Monthly Archives: September 2017

Taking a Knee — Elvis Style

The news has been filled for a week about folks taking a knee in protest.  Frankly, I’m getting tired of all the commentary, both pro and against.  So, here is a pictorial essay of Elvis taking a knee, with no commentary at all.

 

 

© 2017 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.

 

Elvis Paper Dolls

Elvis The Paper Doll Book

When I surf deep into the internet looking for interesting stuff, I never know what I’ll stumble upon. This week it was an Elvis paper doll book. After additional focused searching, I found a few more:

Elvis The Early Years Paperdoll Book

Elvis - The Paperdoll Book

Rock and Roll Legends Paper Dolls

I wonder who else besides Elvis and Buddy Holly they had in this one. If it included Little Richard, I would love to see the outfits they created for him.

Cut-Out Dolls for Grown-Up Girls

This one is interesting. It had cut-outs to make Elvis look like a private eye and polo player (above) plus a tennis player, a business man, and several other outfits. Seems like they could have used a more flattering photo of Elvis’ body.

ELVIS A Paper Doll Portfolio

Elvis’ body looks better in this cover drawing, but his head is too small for it.

 

Better Looking Elvis Body

Elvis’ body looks great on this one, but the artist didn’t capture his face.

Elvis The Paperdoll Book

And this is the one where I found a wonderful collection of outfits for girls to put on Elvis. It actually had three Elvis body images – in different poses.

Three Elvis Presley Bodies for Paper Dolls

I have taken to calling them Skinny Elvis, Grumpy Elvis, and Stocky Elvis. I guess I shouldn’t be picky, but the right arm on Skinny Elvis looks deformed, and the right leg on Grumpy Elvis is too short.

 

In addition to three Elvis’, there was also a bonus:

Priscilla Presley body for Paper Dolls

How about that? This Elvis paper doll book included Priscilla. I must say, they got all her body parts just right.

 

So let’s take a look at all four models and the clothes that could be put on them.

 

Skinny Elvis:

Jailhouse Rock Paper Doll

Elvis the Kid Paper Doll

Jam Session

I don’t know why this wasn’t given a name.

Rockabilly Cat Paper Doll

 

Grumpy Elvis:

Elvis' Gold Lame Suit Paper Doll

Million Seller?  They should have named it the Gold Lame Suit.

 

Elvis' Army Dress Uniform Paper Doll

This and the next one were titled “In the Army”

Elvis' Army Field Uniform Paper Doll

 

Elvis Ed Sullivan Show Paper Doll

Elvis Love Me tender Paper Doll

Jam Session

Elvis Loving You Paper DollLoving You

Elvis' Charro Paper Doll

You can really see the short leg on this one.

On the Road

Elvis' On the Road Paper Doll

You’ve gotta love a paper doll that includes a hound dog.

 

Stocky Elvis:

Black and Gold Jumpsuit

A group of jumpsuits were grouped together without no names shown on some and strange one for others

Elvis' Phoenix Jumpsuit Paper Doll

The Comeback

Elvis' American Eagle Jumpsuit Paper Doll

Elvis' King Creole Jumpsuit

The movie outlets all had correct names.

Elvis' Harum Scarum Paper Doll

Elvis' Viva Las Vegas Paper Doll

Elvis' 68 Comeback Special Paper Doll

You don’t see many references to The Singer Special. Although Singer sponsored the show, history remembers it as The 68 Comeback Special. The alternate hair offered here would work with all the jumpsuits. It would have been better to draw the longer hair on one of the three models.

 

Elvis' Blue Hawaii Paper Doll

Wow. Three Hawaiian shirts, two accessories, and swim trunks.

 

Priscilla:

 

The paper doll book contained the outfits both Elvis and Priscilla wore at their wedding. Here they are together.

Elvis and Priscilla Paper Doll Outfits

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Elvis’ Original Graceland Piano Returns to the Music Room

Elvis' Knabe Grand Piano

 

Ten days ago, Graceland.com/news made this announcement:

Most Significant Musical Artifact

“Elvis Presley’s Graceland has announced the acquisition of one of the most significant pieces of Elvis’ musical history, which will be returned to Graceland 60 years after it was first purchased by Elvis for the home in 1957 – a white, baby grand piano with gold accents and a custom-made, gold, metal bench designed by Elvis with a white, leather cushion. For the first time ever, the public will be able to see this legendary Knabe branded piano on display in its Graceland home.”

 

Knabe Piano Logo and Keys

 

This is a special piano, as we will report in detail, and its acquisition seems to be the catalyst for a complete restoration of the Graceland music room to its original 1960s-era appearance. The white piano will be complemented by the original white and blue draperies, and the gold couch that was part of the room’s décor in 1964. Doesn’t it sometimes seem like nothing at Graceland was ever thrown out? I guess it was all put into storage in the attic, basement, outbuildings and elsewhere.

Elvis Standing in front of Knabe Piano

 

History of Knabe Pianos:

William Knabe, a German immigrant, started his piano-manufacturing company in Baltimore in 1837. His instruments were of high quality and well regarded, especially in the antebellum South. Owners and players of Knabe pianos through the years include Albert Einstein, Brigham Young, Rutherford B. Hayes, Francis Scott Key, and Hans von Bülow. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky played a Knabe at the opening concert of Carnegie Hall in 1891, and Knabe pianos were used by the New York Metropolitan Opera for forty years. Based on the serial number, this particular instrument was manufactured in 1912.

 

Owners Before Elvis:

It’s a mystery who may have owned this piano from 1912 until the 1930s when it was installed as a stage instrument at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee. For the next three decades, the Knabe piano at Ellis was played by the finest local and national touring musical acts of the period, including W. C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and many others.

In early 1957, this Knabe grand piano was sold during a remodeling project at Ellis Auditorium. The purchaser was Jack Marshall, owner of Marshall Music at 3627 Park Avenue in Memphis. Marshall knew of the quality and history of this piano; he had played it onstage at the Ellis numerous times as the accompanist for the legendary Southern Gospel group, the Blackwood Brothers.

As soon as Elvis heard of the availability of this instrument, he wanted it as part of the original furnishings for his new home called Graceland. On May 28, 1957, Elvis purchased the piano from Jack Marshall s for $818.85.

 

Elvis and Ellis Auditorium:

What possessed Elvis in 1957 to choose this particular “used” piano for his grand new home? There were certainly plenty of other pianos, both new and used, to choose from. A new one could probably have been ordered in white, avoiding the lengthy refinishing process. A look at the history of Elvis Presley and the Ellis Auditorium may answer that question.

Ellis Autorium, Memphis Tennessee

As a poor teenager, Elvis often attended the Gospel “Sings” that took place at Ellis Auditorium. He and his mother both loved that type of music; they attended the First Assembly of God Church where the Blackwood Brothers were based. On the nights that Elvis couldn’t get a job selling sodas at Ellis to earn admittance and didn’t have the pocket change, he could usually count on the Blackwoods to let him sneak in through the back door. He would sit in the audience, watch Jack Marshall play this Knabe piano with the members of the beloved quartet he called friends. Elvis also dreamed of the day he might perform on that very stage.

Of the many memories Elvis held of Ellis Auditorium, one of the proudest must have been the night that he walked across that stage for the first time. The date was June 3, 1953, and the occasion was his graduation from Humes High School. His parents were likely in the audience beaming with pride at their son.

 

The very first time Elvis performed on that hallowed Ellis stage was on February 6, 1955. He was fourth-billed, behind Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, and Martha Carson.

Elvis' Concerts at Ellis Auditorium 1955

Fourth Billing February 1955  — Top Billing November 1955

At Elvis’ next gig at Ellis Auditorium, on November 13, 1955, he was top-billed over Hank Thompson, Carl Smith, and Carl Perkins. During 1955 and 1956, Elvis performed at Ellis Auditorium six times.

Elvis Performing at Ellis Auditorium

Performing at Ellis Auditorium, May 15, 1956
Is that the Knabe Piano on the left?

 

Elvis had become a superstar by the time he bought this piano in 1957, but he most certainly still had a strong emotional connection to Ellis Auditorium. When the piano became available, it’s no wonder that Elvis felt he absolutely had to have it for his very own. What an amazing story — from sneaking in the back door to hear it played behind his favorite Gospel group to owning it and playing it himself in his own music room just a few short years later!

Elvis Playing Knabe Piano

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Elvis Had the White Knabe Grand Piano Refurbished:

He had a definite vision of the appearance he wanted. To that end, Elvis personally supervised the refinishing of the Knabe, a process that took place in Jack Marshall’s store, with a young high school-aged member of the singing Blackwood family named Ron Blackwood performing most of the stripping and sanding procedures.

Blackwood had a fond memory of Elvis and the piano:

“One special event involving this piano occurred when one evening while I was working on the refinishing in the warehouse at Jack Marshall’s music store, Elvis came by to check on the progress, as he often did. He and several of the Blackwood Brothers began singing and playing gospel songs together. This continued until past 4:00 a.m. I was still in high school at the time, but I stayed and participated in the sing-along jam session the entire night. I was so tired the next morning, I couldn’t go to school. My mother was so upset.”

When piano was completed to Elvis’ satisfaction, he purchased a matching bench and had them moved into a prominent place in his music room at the new mansion. That is where this piano stayed for twelve years. During that time, the piano was the musical focal point of many hours Elvis spent rehearsing and entertaining guests, and it was played constantly by Elvis as well as visiting celebrities. Elvis enjoyed playing and singing alone in private moments, but especially enjoyed gathering family and friends in the music room as they ran through a broad repertoire of favorite songs – particularly gospel and R&B.

According to Elvis’ close friend George Klein:

“One special event involving this piano occurred when one evening Sam Phillips called and asked if he and Jerry Lee Lewis could stop by Graceland. The result was that Elvis and Jerry Lee played and sang together on that piano for over two hours.”

If I was granted a special wish to go back in time to any Elvis event, I think I would pick this two-hour Elvis and Jerry Lee jam session.  That would be some experience.

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The End of the Knabe at Graceland:

As a present for Elvis’ and Priscilla’s first wedding anniversary in 1968, she gave him a new gold piano to replace the Knabe. Off to storage it went, its mellow voice sadly silenced for several years.

In 1976, Vernon Presley decided to sell the grand piano to Ted Sturges, a local recording studio owner and record producer. During the five years Sturges owned this Knabe, it was used in recording sessions for more than 50 albums by various artists. In 1981, Sturges sold the piano to a close friend of Elvis, entertainer Jimmy Velvet. He had opened an Elvis Memorabilia Museum in Memphis, and he proudly exhibited it there until 1990. At that point, it returned to private ownership where it has remained for the last 20 years.

 

Elvis Presley's Knabe Grand Piano

 

During Elvis Week in 2010, the Knabe piano was offered at Ultimate Elvis Auction held by Heritage Auctions in Memphis. The minimum bid was set at $500,000, and the pre-auction estimate was $1 million plus. The price tag was too high, and nobody met the minimum.

Presumably, EPE negotiated more favorable terms to bring this special piano back to Graceland.

 

© 2017 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.

 

Interesting Elvis Memorabilia – Part 37

The Auction at Graceland Sign

I have run out of ideas for different titles on these posts featuring Elvis collectibles, so I’m just going to number them from now on. Here are the titles for the memorabilia articles posted so far in 2017.

2017 Elvis Auctions

So, the 37th post in this series will feature items for the recent Elvis Week 2017 Auction at Graceland. The number of lots for bid increased to 309, so the items I find interesting will fill several posts.

 

1954 Elvis Presley Ceiling Hanger Advertisement:

 

1954 Elvis Presley Ceiling Hanger Advertisement

You have to be impressed when a hanging advertisement for an Elvis record sells for $2,000. This 14 inch diameter in-store promotion featured Elvis’ second single “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” released on September 25, 1954. The auction website calls it custom-made, so presumably Sun Records made just a few for the local record stores. This one came from Popular Tunes, a record store in Memphis where Elvis shopped and hung out. It is rumored that when he released a new song, Elvis would hide around the corner to watch people go in and buy his new record.

 

Signed 1953 Humes High School Yearbook:

Signed 1953 Humes High School Yearbook

Every year or two another one of these Humes High School yearbooks shows up at auction. Elvis must have autographed the books of nearly every girl in his graduating class, and his usual message was a variation of, “Best of luck to a cute girl,” as it is in this one. The auction website describes all the pages in the yearbook pertaining to Elvis:

Elvis is depicted in his senior class portrait wearing a suit jacket and tie with a curl of hair falling onto his forehead. He has listed his major as “Shop, History, English” and his activities as “R.O.T.C., Biology Club, English Club, History Club, and Speech Club. The yearbook is 112 pages and Elvis is also mentioned on page 30 in the class’ Last Will and Testament in Section 83: “Donald Williams, Raymond McCraig and Elvis Presley leave hoping there will be someone to take their places as ‘teachers’ pets.’” Elvis is also pictured on page 56, in the 5th period 12th grade English class photo, in the back row.

If you would like to see these pages, click here.

These yearbooks are always popular with bidders, and after 15 bids, the price on this went up to $4,250, about what they usually bring.

 

1957 Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Toppings Canisters from the Graceland TV Room:

Elvis Presley’s 1957 Soda Fountain Ice Cream Toppings Canisters from the Graceland TV Room

When Elvis bought Graceland in 1957, he started remodeling immediately. He hired an interior decorator and let him decide what to do with the place. But Elvis did ask for two specific things. He wanted the most beautiful bedroom in Memphis for his mother — and he wanted a soda fountain so his friends could come and sit and have soda. He installed the ice cream machine, along with the soda fountain and topping canisters, in the bar area of the basement TV Room downstairs.

There are six ceramic canisters. The taller ones are 9 inches tall and have a soda pump. The three toppings canisters are 6 inches tall and have a chrome lid with a serving spoon attached.  Two of the soda fountains are labeled “Coca Cola” and “Root Beer,” while two of the topping canisters are marked “Marshmallow” and “Strawberry.” Two labels are missing. The set stayed in Graceland until 1974 when Linda Thompson did the remodel.

Bidding was rather light on this, but it went for $4,000. If the new owner could find a photo of Elvis standing in front of it, the value would surely go up.

 

Two Reels of 8mm Film from 1959-62:

Two Reels of 8mm Film from 1959-62

I believe someone got a real steal on this. These two rolls of film had the ridiculously low starting bid of $500 and pre-auction estimate of $1,000-1,500. They sold for $3,750.

These very interesting reels of 8 mm film contain footage of Elvis Presley and his Graceland home over a number of years, plus Elvis on location for Follow that Dream in 1961. The total viewing time is almost 20 minutes, but there is no sound. The scenes include:

Elvis Playing Football in 1961
Elvis Playing Football in 1962
His 21st Birthday Party where he kisses half a dozen different girls on the cheek as they pose for still photos.
Miscellaneous scenes showing Graceland.
Elvis signing autographs on location for Follow That Dream in Aug. 1961.” The scene shows a crowd discovering Elvis at his hotel and surrounding him, and soon he diligently signs autographs.

Based on labels on the reels, it is assumed that Ms. Pam Drew of Chicago shot this film. It seems like she (and perhaps girlfriends) caught up with Elvis a few times and had the camera ready. It is uncertain whether this film was ever shared or distributed.

The reason I think the top bid was a steal is because of the possibilities all the screen grabs present for marketing. Those shots of Elvis kissing the girls at his birthday party should alone generate big bucks for licensing. Somebody could add narration and music and editing and turn the footage into a DVD. There were 32 bids on this film, making it all the more surprising it didn’t go for a larger sum.

 

1953 “Annual Minstrel” Talent Show Program at Humes High School:

1953 “Annual Minstrel” Talent Show Program at Humes High School -- Front

Well, you wouldn’t be allowed to put an image like this on a program for a high school variety show these days. Apparently, it was okay back on April 9, 1953. Elvis is the 16th act, listed as “Guitarist,” but the interesting thing is that his last name is spelled “Prestly.”

1953 “Annual Minstrel” Talent Show Program at Humes High School - Inside

The winning bid for this program was $2,125, about what the pre-auction estimate projected.

 

Necklace – Possibly Stage-Worn in 1957:

Elvis Presley Necklace - Possibly Stage-Worn in 1957

I’m not sure why the auction website was so cautious about saying Elvis wore this item. Although they didn’t have a Letter of Authenticity from J.D. Sumner, to whom Elvis gave the neckless (along with additional tokens given to him by fans). But, they did have a LOA from Mike Moon of The Elvis Museum. Sumner gave it to the museum in the 1970s. The pendant, contains Catholic symbols on a clover-shaped design on the front, and reads on the reverse, “I am Catholic, please call a priest.”

This photo was snapped prior to Elvis’ March 28, 1957 performance at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago where he wore his famous gold-leaf suit. The website says the pendant in the picture “is very possibly the exact pendant” in the auction. Bidders must have believed this, because they ran the final price up to $8,750.

 

Complete Set of Five Elvis Presley Sun Records 45 RPM Records:

Complete Set of Five Elvis Presley Sun Records 45 RPM Records

I agree with the auction website that most collectors have to build this collection piece by piece, so it was a rare occasion to have all five Elvis Sun singles available together. Twenty bids ran the price up to $8,750

The collection includes:

1954 Sun 209 “That’s All Right” / “Blue Moon of Kentucky” (Sample stamped in red on both sides)
1954 Sun 210 “Good Rockin’ Tonight” / “I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine”
1955 Sun 215 “Milkcow Blues Boogie” / “You’re A Heartbreaker”
1955 Sun 217 “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” / “Baby Let’s Play House”
1955 Sun 223 “Mystery Train” / “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.”

Can you make a guess which of these is the most difficult to acquire? The answer is Sun 215 “Milkcow Blues Boogie.” Four of the five records in this set are rated Very Good or better. # 217 has single crack through playing surface. You can bet the new owner of this set will still be looking for a better copy of “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.”

 

Historic January 25, 1956, Elvis Presley First Signed Document as an Adult – Certifying Earlier Agreements with Colonel Parker:

Historic January 25, 1956, Elvis Presley First Signed Document as an Adult - Certifying Earlier Agreements with Colonel Parker

Col. Tom Parker convinced Elvis and his parents to allow him to manage his career and had them all sign a contract in August 1955. Gladys and Vernon had to sign it because Elvis was just 20 years old and considered a minor. The Colonel obviously wanted something stronger, so when Elvis turned 21, Parker had Elvis sign another contract where he reaffirms his agreement to the earlier contract. It seems like Parker skipped using an attorney and composed it himself using his best legal-sounding language. He refers to himself as both “me” and Col. Thomas A Parker in the document. And when he refers to Elvis as an “infant,” he obviously meant “minor.” Have fun reading this attempt at legalese.

On this 25 day of January, 1956, before me personally appeared ELVIS PRESLEY, to me known to be the individual described in and who executed this instrument, and he duly acknowledged to me that on November 21, 1955, he entered into and signed certain management and representation agreements with Col. Thomas A. Parker, that said instruments were formerly signed and executed by him when he was still an infant under the age of 21 years, that he has since arrived at full age and is desirous of confirming the signing and execution of said agreements, and he now acknowledges that he does hereby confirm said agreements as and for his act and deed, for the purposes therein contained.

Of course the contract had a big effect on Elvis’ life. It also sold for $21,250 at this auction.

 

1956 Signed Copy of His First Album Elvis Presley:

Signed Elvis Presley Album

As far as I know, no autographed Elvis album has sold for as much as this one. The estimate of $5-10,000 seemed reasonable, but 37 bids rocketed the price up to $25,000.

What makes this album so special? The auction website says that signed copies of the Elvis Presley LP are few and far between. However, this one has an extra feature – a close connection to the inner workings of the Presley organization. The back cover has an inscription, “To Trude, A great little gal. Thanks and good luck, Elvis Presley.” This is Trude Forsher, Elvis and Colonel Parker’s west coast secretary and promotions coordinator from 1956-1961.

You may not know this fact about Elvis’ first album as explained on the auction website:

In 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel” was already a smash hit, and RCA wanted to capitalize on the heavy TV presence of its young star. So five songs RCA acquired from Sun Records when it bought Elvis’ contract were combined with seven RCA recordings to round out the album.

The front and back of the sleeve have separated from heavy use. The back of the sleeve has several areas of tape and tape residue, including one that affects “Trude” in the inscription. None of these distresses affect the Elvis signature. The bidders apparently didn’t care about this album cover not being in the best of shape. Although the photos show that the vinyl record is included, not one word was said about its condition.

 

Wraparound Sunglasses – Worn on the Set of Follow That Dream:

Elvis Presley's Wraparound Sunglasses – Worn on the Set of Follow That Dream

I know you have heard of Ray-Bans and Foster Grants, but how about Renauld sunglasses?

In the 1960s, Renauld of France created a stylish and futuristic wrap-around style sunglasses that were popular with celebrities and sport enthusiasts. The above “Sea & Ski Spectacular” model was touted as appearing to float on the face. The green lenses were guaranteed distortion-free and contained a special UV formula filter.

Elvis always wanted to be at the forefront of fashion, so it was important to him to have this latest hot item. The story of how Elvis got this pair is described in a letter from Elvis’ buddy Alan Fortas on the auction website:

“I was with Elvis during the filming of the movie Follow That Dream down in Ocala, Florida. Elvis has wanted a pair of these new wrap-around sunglasses that had just come out. He had me look in shops around town and I couldn’t find any. When Elvis wanted something he wanted it ‘NOW.’ There were hundreds of people around the set wanting autographs and just wanting to watch Elvis.

“Well, eagle eye Elvis saw someone in the crowd with a pair of the sunglasses that he wanted. He yelled at me and pointed to the person in the crowd and told me to go and ask him where he got them, and, if I had to, buy them from him. When Elvis gave you a task you followed it. Turned out the guy that was wearing them got them as a gift and he didn’t know where they came from. I said I’ll give you $50.00 for them. He said make it $100 and he’d sell them. That’s how Elvis finally got these sunglasses he had been wanting. He wore them constantly when we weren’t filming. Eventually Elvis got tired of these when he started wearing another style and gave these to me.”

The Renauld sunglasses went for $11,875, which is more than Elvis’ familiar EP design from the 70s bring at auction. There have been many of those, but this pair of Elvis shades is one of a kind.

 

© 2017 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.