Elvis says unwanted lapels make great masks.
Elvis says unwanted lapels make great masks.
“I woulda been OK if all those girls that gathered around had stayed 6 feet apart.”
In the 15-year history of ElvisBlog, I have deleted only two posts due to reader reactions. The first was when I posted Photoshop pictures showing Osama Bin Laden in an Elvis jumpsuit, and Elvis wearing his blankets and sandals. It was stupid and horrible, and folks let me know.
The second time was just a week-and-a-half ago. It was another in the series of Covid 19 posts using Elvis photos with humorous (hopefully) tag lines. This one was inspired by his Memphis Mafia and their protective demeanor around Elvis.
Unfortunately, I did not think out the title or tag line very well, and it was received by some a political. That was not my intent, so I took it down. Here is the improved version of it.
“I’ll take one more question… OK, let’s see. You in the very back..……… Ah, man, why’d you have to ask a question like that.… Red, go down there and remind this fella he doesn’t want to ask me any more gotcha questions . Take Sonny with you.”
Did you know you could find Elvis in the Smithsonian Institution? You can, if you check out the National Portrait Gallery’s “Bravo” exhibition. Here’s a group of Smithsonian visitors looking at the oil painting of Elvis that hangs there.
As with just about everything else involving Elvis, this brings up an interesting story. The artist who painted the Elvis portrait is Ralph Wolfe Cowan, who, according to several websites, is considered the number one portrait painter in the world. He has been recognized for painting more reigning monarchs and world leaders than any other painter in history. His work includes portraits of four US Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Reagan. So, the stature of the artist certainly had a lot to do with the National Portrait Gallery selecting this particular painting.
However, this is not the first painting Ralph Wolfe Cowan did of Elvis. Back in 1962, Mr. Cowan was selected to open the first portrait-painting studio at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Elvis was staying nearby at the Aladdin Hotel when he learned about the studio. He sought out Mr. Cowan and commissioned a portrait at a cost of $10,000. (Editor’s note: $85,000 in today’s money) Mr. Cowan started sketching on a 48-inch round canvas the very first night.
However, Elvis was very impressed with the album cover titled Heavenly that Cowan had created for Johnny Mathis. Elvis decided he wanted a similar full-length portrait of himself and asked Mr. Cowan to start over.
The result was a painting that is now familiar to all Elvis fans. Elvis loved it. According to Mr. Cowan, “Elvis came by and personally carried the four-foot by seven-foot painting across the street to his room at the Aladdin.”
This painting now embellishes the main wall at the Graceland Trophy Room. The prominent gold hue of the portrait is a great compliment to the display of hundreds of Elvis’ gold records. Mr. Cowan’s full-length masterpiece was the only portrait Elvis ever allowed to hang in Graceland. Over the years, Priscilla and others would refer to the painting as “Heavenly Elvis.” Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: During the 1999 Archives of Graceland auction of Elvis memorabilia at the MGM Grand, somebody paid $3,500 for the check that Elvis wrote to pay for the painting.
Mr. Cowan astutely saved his original round sketch. He has said, “After Elvis died…I was able to restore and repair the circular Elvis portrait. As you can see, I added the red shirt and blue sky to make it different from the Graceland painting… I’ve heard from clients who have seen the portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery that it gets great attention.” Mr. Cowan has referred to this painting as “Loving Elvis.”
In 1969, Ralph Wolfe Cowan created a third Elvis painting he titled “Coming Home Elvis.” It was also part of the Archives of Graceland auction and sold for $45,000.
Mr. Cowan has painted at least three other Elvis portraits, and they are now offered at the upcoming The Elvis Presley Collection presented by the auction firm Gotta-Have-Rock-and-Roll on March 16-25. All have a minimum bid of $25,000 and are projected to bring $35-45,000. There is “Praying Elvis” depicting him in the famous American Eagle jumpsuit.
Also “Hound Dog Christmas” where Elvis is in a Santa suit and holds a hound dog puppy.
Certainly the most unusual Ralph Wolfe Cowan portrait of Elvis is “Elvis Presley Pink Cadillac.” The painting is framed by an actual car door painted pink.
So, check out www.gottahaverockandroll.com and put in your bid on an Elvis painting by the number one portrait painter in the world. Or, if you don’t have $45,000 to spare, go to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian and see one there.
Footnote # 1: I was curious to see if Elvis’ portrait still hangs in the Bravo Exhibition at the Smithsonian. Yes, it does.
Footnote #2: The “Elvis in a Pink Cadillac” did not sell at the 2009 auction. No one thought it was worth the $25,000 minimum bid. It showed up for auction again in 2012, this time called “Cruising Elvis,” perhaps because it was revealed the door actually came from a Ford Falcon. It had a minimum bid of $2,000. I think they could have sold it for more by offering just the painting and ditching the stupid pink car door.
What do you think?
Here’s a little quiz to amuse you while you shelter-in-place.
Did you notice the udders? Alert reader Clementine caught something completely different. There are only three legs. Here’s another picture from a slightly different angle.
Still no fourth leg.
“Elvis Presley was in Miss Scriverner’s home room with me. She was always bragging about how he would make it big one day. When he won the talent show singing “Old Shep”, she went on and on about it for days. Little did we know that what she predicted for Elvis would come true in such a huge way.”
“I gave Elvis $4.00 to make his first dub [acetate] at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. It took him two months to get up the courage to do it. My idea was to make the record and knock on radio station doors to get it played, and hopefully find him a singing job.
“Elvis was very unsure of himself in the early days of his career. He would call me to ’round up’ the bunch (about 16 total) to come to where ever he was to perform. He was afraid there wouldn’t be anyone there if we didn’t come.
“I had a good time travelling, double dating, etc. with him until he went into the Army. He is still the only singer I listen to. I own the original dub [of “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”] along with the music rights to it. I have allowed RCA and Disney to publish the music mainly so the fans can hear the two songs, which I felt, were very good. The record has all the elements that later developed into his personal style. I also still have the first commercial disc out Of the labeling machine, which Elvis signed for me after I pulled it out of the collection box.”
“I never dated Elvis, but we were good friends. I helped him pass a couple of subjects. He came to my house once with some of my other friends and wound up being the life of the party. When I was riding the bus to school every morning, I would usually see Elvis sitting at the corner of Alabama and Poplar, listening to a black man in a chair playing a guitar. He wanted to play and sing like that man. He was a country boy with big dreams. After he became famous he did something to thank every person who ever helped him in any way.”
“After church on Sunday night, my friends and I liked to go to Leonard’s Barbeque on Bellevue and then to East Trigg Baptist Church to listen to the spirituals. The church had a special section for white visitors. Elvis Presley was often there and occasionally sang with the choir. Other Elvis stories: He was in the study hall where I called the roll. As soon as I called his name he would get up and leave. Then I would go downstairs to cashier in the lunch room. He was usually my first customer and always bought the same thing – two ice cream sandwiches.
‘One night he showed up at a school event wearing black clothes and pink socks. Miss Richmond didn’t recognize him and asked me who that rogue was. Later she liked to brag that she always knew that Elvis would make it big.”
“We were both Mississippi boys who had come to the big city. We understood each other. We had shop together in the 10th grade. When we weren’t working on our project, we spent our time in the bathroom pitching pennies. Elvis got so mad one day that he punched the shop wall and almost broke his hand. I never saw him do that again.”
“Elvis was in my 12th grade homeroom with Mrs. Scrivener. She was not particular about whether we sat, stood or wandered around as long as we showed up for roll call. Elvis would lean on a desk and just pass the time of day with everyone. We all knew that he was different, very, very, different. But, we all had the same goal of graduating and getting out in the real world. We later found out just how different he was.”
“My favorite high school memory of Elvis came when I was playing in the senior band. The band put on a minstrel show and I was one of the end men cracking jokes and doing skits. My name was at the top of the program in capital letters. Elvis was half-way down listed in smaller letters as “Elvis Prestly, Guitarist”. They misspelled his name. I guess that is my big claim to fame, that I once had top billing over Elvis.”
“I took my younger sister and 2 brothers downtown to either the Loew’s Palace or Loew’s State one time early in Elvis’ career. Elvis came to see the movie. He sneaked in one of the exit doors with a bunch of guys after the movie started so he wouldn’t be mobbed by fans. When they were finding seats, my little sister looked up, recognized him and yelled, “It’s Elvis!” No movie that day for Elvis or his friends. They left quickly.”
“I thought of when the English class read Macbeth. Miss Jennie Allensworth assigned the part of Macbeth to Elvis Presley, who promptly said, “Aw, Miss Jenny, you know I can’t read.” Of course you know who was assigned Lady MacBeth, not only was I embarrassed about the part, but the words I had to read. Nevertheless we both survived it. Apparently Elvis was much better in his role than I was.
“There was another memory about Elvis about ten years after graduation. I had taken a group of junior cheerleaders, which included my sister Donna, to Graceland. Elvis came out on the porch and greeted us and the cheerleaders did their “Elvis shake” (the old Humes High shake) for him. I had my annual with me and he asked to borrow it for a while and when he returned it, he had written “To Billie Ann, Many Thanks, from Elvis Presley.” When asked, I never tell what he was thanking me for. I just smile coyly.”
(Written in memoriam by George Blanchet, Humes High Class of 1954)
“During his senior year, Larry and I had Miss Moss’ 5th period American Problems class together with Elvis Presley. One day Miss Moss got so fed up with Larry and me she told us to take the rest of the day off and go to the athletic room. She allowed Elvis to tag along. The three of us went riding in Larry’s red 1940 Studebaker that didn’t have a reverse gear. During our ride around town, we went somewhere to get Elvis’ guitar; he sat in the backseat playing and singing. Larry and I were both impressed with his songs, although I was more impressed, I think. Larry wa also a talented singer. We talked about the upcoming talent show where Larry and I were appearing with several boys doing gymnastic things. Elvis said, ‘I’ll warm them up for you.’ When the night came, he did warm them up! After a couple of scheduled songs, the audience response demanded he sit on the apron and sing a few more. The show really finished when Elvis did, but we went on and performed our act without much distinction.”
“I remember Elvis as a polite guy. He would speak each time we would pass in the hall. I can still see him dressed in a pink shirt trimmed in black and black pants with a pink stripe down the side along with his famous sideburns, that strand of hair in the middle of his forehead and ducktails in the back. THAT WAS ELVIS!”
“Glee Club was a favorite class because I truly enjoyed singing. In April 1954 I sang ‘Because of You’ at the annual talent show. I heard Elvis play his guitar and sing and was surprised by how much talent he had. I think his performance was the reason I asked him to sign my yearbook.”
I hope you found all of these memories of Elvis as interesting as I did.
Happy Easter. Stay safe.
“Man, I was able to make GOOP, so I’ll bet I can come up with something to stop the stupid virus.”
OK, readers, what movie did this picture come from?
It looks like we’ll all be self isolating for a while longer, so I’m happy to repost old ElvisBlog articles for your reading enjoyment.
This is the second installment of Elvis memories by his classmates at Humes High School in Memphis. As I stated last week, these quotes were excerpted from the excellent website www.humeshighclassof53.com, which was created in 2003 as Elvis’ graduating class approached its 50th reunion. Many members of the class of ’53 contributed their memories and thirty-six of these contained mention of Elvis. I found them fascinating to read, and hope you will too.
“When Elvis first started to Humes, he was really poor. The office sent a letter home about a classmate who couldn’t come to school when the weather was bad because he had holes in his shoes, had no warm coat and needed a haircut. It didn’t name him, but we all knew who it was. My mom gave me a whole dollar (WOW!) and a jacket she had bought for my brother Bill. I was so proud to take the jacket and the money to the office.”
“I don’t have too many memories of Elvis, but I do have his signature in my yearbook. I remember him at the Annual Minstrel Show. I invited my boyfriend, Jim Simpson, who was pretty bored until Elvis walked out on the stage with a chair in one hand and his guitar in the other; then he got interested. Elvis put his foot on the chair and started playing. The PA system was poor and we couldn’t hear his voice very clearly, but we were impressed. Jim likes to claim that he made some comment like, “That boy will go far. “My sister once double-dated with Elvis and his girlfriend. They went to the Fairgrounds to ride the roller coaster. Elvis borrowed 25 cents from my sister for one of the rides. After he became famous we used to tease her about writing him and asking for interest on her loan”
“At school I didn’t have much contact with Elvis, mainly passing in the hall. He lived upstairs at Lauderdale Courts and I visited a family downstairs in the same building frequently. I remember him in the talent shows. The most vivid experience I remember was at an English class party. Elvis sang and the first time he twitched and moved, the bunch broke out laughing. We had never seen it before and did not expect it.”
“I was in Miss Mildred Scrivener’s 12th grade home room with Elvis. He never had any school supplies. He borrowed paper from someone every day. He looked so different from the other boys who had crew cuts and blue jeans. He wore black pants and his hair always hung down in his face. He was always very polite.”
“I would go with Carolyn and Rosemary to a dance club in East Memphis. Carolyn was an excellent dancer. The person who taught Carolyn to dance was Elvis Presley. I think he had a crush on her for a while. He would find us in the hall and at lunch and various other places. He always wanted to talk to Carolyn, so I made myself scarce. Sometimes I had to walk to my sister’s apartment when my mother had to work late. Elvis and I would walk along together since he lived close by. We were both fairly quiet and did not say much. I found Elvis to be a nice boy who was a little shy.”
“I knew Elvis about as well as anyone in the class, having met him in 1948 when he moved to Memphis from Tupelo, Mississippi. His family settled in the Lauderdale Courts area and he enrolled at Humes. Later we attended church together at the First Assembly of God Church on McLemore Ave.
“In the eleventh grade Elvis and I were in Miss Thompson’s Civics class. He was a class clown and in the middle of our mid-term exams with everyone concentrating on the test, he called from the back of the room in a loud voice “Miss Thompson, Miss Thompson,” “What Elvis?” she answered. Then he asked “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The whole class broke up laughing except, of course, Miss Thompson. She quickly replied “See me after class, Elvis!”
“Elvis dated my cousin, Jonell Johnson, a few times while they were both at Humes. (She was younger than he). Once when he went over to her house, they used her dad’s car for a date. When they got home, her dad checked the mileage and they were both in hot water for a while. Elvis brought my brother home on his motorcycle once. He was really a thoughtful guy.”
“I had study hall with Elvis and a couple of his friends. He was very shy. We had English together in our senior year. I remember we acted out a Shakespearean play “Julius Caesar”, I think. Elvis was assigned the biggest part because of his deep, rich voice.”
“I am an eye witness to the fact that Elvis would make those moves (that only he could make) when he was walking down the halls of dear old Humes. He complimented me on a solo I sang for the Honor Society. We were in a talent show together and I liked to brag that I shared the same stage with him and didn’t have to pay to see him perform. Billy Wooley, Dwight Malone, Sydney McKinney and I were a quartet. Everyone in the talent show got to make a trip to the University of Mississippi. I saw a bunch of students hassling Elvis about his hair and odd clothes and I didn’t take up for him. I always felt guilty about that. I wonder if those kids remembered that incident after Elvis became the most famous entertainer of our time. He was and is unique.”
“Since Elvis lived nearby, I did see him quite a bit, but we weren’t close friends. We were in the same homeroom and had a class together in the 12th grade. I remember one funny story. We were invited to a wiener roast at Mattie’s house. I rode with Elvis and his friends because they didn’t know where she lived. When we arrived, Mattie’s dad was “supervising” the festivities. When Elvis got out of the car and started, well, being his usual nutty self by taking off a silly floppy hat and slapping it against his leg and dancing around to the music, Mattie‘s dad was not terribly amused. He was sure that Elvis was drunk. We convinced “Dad” that Elvis wasn’t under the influence; he was just “normally” that way!
“After Elvis became well known, I saw him in Lowenstein’s Department Store. I didn’t want to bother him (I figured that enough people were doing that already) so I walked on by. Then I heard him say “What! Aren’t you speaking these days?” I turned and said “Sure- I just figured you wouldn’t want to be spoken to!” He laughed and said “My friends will ALWAYS be my friends.” We had a nice chat, right there in the middle of the store. It was nice to catch up.”
“I never thought much about Elvis. He was just a classmate I didn’t know very well. But now the attention I get when people discover that I went to school with “Elvis” is fantastic! It is instant celebrity status.”
“One year, I think it was the 10th grade, he sat in front of me in the big study hall. His hair was extra long. We were talking and I asked him why he didn’t get a haircut. He said he had nothing to get one with. I walked around with the cigar box that pencils were stored in and collected enough for him to go to the barber shop. The next day when he sat down in front of me, I asked him why he didn’t get his haircut with the money. He said he did. He only had it trimmed. That was Elvis!”