Category Archives: THE MOST UNUSUAL ELVIS ARTICLES ON THE WEB

Are There Any Collectible Elvis Figurines That Actually Look Like Elvis?

Elvis Presley Collectible Vinyl Figures

That’s a pretty scary face looking out from this box. It says ELVIS, but does it really look much like him? This is the latest collectible Elvis figurine. It is made by Kidrobot and is available on Graceland.com for $14.99.

Elvis Vinyl Figure '68 Special by Kidrobot

Here’s another view. It is the ’68 Special black leather version, and it doesn’t look much like Elvis to me, either, except maybe the lip snarl.

Elvis Gold Lame Vinyl Collectible

And this is the other option – Gold Lamé Elvis. Both are 4-1/2 inches tall, which means the head is about 2-1/2 inches. That should be plenty big enough to allow decent design and art work that looks like Elvis.

 

Back in 2008, I did an article on Tiny Elvis Heads from various figurines on the market over the years. I realized how difficult the task was when the head was just ¾” tall, like this:

Elvis and Priscilla Barbie Doll Collector Set

This one is the Elvis and Priscilla Barbie Doll Set, and his eyes are just creepy. But, like I said, it must be hard to mold and paint a good Elvis on such a tiny head.

Elvis Jailhouse Rock Christmas Ornament

Here’s what I call the skinny Elvis head Jailhouse Rock Christmas tree ornament. I’ve realized you could make a collection of just Jailhouse Rock Elvis figurines.

Elvis Nodnik

This charming thing is called an Elvis Nodnik.

Elvis Jailhouse Rock Bobblehead

This is called the Wacky Wobbler Bobblehead. There is another set of Elvis bobbleheads offered by Royal Bobbles, but no Jailhouse Rock design, just ’68 Special and Las Vegas Jumpsuit.

NECO Jumpsuit Elvis Bobblehead

Believe it or not, there is a third set of Elvis bobble heads by Neco.  And you have to say this head is very well done, easily identified without the jumpsuit or the name on the base.

 

Mini Black Elvis Nutcracker

However, if this nutcracker didn’t have the name on the base, who would ever guess it was Elvis? I do like the guitar strung over his shoulder, though. Here’s another nutcracker that’s maybe a little better.

Elvis Phoenix Jumpsuit Nutcracker

The Phoenix jumpsuit helps, but it still needs the name on the base.

 

While we are talking about bad images, how about this horrible one?

Elvis Jailhouse Rock n Sock Em Robot

I wonder if they ever sold any of these. Why would anybody want one?

 

Elvis Windshield Bobbler

I actually have one of these hanging in a window across the room, but I really like the way the photographer framed Elvis with the Graceland wall in the background.

 

Jumpsuit Elvis Pez

This is one of three PEZ Elvis that came in this tin display. The head is just over ½ inch high, so the PEZ designers deserve praise for coming up with a good tiny Elvis.

 

Elvis Bobble-Car Wacky Wobbler

This is a nice variation in Elvis figurines, and the face is pretty good.

 

Barbie Collectibles three doll Tommy as Elvis

Uggggh! This looks more like Kim Jung Un than Elvis.

 

Barbie Blue Hawaii Elvis Presley Doll

Blue Hawaii Elvis is not too common in the figurine themes. The top four are Jailhouse Rock, ’68 Special Black Leather, Aloha White Jumpsuit, and Gold Lamé. Others include G.I. Elvis and young Elvis wearing a sport coat.

 

Let’s finish up with the best of the Elvis figurines. That title goes to McFarlane Toys was started in 1994 by Todd McFarlane, a comic book creator and illustrator. His first figurines were the characters from his Spawn comic series. He has now produced hundreds of figures including cartoon horror icons, sports legends, dragons, the Simpsons, the Beatles, and many more.

McFarlane Elvis Wearing White Suit from '68 Special

Now this looks like Elvis. I also like it because it features Elvis dressed in a different outfit than in those other sets. I’m sure you recognize it as the white suit he wore in the ’68 Special when he sang “If I Can Dream.”

 

McFarlane Toys Elvis Jailhouse Rock

This is so good. Look at this close up to see how well McFarlane captured Elvis’ likeness.

McFarlane Jailhouse rock Elvis Side View

I’m really impressed with the quality of this Elvis reproduction. I don’t think they are still in production, but when I searched for good images, I found them for sale on eBay and other places.

 

Mr Potatohead Jumpsuit Elvis with Black Guitar

If you would prefer a fun Elvis figurine over an accurate one, there is always the Mr. Potato Head Elvis. I have the whole set.

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

 

Elvis Paper Dolls

Elvis The Paper Doll Book

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

Elvis The Early Years Paperdoll Book

Elvis - The Paperdoll Book

Rock and Roll Legends Paper Dolls

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

Cut-Out Dolls for Grown-Up Girls

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

ELVIS A Paper Doll Portfolio

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

 

Better Looking Elvis Body

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

Elvis The Paperdoll Book

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

Three Elvis Presley Bodies for Paper Dolls

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

 

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

Priscilla Presley body for Paper Dolls

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

 

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

 

Skinny Elvis:

Jailhouse Rock Paper Doll

Elvis the Kid Paper Doll

Jam Session

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

Rockabilly Cat Paper Doll

 

Grumpy Elvis:

Elvis' Gold Lame Suit Paper Doll

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

 

Elvis' Army Dress Uniform Paper Doll

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

Elvis' Army Field Uniform Paper Doll

 

Elvis Ed Sullivan Show Paper Doll

Elvis Love Me tender Paper Doll

Jam Session

Elvis Loving You Paper DollLoving You

Elvis' Charro Paper Doll

You can really see the short leg on this one.

On the Road

Elvis' On the Road Paper Doll

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

 

Stocky Elvis:

Black and Gold Jumpsuit

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

Elvis' Phoenix Jumpsuit Paper Doll

The Comeback

Elvis' American Eagle Jumpsuit Paper Doll

Elvis' King Creole Jumpsuit

The movie outlets all had correct names.

Elvis' Harum Scarum Paper Doll

Elvis' Viva Las Vegas Paper Doll

Elvis' 68 Comeback Special Paper Doll

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

 

Elvis' Blue Hawaii Paper Doll

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

 

Priscilla:

 

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

Elvis and Priscilla Paper Doll Outfits

 

 

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

 

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

 

Memphis Mafia Organizational Chart

Marty Lacker's chart of Elvis' Memphis Mafia Individual Responsibilities

This image is too small for reading, so don’t try. In this post we will dissect and expand it to show the individual responsibilities of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia circa January 1965. As you know, the men making up this unique group varied as some left (or left and came back) or were added as the years went by. But in late 1964 and early 1965, the guys who took care of Elvis’ every need were:

Marty Lacker
Red West
Billy Smith
Richard Davis
Joe Esposito
Jerry Shilling
Mike Keaton

And there was a specific order of responsibilities as shown in the following organizational chart distilled from the above image.

Elvis' Memphis Mafia Flow Chart

 

So, it appears Red West and Billy Smith had special relationships with Elvis and reported directly to him. But Richard Davis, Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, and Mike Keaton all reported to Marty Lacker.

Marty Lacker and Elvis Presley

Marty Lacker as co-best man at Elvis’ wedding

I never knew Marty was such an important member of the Memphis Mafia.

And, like most of you, I had never heard of Mike Keaton.

 

So what is this document that shows the power ranking among Elvis’ guys? It was part of a ten-page lot offered at the recent Auction at Graceland.

1965 Elvis Presley Memphis Mafia Duties and Responsibilities Chart

It had a pre-auction estimate of $5-10,000, but bidding failed to reach the minimum of $2,500. In the early 1980s, Lacker transferred ownership of these papers to Mike L. Moon for display in the Elvis Museum. I suspect we will see them up for auction again.

 

Marty Lacker's Elvis Responsibilities

This blow-up refers to Marty as Foreman, a term I had not come across before regarding the Memphis Mafia. The boxes beside his name, spell out his duties in both Memphis and Los Angeles. With Elvis making three movies a year, he and the guys traveled back and forth between the two cities.

In Memphis, Marty’s responsibilities were:

All personal financial business, including, especially, money.
Elvis’ personal mail
Business with the Col’s office.
Responsible to Elvis for entire operation
Upkeep of bus

Item # 4 is the biggie. We have read that Marty Lacker was Elvis’ personal bookkeeper and secretary, but who knew he was responsible for the whole operation?

The list for Marty Lacker’s responsibilities in Los Angeles is essentially the same. However, one of the other pages in this package expanded on Marty’ functions at both locations. I like this one – Purchase records for Elvis. This makes sense, because Marty had business interests in the recording industry and lots of contacts. So, maybe he had better taste than the other guys in what music would appeal to Elvis.

In L.A, Marty also had to work with the studio heads for Elvis. I guess he was some kind of buffer between Col. Parker. The last two other L.A. assignments make no sense to me – weekly food menu and grocery shopping. It seems strange for the guy running the whole operation to do the food shopping.

 

Red West's Elvis Responsibilities

At the top left of the chart is Red West, Elvis’ friend since high school, and he had a sweet deal – Assistant to Elvis and Available to assist others as needed. So I guess he just got to hang out and be Elvis’ buddy both in Memphis and L.A. Of course, Red served as bodyguard, so I wonder why that wasn’t mentioned.

 

Billy Smith's Elvis Responsibilities

At the top right of the chart is Elvis’ cousin, Billy Smith. The religious symbols drawn below his name and elsewhere must have been some kind of doodling by Marty Lacker, because this document was in his possession at all times. Billy Smith’s responsibilities in Memphis were rather light – Elvis’ shoes, Elvis’ razor, and be available daily if needed by Elvis. However, there is a separate sheet with a more detailed list (and a bunch of drawings of Elvis). It was also the only one to be typed

Billy Smith - expanded list of Elvis responsibilities

Billy had to keep Elvis’ shoes polished and repaired, and Elvis’ razor had to be cleaned and kept charged. A new duty was added: Elvis’ clothes – work with Richard, keep cleaned and hung upstairs in dressing room.

I like the longer explanation of be available if needed by Elvis. Here Marty gets a lot more specific about Billy’s duties: Be at Graceland by at least 2:30 P.M. each day, unless notified otherwise. (If for any reason you cannot make it by that time on any day, please tell Marty the night before).

Unlike Red West who had the same job of being Elvis’ buddy in both locations, Billy Smith had some real responsibilities added when they were in Los Angeles.

Upkeep and care of portable dressing room on set each day.
Elvis’ clothes. (Receive dirty clothes from Richard. Keep a list of them, then send to cleaners. Upon return from cleaners, remove and save tickets, then give clothes to Richard to be hung in closets. Give all tickets to Marty at end of each month to be checked against bill).
Assist Elvis with each change of wardrobe at studio
Keep Elvis’ black kit stocked with needed items and carry it for him when necessary
And Elvis’ shoes and razor as already explained.

 

Richard Davis' Elvis Responsibilities

Now we get to the two men listed as assistants to Marty. All fans know that Richard Davis was Elvis’ wardrobe guy and shopped for his clothes, but he had some other jobs, too. In Memphis, he took care of the vehicles (wash, gas, repairs), and he oversaw the stocking of needed items for Elvis in the kitchen and the rest of the house. He was also expected to be at Graceland by 1:30 every day.

There are two other Memphis responsibilities on his expanded list that I find interesting. Richard had to buy six copies of TV Guide and distribute them to Elvis’ room, the kitchen, Marty’s room, the downstairs den, and two other places with unfamiliar names. The conference room – I guess that was the dining room because Elvis ate all his meals in the kitchen. The Graceland room – I guess that would be the living room.

Richard was also expected to take care of business for Elvis, along with Joe Esposito, in the Marty’s absence. Thus the title of Assistant to Marty we see in the graph.

In Los Angeles, Richard got to oversee the running of the house on Bellagio Road. This included menu preparation and grocery shopping. I wonder why Marty would do that in Memphis and Richard would do it in L.A. Handling fan mail shifted from Marty to Richard, who also handled business calls at the house when Marty was absent.

As in Memphis, Richard Davis was responsible for the cars, bought the TV Guides, and was responsible for stocking the kitchen and bar. But my favorite of his duties is this: Keep water, gum, cigars(ettes), Blistex on set for Elvis when Jerry not available. Among Richard’s wardrobe responsibilities was: Select clothes to take to studio each morning. Return at night to Jerry.

 

Joe Esposito's Elvis Responsibilities

Joe Esposito, the other Assistant to Marty, had few daily responsibilities while Elvis was in Memphis. On an as needed basis, he would drive car for Elvis, handle miscellaneous business for Elvis, and make and confirm appointments such as doctor, dentist, house repairs, and prescriptions. He also had fill-in duties: Assume household responsibilities in Richard’s absence, and take care of business along with Richard in Marty’s absence.

When Elvis was making movies In Los Angeles, Joe had several important functions. He maintained Elvis’ script, marking daily scenes and keeping it available on set. He assisted Marty conducting business with the studio. In Marty’s absence, he handled business with Col. Parker. He assisted Elvis with wardrobe in Billy’s absence

Marty Lacker deserves credit for thinking ahead and making certain all his and the others guys’ functions had back-ups.

 

Jerry Schilling's Elvis Responsibilities

Jerry Schilling had it almost as easy as Red West when Elvis was in Memphis. He was responsible for upkeep of the Cadillac limo. There’s no telling why Richard was charged with all the other cars. Jerry also kept the cigar boxes stocked in the den, car, and Elvis’ room, plus he notified Richard of needed cigar box items. He assisted with Elvis’ clothes. Here’s the one I really like: Be available if needed whenever Elvis comes down from his room.

Marty definitely made sure people were around when Elvis woke up and started his day.

The sheet with Jerry Schilling’s expanded duties included two regarding Elvis’ private screening of movies. He had to check with the theater, and bring Elvis and Priscilla large cups of water at the movie.

When Elvis was in L,A., Jerry got some new jobs in addition to the cigar duty, assisting Billy with the clothes, and being around at night for Elvis’ companionship. Now he took care of the studio golf cart, purchased the afternoon paper at the studio, and kept glasses of ice water, cigarettes, etc on set for Elvis. And here’s the big one: Assisted Mike with ice for set dressing room each morning. How can ice detail take more than one man?

Jerry’s expanded responsibility list had this: Check with assistant director after each take, scene, or delay, as to how much time before next shot and what it will be.

 

Mike Keaton's Elvis Responsibilities

Finally, we come to this fellow Mike Keaton, who has been unknown to us up until now. He was a friend of Jerry Schilling and Elvis hired him in late September 1964. There are several familiar Memphis Mafia names who were not on the organizational chart, even though their tenure started before 1965 and ended after it. So, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, Lamar Fike, and Alan Fortas must have been away from the scene for a while perusing singing careers, acting, or something else.

Thus, Elvis needed some new blood, and Jerry recruited Mike Keaton. When Elvis interviewed Mike, he learned the new guy was a member of the Assembly of God church, which the Presleys had attended when Elvis was a kid. Then Elvis found out that Mike’s wife was named Gladys. That clinched it for Elvis, and he hired him on the spot.

To be honest, many of the responsibilities listed for Mike in both locations duplicate many of those listed for other guys. The only different jobs listed for Memphis are picking up and returning movies, and maintaining the 16m mm film projector. In Los Angeles, he purchased two copies of the trades papers each morning at the studio, and he brought the daily call sheets to the Colonel’s office.

 

Graceland Kitchen

Graceland Kitchen

The last sheet in the auction package did not apply to anyone. It was a general list of 31 items to be “kept in kitchen and house for Elvis — at all times — every day.” I believe you will be able to read it, so I’ll skip typing it.

Elvis' Graceland 1965 - Items to be kept in kitchen and house at all times

 

So, maybe Marty Lacker’s Memphis Mafia Organizational Chart and related pages didn’t sell for $2,500, but they did give us a free look at how Elvis’ every need was provided by a group of seven men.

 

Next week we’ll look at some of the items at the Auction at Graceland that did sell.

 

 

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

 

 

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

An Elvis Movie You’ll Want to Skip

Elvis Lives Poster

When the movie Elvis & Nixon was released last year, I grumbled in an ElvisBlog post about how it featured an ugly-looking Elvis.

Michael Shannon as Elvis in Elvis & Nixon

Michael Shannon as Elvis.

In the blog article I questioned the why producers would portray an ugly Elvis when he was one of the best-looking men that ever lived. Well, they’ve done it again.

Elvis Lives Actor as Elvis Close-up

If this guy was an Elvis Tribute Artist would you pay money to see him? No, and you don’t want to watch him in a movie either. At 10pm on Wednesday, August 16, that movie, Elvis Lives, will appear on cable channel AXS TV. This network offered two good Elvis documentary movies in the preceding weeks: ELVIS That’s The Way It Is (Aug. 1), and This Is Elvis (Aug. 8), and the following week: Elvis On Tour (August 22).

But on the big day, the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death, they will show a movie the New York Times website review slammed. Elvis is portrayed as “paranoid, delusional and rabidly opposed to illegal drugs, though he shovels in the prescription variety like candy.”

Actor as Elvis Popping Pills in Elvis Lives

This is one scene of Elvis popping pills, and there are many others throughout the movie. In fact, Elvis’ first line of dialog is “I want my pills.”

The film degrades Elvis’ memory even more with scenes of him screwing up song lyrics, and drinking hard liquor (which shows how little the script writers actually know about Elvis).

Actor as Elvis Drinking hard Liquor

 

So who is this guy they chose to be Elvis in the movie? His name is Johnathan Nation, and when I searched for publicity photos of him, they all seemed to be from several years ago.

Jonathan Nation

I never heard of him, so I checked out his film credits on IMDb (a great website you should check out if you want to know more about a movie or TV show). Here are some of the highlights of Johnathan Nation’s career.

Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus

Johnathan Nation had fourth billing in this 2009 movie. Do you think he got better rolls in better movies in later years?

Erotic Vampires of Beverly Hills

In 2015 he had eighth billing in Erotic Vampires of Beverly Hills. Uh, oh. Going the wrong way. So, AXS TV hardly got themselves a hot actor to portray Elvis.

Part of the movie takes place six months after his supposedly faked death. Picking up on one of those fantasies that permeated Elvis world for a few years, Elvis is in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. And guess what name they give him for his new life — Jesse Garon. Give me a break. Of course nobody would suspect he was Elvis using that name. Well, actually they might not, because the guy looks like this.

Actor as Elvis without Hair Dye

 

Here is why Elvis supposedly needed to disappear and start a new life:

FBI Catches Mobster with Help from Elvis

Now the whole mob, called the Fraternity, is out to get Elvis.

Actor in Elvis Lives Holding Gun

 

So, unless you have a morbid curiosity or are a glutton for punishment, be sure to skip Elvis Lives on August 16. There are so many better ways to honor the memory of Elvis Presley.

 

There are a couple of interesting things associated with this movie.

Billionaire Mark Cuban is the founder and CEO of AXS TV, the cable channel showing it. The press release says, he commissioned the film after working with The Asylum [the production company] on Sharknado 3 (2015), in which he played Marcus Robbins, the President of the United States.

Sharknado 3

The Sharknado movies have been branded as “proudly, shamelessly, and gloriously brainless” by movie website Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of this, a press release from Asylum’s president says, “we intend to do for the life of Elvis Presley what Sharknado did for flying sharks.”

That’s just what Elvis fans want, right?

And there’s more stupid stuff. Before he decided to actually run for president, Donald Trump tried to get the part as the president in Sharknado 3 that eventually went to Mark Cuban.

Donald Trump Wanted to Play the President in Sharknado 3

And last, (and definitely least) Sharknado 3 features a cameo by Anthony Weiner.

 

Here’s one more thing that emphasizes my opinion about the movie that’s the topic of this post. Neil Genzlinger, the NY Times website movie reviewer suggested they make a sequel to Elvis Lives and call it

Elvis vs. Mega Squid in the Bermuda Triangle

 

It might be an improvement.

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
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Elvis’ First Guitar — Part 2

Elvis Presley's First Guitar in front of Picture

When I posted the article last weekend on Elvis’ first guitar, I had no idea of what was to follow. There were more favorable comments on this post than any other in a long time. For example, Collette C. sent in this:

Oh, this story was fantastic. I can see his mama grinning from ear to ear when she got her way. As a mom I know how she felt! I just love this blog. Thank you so much.

Selma S. had this to say:

Phil, I am relatively new to your blogs, and as a lifelong Elvis fan, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to your email landing in my inbox.

Your dedicated research, your ability to write a logical story and your way of bringing the emotions to life are matched by the fresh information you bring.

As much as I appreciated these, I was more intrigued by this comment made by an unidentified member of the Tupelo Elvis Fan Club:

I believe Mr. Larry Moss of Memphis owns the original guitar.

Larry Moss at Tupelo Hardware with Elvis Presley's First Guitar.

Larry Moss with Elvis’ first guitar in Tupelo Hardware, June 2017, at Tupelo Elvis Festival

I replied to the comment and asked a few questions about Larry Moss. Within hours, I heard from him:

Great story and great due diligence. I am the person who owns the “Tupelo Special” guitar as some people call it… I’ll gladly discuss the details, if you’re interested…Larry Moss.

I jumped at the chance to learn more about Elvis’ first guitar, and Larry and I talked for an hour on Friday.

Larry Moss Collection 1

It turns out he and his wife Judy are major collectors of all sorts of Elvis memorabilia. They are kept in a secure, private location, but Larry has been known to let special people view his collection. When I get back to Memphis again, I will be thrilled to take up his offer for a guided tour.

Larry Moss and his wife started collecting back in 1973 when they got boxing champ Joe Frazier’s autograph on a dollar bill.

Elvis Presley's Contract with Col. Parker

Now Larry and Judy’s collection amounts to hundreds of Elvis items, a very eclectic mix. For example, Larry owns the original contract Elvis signed with Col. Parker in November 1955. Vernon and Gladys also signed because Elvis was a minor at the time.

 

There is an interesting history to Elvis’ first guitar between the time Elvis had it and today when it occupies a prime space in the Moss’ museum-like collection.

Red West And George Klein with Elvis first guitar

Red West and George Klein with Elvis’ first guitar

Elvis and the guitar were inseparable during his time in Tupelo, throughout high school in Memphis, at the first recording sessions at Sun records, and on the road performing early in his career. Back in the summer of 1955, Elvis and the band toured throughout the South. Red West was Elvis’ friend from their high school days, and Elvis asked him to travel with them. During off-time, Red took an interest in guitar playing, and Scotty Moore taught him the basics.

As the end of summer approached, Red told Elvis he would be leaving to attend Jones County Community College in Mississippi on a football scholarship. Elvis bought his friend a used Ford Model A or Modal T (a forerunner of things to come). By that time, Elvis had purchased better guitars, so he also gave his first guitar to Red so he could continue to master the instrument.

Red’s best friend and roommate in college was Ronnie Williams, another scholarship football player. He was a fan of Elvis because he liked all of the first Sun releases. Ronnie would talk to Red all the time about Elvis.

Even with a scholarship, Red found himself financially unable to stay in college. He sold the car for $50 and gave the guitar to Ronnie Williams. He later stated that the reason he did this was because Ronnie was such a big Elvis fan (plus Red couldn’t afford a case to properly carry it around). Red went back to work for Elvis as a bodyguard.

Shortly after that, Ronnie Williams transferred to Florida State. Later, he was killed (possibly shot by the police, details are fuzzy.) The guitar ended up with his brother, Bill Williams, who in 2011, tried to sell Elvis’ first guitar at Guernsey’s Auction House in New York.

Guernsey’s February 2016 Guitar Auction

Guernsey’s February 2016 Guitar Auction

The guitar had a minimum bid of $200,000, or possibly $250,000 (details are unclear), but no bidders wanted to pay that much for a guitar with absolutely no validation presented. There was no documentation to tie it to Elvis, particularly no photo of Elvis holding the guitar.

This is where the current owner, Larry Moss, came into the picture. He had an association with Guernsey’s Auctions from when they held the Archives of Graceland Auction in Las Vegas in 1999. Gurnsey’s Arlan Ettinger contacted Larry and gave him the name and phone number of the man who had put the guitar up at auction. Over several months, Larry Moss and Bill Williams negotiated, and finally, Larry Moss became the owner of Elvis’ first guitar.

He took a gamble, but had a connection he figured would help him prove the provenance of the guitar. His father played football at Humes High with Red West’s dad. Larry conducted interviews with Red in 2013 and 2014, and has nearly a half-hour of tape where Red provides valuable confirmation that the guitar is in fact Elvis’ first guitar. Larry is in negotiations with Graceland right now, so no more details can be given.

 

Scotty and Larry Moss with Guitars

Photo by James V. Roy

Larry Moss owns several other prized guitars. In the 2013 photo above, Scotty Moore holds a Gibson ES-295, the one he played when “That’s All Right, Mama” was recorded. This is Larry’s second most valuable guitar. You can spot it in the next photo (taken before Larry acquired Elvis’ guitar).

Larry Moss Collection Guitar Close-up

Photo by James V Roy

 

The collection also includes many items of Elvis’ wardrobe and five of his rings, which will be featured at a later date in a special edition of the ElvisBlog series, “Elvis’ Fabulous Rings.” Here are some of Elvis’ clothes and movie wardrobe.

Jacket Elvis wore in Million Dollar Quartet

This is the jacket Elvis wore when the guys jammed around in Sun studios, creating the iconic Million Dollar Quartet.

Million Dollar Quartet

 

Larry Moss’ collection includes another famous Elvis jacket — the one he wore during the Jailhouse Rock dance sequence.

Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock Dance Outfit

Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock Dance Outfit Placard

 

Do you know what was Elvis’ first jumpsuit to have a cape? It is called the White Fireworks Suit, and Elvis wore it in 1971 and 1972. It now is a star in Larry Moss’ collection.

Elvis Presley's First Jumpsuit with a Cape - Front

Elvis Presley's First Jumpsuit with a Cape - Back

 

As stated earlier, ElvisBlog will soon do a feature on the Elvis rings in Larry Moss’ collection. There are great stories to tell about some of these rings. There will also be a post about Elvis’ third cape for his American Eagle jumpsuit. Yes, the third. There’s a great story here, too.

Elvis Presley's American Eagle Cape

 

 

Like I said at the start of this article, I had no idea what last week’s post on Elvis’ first guitar would lead to.

Elvis Presley's First Guitar in Case

Photo by James V Roy

 

Now, thanks to Larry Moss, I have a treasure trove of stories and pictures to share with you.

 

The photos above credited to James V Roy appeared on www.scottymoore.net. If you want to see more photos, go to Scotty’s site.  Scroll to the bottom of the home page and type these into the search box: Elvis’ First Guitar, The Moss Collection, and The George Klein Interviews.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Celebrating National Selfie Day with Elvis

National Selfie Day

Elvis did not live during the age of smart phones with cameras, but it’s fun to think of the selfies he might have taken if he’d had that opportunity back then. In a slightly late homage to National Selfie Day on June 21, here are some ideas I’ve come up with.

 

Elvis Selfie 1

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Elvis Selfie 2

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Elvis Selfie 3

 

Elvis Selfie 7

 

Elvis Selfie 5

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Elvis selfie 4

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Elvis Selfie 8

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Elvis Selfie 9

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Elvis Selfie 10

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Elvis Selfie 12

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Elvis Selfie 11

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Elvis Selfie 13

 

Don’t you wish you could have taken a selfie with Elvis?

 

 

© 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.

 

Celebrating the 50th Birthday of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band — Elvis Style

Sgt. Pepper Cover With Elvis

Can it really be a half century since the Beatles released their landmark album Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band? Yes, it hit the stores on June 2, 1967.

Much of the print, TV and internet media is now covering this milestone, so ElvisBlog will, too – with an Elvis slant, of course. In the picture above, Elvis fits in nicely with the Fab Four. Carol Stephens, who did the fine cover for my book, Big E and the Santa Man, added Elvis wearing a costume from his film Frankie and Johnny.

Sgt. Elvis' Lonely Hearts Club Band

I found this picture on the internet. It must have taken somebody a long time to replace three-dozen people with Elvis shots. It’s fun to pick out the photos from his movies and the notable events in his career. See those two concrete busts at the bottom of the picture? I have one of those out on my back deck. The squirrels often sit on his head and eat acorns.

 

Monkees Lonely Hearts Club band

Sgt. Peppers is one of the most photoshopped album covers ever. This one featuring the Monkees has lot of recognizable faces.

 

Brexit Lonely Hearts Club Band

This is an interesting composite.  It pays homage to all the celebrities who died in 2016, plus Brexit.  David Bowie and Prince are easy to spot, but can you find Glenn Frey?

 

Phish Lonely hearts Club Band

Back to rock bands again. Is that four Elvises in white jumpsuits and shades on the top right?

 

Lego Lonely Hearts Club Band

How do you like the Lego figures replacing the Beatles in this one? They also replaced Elvis in another of the most altered album covers.

50,000,000 Lego Fans Can't Be Wrong

 

Let’s take a look at some more variations of Elvis’ album 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t be Wrong.

9,000,000 Facebook Fans Can't Be Wrong

Only 9,000,000?

 

50,000,000 Elvis Costello Fans Can't Be Wrong

Uh, oh. The wrong Elvis.

 

Rod Stewart - Body Wishes

Red leather(?). Not as cool as gold lame.

 

Hail to the King All star Tribute

They put Roy Orbison, Link Wray, Jeff Beck, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis in gold lame suits. I wish they had done Little Richard, too.

 

50,000,000 Santa fans Can't be Wrong

There are Santa fans.

50,000,000 Elves Fans Can't Be Wrong

And even Elves fans,  Don’t you like Santa in gold lame?

 

100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong

Bon Jovi upped the ante to 100,000,000 fans.

 

I guess this post got a little off subject. Let’s get back to the Beatles.

300,000 Beatles Fans Can't Be Wrong

Yeah, I paired up the Beatles and Elvis again. Here is the last time.

Elvis Looking Over The Beatles

I really like this image.

 

Happy 50th birthday, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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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.

 

Soundstage A — The New Epicenter of Elvis Week

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

I posted this aerial shot last week to show how much bigger Elvis Presley’s Memphis is compared to Graceland Plaza. Then I got curious about what the different buildings are. So I went to Graceland.com and found this:

Map of Elvis Presley's Memphis

Wow, there’s numbers in blue squares, more numbers in black circles, letters in black diamonds, and other symbols. And to figure out what is what, this code was provided:

Map of Elvis Presley's Memphis - Copy

Okay, let’s see. There are 15 attractions and exhibits and four places to eat. Then there was a separate list of six stores. I went back and forth to figure out what was what, but finally had to create this:

Finished Map of Elvis Presley's Memphis

 

Maybe in a later post we’ll look at the exhibits in detail. For now, just note the new auto museum on the top left, the huge Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum that’s got all the stuff they moved from across the street, and finally Soundstage A with the circle around it.

SoundStage A

 

This theater is huge. It seats 1,700 people; nearly quadruple the 464 at the Graceland Guest House Theater. The website says this about Soundstage A:

The Soundstage will be an extraordinary venue for live music performances, movie screenings and premieres, video productions… It will also be usable for private events, corporate meetings, conferences and trade show exhibitions.

During the Grand Opening, Soundstage A played host to a variety of live music acts that showcased the history of music in Memphis and the best of Memphis music today.

 

Side View of Soundstage A

This is Soundstage A from the side. It’s a big building, 20,000 square feet. You go through the gate and up to the ticket office. Turn right there and you are headed toward the theater entrance.

Walk to Ticket Office at Elvis Presley's Memphis

 

I think it is fair to say that Soundstage A will be the epicenter of Elvis Week festivities this year. It will host fifteen different events over a nine-day period. Here’s the list:

Elvis Week 2017 Fifteen Events at Soundstage A

EPE did a fine job scheduling two big parties on the first day, Friday the 11th. This should encourage some folks to come early.

So, there are five concerts: a gospel music show, three Ultimate Elvis contests, A Band of Legends Remembers Elvis, and The Ultimate Return.  I love that title, and it works because the concert features ten past Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist winners. That should be quite a show.

Those four different 10 AM Conversations all sound good.

Elvis 101 could be a sure thing for me. It’s got some guests I’d like to hear. The Salute to Sam Phillips is half talk and half music.

 

Hopefully these brief comments have made you want to know more. For full details on all of these events at Soundstage A, please click here.

There, you can also read about the events at the Guest House Theater and ballroom, The Fedex Forum, and the Elvis Week Entertainment Tent. The tent will be at Graceland somewhere, but right now they can’t tell you. That problem surely will be solved by Elvis Week.

Soundstage A and Exhibits

 

Yes, there are other strong Elvis Week events not at Soundstage A. But it is going to be one busy place. Fifteen events in nine days. Sounds like the epicenter of Elvis Week to me.

 

 

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.

 

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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© 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.