Elvis’ Original Graceland Piano Returns to the Music Room

Elvis' Knabe Grand Piano

 

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

Most Significant Musical Artifact

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

 

Knabe Piano Logo and Keys

 

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

Elvis Standing in front of Knabe Piano

 

History of Knabe Pianos:

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

 

Owners Before Elvis:

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

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

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

 

Elvis and Ellis Auditorium:

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

Ellis Autorium, Memphis Tennessee

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

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

 

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

Elvis' Concerts at Ellis Auditorium 1955

Fourth Billing February 1955  — Top Billing November 1955

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

Elvis Performing at Ellis Auditorium

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

 

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

Elvis Playing Knabe Piano

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Elvis Had the White Knabe Grand Piano Refurbished:

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

Blackwood had a fond memory of Elvis and the piano:

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

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

According to Elvis’ close friend George Klein:

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

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

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The End of the Knabe at Graceland:

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

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

 

Elvis Presley's Knabe Grand Piano

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Interesting Elvis Memorabilia – Part 37

The Auction at Graceland Sign

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

2017 Elvis Auctions

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

 

1954 Elvis Presley Ceiling Hanger Advertisement:

 

1954 Elvis Presley Ceiling Hanger Advertisement

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

 

Signed 1953 Humes High School Yearbook:

Signed 1953 Humes High School Yearbook

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two Reels of 8mm Film from 1959-62:

Two Reels of 8mm Film from 1959-62

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Necklace – Possibly Stage-Worn in 1957:

Elvis Presley Necklace - Possibly Stage-Worn in 1957

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

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

 

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

Complete Set of Five Elvis Presley Sun Records 45 RPM Records

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

The collection includes:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

1956 Signed Copy of His First Album Elvis Presley:

Signed Elvis Presley Album

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Elvis Fabulous Wardrobe – Part 7

Elvis Presley's Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket -- Back

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

Blue Armadillo Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket:

Elvis' Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket

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

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

Elvis' Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket - Wearing

 

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

 

Motorcycle Cap Gifted to Elvis’ Uncle Vester Presley:

Elvis Presley's Motorcycle Cap Gifted to Uncle Vester

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

 

Three Pair of Pants from Elvis Movies:

Three pair of Elvis Presley's Movie Pants

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

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

Elvis wore the Flaming Star pants throughout the entire film.

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

Elvis Presley's Flaming Star Beige Western Jeans

 

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

Label on Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas Pants

 

And all three had Letters of Authenticity.

Elvis' Easy Come, Easy Go Pants Certificate of Authenticity

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

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

 

Brown Leather Jacket:

Elvis Presley's Brown Leather Jacket

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

Elvis Presley's Brown Leather Jacket Sears Label

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

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

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

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

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

Electric Purple Button-Down Shirt:

Elvis Presley's Electric Purple Button-Down Shirt

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

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

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

 

Rabbit Fur Coat:

Elvis Presley's Rabbit Fur Coat

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

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

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

 

Red “Elephant Corduroy” Suit:

Elvis Presley's Red “Elephant Corduroy” Suit

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Suede, Leather, and Fur-Trimmed Jacket:

Elvis Presley's Elvis Suede and Fur-Trimmed Jacket

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

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

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

 

Brown Velvet Jacket, Pants and Cape Ensemble:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cape with Tiger Skin Pattern on the Lining:

Tiger Skin Lining of Elvis' Lava Jumpsuit

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

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

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

Elvis Presley's Lava Jumpsuit - closeup

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

Elvis Presly in Lava Jumpsuit

This photo was not shown on auction website.

 

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

 

 

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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.

Sharing an Elvis Fan’s Sentiments 40 Years Later

Newspaper Headline of Elvis' Death

This is the front page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal on the day after Elvis died. Just about every newspaper in the country had something similar. There were also many articles in their inner pages that featured the heart-felt sentiments from Elvis fans. Reporters sought them out.

But one journalist wrote her own personal story — Linda Deutsch, a 33-year-old Associated Press reporter who had loved Elvis since she was twelve.

Young Linda Deutsch

Linda’s story went out on the AP newswire to all the papers and was printed by many. I couldn’t find a photo of it on Google, but the original transmission paper showed up at last year’s Elvis Week Auction at Graceland.

I Was an Elvis Presley Fan - Linda Deutsch

 

Here is the incredibly moving personal story told by Linda Deutsch:

August 17, 1977

I was an Elvis fan. Not just an admirer who casually bought records, but a fanatic.

One of my clearest memories is the day in 1956 when I, a pre-teenager, first heard “Heartbreak Hotel” on the radio.

Soon, all the girls in penny loafers and poodle skirts were talking about this “dreamy guy,” Presley.

My junior high school girlfriends in Bradley Beach, N.J., selected me president of our own Elvis Presley Fan Club. We had nine members and held meetings in my basement.

Our local record store, stocked with Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra, placated us by ordering some 45 records by this southerner with the strange name – Elvis.

We collected his pictures, listened to his music, and danced because Elvis just made you feel like dancing.

Then, something miraculous happened. We wrote to a Memphis address found in a movie magazine. And – fantastic – we received in the mail pink membership cards signed by “The King” himself.

Ours was now an “authorized” Presley fan club in a list circulated by the singer’s manager. The mail began to pour in. We had Presley pen-pals as far away as England, Germany, and New Zealand.

Elvis had given us an identity. No matter our age, we were now “teen-agers.” Better yet, we were rebels.

Our teachers hated Elvis. Our parents didn’t understand. They looked on in befuddlement as “the fan club” screamed at the TV screen while Elvis sang on the Ed Sullivan Show. The tears when my parents forbid me to travel in a snowstorm to see soldier Elvis arrive at Ft. Dix.

Once, a friend’s mother, yielding to cries that we would “just die” if we didn’t see Elvis in person, rode a bus to Philadelphia with three giggling 13-year olds to attend an Elvis Presley concert.

We climbed to the top of the bleachers of an arena holding 28,000 frenzied kids. Flashbulbs exploded, the building shook with screams. Way down on the stage, all we could see was a tiny wiggling speck. We couldn’t hear him, but we knew it was Elvis.

“He looked at me,” shouted my trembling girlfriend.

We screamed. Kids fainted. Doctors and nurses rushed around reviving them. Our mother-chaperone was terrified. We loved every minute of it.

I never stopped loving Elvis’ music. But times changed. My best friend in high school carried a picture of Van Cliburn and wanted to be a nuclear physicist. She “tolerated” my Elvis passion.

Years later when I came to California as a journalist and covered the music industry, I had fleeting thoughts of trying to interview the “King.” I never did: perhaps I didn’t want to.

Then he died on Tuesday. It was like losing an old friend who had shared my youth and my dreams.

I realized I could still sing all the words to “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Love Me Tender.”

For the first time in my life, I felt old.

 

Do you have a lump in your throat after reading that?  Does it to me every time.

I absolutely love the lines:

“It was like losing an old friend who had shared my youth and my dreams.  

For the first time in my life, I felt old.”

 

I felt exactly the same way, and I’m sure many of you readers did too.

 

Linda Deutsch Elvis Presley Fan Club Membership Card

This is a membership card for a fan club Linda Deutsch joined in addition to the one she and her friends started. Please note the mailing address. Madison, Tennessee is where Col. Tom Parker had his office. It shows Linda was on board right from the very start when Elvis became a national phenomenon. You can almost envision Parker’s secretary putting this card in an envelope and sending it off to Linda.

 

Linda Deutsch and Dick Clark

This is Linda at age 15 with Dick Clark on American Bandstand January 8, 1959. The way she got in this memorable photo is a wonderful story of a dedicated fan’s unceasing effort to support Elvis. By now she was the president of an Elvis fan club with over 300 members, while he was in the Army and not likely to be home for another year. So, Linda started on a project and worked constantly to get it done in three weeks.

It’s hard to believe, but she got 3,500 signatures on a petition urging Dick Clark to play nothing but Elvis records for the entire program on his 24th birthday. Linda and a friend went to Philadelphia and somehow managed to get in to see Dick Clark just the day before that show. He listened to her plea, and when she rolled out the 16 foot long petition, he was convinced.

Linda Deutsch's Petition to Dick Clark

The following day, Dick Clark announced at the start of the show that he had talked to Col. Parker, and Elvis’ manager had agreed to the special program. The Colonel must have jumped at a chance for this wonderful publicity.

I applaud Linda Deutsch for being an extraordinary Elvis fan. She has achieved many other successes in her life.

As part of her duties as an Elvis fan club president, she published The Elvis Times, a newsletter that was distributed to 300 fans around the world. She wrote, typed, mimeographed it, and licked the stamps to mail it. It was her first foray into writing for a mass audience, and it stuck, giving her a life-long love for journalism. She followed her dream with stops as a reporter for the Perth Amboy (N.J.) News, the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press and the San Bernardino (Ca.) Sun, before joining the Associated Press in Los Angeles.

Linda once aspired to be an entertainment journalist, but wound up covering many celebrities in a very different venue – the courtroom.

In nearly a half century with the Associated Press, Linda Deutsch has been ranked among the foremost American courtroom journalists of modern times. She is best known for her detailed, objective reporting on some of the most sensational, newsworthy and influential trials — O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Phil Spector, Sirhan Sirhan, Charles Manson, Patty Hearst, Angela Davis, Robert Blake, and the Menendez Brothers.

 

Linda Deutsch in front of Graceland Gates - 25 Anniversary of Elvis' Death

This is a photo of Linda in front of the Graceland gates in 2002, her first visit. It was part of an article about her in an official Graceland collectible magazine, ELVIS Then & Now.

ELVIS Then & Now

This is my favorite quote from the article:

“People like Linda come to Graceland because Elvis injected energy into their lives when they needed it most — during their teenage years. You could say that Elvis provided the soundtrack to their adolescence.”

 

Linda has been back to Graceland numerous times since. And she gets to spend time with important people in Elvis world, too.

Linda Deutsch and Priscilla Presley

Linda Deutsch and Al Wertheimer

Linda Deutsch and Al Wertheimer

Linda Deutsch With Elvis Statue Feb 28, 2010

 

 

You can see that Linda Deutsch has remained an Elvis fan all her life. Like the rest of us, she will remember him this Wednesday, August 16, the 40th anniversary of his death. And along with those of us whose connection with Elvis goes way back to the beginning, we will think of him as old friend who shared our youth and our dreams.

And we will feel young.

 

Check out Linda’s website  and Facebook page to learn more about this extraordinary Elvis fan.

 

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

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Glen Campbell and Elvis

Elvis and Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell died yesterday, August 8, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

Elvis and Glen Campbell had been friends for over a decade before Campbell became a star in 1967 with songs like “Gentle on my Mind,” and “By the Time I get to Phoenix.”

Glen Campbell first met Elvis on April 12, 1956 when Elvis performed at the Armory in Albuquerque, NM.

Elvis in Albuquerque

Campbell later recalled, “I saw him in the rough. He was so electrifying.”

They remained friends over the years. When Campbell moved to Los Angeles in 1960, he started playing at a little club called the Crossbow. They had a private room upstairs seating 15 to 20 people, and Elvis would bring the guys and watch Campbell perform.

In 1963, Glen Campbell was in the group of studio musicians that backed Elvis on the soundtrack songs for Viva Las Vegas.

Elvis Presley, Red West, Glen Campbell at George Klein's wedding, 1970

Elvis Presley, Red West, and Glen Campbell at George Klein’s wedding, 1970

 

There is a video on YouTube where Campbell tells a wonderful story about Elvis. In March 1975, Campbell had just finished a run at the Las Vegas Hilton. Elvis was the next headliner, so Campbell stayed around to catch his first show. With Campbell sitting in the audience, Elvis said:

“I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine. He just closed here last night…and he should have. I’m only kidding‘, ladies and gentlemen, he’s one of the finest voices around. He plays a fair guitar, his hair never moves, Jack, no matter what he does. Naw, he’s a great friend, Glen Campbell.”

The good natured ribbing continued:

Elvis — Hey, Campbell. I understand you’re trying to do me on stage.

Glen — I am doing you. (Audience laughs)

Elvis — If you don’t stop doing me, me and the boys will sit in the front row and read newspapers during your show.

Glen — If I’m going to do you in the future, I’m gonna have to gain some weight.

With that line, the audience booed Glen Campbell. He and Elvis got together later and had a good laugh about it. Elvis gave him some good-natured grief: “You smart ass.”

 

Glen Campbell Wearing Elvis Jumpsuit - 1975

This is Glen Campbell wearing a jump suit and “doing Elvis” in 1975.

 

Good bye, Glen Campbell. We’ll miss you. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

 

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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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Surfing the Graceland Guest House Website and Facebook Page

Soundstage Aat Elvis Presley's Graceland

Two months ago, ElvisBlog looked at the Elvis Week events scheduled at Soundstage A at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. This includes six nightly concerts. In addition, there will be musical events at the Fedex Forum and the Elvis Week Entertainment Tent.

 

Guesthouse at Graceland Theater

Three months ago, we looked at some musical acts presented at the Graceland Guest House Theater. But a few days ago, I realized that all the Graceland Insider emails made no mention of any Elvis Week shows at the theater.

I couldn’t believe they would leave that beautiful new theater unused during Elvis Week, so I did some digging on www.guesthousegraceland.com.

Graceland Guest House Website

Then I clicked on EVENTS in the upper right, which brought me to this:

What's happening at Graceland

So, I clicked on DOWNLOAD MONTHLY ACTIVITIES CALENDAR.

Ongoing Events at Graceland Guest House

This is the top half of the July calendar with two musical events highlighted in yellow. The July 1 show was T.G. Shepherd, which we covered in the April blog post. The show on July 3 was the Memphis Ukulele Band.

Memphis Ukulele Band

 

Here is the bottom half of the July events calendar along with the image that follows — a promotional graphic of other diversions happening at the hotel.

Guest House Event Schedule - bottom

You will note there are no music events highlighted on the theater calendar for the rest of July.

However, you can play these lawn games: ping pong, cornhole, shuffleboard & foosball. There’s a catch -– you need to have a valid ID and credit card to rent the stuff you need from the Guest House Gift Shop. I wonder what they charge for the beanbags you use for cornhole.

 

Guest House Live Music

Depending on when you stay at the hotel, you can listen to one of these two acts in the Lobby Lounge. Something tells me they don’t play much Elvis music.  If anyone knows, please let us know in Comments.

 

EP's Happy Hour

EP’s Bar & Grill was advertised in the graphic. So, a draft beer costs $4.00 at Happy Hour. What do you think it is the rest of the night? I hadn’t seen much about EP’s in the emails from Graceland, so I looked elsewhere for pictures.

EP's Bar & Grill

EP's Bar & Grill at Graceland Guest House

If I stayed at the hotel, I would probably eat here. Photos of the other restaurants make them look really, really pricey.

 

Then I got back to my hunt for Elvis Week concerts at the Guest House Theater. I found a little calendar icon showing July, but with an arrow to click on for the next month. Look what I got.

No Upcoming Events at Graceland Guest House Theater

I added the circle around the news that there are no events in August. This was just too hard for me to accept, so I searched elsewhere and found two daytime concerts.

Bourke Performing at Graceland

Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest Showcase

This tribute artist showcase is interesting. If you bought tickets in the $209 section of the Ultimate ETA contest, you get a bonus of free tickets to a concert by the semifinalists.

Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest

So, there are two daytime music events at the hotel theater during Elvis Week, but nothing at night. I don’t get it. Maybe they want everyone to head over to Elvis Presley’s Memphis and spend more money.

 

Find us on Facebook

There was something at the bottom of that promotional graphic we looked at earlier. I didn’t know the Guest House had a Facebook page, but I figured it had some different pictures than the website, so I clicked on it. I was right, so here are a few.

Karaoke Night at EP's Bar at Graceland Guest House

This must be popular with the fans. I wonder if the song list on the karaoke machine is 100% Elvis hits.

 

These dramatic drapes at the Guest House at Graceland are a favorite spot for selfies

The caption under this picture is, “These dramatic drapes at the Guest House at Graceland are a favorite spot for selfies.”  It seems like there would be dozens of more interesting backgrounds for selfies to mark your trip to Graceland.

 

Inside Portico at Graceland Guest House

This is a nice shot from the front door out through the portico.

 

The deviled egg appetizer at EP’s Bar & Grill

They even show a photo of the deviled egg appetizer at EP’s Bar & Grill.

 

Above the pool table at Graceland Guest House.

The caption under this picture says, “If you’re playing billiards at The Guest House at Graceland, be sure to look up.” The pool table is located in EP’s Bar and Grill.

Guest House Pool Table at EP's Bar

 

Pool at Graceland Guesthouse

It looks like it would be cold if you tried to take a swim. Notice there are no leaves on the trees.

 

Heart-Shaped Fireplace at Graceland Guest House

Great caption: “Stop by for a little burning love by our heart-shaped fireplace.” I guess it is outside on the grounds somewhere.

 

This last photo from the Graceland Guest House Facebook page was obviously posed, but it’s very well done.

Happy National Martini Day at EP's Lounge

It promoted National Martini Day at EP’s Bar & Grill. That place is really starting to sound good to me. I wonder why they don’t give it more mention on the website.

 

 

© 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.