Category Archives: ELVIS-A-RAMA

Elvis Fabulous Wardrobe – Part 7

Elvis Presley's Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket -- Back

The recent Auction at Graceland listed 315 items of Elvis memorabilia. The number of offerings keeps increasing, and this time there were enough items of Elvis’ clothing to fill an ElvisBlog article.

Blue Armadillo Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket:

Elvis' Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket

You may not know it, but Elvis wore several two-piece jumpsuits like this one. Bill Belew and Gene Douchette at I.C. Costume Co. in Hollywood created them with various shoulder designs on the jacket including flames, multi-colored arrows, snakes, and a variation of this one called the red armadillo. The armadillo name came from the shoulder patterns looking similar to the scales or scutes of an armadillo.

Elvis wore the blue armadillo two-piece jumpsuit at eight concert appearances in 1975. There are many photographs of Elvis wearing the suit, which add to its value.

Elvis' Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket - Wearing

 

There were nearly 100 jumpsuits created for Elvis over the years, but most reside in the Graceland Archives. Because this auction presented a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire one, the minimum bid of $100,000 was ridiculously low. Collectors placed seven bids running the final price up to $250,000, including the buyer’s premium added by the auction.

 

Motorcycle Cap Gifted to Elvis’ Uncle Vester Presley:

Elvis Presley's Motorcycle Cap Gifted to Uncle Vester

Elvis owned many Harley-Davidson motorcycles (Graceland currently has four of his Harleys on display), and he also owned a number of black cloth motorcycle hats. This one he gave to his Uncle Vester (Vernon’s brother). In 1983, along with the cap, Vester sold other Elvis gifts like a 1975 blue and white Pontiac Grand Prix and two pistols. The cap resurfaced at the recent Auction at Graceland, and it was very popular. A total of 9 bids ran the price up to $6,000

 

Three Pair of Pants from Elvis Movies:

Three pair of Elvis Presley's Movie Pants

It is interesting to identify the scenes where Elvis wore these pants. He wore the Viva Las Vegas pants (with a grey jacket) in the scenes where he went from hotel to hotel looking for Rusty, played by Ann-Margret. When he finally finds her poolside at the hotel, he serenades her and then she pushes him into the pool.

Elvis wore the Easy Come, Easy Go pants in all of the club scenes, the yoga scene, the scene with Captain Jack and Gil, and the Zoltan car scenes.

Elvis wore the Flaming Star pants throughout the entire film.

All three pairs came with multiple photos of Elvis wearing them.

Elvis Presley's Flaming Star Beige Western Jeans

 

There were labels and tags that verified them as part of Elvis’ wardrobe for the films.

Label on Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas Pants

 

And all three had Letters of Authenticity.

Elvis' Easy Come, Easy Go Pants Certificate of Authenticity

So, you would expect them all to go for the approximately the same price. It didn’t work out that way.

The Flaming Star pants went for $7,500, and the Viva Las Vegas pants nearly equaled that at $6,785. But the Easy Come, Easy Go pants did not sell. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because that was a pretty weak movie and the other two were much more significant.

 

Brown Leather Jacket:

Elvis Presley's Brown Leather Jacket

Elvis wore this dark brown leather jacket in the 70’s until his increased weight made it too small for him. Believe it or not, this coat came from Sears.

Elvis Presley's Brown Leather Jacket Sears Label

Considering all the custom made clothing Elvis bought, who knew a Sears jacket was part of his wardrobe.

There is a little story about this jacket told by Dave Hebler, Elvis Bodyguard from 1972 to 1976:

“One day Elvis invited me upstairs to his bedroom at Graceland and offered me all of his old jumpsuits. He complained that they no longer fit him and that he wanted them out of his closet. I told him I had no use for 50 jumpsuits nor did I have the ability to store them at my apartment. In retrospect, I wish I had. Instead I moved a majority of the jumpsuits to the shed at the back of Graceland. I did take a couple of Elvis’ jackets for the colder winters in Memphis.”

So, if you think about it, because Hebler did not take the jumpsuits that day, the collection stayed at Graceland, and they can now be enjoyed by us fans in one place. Otherwise, they would have been sold to collectors over the years and we’d never see any of them.

The leather jacket did not come with a photo of Elvis wearing it, and thus came in under the estimate at just $4,250.

Electric Purple Button-Down Shirt:

Elvis Presley's Electric Purple Button-Down Shirt

This is another item that Elvis gave away to his Uncle Vester. The auction website says:

“Elvis’ personal fashion in the ’70s mimicked his concert costumes with a style and flair that was the embodiment of men’s fashions in that decade. With its puffy sleeve construction and bright purple hue, the offered example is in keeping with the bold patterns, colors and stylized designs of men’s fashion at the time.”

This cotton shirt with a big collar, puffy sleeves, and two pleats on the back was a favorite with the bidders. It started with a minimum of $2,000, and 16 bids later it sold for $5,500 (without benefit of a photo of Elvis wearing it). Do you think it would have gone higher if the seller had bothered to get it ironed?

 

Rabbit Fur Coat:

Elvis Presley's Rabbit Fur Coat

Elvis gave this fur coat to Patti Parry. I have seen her name before, but was not sure of her connection with Elvis, so I was thankful for the history the auction website provided:

“In 1960, at the tender age of 17, she met Elvis for the first time. Patti, who ran into Elvis while on Santa Monica Boulevard, was in beauty school at the time with Larry Geller. When she met Elvis, the two immediately hit it off and she became one of the few women to spend time with the entourage in LA. Elvis treated her like a little sister and would often introduce her as part of the family. She would style Elvis’ and sometime Priscilla’s hair. Patti was there the time The Beatles met Elvis, she was in the audience for the “’68 Comeback Special,” she was on his movie sets and at his Vegas performances, and she did his hair for the Aloha from Hawaii satellite broadcast concert. Theirs was a special brother-and-sister relationship and as with close friends and family, Elvis lavished Patti with gifts, including the offered rabbit fur coat.”

The rabbit fur coat that Elvis gave to Patti has six front buttons and a pleat on the back. The fur has a size label “40” in the collar above the maker’s label, which reads “Finest French Rabbit” and has “EP” embroidered on the inside. It brought in a price just slightly below the estimate at $7,500. Is French rabbit fur superior to American?

 

Red “Elephant Corduroy” Suit:

Elvis Presley's Red “Elephant Corduroy” Suit

This marvelous suit went from Elvis to super fan Paul Lichter to Chris Davidson for display at his Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Las Vegas. The museum has been closed since 2006, and supposedly Davidson sold its entire inventory to CKX, the company that owned Elvis Presley Enterprises at the time. However, it would appear Davidson held on to this suit.

I must say the folks writing the text for this auction’s item descriptions have risen to new heights in descriptive prose:

“Elvis was not only a musical superstar, but he also served as an icon of style, helped in part by Bill Belew, who designed outlandish stage costumes that became street fashion for the trend-setting king of rock ‘n’ roll. In the 1970s that he took his fashion to new heights and embraced the fun bohemian concept of using oneself as an art palette for fashion, mixing bold, bright colors, textures and patterns. The decade of the 1970s was about chic comfort and a lazy, luxurious feel, with diversity in individual style reflecting one’s own self-expression. No one could have carried those exaggerated elements of flared pants, oversized collars and accessories worn from head to toe better than Elvis Presley.”

Elvis Presley's Red “Elephant Corduroy” Suit - Back

“Bill Belew, Elvis’ jumpsuit designer at the I.C. Costume Company, created iconic jewel-covered jumpsuit synonymous with Elvis, but he also pushed the envelope with Elvis’ everyday wear, using the bold styles and popular fabrics of the day which included suedes, polyesters and corduroys. Corduroy, a woven fiber that lies in parallel lines forming a distinct “cord” pattern with the larger, thicker-striped version known as “elephant” corduroy, was often utilized for both men and women’s fashion.”

The website stated that photos existed of Elvis wearing the suit although none were offered. There were only five bids, but the price must have leapfrogged up from the minimum of $30,000 in big increments. The red corduroy suit topped out at $62,500.

 

Suede, Leather, and Fur-Trimmed Jacket:

Elvis Presley's Elvis Suede and Fur-Trimmed Jacket

This brown suede jacket has leather on the shoulders, pockets, and belted waist, and fur on the cuffs and collar. Wearing it, Elvis would have been prepared for any cold winter Memphis weather. Once again, Elvis was cleaning out his closet when it got too full, and he gave the coat to his cousin Harold Lloyd.

Custom Made for Elvis Presley Label on Suede and Fur-trimmed Jacket - Copy

No pictures of Elvis wearing it were provided, but the coat does have interior label indicating that the jacket was “Custom Tailored for Elvis Presley. It was certainly an in-demand item, with 16 bids pushing the price up to $8,750.

 

Brown Velvet Jacket, Pants and Cape Ensemble:

Elvis Presley's Brown Velvet Jacket, Pants and Cape Ensemble

We have already seen how an item of Elvis’ wardrobe designed by the jumpsuit master Bill Belew sold for big bucks. The owner of this ensemble and the auctioneers thought it would, too, and set the minimum bid of $35,000.

Belew created Elvis’ Black Leather outfit from the ’68 Comeback Special, the American Eagle Jumpsuit, and the suit Elvis wore during his famous Oval Office meeting with President Nixon. . He loved creating striking masterpieces for Elvis’ personal wardrobe as well. This set is a good example.

It includes chocolate brown pants, jacket and cape. The heavy, long sleeved, brown velvet jacket has a brown and white spotted lining. Tit has velvet-covered buttons, two false front pockets, wide lapels, six buttons on each cuff, and a Velcro strip on the back of the collar by which the cape can attach. The brown velvet pants are heavily bell-bottomed. The matching brown velvet cape is fully lined in brown satin. According to the auction website, “this elaborate ensemble vividly depicts Elvis’ love for dressing extravagantly in not only his professional but his personal life… It has remained in a private collection since 1999, and now presents a rare opportunity for collectors to own a personal outfit from the ultimate showman.”

In spite of all this, the three-piece outfit did not sell. There were two bids above the minimum, but they did not get close enough the estimate of $70-80,000 to please the seller, so it was pulled. I think a photo of Elvis wearing the ensemble would have made a big difference.

 

Cape with Tiger Skin Pattern on the Lining:

Tiger Skin Lining of Elvis' Lava Jumpsuit

You would think that with the item description above, the featured photo on the auction website would be the one I chose to show. However, the exterior of the cape is the one that pops up when you click on the item.

Elvis Presley Lava Jumpsuit Cape with Tiger Skin Pattern on the Interior - Copy

Five variations of it were offered, including two blow-ups of the jewels.

Elvis Presley's Lava Jumpsuit - closeup

All this is fine because the jumpsuit is not called Tiger Skin. It is the Lava Jumpsuit or the Amber Jumpsuit. Strangely, they chose not to offer a photo of Elvis in the suit. It wasn’t hard to find a couple on the internet. Unfortunately, none show Elvis with his arms outstretched holding up the corners of the cape and exposing the faux tiger skin lining.

Elvis Presly in Lava Jumpsuit

This photo was not shown on auction website.

 

The Lava Jumpsuit is already part of the Graceland Archive Collection. Do you think maybe Graceland paid the winning bid of $83,750 for the cape so they could pair it up with suit?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Happy 10th Birthday ElvisBlog


Happy 10th Birthday Banner

I don’t know exactly when blogs got started, but I read an article in late 2004 about how popular they had become.  So, I thought I’d like to check out whatever Elvis blogs there were out there.  Guess what? There were none.

Then I looked into it and found out how to set one up.  I bought the URL www.elvisblog.net for $11, and on January 30, 2005, ElvisBlog was born.  To celebrate its 10th birthday, this post will be a retrospective of articles published on (or very close to) the anniversary date each of these ten years.

 

Year 1, The First Article:    Elvis Jukebox Rankings – 1/30/05:

Guess what is Elvis’ most successful record in terms of jukebox play?

According to the Amusement & Music Operators Association, it is HoundDog/Don’t Be Cruel from 1956, the 3rd biggest jukebox hit of all time.  This trade association of jukebox owners, operators, and suppliers compiled their list back in 1989 (100th anniversary of the jukebox).  They updated it again in 1996, and there were no changes in the top of the rankings.

So,Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel seems to be permanently locked into the #3 position.  It’s no surprise that this double-sided hit got the most play of all the Elvis records featured on jukeboxes.  Hound Dog stayed at the top of the record charts for twelve weeks, and then Don’t Be Cruel took over the next week.   That’s a long run of popularity during an age when jukeboxes were really big.

What two songs could possibly beat Elvis?  #2 is the 1979 Bob Seger hit. Old Time Rock & Roll, no doubt helped by Tom Cruise singing it in his underwear in the movie, “Risky Business.”  #1 is Crazy by Patsy Cline.  That song came out in 1962, but I’ll bet you can still find it on some jukeboxes in 2005.  Talk about staying power.  Elvis’ next best finish in the jukebox rankings is All Shook Up at #38.  Seems like it should be higher.

(Editor’s note: This premier ElvisBlog article racked up a grand total of six hits during the entire first month of the blog’s history.)

 

1st Birthday:    OK, I Finally Visited Elvis-A-Rama — February 5, 2006

Elvis-A-Rama

Thanks to my company’s annual trade show in Las Vegas, I finally got to see ELVIS-A-RAMA.  None too soon, either.  The museum will shut down for good on August 15 this year.  Do you think there’s any significance that the death of ELVIS-A-RAMA will come one day before the anniversary of Elvis’ death?  The good news is that the memorabilia will not be permanently lost to us fans.  It will be sent to Memphis, added to the extensive EPE collection, and ultimately will be part of Elvis-themed attractions in Las Vegas and other major cities.

 Elvis-A Rama Jumpsuits

I’m glad I took in ELVIS-A-RAMA, and I got my money’s worth for the $13 admission cost.  Visitors with only a casual interest in Elvis could probably blow through the exhibits in 30 minutes, but I stayed there for over two hours.  The 4 cars, 3 rings, 9 pendants, 4 guitars, 9 layman badges, 4 guns, 2 jumpsuits, and dozens of other clothes items catch every visitor’s eyes.  Plus, there were brass plaques that gave the history of nearly every significant item.

Elvis-A-Rama Wall Mural

Some folks barely noticed the wall covered with every Elvis 45 and album released during his lifetime.  Not me.  I loved the year-by-year approach, each with a plaque telling that year’s highlights in record rankings and sales figures.  Below the plaques were the releases.  I learned that Elvis’ five Sun Records singles came with printed picture sleeves.  I had never seen them before.

Blue Suede Shoes at Elvis-A-Rama 

I spent a lot of time with all the paper documents contained in eleven, tall, freestanding, two-sided display panels.  There were tickets, contracts, letters, receipts, photos and all kinds of other stuff.  I took time to read all the descriptive plaques and really studied the items on display.  Now I know that Elvis’ phone bill for the entire month of May 1963 was only $6.84, for example.  I do have one complaint.  Each side of the displays had three framed sections.  The top one was a little high for comfortable reading.  The middle one was perfect, but the bottom one was only 6 inches off the ground.  My knees were so sore after squatting up-and-down to read everything.  Several times I wished I had a flashlight, because it was tough to read the plaques when they were at the very bottom.

Elvis-A-Rama Elvis Bentley

The sources for much of the museum’s collection were revealed in the various plaques.  As mentioned in a previous Elvisbog article, some key items came form Jimmy Velvet.  Norman Taurog, who directed eight Elvis movies, provided much of the movie memorabilia.  A lot of Elvis’ personal items were purchased from Trish Henley, who was his nurse for eleven years and lived behind Graceland with husband, a guard for the mansion.

Elvis-A-Rama Elvis Pistol

Of course, there is a gift shop as part of the ELVIS-A-RAMA experience, but it’s pretty cool.  In addition to the usual coffee mugs, pocketbooks, and T-shirts, there is actual memorabilia for sale.  One of the most expensive was a shirt owned by Elvis going for $4,000.  The price includes two 1973 photos of him wearing the shirt.  I was impressed with the presentation of a ticket from Elvis’ 1956 concert in Tupelo ($1.50 face value).   For $99 you can buy it in a large framed and matted collection of photos and other mementos of the event.  A similar framed presentation was used to offer a set of five Sun Records colored-vinyl 45’s.  It is an impressive sight, but the price was $875.  That seems pretty steep for bootlegs.

Red Vinyl Elvis Sun 45

All in all, I’m glad I finally got to visit ELVIS-A-RAMA.  If you travel to Las Vegas in the next seven months, be sure to see it.

(Editor’s note:  All these pictures were just added.  ElvisBlog didn’t post photos back in 2006)

 

2nd Birthday:   Visitors to Graceland — January 28, 2007

In addition to politicians and TV stars, the list of famous visitors to Graceland includes movie stars, sports figures, models, country singers, pop music singers, and rock groups – lots of rock groups.  It seems like every music act that ever performed in Memphis also made a visit to the home of Elvis Presley.  I was especially impressed with all the heavy metal bands that came to Graceland.  You know that the music of groups like Ratt and Poison is about as far from “Hound Dog” or “Suspicious Minds” as you can get, but they still paid their respects to rock music’s seminal pioneer.  Here’s some of the bigger names in heavy metal music that checked out the Jungle Room and the rest of Graceland:

Metallica

Metallica
Judas Priest
Motley Crue
Kiss
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zepellin)
Axl Rose (Guns and Roses)

And check out this line-up of classic rock bands who made the pilgrimage to Elvis’ home:

Aerosmith

Aerosmith
Bad Company
Bon Jovi
Cheap Trick
Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Doobie Brothers
Duran, Duran
Van Halen
38 Special
Styx
Keith Richards & Ronnie Woods (Rolling Stones)
REO Speedwagon
Pink Floyd
Tom Petty
Moody Blues
Meat Loaf
Journey
Don Henley (Eagles)
John Fogerty (Credence Clearwater Revival)
Fleetwood Mac

Bruce Springsteen is listed just like everybody else on the list, but his visit to Graceland has an interesting story.  He jumped the fence and tried to get into the house before the security guards escorted him off the premises.  This was back in 1976, just after Springsteen had blasted to the top of the music scene.  His picture had recently appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek.   Memphis was a stop on his Born To Run tour, and after the concert, Springsteen took a cab to Graceland.  He noticed a light on up at the house, so he climbed the wall and ran up to the front door.  When security nabbed him, he asked, “Is Elvis home?”  They informed him Elvis was in Lake Tahoe (true).  Springsteen tried to explain who he was, but the guards apparently hadn’t heard of him yet.

Bruce Springsteen and flashing Born to Run Elvis Button 1975

If Bruce Springsteen ever decides to visit Graceland again, it’s a good bet the security guys will recognize him.

(Editor’s note: Portions of the original article have been deleted because of links to URLs that no longer work.  Also, the photos have just been added.)

 

3rd Birthday:   Fun with Elvis on Photoshop — February 3, 2008

Now that I’m retired, I spend even more time on the Internet searching for Elvis stuff.  Not just the big Elvis sites that come up on the first two Google search pages.  What I really like to find are sites where Elvis isn’t the whole deal – other kinds of sites that happen to contain some obscure Elvis content.  You find strange and wonderful stuff that way.

Like altered photos of Elvis.  I guess these are done on Photoshop or something similar, and some of them are so clever.  Like this one where Elvis looks like an Arab.  It’s pretty dark, but you can see that somebody did a great job of putting Elvis’ face inside that headdress.

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For the past two years, every time I find a really good one of these altered Elvis photos, I copy it to a file.  There’s enough in there now to do a couple of blog articles.  Here’s another picture with a different twist.  In my photo file, I label it Melting Elvis, and you can see why.

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Another way of doing this is to put someone else’s face on Elvis body.  Bill Clinton is a natural for this, because his election staff in 1992 called him Elvis.  Here’s what he looks like in a jumpsuit.

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While we are on Presidents, here are Bush’s that served before and after Clinton.

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Of the three presidents, I think Clinton looks the best, probably because he’s wearing a jumpsuit.  However, there is one other president who gets my prize for the best President in a jumpsuit.  Does Ronald Reagan look cool, or what?

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Here’s one more of Reagan, but on this one he’s doing the Richard Nixon thing, and George W gets to be Elvis.  How do people come up with these ideas?

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I wish the quality on this next one were a little better, because the concept is great:  Elvis in a gift box.  I sent e-mail birthday greetings to two female friends and asked them how they would like to open up that present.

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Did you ever wonder what Elvis might have looked like if he had been born twenty or thirty years later and sang heavy metal Rock & Roll?  Here’s your answer.

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I labeled the next one “Shiny Elvis” for obvious reasons.  If I knew anything about Photoshop, I put some clever phrase in that bottom right turned-up corner and send it out to my Elvis friends.

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I wish I had kept track of where I found all these photos.  Talented folks made artful creations and should be credited.  The best I can do is say thanks to all of them for having fun with Elvis while still respecting his legacy.  Well, with the possible exception of this last one.

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(Editor’s note:  Photos became a regular part of ElvisBlog posts in 2008)

 

4th Birthday:   Elvis and Buddy Holly, February 1, 2009

Tuesday, February 3 will be the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. This story will be covered thoroughly by all the entertainment media, so I won’t repeat it here. What I want to look at is the connection between Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.

Young Buddy Holly was a nineteen-year-old aspiring musician in Lubbock Texas when he first met Elvis in 1955. Buddy and his friend Bob Montgomery opened the show as Buddy and Bob, before Elvis came out and took over.

Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery Looking at Elvis

Buddy Holly also opened for Elvis later in 1955 at the Fair Park Coliseum.

Here is an interesting legend to come out of these meetings, according to Elvis – His Life from A to Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius:

“According to legend, Elvis told Holly and Montgomery that if they came down to the ‘Louisiana Hayride,’ he’d get them on the show, but when they did show up, Horace Logan [ed. note: station manager at KWKH, which produced the Louisiana Hayride] turned them away, and Elvis wasn’t there.”

In spite of this, Holly has been quoted, “Without Elvis, none of us would have made it.

  

Here’s a little-known nugget. Elvis’ band, Scottie Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana, caused almost all West Texas Rockabilly bands to change their style, including the Crickets playing behind Buddy Holly, and Roy Orbison’s band.

Elvis and Buddy Holly must have liked a lot of the same songs, because they both recorded these songs by other popular singers:

Good Rockin’ Tonight (Roy Hamilton)
Reddy Teddy (Little Richard)
Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)
Shake, Rattle and Roll (Joe Turner / Bill Haley)
Rip It Up (Little Richard)

Elvis never recorded any songs released by Buddy Holly, and Holly never recorded any Elvis songs except one. He once said, “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” was his favorite Elvis song. He recorded it as a demo during a visit to a radio station in 1956. To my knowledge, it was never released during his life.

After his death, all sort of rare Buddy Holly music was released. Because Holly’s career was cut so short, the total number of songs he recorded was much less than Elvis accumulated. But that didn’t prevent historians and record producers from finding every scrap of tape with Holly playing and singing on them. Then they put out albums like this. He was the undisputed king of the lost-basement-tapes, until they started digging for Jimi Hendrix material a decade later..

It is generally known that Waylon Jennings was part of the Crickets on that fateful night fifty years ago. He was supposed to be on the charter plane with Holly, but gave up his seat to the Big Bopper. There are few photos of Jennings with Holly, but here is one:

There is one last Elvis and Buddy Holly connection. Both Elvis and Holly are charter members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1986, when the first ten inductees to the Hall were named, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly were chosen. Two rock icons, for sure.

 

Happy 10th Birthday Balloons 2

That concludes the first five articles from the archives to celebrate ElvisBlog‘s 10th birthday.   Next week we will look at the five articles that were posted at the time of ElvisBlog birthdays in 2010-2014.

 

© 2015 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.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ELVIS PRESLEY'S CASINO ?

 

Below is a snapshot of a page on the website CasinoOnline.co.uk.  The site is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in on-line gambling, but their varied menu also contains reviews of real casinos in the UK and the United States, as well as general gambling news and commentary.  On November 20, they posted the column below:  “What Ever Happened to Elvis Presley's Casino?”

CasinoOnline Editor Holly Emblem had contacted me earlier to see if I would be interested in adding some comments.  She said, “I actually came across your blog via Google when researching the article. I noticed you'd discussed a lot of what I planned to include in the article and wanted to gain your thoughts on the topic. Elvis is such a huge part of so many people's lives that I wanted to do him justice, which is why I wished to gain your opinion on Elvis attractions.”

 

Well, I certainly wasn't going to turn her down after those nice words.  In fact, it sounded like a lot of fun.  Holly e-mailed me a copy of her text so far, and after I had read it, she sent me five questions:

1)  While a new museum dedicated to Elvis has just opened up in Imperial Palace Hotel, there haven't been many “permanent” fixtures since Davidson's museum closed. Do you believe Las Vegas has been lacking in Elvis attractions since the closure of Elvis-A-Rama?
2)  Even though FX Real Estate has gone into bankruptcy, do you think there's still a chance an Elvis themed casino could be developed in Las Vegas?
3)  Do you think it's appropriate for a casino to bear Elvis' name?
4)  Over the past few years, the EPE have been criticized for their treatment of Elvis fans, collectors and museum owners such as Davidson. Do you think there's any truth in the allegations that they ran Davidson “out of town”, or do you think Davidson and EPE came to a mutual agreement?
5) Have you ever visited any of the Elvis attractions in Las Vegas?

Holly used parts of my answers to questions 1, 2 and 5.  I was pretty sure she wouldn't use another part of my answer to number 1, because I wrote about Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis opening and how it would be a draw to get me to go back to Las Vegas.  This didn't exactly jibe with the narrative of the article that Las Vegas wouldn't be much of an attraction for Elvis fans without a monster Elvis Hotel/Casino.  And what a monster it would have been — 2,269 rooms, 14 restaurants, 2,000 slot machines, and 130 table games.

I'm not terribly sad about the prospects of no Elvis Presley Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.  As I told Holly, I would be quite happy if some smaller Elvis attractions opened up.  My complete answer was:


“…there is hope for smaller projects.  Elvis Presley Enterprises has a huge warehouse filled with Elvis memorabilia.  An Elvis restaurant along the lines of Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood would be a natural in Las Vegas.  EPE could display revolving exhibits there that change every twelve months.  They could exclude eating for one or two hours every afternoon, allowing folks to come in and take a close look at everything (for a small charge, of course – or maybe, not so small).  Fans would come back each year looking forward to seeing a whole new exhibit of Elvis items.  An adjacent theater would work as well.  The best of the Elvis Tribute Artists already make a nice living in venues all over the country.  Las Vegas could offer them a shrine to perform in, and fans would support it.  Finally, my warped mind can envision the “Virtual Elvis Experience.”  By using rotoscope/green screen technology, fans could sing along with Elvis like Celine Dion did on American Idol.  For a mere $50, you could take home a DVD of it as a treasured memento of your Las Vegas trip.”

A look at the map below shows the proximity of the planned Elvis Presley Hotel/Casino to the Cirque du Soleil show Viva Elvis.  The large open space in the center (which is between Monte Carlo and Bellagio) is the site of the huge Las Vegas CityCenter, including the Aria Hotel and its theater where Viva Elvis will be performed.  Looking straight down from there, you see a green X-shaped structure which is the MGM Grand.  Between it and Harmon St. is the 17.72 acre property FX Real Estate owned where they planned to build the Elvis Presley Hotel/Casino.

It certainly would have been the destination of choice for fans coming to Las Vegas intending to take in Viva Elvis.

 

 

Please click here to read the entire CasinoOnline article and find out what happened to the Elvis casino.

 

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

TWO NEWS SCOOPS FROM THE ELVIS-A-RAMA BUS DRIVER

One of the features offered by ELVIS-A-RAMA is a free courtesy bus that shuttles fans from the major hotels on the Las Vegas strip to the museum.  During my visit two weeks ago, there were only eight passengers, so we all sat up front, and the bus driver shared a several good stories with us.  Since you haven’t seen this on any of the other Elvis websites, here are two Elvisblog exclusives.

 

Two years ago, thieves broke into ELVIS-A-RAMA and stole nine articles valued at $300,000.  In addition to a gold-plated Smith & Wesson .38 special, the haul included Elvis’ Humes High School ring, a Louisiana hayride “E. Presley” ring, a watch, a bracelet, a 41-carat star ruby and diamond ring worth $77,000, a $65,000 gold and black onyx medallion that spells “Elvis” in diamonds, and an 18-carat gold and diamond medallion with the initials “E P” on it.

 

The museum owner, Chris Davidson, assumed they were gone for good.  After many months, the police and FBI could not track down the thieves, so he accepted the insurance settlement.  Recently, the bumbling thief tried to sell the hot merchandise to a retired Elvis impersonator while he stood in line at a Las Vegas pharmacy.  He convinced the thief to come back in 24 hours to his employment agency office, at which time the police made the bust.

 

All the stolen goods except a scarf were recovered.  In the time between the robbery and the recovery, Davidson sold ELVIS-A-RAMA to CKX Inc, the folks now in charge of the Elvis Presley Estate.  So who got the recovered Elvis jewelry and gun?  Not CKX Inc. – they bought only the inventory at the time of the sale.  Not Chris Davidson – he accepted the insurance settlement.  According to the bus driver, it looks like the insurance company is now the proud owner of eight excellent Elvis collectibles.  You can bet they will show up in some future auction.

 

The other story regaled by the bus driver has to do with the plans CKX has to create an Elvis-themed attraction in Las Vegas (as covered in an Oct 2, 2005 Elvisblog article).  According to the driver, CKX has purchased a two-block long property on the strip between the Harley-Davidson Store & Restaurant and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino.  My wife and I took a walk up to look at that property, and it’s obvious that sooner-or-later somebody was going to buy it and build something big on it.  It’s like throwback to earlier simpler times, much as you would find in a beach town:  mini-marts, McDonalds, a tattoo parlor, T-shirt shops, an ear-piercing studio, and a two-story Travel Lodge Motel.

 

These modest establishments, in the shadow of huge hotel/casinos like the Aladdin and the Monte Carlo, seem so out of place.  I think many folks will miss this little island of normalcy when it is gone, but I will certainly look forward to enjoying whatever Elvis attraction takes its place.  For sure, there will be a restaurant, full of memorabilia on the walls.  Of course, a big gift shop.  Maybe a theater, like those in Branson, MO.  The big question is whether there will be a hotel and casino, but don’t rule it out.  Hooters and Planet Hollywood just got into the hotel/casino business in Las Vegas, so why not Elvis World?

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

OK, I FINALLY VISITED ELVIS-A-RAMA

Thanks to my company’s annual trade show in Las Vegas, I finally got to see ELVIS-A-RAMA.  None too soon, either.  The museum will shut down for good on August 15 this year.  Do you think there’s any significance that the death of ELVIS-A-RAMA will come one day before the anniversary of Elvis’ death?  The good news is that the memorabilia will not be permanently lost to us fans.  It will be sent to Memphis, added to the extensive EPE collection, and ultimately will be part of Elvis-themed attractions in Las Vegas and other major cities.

 

I’m glad I took in ELVIS-A-RAMA, and I got my money’s worth for the $13 admission cost.  Visitors with only a casual interest in Elvis could probably blow through the exhibits in 30 minutes, but I stayed there for over two hours.  The 4 cars, 3 rings, 9 pendants, 4 guitars, 9 layman badges, 4 guns, 2 jumpsuits, and dozens of other clothes items catch every visitor’s eyes.  Plus, there were brass plaques that gave the history of nearly every significant item.

 

Some folks barely noticed the wall covered with every Elvis 45 and album released during his lifetime.  Not me.  I loved the year-by-year approach, each with a plaque telling that year’s highlights in record rankings and sales figures.  Below the plaques were the releases.  I learned that Elvis’ five Sun Records singles came with printed picture sleeves.  I had never seen them before.

 

I spent a lot of time with all the paper documents contained in eleven, tall, freestanding, two-sided display panels.  There were tickets, contracts, letters, receipts, photos and all kinds of other stuff.  I took time to read all the descriptive plaques and really studied the items on display.  Now I know that Elvis’ phone bill for the entire month of May 1963 was only $6.84, for example.  I do have one complaint.  Each side of the displays had three framed sections.  The top one was a little high for comfortable reading.  The middle one was perfect, but the bottom one was only 6 inches off the ground.  My knees were so sore after squatting up-and-down to read everything.  Several times I wished I had a flashlight, because it was tough to read the plaques when they were at the very bottom.

 

The sources for much of the museum’s collection were revealed in the various plaques.  As mentioned in a previous Elvisbog article, some key items came form Jimmy Velvet.  Norman Taurog, who directed eight Elvis movies, provided much of the movie memorabilia.  A lot of Elvis’ personal items were purchased from Trish Henley, who was his nurse for eleven years and lived behind Graceland with husband, a guard for the mansion.

 

Of course, there is a gift shop as part of the ELVIS-A-RAMA experience, but it’s pretty cool.  In addition to the usual coffee mugs, pocketbooks, and T-shirts, there is actual memorabilia for sale.  One of the most expensive was a shirt owned by Elvis going for $4,000.  The price includes two 1973 photos of him wearing the shirt.  I was impressed with the presentation of a ticket from Elvis’ 1956 concert in Tupelo ($1.50 face value).   For $99 you can buy it in a large framed and matted collection of photos and other mementos of the event.  A similar framed presentation was used to offer a set of five Sun Records colored-vinyl 45’s.  It is an impressive sight, but the price was $875.  That seems pretty steep for bootlegs. 

 

All in all, I’m glad I finally got to visit ELVIS-A-RAMA.  If you travel to Las Vegas in the next seven months, be sure to see it.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

HOW DID I EVER MISS ELVIS-A-RAMA?

My credentials as an Elvis fan have taken a severe blow.  I’ve been to Las Vegas four times since the Elvis-A-Rama museum opened in 1999, and I’ve never been to see it.  Now it’s going to close, maybe before I can correct my mistake.

 

In fairness, these trips to Vegas were all on business.  My employer puts on a huge annual trade show at the Paris Hotel, and the schedule of mandatory events and meetings each year is killer.  But, if I had really wanted to see Elvis-A-Rama badly enough, I could have skipped dinner with a vendor or spent a little less time at the slots in the hotel.

 

To be honest, I believe the reason I didn’t visit Elvis-A-Rama was because the name made me think it was just some tacky little tourist trap.  However, the research for last week’s Elvisblog article produced a startling revelation – this is a large, high-quality exhibit not to be missed by Elvis fans.  Here’s what I found on the internet about Elvis-A-Rama.

 

It was named one of the “Top 3 Attractions” in Las Vegas by The Travel Channel and was voted “The Best Museum” in the city by the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Elvis-A-Rama has been on the cover of USA Today, People, and Forbes magazines.

 

It contains over 2000 artifacts valued at over $6 million.  Some of the key exhibits are:

            Elvis’ 8-passenger 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood limo

            The “Peacock” and “Cisco Kid” jumpsuits

            A pair of blue suede shoes autographed by Elvis and

                   valued at $1 million

            The famous gold lame’ suit

            Elvis’ 1962 Glastron powerboat

            A 1975 purple Lincoln Mark IV

            Every commercially released 45, EP and LP ever recorded

                    by Elvis

 

In addition there are guitars, a piano, handwritten lyrics, personal clothes, outfits from the movies, furniture, army stuff, various papers, and lots more.

 

Here is some history about Elvis-A-Rama, that name I didn’t like.  It comes from the largest display, a magnificent 10-foot tall, 85-foot long mural that celebrates Elvis’ life and career.  It incorporates Elvis’ music, synchronized to clips of his television appearances, scenes from his movies, and concert footage.  It also contains a signature board with thousands of personal notes to Elvis, many of them by famous celebrities.

 

Now I get it.  Elvis-A-Rama is a perfect name for this spectacular mural.  The reason why this name was used for the museum itself is an interesting story.  Also intriguing are Chris Davidson, who sold the museum, and Jimmy Velvet, the man who sold him the mural and many other goodies.  More on all this in future articles.

 

© 2005  Philip R Arnold

SAY GOOD BYE TO ELVIS-A-RAMA

If you plan to go to Las Vegas during the next few months, be sure to take in ELVIS-A-RAMA.  It will be the last opportunity to see this substantial collection of Elvis goodies.

 

A news release this week announced the sale of ELVIS-A-RAMA to CKX Inc., who plan to close it and retire the name.  In case CKX doesn’t ring a bell, it is the company run by media genius Robert F X Sillerman, who purchased 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises from Lisa Marie earlier this year.

 

Mr. Sillerman also announced his intention to place a world-class Elvis-themed attraction on the Las Vegas strip within a few years.  This is very exciting news.  When all the memorabilia from ELVIS-A-RAMA is added to the huge collection at Graceland, this combined inventory could be sufficient to stock the Las Vegas facility on a rotating basis.  Think about it.  Maybe someday we’ll be able take yearly trips to Vegas and see a new Elvis exhibit every time.  My wife would gladly sit alone at the slots for four hours while I do my annual “Elvis thing”.

 

Mr. Sillerman has previously expressed his interest in establishing Elvis as a worldwide marketing brand.  So, it’s pretty obvious what might follow if the operation in Las Vegas is successful: Graceland-Lite attractions in Tokyo, Toronto, and the great capitals of Europe.  And all getting their chance to exhibit the marvelous rotating Elvis memorabilia shows.  Sort of like how Hard-Rock Café has done it, except hopefully all the Elvis displays will be mounted down low enough you can actually see them.

 

So, as we say good-bye to ELVIS-A-RAMA, we can look forward to saying hello to some exciting new Elvis attractions.

 

Elvisblog contained another article on Robert Sillerman and CKX Inc. back in March.  At that time, the company’s stock (ticker symbol CKXE) was selling at $26.73.  It is now $12.57.  My record at picking stocks is pretty bad, but it sure seems like now would be a good time to buy CKX Inc.  Elvis and CKX are going to be big winners.

 

© 2005  Philip R Arnold