Category Archives: HISTORY

Fats Domino and Elvis

Fats Domino and Elvis Presley at Table

As you know by now, Antoine “Fats” Domino has passed away due to natural causes at age 89. I won’t repeat all biography and statistical facts you have seen on TV and other websites. Let me just say he was one of the greatest early rock and rollers, and I grew up with his music. I bought his 45s and danced to his songs at parties and sock hops at school. I have 53 Fats Domino songs on my playlist and will listen to them while I write this blog post. I’m going to hear every one of those songs today and appreciate again just how great he was.

 

Now, about Fats Domino and Elvis Presley.

Rock-Hall-Inaugural-Induction

You probably know they were both Charter members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, inducted together in the first class in 1986. We lost Chuck Berry in March this year, and now Fats Domino. Hang in there Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. I really don’t look forward to writing one of these posts about either of you, but let’s face it, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 1986 Inductees

 

Elvis was a big fan of Fats Domino and had great respect for him. On more than one occasion, Elvis called Fats the real king of rock and roll.

 

Fats Domino and Elvis Presley

It appears that their friendship flourished because they got together when they both were working at the same times in Las Vegas. The picture above was taken around 12.30am on August 1, 1969 at a press conference for Elvis’ return to live performing at the International Hotel.

Las Vegas Press Conference

 

In a June 2004 interview, Fats Domino had this to say about Elvis’ return to Las Vegas:

“[I] first met Elvis Presley in Las Vegas. When I was playing at the Flamingo Hotel. I went to his room and played for him. He used to call me ‘Mr. Blueberry Hill.’ I remember him telling me, ‘You know, Fats, I’m opening up tomorrow, but when I first came here I flopped.’

“But after he got back there, it was all gold… and every night it was sold out. Boy, he could sing. He could sing spirituals, country and western, everything he sang I liked.

“Elvis Presley did a lot before he passed. He made movies, he was traveling, everything. I don’t see how he did it; you’d have to stay up day and night.”

 

Fats Domino and Elvis in color

When a reporter at this press conference referred to Elvis as the ‘King of Rock ’n’ Roll’, he rejected the title, as he always did, calling attention to the presence in the room of his friend Fats Domino, calling him “one of my influences from way back. No one could sing those songs like he did.”

 

[My wife just yelled at me to turn it down. When “I’m Ready” came on, I cranked it up. I just love that song.]

 

Fats Domino had a long-time collaboration with Dave Bartholomew, a song writer/bandleader/producer who is also in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the same category as Sam Phillips. His son Don Bartholomew once said:

“The way Fats sang was all original… It’s hard to copy, but if you listen to some of Elvis’ records, where words are kind of shortened — that’s from Fats, I think. Elvis often commented that Fats and Dave were making Rock n’ Roll music before the term was ever coined.”

 

Elvis Talking on Stage

Elvis was famous for clowning around on stage, especially during his introductions of the band members. On February 23, 1970, he introduced his guitar player James Burton as Chuck Berry, piano player Glenn D. Harding as Steve Allen, and his band conductor Joe Cuercio as Leonard Bernstein. Then, Elvis said, “I used to be known as Fats Domino… until I lost weight.”

 

[My wife is yelling at me again. “The Fat Man” is another song I like loud.]

The Fat Man by Fats Domino

Speaking of “The Fat Man,” it was Fats Domino’s first record release in 1949. Many rock historians consider it to be the first rock and roll record. Nearly seventy years later, it sure holds up well.

 

Now I would like to tell a personal story about the time I got up close and personal with Fats Domino. The company I worked for held a huge convention in one of the big New Orleans hotels in the late 80s. The last night of the convention, we threw a big party in the ballroom, and to everybody’s delight, our entertainment for the night was Fats Domino and his band.

Fats Domino and the Band

This photo looks very much like the set-up that night. The stage was only about twenty inches high. There were no seats in front of it, just dance floor. So all us big Fats Domino fans could stand in front of the velvet ropes barely four feet away from him. He played for about two hours and did dozens of his hits.

It was an awesome night, and there are some things that still live in my memory all these years later.

The band had four, yes four, sax players. Their contribution to the music was much greater in concert than on the records. They really wailed.

The drummer was either on drugs or drunk, or both, because he fell off his stool right in the middle of a song. He was out cold, so a bald white guy sat in for the rest of the show. I think he was Fats’ road manager or something, and he did a passable job.

The unannounced opening act was another New Orleans resident and performer named Clarence “Frogman” Henry. If you are old enough you will remember his hits “Ain’t Got No Home,” and “Troubles, Troubles.”

A middle-aged black groupie somehow worked her way through the crowd and up to the stage. She had her eye on Fats big time. She had orange-colored hair piled on her head, heavy eye make-up, bright red lipstick, tons of jewelry, and lots of cleavage showing. It was pretty obvious she wasn’t associated with our convention, and pretty soon, the security guys assisted her out of the ballroom.

Fats was impeccably dressed that night. His suit looked like it was made out of sharkskin. It absolutely shimmered. Very classy.

He wore several huge rings on the fingers of both hands.

Fats Domino Wearing Lots of Rings

 

Fats Domino was in the news when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans’ Ninth Ward where he lived. Somehow, a rumor came out that he had died. Look what somebody painted on his home.

R.I.P. Fats Domino

That message was premature back then, but unfortunately, now it is true.

 

Fats Domino at the Piano

 

Good bye Fats Domino. You certainly will be missed. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

 

©  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.

 

How Elvis Spent the Summer of Love

 

Summer of Love

There have been a few reports in the news this week noting the 50th anniversary on October 6 of the end of Summer of Love. In case you aren’t old enough to remember it, here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people, mostly young people sporting hippie fashions of dress and behavior [Editor’s note – i.e. smoking pot] converged in San Francisco’s neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury.

The Corner of Haight and Ashbury

The hippies, also known as flower children, were mostly college and high-school students that began streaming into the Haight, as the district was known, during the spring break of 1967. The media’s coverage of hippie life in  Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America.

The activities in the area were reported almost daily. Hippies were the subject of a cover story in Time magazine, and the Haight was overrun by teenage runaways, panhandlers, drug dealers, assorted charlatans, and to the chagrin of the hippies, gawking tourists.

In October 6, 1967, a group of hippie ‘elders’ organized a mock funeral procession through the Haight neighborhood called “The Death of the Hippie.” Participants carried a coffin down Haight Street, and the crowd stopped for a “kneel-in” at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

The End of the Summer of Love

 

One of the organizers, Mary Kasper, explained the intended message:

“We wanted to signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution to where you live and don’t come here because it’s over and done with.”

The real reason for this funeral was to convince the media to stop covering the Haight.  The organizers sought to end the commercialization of the hippie lifestyle and the main stream appropriation of their social experiment.

 

So, what does this have to do with Elvis? I got the inspiration for this post when I saw a drawing of some flower children. I couldn’t help adding one more image.

Summer of Love

I know, Elvis doesn’t really fit in, does he? But he did have a number of things going on during the summer of 1967.

For one thing, he was a newlywed, having married Priscilla on May 1. On June 10, Elvis left Memphis to go to California to begin filming Speedway. But he didn’t fly. Instead, Elvis took a big group by bus on sort-of a family vacation. The group included these buddies and their wives: Joe Esposito, Billy Smith, Jerry Schilling, Gee Gee Gambill, and Marty Lacker. Charlie Hodge came along without a female companion.

Elvis Driving His Bus

Here is Elvis driving the bus. Priscilla, Charlie Hodge, and Joe Esposito are also visible.

Many of the flower children also traveled in buses, but the comparison is stark.

Hippy Bus

C

 

One of the stops for Elvis and the gang was two nights in Flagstaff, Arizona, with a side trip to the Grand Canyon.

Elvis and Priscilla at Grad Canyon, 1967

 

When Elvis finally arrived in Los Angeles, he spent the next week recording the soundtrack for Speedway. On June 21, Vernon Presley, along with wife Dee and her three sons, arrived in Los Angeles. Here is a photo taken at MGM Studios of them with Elvis, plus NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller and costar Nancy Sinatra.

Elvis, Vernon, Dee, her kids. Nelson Rockefeller, and Nancy Sinatra at MGM 1957

 

Filming of Speedway started June 26 and continued through the month of July and half of August.

Elvis and Nancy Sinatra in Speedway

 

In late August, Elvis entered the RCA Studio on Sunset Boulevard to record songs for his next non-soundtrack album.

On August 26, Elvis and Priscilla arrived home at Graceland. Within a few days, they returned to his Circle G Ranch in northern Mississippi, but instead of horseback riding every day, Elvis took up a new hobby – target shooting.

Elvis Shooting Rifle

 

On September 10 and 11, Elvis did some studio recording in Nashville.

On September 29, he returned to Nashville. This time he appeared in front of the Tennessee State Legislature for the proclamation of Elvis Presley Day by Governor Buford Ellington.

Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington Announcing Elvis Presley Day

 

And finally, on October 6, 1967, the day the Summer of Love ended, Elvis and some of the guys holed up in Las Vegas prior to the start of filming of Stay Away Joe in Arizona.

 

One of the familiar symbols of the hippie movement was the Peace Sign.

Peace Sign

 

Here is my last lame attempt to connect Elvis with the Summer of Love.

Elvis Peace Sign

 

Later, man.   Peace and love.

 

 

© 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.

 

 

Tom Petty and Elvis

As you know by now, Tom Petty died yesterday at age 66. He had suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu CA, and could not be revived at the UCLA Medical center. I’ve been a big Tom Petty fan for years, so I decided to pull out my old albums and cassettes and listen to his music for the next couple of days. It surprised me, but I have no Tom Petty CDs. He has been making music for over forty years, so I guess I prefer his early stuff.

 

Tom Petty’s first and only contact with Elvis took place in early 1961 when he was just eleven years old. He grew up in Gainesville, Florida, not too far from Ocala where Elvis was filming Follow That Dream at that time.

The following is condensed from a 2007 article written in the Gainesville Sun by Entertainment Editor Bill Dean.

 

Petty’s uncle, Earl Jernigan, owned a local film-developing business and worked on location shoots whenever filmmakers came to the area.

So when Jernigan’s wife, Tom’s Aunt Evelyn, rolled into the driveway and asked her nephew if he’d like to “go and see Elvis Presley,” he was licking his chops at what would in a few hours become the adventure of his young life.

“I remember this vividly,” said Petty, who at that point primarily knew Elvis as a character who had caused some controversy, due to those swiveling hips when Tom had been about 5 or 6 years old. “He was known to me as a fellow who wiggled,”

After driving 30 miles, Aunt Evelyn and Tommy, along with his brother Bruce and cousins Sadie and Norma, pulled up near the film set in downtown Ocala – where Elvis was to shoot a scene of him driving up in a car and entering a bank.

 

“There was a huge crowd; the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen in the streets of Ocala,” Tom said. “And then I swear to God, a line of white Cadillacs pulled in. All white. I’d never seen anything like that. And I was standing up on a box to see over everyone’s head, because a big roar started up when the cars pulled in.”

“Guys in mohair suits and pompadours began bounding out of each car – to Tom’s startled cry of “Is that ELVIS?” every time. But when the real Elvis finally appeared, Tom knew… Immediately.

“He stepped out radiant as an angel,” Tom said. “He seemed to glow and walk above the ground. It was like nothing I’d ever seen in my life. At 50 yards, we were stunned by what this guy looked like. And he came walking right towards us.”

Elvis’ hair was so impossibly black that it glistened a deep blue when the sunlight hit it. And that’s when Elvis walked directly over to Uncle Earl, Aunt Evelyn and little Tom Petty.

“We were speechless,” Tom said. As Uncle Earl introduced Elvis to everyone, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll smiled and nodded to each open-mouthed youngster.

“I don’t know what he said, because I was just too dumbfounded,” Tom said. “And he went into his trailer.”

Then, young Tom got “really excited” as hundreds of girls pressed against the chain-link fence. Many brandished album covers and photos, which one of Elvis’ “Memphis mafia guys,” as Tom described it, dutifully took into the trailer and returned, bearing authentic Elvis autographs.

“Seeing the girls go wild over Elvis only added to the lasting impression on Tommy,” his cousin Sadie said. “My sister and I were excited to watch them film a movie. But Tommy got caught up in the moment. It was like he was mesmerized with an imprint on his brain.”

“And I thought at the time, ‘That is one hell of a job to have. That’s a great gig – being Elvis Presley,'” Tom said.

Young Tom began collecting anything he could find on Elvis. He stayed inside the house and did nothing but listen to Elvis music. “My dad was concerned that I didn’t go outside, that I just played these records all day.”

“I learned all of those early Elvis songs,” Tom said. “And having that kind of background in rock ‘n’ roll, of where it had come from, has served me to this day. It became an invaluable thing to have. So for that, I thank him.”

Although Tom Petty never saw Elvis again, the flames from that fire have never waned.

Sadie Darnell, Tom’s cousin who accompanied him to see Elvis that day, told The Sun that the meeting between The King and Gainesville’s future rock ‘n’ roll son was a “life-altering moment” for young Tom. “He was completely, completely enthralled,” said Darnell. “And Tommy told us as a family that he was going to be a rock star.”

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Tom Petty’s 10 Favorite Elvis Presley Songs:

01.’That’s All Right‘ – 1954
02.’Baby, Let’s Play House’ – 1955
03.’Heartbreak Hotel’ 1956
04.’Hound Dog’ – 1956
05.’Mean Woman Blues’ – 1957
06.’One Night’ 1958
07.’Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ – 1957
08.’Can’t Help Falling In Love’ – 1961
09.’A Mess Of Blues’ – 1960
10.'(Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame’ – 1961

 

Tom Petty had a remarkable career. He had over two dozen Top 40 hits. He played the Super Bowl halftime show in 2008 and entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. But, until the day when he encountered Elvis Presley, he has said, “I’d never thought much about rock ‘n’ roll until that moment. I caught the fever that day and I never got rid of it. That’s what kicked off my love of music.”

So, how about that. Elvis can be credited with hooking Tom Petty on rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Hypnotic Eye Tour 2014

 

We’ll miss you, Tom Petty. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

 

© 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.

 

To read the entire Gainesville Sun article by Bill Dean, click here.

 

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’ First Guitar — A New Twist on a Old Story

Two new Elvis Statues in Tupelo

Every ElvisBlog article involves research on Google/Images. Sometimes I will scroll down well below the pertinent pictures just to see what new-to-me Elvis photos might show up. That’s how I found the one above.

The two statues are part of the several attractions added to make the visit to Elvis boyhood home in Tupelo a bigger experience. They were unveiled in 2012 as part of the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ passing. I like the contrast of young Elvis with his simple acoustic guitar in front of adult Elvis in all his jumpsuit and cape splendor.

Elvis at 13 Statue in Tupelo

There is another statue of young Elvis in the complex now known as the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum and Chapel. I’ve never visited it, but by the time I do, I’ll bet even more stuff is added.

Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum

 

Let’s go back to the statues for a minute. Both young Elvis statues have him holding a guitar.  Tupelo is not only where Elvis was born, it is also where he got his first guitar. Just about every fan knows he bought it at the Tupelo Hardware Store.

Tupelo Hardware

Tupelo Hardware Inside

 

The story most people know about Elvis’ first guitar runs pretty close to the one in Elvis Day by Day.

Elvis Day by Day

The book’s authors, Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, are two highly esteemed Elvis historians. Guralnick is a guest speaker at Elvis Week this year, and Jorgensen has had the same honor previously. They have done decades of research on Elvis and written several other books about him. So, what you read about Elvis in their books can be trusted as factual. Or at least factual according to their research documents as of 1999 when Elvis Day by Day was published. Here is the entry for January 8, 1946:

“On Elvis’ eleventh birthday, his parents buy him a guitar at the Tupelo Hardware Store. As Gladys Presley later tells the story, Elvis wanted a bicycle, but she was put off both by the cost and by her fears that he might get hurt.”

Color Picture of Elvis' First Guitar

Last year, a fellow Elvis fan named Carol Austin sent me a copy of a book written nine years after Elvis Day by Day. It states two things that differ from the earlier book – he did not go into the store wanting a bicycle, and it was not on his eleventh birthday. Why should we believe this different version of the story?

Book We Remember Elvis

Because the book, We Remember Elvis, was written by four people who were boyhood chums or relatives of young Elvis in Tupelo. If you want to fully understand the hardships that Gladys, Vernon, and Elvis went through prior to moving to Memphis, you can’t do better than this book. These four authors lived that life too. But, there were many happy moments as well. Chapter 33 – Elvis’s Christmas Wagon begins:

“Christmas of 1945 was great…. Elvis had gotten a glossy wooden Wagon Master…. That wagon was a spectacular model. The frames on the side slid in and out of metal holders.”

Elvis 1945 Christmas Present -- Wagon Master

Image from book – similar to Elvis’

Elvis took almost every child in his playgroup for rides in the first days after Christmas. On the last Saturday of the year, Elvis and his two best buddies, Odell Clark and Guy Thomas Harris, took turns pushing the wagon up the hill on Kelly Street and riding it down. They would give the passenger a huge shove and watch their friend take a roller coaster ride and hear the squeals of laughter.

When the boys tired, they rode the wagon down Kelly Street to the Assembly of God Church (since moved to the Elvis birthplace complex).

Elvis - Assembly of God Church Tupelo

In 1945, there were wide sandy ditches of the sides of the road, and the three boys parked the wagon and played in the sand with toy metal trucks carrying on a make-believe construction job. Then disaster hit, as described in the book:

“Coming along the road was a big dump truck filled with scrap metal driven by a neighbor named ‘Peanut’ Gamble.’ … He and some of the Randle boys pulled big pieces of metal out of grown up weeds on the back property lines. … [Gamble] then backed his big truck back onto the roadway. Unfortunately, Elvis’ new wagon was right behind the truck’s big wheels.”

The boys screamed “stop,” but it was too late and the wagon got crunched. Elvis picked up several broken pieces and stared in disbelief. Then he began hysterical crying and ran toward home.

“’Mama, Mama, Mama,’ he cried….Mama could fix anything! Gladys had heard his cry and was running toward her son. Her face was blood red and her breath was sporadic as she rushed to her child….Gladys grabbed Elvis into her arms, pulled him tight to her chest, but she trembled with the power of her emotions.”

Peanut Gamble caught up with them and apologized over and over. He took out his wallet and gave Elvis every bill he had. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see it.”

Gladys carried Elvis all the way home as he clutched the money tightly. He had his chin resting on her shoulder and his arms and legs wrapped around her body. He was thinking of getting a new wagon, but another thought seeped in – maybe buying new rifle instead.

 

Let’s look at two calendars to get a sense of the timing of this story.

December 1945

The two dates circled are when Elvis got the wagon and when it got crushed.

January 1946

You all recognize January 8 as Elvis’ birthday. But the 5th of January is when Elvis went to Tupelo Hardware. As the book says, “The next Saturday was the day to go to Tupelo to replace the broken toy.” (The Presleys actually lived in the village of East Tupelo, now annexed into the city of Tupelo.)

By then, Elvis was committed to try to buy a 22 rifle with his money. Gladys wouldn’t hear of it, and doggedly maintained they were going to buy a wagon. Once in the store, Elvis took her hand and dragged her in the direction of the rifles. She continued past them and pulled him toward the wagons. Then something caught her eye and she looked up. Elvis’ eyes turned to see what she was looking at. It was a display of guitars.

The salesman saw the interest and asked, “Do you play the guitar, Mam?” Elvis made a quick glance back to the rifles before giving his full attention to the glistening guitar.

“The smart salesman immediately climbed the sliding ladder to take down the smallest of the instruments [it was a 1940s Kay model]. He slid the strap over Elvis’ head and adjusted the guitar at the perfect angle to fit Elvis’ young body. He handed him a small ivory pick. The child immediately placed his slender fingers on the proper frets as his Uncle Vester had taught him. When he strummed the strings with the pick, there was just enough harmony for the salesman to brag generously on the child’s talent.”

Elvis placed his money on the counter and got two one-dollar bills back. He strolled out of the store with the guitar still hanging over his shoulder. We can assume both he and his mother had big smiles on their faces. Gladys had to be happy that Elvis wasn’t carrying a rifle, and Elvis had to be thrilled with his new guitar.

January 1946

So, that’s how it all started. I am absolutely confident that Elvis told the story of his trip to Tupelo Hardware to his buddies numerous times, and they have recounted it in the book We Remember Elvis. This is the real story of Elvis’ first guitar.

 

Guernsey's Auction Sept 14, 2011

Elvis’ first guitar went up for auction at Guernsey’s on September 14, 2011 in New York City. I have spent entirely too much time on Google trying to find out what it went for, or if it even sold at all. If anyone knows, please put a message on Comments.

 

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

 

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A Summer of 40th Anniversaries

Elvis 40

Elvis Week 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, and EPE has a great event planned for the fans. There is so much quality stuff to do and see, enhanced by the new Graceland Guest House and Elvis Presley’ Memphis. I wish I was going.

Another 40th anniversary coming up is Elvis’ last concert performance on June 26 at the Haymarket Arena in Indianapolis. I had the privilege of contributing to an upcoming special on local radio station WIBC. Programmer Chris Davis interviewed me to get soundbites for the broadcast.

Elvis' last Concert - Indianapolis 1977

Not that I had attended the concert. He had already found some Hoosiers who had been there. He asked me general stuff like the difference between Elvis’ 1950s music and his 70s music, and what was it like to be a teenager when Elvis burst on the scene and changed everything. He also asked me my opinion of Col. Parker, but I’m pretty sure he won’t use my answer. I didn’t mince words about my disdain for Parker. If you’d like to read a 2009 blog post I did on Elvis’ final concert, click here.

 

Another 40th anniversary is the Elvis in Concert TV special on CBS. It aired on Oct 3, 1967, just a few weeks after Elvis died. However, it was conceived well before his death and was supposed to join the ranks of the ’68 Comeback Special and Aloha from Hawaii to create a trio of historic Elvis TV specials. The results did not live up to expectations, and Elvis in Concert has been mostly just a historical footnote.

TV ad for Elvis in Concert Special

This is a screen grab of the commercial CBS used to promote the program.

CBS advertisement for Elvis In Concert in 1977

 

Filming for the special was done on June 19 at the Omaha Civic Center and June 21 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota.

 

Start of CBS Special Elvis in Concert.

This is the opening shot from the one-hour broadcast.

Omaha Civic Auditorium

Elvis in Concert contained fourteen songs, but only three were included form the Omaha show. According to Peter Guralnick and Earnst Jorgensen, the authors of ELVIS – Day by Day, “it is one of the poorest shows Elvis has given to date, a sad and incoherent performance for the most part.”

 

Rushmore Civic Auditorium

Elvis was in much better two nights later in Rapid City. He performed memorable versions two songs, but one was not included in the special. Again, quoting ELVIS – Day by Day,

“Perhaps the highlight of the show (although it is neither easy viewing nor listening) is Elvis’ version of “Unchained Melody,” which will not be included in the television broadcast, though Elvis performs it in bravura fashion, alone at the piano.”

Elvis Singing Unchained Melody

 

I would like to disagree. There is footage on YouTube of Elvis performing “Unchained Melody” the same manner on April 24, 1977, two months earlier. If you have seen it, you’ll never forget it. Elvis was bloated, sweating profusely, and performing through a cloud of painkillers.

Elvis Singing Unchained Melody - Close Up

And yet, he gave an utterly moving rendition of the song. Maybe it wasn’t easy viewing, but it was compelling. It gave me the chills and a lump in my throat. It was a great triumph for Elvis to pull it off. I was so proud of him.

 

Are You Lonesome Tonight Laughing Version

The other memorable song in Elvis in Concert was “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Starting in 1969, when Elvis performed it onstage, he regularly played around with the words during the talking part part of the song. Often, this caused him to break into fits of laughter. If you’ve never seen a video of this, just go to YouTube and type in Are You Lonesome Tonight Laughing Version.

However in the Elvis in Concert broadcast, just before Elvis went into the recitation part of the song, the music was faded down and a devoted female fan is shown talking about her determination to see Elvis live in concert, then it switches back to Elvis after the talking part was finished. This may have been done so that viewers would not have to see Elvis fumbling through the recitation.

 

1977 Elvis in Concert double record set

Shortly after the broadcast, RCA released a double album also called Elvis in Concert.  Although it contained all the songs from the TV special, it also contained “Fans’ Comments,” “Elvis Talks,” a “Special Message from Elvis’ Father,” and a bunch of songs recorded at other concerts in June 1977.

 

The Elvis in Concert TV Special has never been officially released on VHS or DVD, and Elvis’ estate has issued a statement saying that they have “no plans” to release the special, due to the fact that Elvis was visibly “far from his best in the way he looked and the way he performed.”

However, the bootleggers have been busy putting out unofficial DVDs. Here are just a few.

ELVIS PRESLEY IN CONCERT 1977 DVD

 

And like everything else ever filmed, Elvis in Concert has shown up on YouTube – numerous times. Click here and take your pick.

 

 

© 2014 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Say Goodbye to Graceland Plaza

Drawing of Graceland Plaza

If you’ve made the pilgrimage to Graceland you have certainly sent time in Graceland Plaza across the street. You probably have memories of eating at the Chrome Grill, shopping in the Elvis After Dark shop, or enjoying At the Movies with Elvis. Well, that’s all gone now.

Elvis Presley's Memphis Under Construction with Graceland Plaza in Front

In the bottom left of this aerial photo you can see Graceland Plaza. But look at the much larger complex of buildings under construction behind it. This is Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and all the good stuff has been moved here. It opened in March, and since then, the empty Graceland Plaza has been surrounded by a chain link fence.

More Buildings to the Left

Now demolition has begun and will be completed soon, if it hasn’t already. Graceland Plaza will be replaced by a park setting with lawn, bushes, and trees. It will provide a nice buffer between Elvis Presley’s Memphis and the busy street.

Current Graceland Plaza in Memphis

This is the ‘before’ shot showing what the above section used to look like.

 

Elvis Car Museum at Graceland

This is the car museum at the far left end of the plaza.

Old Car Museum with No car out Front

And this is it prior to demolition. Note that the shrubbery is gone and the Caddy has been moved from the stage.

 

Still More to the Left

This photo is taken from farther down to the right.

Graceland Plaza 3

The hedge and trees are gone.

 

Farther to the left

The demolition equipment is in place.

 

Graceland Plaza 2

The following are several shots of this section under demolition.

Graceland Plaza Demolition 5

Graceland Plaza Demolition 3

Graceland Plaza Demolition 2

Demolition of Graceland Plaza to the Left Of Airplanes

All gone.

 

Graceland Plaza Demolition 1

This picture is of the area just to the left of the airplanes.

Graceland Plaza 4

We’ll finish with a last look at what Graceland Plaza used to be. From the car museum in the upper left to the airplanes at the bottom right, Graceland Plaza had much to offer. It is part of our memories made during visits to pay tribute to Elvis. Now we have to go to Memphis again and see all the new stuff they’ve built. (Bring lots of money. It isn’t cheap.)

 

Many thanks to Scooby on Phoenix – The Elvis Forum for discovering a few of these photos on Facebook. His forum post on May 9 alerted me to the current demolition. I also checked on YouTube and found a walking tour filmed on May 9. Click here to view the footage.

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Concerts at the Graceland Guest House Theater – Part 2

Concert in Graceland Guest House Theater

Last week we took a look at the first big concert in the new Graceland Guest House Theater. Actually, big does not adequately describe the Joe Walsh “All Shook Up at Graceland” event.

Joe Walsh at Guest House Theater 2

It’s a package deal including two nights in the hotel, two parties, Graceland tour, a combination concert/ Q&A session/slide show by Joe Walsh, and much more. And it cost $1,795 per person.

There have been other concerts in the Guest House, and they have been on a more modest scale. For example:

Gospel Weekend at the Guest House Theater

This was a two-night package back in February, with Mark209 in concert on Friday, February, 24th, and Memphis Soul City performing on Saturday, February 25th. Anyone booked in a two-double bed room with a view of the central courtyard ($219 per night, double occupancy, plus 21% taxes and fees) could go to the concerts for free.

 

TG Sheppard and Kelly Lang

This is a straight concert, with no hotel room tie-in. You can be staying at any hotel or motel in town and come see this show for $25. T.G Sheppard had dozens of top 40 country hits, but his last was in 1988. He is 73 but maintains a busy touring schedule along with his wife Kelly Lang. I suspect that the Guest House will present more concerts of this nature than the extravaganza packages like Joe Walsh.

 

That being said, I would like to suggest three performers I think Graceland would be wise to schedule. While they are all up in age, they are still performing. And best of all, they all have a connection to Elvis, and I would love to see any of them in a concert.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson Smiling and Elvis

In 1955, Wanda Jackson was a seventeen-year-old aspiring country singer, with some minor hits to her credit and a half-hour radio show on KLPR in Oklahoma City. In July, she was booked on one of those packaged touring country music shows that were popular in the fifties. It was here that she met Elvis Presley, and they became fast friends. Wanda and Elvis performed in other touring shows in August and October, 1955, and again in early 1956.

Elvis Presley and Wanda Jackson April 15, 1956 San Antonio

April 15, 1956, San Antonio

Elvis and Wanda dated a bit, but her dad was her manager on the road, so things never got hot and heavy between the young singers. In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, she said, “Our dating amounted to what we could do on the road. If we got in town early, we might take in a matinee movie. Then, after the shows, we could go places with his band — and my dad, of course… It was very important, a girl’s reputation, in those days. There were things you could and couldn’t do, and my daddy made sure I never crossed the line.”

Wanda Jackson and Elvis

Elvis urged Wanda Jackson to branch out and try rockabilly music. He said, “It’s the next big thing, and you need to be singing it.” She took his advice and decided to try her hand in this wild new world of rockabilly. “He broke my train of thought and made me realize I could stretch myself.” Rockabilly songs are what made her mark in music history. As Rolling Stone said, “Her songs were full of vinegar. She sang them all with gravel-throated gusto.” The Smithsonian Institution would later refer to her as the sweet lady with the nasty voice. Her first national hit was “Let’s Have A Party,” which Elvis fans know he originally recorded for the movie Loving You in 1957. Jackson liked the song and recorded it in 1958 for her self-titled first album.

 

Later Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson went on to have great success in other four different genres – rockabilly, country, gospel, and rock and roll. She had huge popular success in Europe and Japan. In 2009, Wanda Jackson was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

In 2007, she recorded an album in tribute to her old friend titled I Remember Elvis. “[Elvis] has been a big part of my life. I worked with him and loved him very much for the person that he was, so it only seemed right that I should do a special tribute to him. I chose the songs he was singing when I was working with him in the fifties, and that gave it purpose. At the end of the CD, I also tell stories about my remembrances of the first time I met him, the first night I worked with him, and the last time I saw him.”

 

Wanda Jackson Concert Schedule

Although Wanda Jackson will turn 80 this year, she still does the occasional concert. I would be thrilled to see her perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater, and I’d bet she would pack the place. How about it, EPE? Please schedule Wanda Jackson while you still can.

Wanda Jackson in 2014

 

 

 

Johnny Rivers

Elvis & Johnny Rivers were friends in Hollywood in the early 60´s.

Johnny Rivers’ connection to Elvis started the same year as Wanda Jackson – 1955. At that time, he was Brooklyn-born John Ramistella, a twelve-year-old growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Young John and a buddy went to the local high school to see a country concert starring Minnie Pearl and Little Jimmy Dickens. Opening the show was an unknown singer named Elvis Presley. Minnie Pearl introduced him as “The Hillbilly Cat,” and he came out wearing a pink suit and white buck shoes. Elvis sang only two songs, “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Rivers recalled, “All that sexual energy up there on stage, people didn’t know what to make of it.” He said to his buddy, “Wow. This guy’s really cool.”

Johnny got a second look at Elvis after that high school concert. He went around behind the auditorium and saw Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black loading their gear in a trailer. Actually, Scotty and Bill were doing the loading. Elvis was talking to some of the country acts. Johnny remembers this about Elvis: “He was bouncing around, he couldn’t stand still. I’m thinking this is the coolest guy I ever seen.”

Within a year, Johnny was playing guitar in local groups, and by age fourteen, he was fronting the band “Johnny and the Spades.” In 1958 he performed at the Lousiana Hayride in Shreveport. Later that year, Johnny traveled to New York to seek work in recording studios. It was there he met legendary disc jockey Allen Freed, who convinced him to change his name to Johnny Rivers.

The next stop was Nashville, then back to New York City, and finally Los Angeles. In 1963 Rivers and his group began an extended stay as the house band at a local nightclub. This led to a lucrative offer to open the new discotheque Whiskey A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. Soon, his first album Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey A-Go-Go was released, and it quickly sold a million copies. Johnny Rivers’ career was on a roll.

With his newfound wealth, Johnny Rivers moved into a mansion in exclusive Trousdale Estates, and regularly drove his maroon Jaguar over to Elvis’ place in Bel Air for weekend football games, with other stars like Pat Boone and Jan and Dean.

 

Elvis on his 1966 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide and Johnny Rivers on a Triumph

Johnny Rivers and Elvis had one other interesting connection – the song “Memphis” written by Chuck Berry. Elvis recorded it during a two-day session in Nashville in May 1963 that produced fourteen songs. Time constraints limited “Memphis” to just two takes, and Elvis was not happy with either one. So, on January 12, 1964, Elvis went back in the studio to re-record “Memphis” and one other song. He wanted a more exciting, modern sound, because he planned to release “Memphis” as his next single. Elvis was dedicated and focused. He was in good voice, and he loaded up the studio with three guitar players and two drummers.

Elvis - Memphis Single

Elvis left the studio very pleased with the results, but “Memphis” was never released as a single – and Johnny Rivers was the reason. He and Elvis had jammed together on the song back in Bel Air. Rivers liked it so much he incorporated it into his repertoire at the Whiskey. In May 1964 a live version of the song hit the market and quickly went to #2 on the charts. That killed any chance of “Memphis” ever being an Elvis single.

Johnny Rivers- Memphis Single

 

There is one last Elvis/Johnny Rivers connection. I would strongly recommend his 1991 CD The Memphis Sun Recordings. Rivers recorded it at Sun Studios, with James Burton and Carl Perkins as special guests. It contains cover versions of four Elvis songs and three Perkins hits, plus others by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich. It’s a terrific CD, and I play it a lot.

Johnny Rivers -- The Memphis Sun Recordings

 

I find it hard to believe, but Johnny Rivers has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. How can they ignore an artist with 17 Top 40 hits, 9 Top 10 hits, and a Number 1 hit “The Poor Side of Town.” His most notable song over the years has been “Secret Agent Man,” which peaked at #3 in 1966.

 

Older Johnny Rivers

 

Johnny Rivers will turn 75 this year, but he still performs regularly.

Johnny Rivers Appearances

 

So, my second suggestion for an artist to appear at the Guest House Theater is Johnny Rivers. He could certainly wow the audience by performing the four Elvis songs on the Memphis Sun Recordings CD: “Mystery Train,” “Tryin’ To Get To You,” “That’s Alright, Mama,” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” Plus there is “Memphis.” Rivers also released an album Blue Suede Shoes, and the title song is the best version I’ve ever heard. If Graceland books Johnny Rivers, I guarantee there will be dancing in the aisles.

 

 

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley

Yes, I know this is a Photoshopped photo

Did you see this choice coming? How absolutely cool would it be to have Jerry Lee Lewis perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater?

I presume it isn’t necessary to detail the connection between Elvis and Jerry Lee. However, stories about their rivalry persist, so that’s worth mentioning. Elvis had been gone from Sun Records for over a year before Jerry Lee burst on the scene. In some ways The Killer had the better of it in this presumed competition. For one thing, Jerry Lee had much bigger hits at Sun Records than Elvis did. The sales of “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” and “Great Balls of Fire” absolutely dwarfed anything achieved by Elvis’ five Sun releases. “Breathless” and “High School Confidential” also made the Top 40, something not achieved by an Elvis song until he went to RCA. Jerry Lee’s career also shot out of the gates quicker than Elvis’. His first release “Crazy Arms” went nowhere, but the second, “Whole Lot of Shakin’,” instantly made him a national star.

 

Million Dollar Quartet

The supposed feud between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley is on pretty shaky ground. Consider what Elvis said after the famed “Million Dollar Quartet” session, his first musical interaction with Jerry Lee:

“That boy can go. I think he has a great future ahead of him. He has a different style, and the way he plays piano just gets inside me.”

Jerry Lee wasn’t afraid to put his stamp on Elvis songs. He has recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Elvis covered Jerry Lee’s’ “Whole Lot of Shakin,” and a few lesser-known Lewis songs.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis RockHall of Fame Photo

Both men are charter members of the Rock& Roll Hall of Fame, inducted together in the inaugural class of 1986. Check out the picture the RockHall uses as their stock Jerry Lee Lewis photo.

These days, Jerry Lee doesn’t climb up on the piano. He will turn 82 this year and his performance schedule is pretty skimpy.

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

He performed at his own club in Memphis this past New Year’s Eve, and then at a Country Music Festival in late February in Indio, California. His website does not list any upcoming appearances.

Jerry Lee Lewis On Stage - May 4, 2013

Hopefully, there is still enough time for EPE to book Jerry Lee Lewis for the Graceland Guest House Theater, but they better hurry.

 

Nesbit, Missippi

He lives on his ranch just south of Memphis in Nesbit, Mississippi.  They could send a stretch-limo down there and transport him to the Guest House in style. They could put him up in the Vernon and Gladys Suite.

Vernon and Gladys Suite

 

All that would probably run up the price of tickets, but I don’t think they’d have any problem filling up the place.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis is a Rock and Roll legend.

Come on EPE. Bring him to Graceland.

 

Older Jerry Lee Lewis

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

 

 

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Interesting Items at the 7th Auction at Graceland

January 7, 2017 Auction at Graceland
I started covering auctions of Elvis memorabilia in March 2010. Over the next 4-1/2 years, ElvisBlog had 25 posts covering auctions from Heritage, Julien’s , Sotheby’s, Gotta Have It, and Michaan’s auction houses.

Then in August 2014, EPE sponsored the first Auction at Graceland in Memphis during Elvis Week.

August 14, 2014 Auction At Graceland

Since then, half of the 14 auctions containing sizeable selections of Elvis collectibles have been the Auctions at Graceland. In addition to on-line bidding, the items were on display prior to the in-person bidding in Memphis. These were logical attractions for the folks coming to Elvis Week and the Elvis Birthday celebrations.

In 2016, a third auction was added to add more pizazz to the opening of the new Guest House at Graceland.

October 29, 2016 Auction at Graceland

 

As I have stated before, EPE made a brilliant decision to get involved with auctioning of Elvis memorabilia. They are gobbling up much of the available items, and from what I can tell, they are bringing higher prices for the sellers.

The latest Auction at Graceland closed on January 7 and had 165 items for bid. We’ll probably look at the rings, autographs, and clothing in the future, but here are some other items that caught my eye for one reason or another.

Boxing Gloves Elvis Wore in Kid Galahad:

Elvis - Boxing Gloves used in Kid Gallahad

These boxing gloves were one of the surprise successes of the auction. Although this was just one of several pairs Elvis wore during the filming of Kid Galahad, it attracted 15 bidders. They ran the price way past the minimum bid of $2,500 and topped out at $11,875 (including the 25% auction premium). However, this is another example of something I’ve been reminding folks with an Elvis collectible to sell. Spend some money on a proper display. It will pay off. If it had just been two loose boxing gloves as shown above, the top bid would not have been so high.

Elvis - Display of Boxing Gloves used in Kid Gallahad

However, the top bidder actually got a nice framed 25’ x 25” display that included a shot from the movie and the six-song soundtrack EP, both showing Elvis wearing boxing gloves. The case is 5 inches deep with protective glass over it.

And here’s something you may find interesting. The previous owner said this about the boxing gloves, “I held them and could feel the Elvis vibes.” Good for her.

 

Shirt Signed by 30+ Elvis Presley Co-Stars and Friends:

eBay Shirt Signed by 30+ Elvis Presley Co-Stars and Friends

This is one item that may have fared better on a general entertainment auction than on one for just Elvis collectors. Only four bids came in and the winning one for $750 fell well below the estimate.

There are fourteen autographs on the front. Perhaps you can make out these Elvis co-stars: Anne Helm (Follow That Dream), Stella Stevens (Girls! Girls! Girls!), Cynthia Pepper (Kissin’ Cousins), Deborah Walley (Spinout), Celeste Yarnall (Live a Little, Love a Little), Julie Parrish (Paradise, Hawaiian Style), Diane McBain (Spinout), Joan Blackman (Blue Hawaii, Kid Galahad), and others. Notable co-stars on the back and sleeves include Julie Adams (Tickle Me), Marilyn Mason (Trouble with Girls), and Mary Ann Mobley (Girl Happy, Harum Scarum).

It doesn’t say so on the auction website, but I believe all these signatures were obtained over time at Elvis Weeks when all the special guests sit at tables signing publicity photos, etc. About ten years ago, I saw someone moving down the line with an acoustic guitar getting autographs by many musicians from Elvis’ past. It later sold at auction for well over $750.

 

Colt “Police Positive Special” .32 Caliber Pistol:

Elvis Presley Owned and Used Colt “Police Positive Special” .32 Caliber Pistol

What would an Elvis auction be without one of his guns? As the auction website says, Elvis had a personal arsenal. Here’s one with two interesting stories.

Elvis acquired this Colt .32 caliber pistol in the 1970s at Tiny’s Gun Store in Palm Springs, California. Tiny, the owner of the gun shop, admired one of Elvis’ rings, and Elvis asked him if he wanted to trade for it. Tiny said yes and offered several items for the trade. Elvis decided on this gun and others and made the deal.

However, after using it, Elvis gave it to his bodyguard Dick Grob. His reason for this was that it didn’t have much fire power, very little noise and almost no recoil. Definitely not enough bang to suit Elvis.

But the Colt pistol had enough appeal to bidders to run the $2,000 minimum bid up to $10,625

 

Mike McGregor’s Handcrafted “TCB” Necklace in Elvis Presley Style:

Mike McGregor’s Handcrafted “TCB” Necklace in Elvis Presley Style, Circa 1980

We could also ask, “What would an Elvis auction be without a TCB pendant?” So many of them have changed hands over the last seven years. However, this is not one that Elvis owned and wore. It is not one he gave to friends. In fact, it was made three years after his death.

Mike McGregor was a blacksmith and leather craftsman who met Elvis in the 1960s at the Western shop where Mike worked crafting saddles. Elvis hired Mike to work at the Circle G Ranch taking care of the horses. Mike and his family lived at Circle G and then moved to Graceland, where he continued making leather goods and jewelry for Elvis.

In 1976 McGregor opened his own jewelry shop in Mississippi where he made this silver pendant modelled after the Elvis style. Apparently, this is a close enough connection for the high bidder pay $687.50 for it.

 

Water Pistol from the May 8, 1976 Sahara Tahoe Squirt Gun Fight with Elvis:

Rockin’ Robin’s Squirt Gun from the May 8, 1976 Sahara Tahoe Elvis Presley Squirt Gun Fight

I didn’t think I would ever see a squirt gun at an Elvis auction, let alone bringing in a $625 top bid.

On May 8 1976 at the Sahara Tahoe, Elvis performed for nearly 90 minutes, sang more than 25 songs and was engaged throughout. Then, several fans near the stage began a water fight with squirt guns after he sang “Love Me.” One of them was “Rockin’ Robin” Rosaaen, a fan of some renown at that time.

Label on Squirt Gun from the May 8, 1976 Sahara Tahoe Elvis Presley Squirt Gun Fight

This plastic squirt gun was what she used during the skirmish. Her accompanying letter with the water pistol says, “During the show I gave Elvis this large green machine gun-sized squirt gun, and he then proceeded to shoot his back-up singers, thinking he had the only squirt gun. Later, as he stood center stage, we opened fire! Elvis thought it was too much fun, and the next night talked about it, saying ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you should have been here last night—it was like a gun fight at the OK Corral”

 

Platinum Record Award for Elvis Presley’s Album Aloha from Hawaii:

Platinum Record Award for Elvis Presley’s Album Aloha from Hawaii

Lots of Gold and Platinum Record Awards have shown up at auction. However, these are often the ones awarded to Col. Parker, or RCA, or others. Or they are awards presented by other entities than the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). However, this is the actual official one awarded to Elvis. It’s a surprise that this one is not already part of the huge awards display at Graceland.

Elvis - Aloha from Hawaii Platinum Record Award.

The minimum bid was a ridiculously low $500. Fifty bids later, it topped out at $9,375. That doesn’t mean fifty different people bid on it. Probably two or three collectors battled it out to win the prize. In any event, I have never seen an item of Elvis memorabilia receive fifty bids.

 

23 Private Photos and More:

Elvis - Aloha from Hawaii Platinum Record Award.

This is a treasure trove of mostly never-seen-before photographs from the estate of Trude Forsher. From 1956 until 1961, Forsher served as secretary for Col. Parker and Elvis. Here is a photo of her and Elvis in 1956.

Trude Forsher and Elvis in 1956

As you can see, Graceland Auctions now puts a watermark over the photos posted on the auction website. It took them a while to figure that out. There is no mention of why Elvis is is that unusual position.

Trude Forsher Archive Showing Elvis at Rehersal

Here’s a photo taken at a Los Angeles recording session in 1957. Cousin Gene Smith, the Jordanaires, and Bill Black join Elvis.

This collection had a total of 42 bids and finally went for $6,250. Seems like a very good deal for all these photos and other stuff

 

1950s Original 35mm Negatives of Elvis Presley Jam Session with Scotty Moore

35mm Negatives of Elvis Presley Jam Session with Scotty Moore

For the same price of $6,250, someone bought a set of just six Elvis pictures (not shown – a near duplicate and one shot that doesn’t include Elvis). According to the auction website, the pictures were taken at a rehearsal in 1955. They do not say this was at Sun Studios, but the folks who placed 35 bids must have thought so. Why else would the winner have paid such a high price?

 

Union 76 Gold Cards:

Elvis Union 76 Gas Gold Card

Elvis credit cards show up from time to time. This one went for $3,375. Wow.

 

1966 Tennessee License Plate:

Elvis Presley’s 1966 Tennessee License Plate

This license plate went for $3,500, thanks in part to the nice display. However, the auction website said the plate was originally on Elvis’ 1967 Lincoln Continental. I don’t think that is the car in the picture.

The plate was originally owned by EPE, but they put it up for auction back in 1999 Graceland Archives Auction in Las Vegas. They sold a whole bunch of stuff then. I wonder if they wish they had it back now that they are about to open the new “Elvis: The Entertainer” museum at Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

 

March 4 2017 Auction at Graceland

Speaking of Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the new, state-of-the-art entertainment complex, which will have its grand opening on March 2-5. Yes, there will be another Auction at Graceland as part of the festivities. I’ll bet they will have no trouble finding another 165 or so new memorabilia items to bid on.
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© 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.