red version was chosen for Elvis to wear in it.  In a nice display of honesty, they even admit that Elvis is wearing the red one in the accompanying photo taken on the set with co-star Judy Tyler.  There is no letter of provenance to prove that Elvis ever wore the auction shirt, so bidders were understandably cautious.

 

IC Costume Shirt, Pants and Belt: 
                                         

The shirt in this outfit is similar to the other one from IC Costume Co. above, but pants and gold metallic belt are also included.  You would think it would bring considerably more, but the whole package went for just $10,631, about half of that expected.  I don’t get it.  It comes with a supporting photograph taken in front of the Graceland front door, and it has a letter of provenance from Harold Lloyd, Elvis’ first-cousin and Graceland gate guard.  This looks to be a good bargain for the lucky bidder.

 

Shirt, Vest and Pants Outfit from Lansky Bros: 

                

The auction photos all show just the white rayon shirt and the red vest, but the set included a pair of black pleated and cuffed pants.  The shirt and vest both have personalized Elvis labels as well as standard Lansky Bros. labels.  Publicity photographs featuring Elvis wearing this outfit accompany the lot.  The auction website says the photographs were most likely taken during the King Creole film period, but the outfit does not appear in the film.  With the photos of Elvis wearing the clothes and a letter of authenticity from buddy Alan Fortas, the three-piece set equaled expectations and topped out at $13,798.

 

Monogrammed Purple Terry Robe:

You have to look closely to see the EP monogram at the top of this robe.  The auction website says it was obtained from Felton Jarvis who was Elvis' record producer with RCA Records.  Felton received the robe from Elvis during the Jungle Room Sessions held at Graceland on February 5, 1976.  There was no accompanying photo of Elvis wearing the robe, but it was accompanied with letter of authenticity from Elvis biographer, Hal Noland, and it achieved a high bid of $5,445,

 

Army Shirt Worn in Germany:  

I guess this shirt is authentic, but there are several things in the auction website text and pictures that make me wonder.  Three shots were displayed showing different printed or stamped images and words on the inside of the shirt.  The two below both contain stamps of ownership:  Elvis Presley in script and Presley E A in block letters.
       

             

 

The next picture shows inside the collar, and the blow-up shows the shirt size at the top:  14½ – 32.  Elvis may well have had a 14½ inch neck back in his Army days, but just a 32 inch sleeve length?  Seems pretty short for a guy who was 6’1” tall.  I Googled Elvis’ vital statistics but couldn’t find anything on that.
    

            

Farther down on the blow-up, we see SP 4 Elvis Presley, a rank Elvis achieved.  But, if the rank is printed on the inside of the shirt, why isn’t the insignia sewn on the shirt?   Do you think two extra stamps besides the one inside the collar seems like too much? 

The thing that put up the biggest red flag for me on this shirt was in the auction website text.  It actually said, “Comes from the Vince Everett Elvis Presley Museum in the UK with a signed COA from Vince Everett himself.”  If the name Vince Everett sounds familiar to you, it should.  That was the name of Elvis’ character in Jailhouse Rock.  So, they were offering a certificate of authenticity from a fictional character?

The high bidder thought this was worth $5,069.  If I had that kind of money, I think I’d look for less questionable Elvis memorabilia to spend it on.

 

©  2011    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.