It’s been five weeks since the last Auction at Graceland, so I want to do a post on three items that interest me because of the stories behind them. We’ll save the rings, clothing, and other goodies until a later time.
You have probably seen this photo before, and you might know the girl with Elvis is Dixie Locke. Five items from her personal collection showed up for sale at the January 6 Auction at Graceland. The auction website does a great job describing the relationship between Elvis and Dixie:
It was January 1954 and Elvis’ family was relatively new to Memphis. Elvis attended the First Assembly of God church to hear the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, who were members of the congregation and of whom Elvis was a fan. It didn’t take long for Elvis to be noticed by a group of girls, among them the lovely Dixie Locke. Unbeknownst to Elvis, they admired him from afar and hatched a plan to discuss their weekend plans within his earshot in hopes he would come to the Rainbow Rollerdome. And in fact, he did not disappoint. When he showed up at the skating rink, Dixie immediately spotted him and skated over to introduce herself. He knew just who she was and the two talked all evening, with Elvis driving her home at the end of the night.
A courtship followed and the two began dating. Elvis was about four years Dixie’s senior so it required some interrogating questions from both sets of parents before they all blessed the relationship. In the summer of 1954, Dixie and Elvis parted company for the first time when Dixie’s family left Memphis for a Florida vacation. While they were away, Elvis began early recordings in Sun Studio, and Dixie returned to him to hear his surprise as he was making radio airtime. The two dated for about two years, with Elvis taking Dixie to her high school prom in 1955 [as pictured above].
Dixie and Elvis were like any normal young couple dating in the 1950s: their outings consisted of going to the movies, taking drives, going to the local canteen and visiting each other at their respective homes just to play games or sit on the front porch and chat. It was later that fall that the two drifted their separate ways. Dixie has been quoted describing the departure as, “It was kind of a natural thing. His career was going in one direction, and I didn’t feel that I could be a part of it.”
Okay, now check out this photograph. Please ignore the diagonal text of Graceland Auctions obscuring it. That was put there for reasons that will soon be apparent.
Again, from the auction website:
The charming black-and-white snapshot, emanating directly from Dixie’s personal collection, depicts her large family gathering on the lawn for the going-away party for her sister, who was moving to California to be married.
Elvis is pictured in the front row with argyle socks and slicked back hair. The other people consist of Dixie and her parents, siblings, grandparents, aunt, uncles and lots of cousins. The photo is also notated in pencil with the date “6/54” which would have been just before Dixie left on that Florida vacation and Elvis’ career began heating up. The snapshot measures 3 3/8 by 3 3/16 inches.
Here’s why I find this photograph so interesting. It had 60 bids at the auction, running the price up to $8,750. I don’t recall any other item at the Auctions at Graceland having that much spirited bidding. So, what caused this interest? I asked Jeff Marren, the Consignment Director at the auction about this photo plus another one from Dixie Locke, and this was his reply:
“Those two offerings, specifically, were extremely strong prices, obviously, but not total surprises from the standpoint that they turned out to be photos that had never been seen. When we brought them to auction, we were almost certain they had never seen the light of day, coming directly from the Dixie Locke Emmons collection. The market is very strong for unpublished photos of Elvis.”
Whoever the high bidder was, he now owns a photo of Elvis that other fans have never seen. It will not join the millions of Elvis pictures on the internet. Nobody will be downloading copies of it. And think of the timing. It was snapped just a few weeks before his first recording session at Sun Records and the start of his career. No wonder there were 60 bids on it.
This is the other photo Mr. Marren referred to. According to Dixie’s accompanying letter, the image of Elvis on this photo postcard was taken at Blue Light Studio in Memphis.
Look at the words along the top of the building. That is Lansky Bros. Men’s Shop. How natural would it be for Elvis to have a postcard photo made at a studio next to Lansky’s, a place he frequently visited.
Anyway, this Elvis photo had 51 bids and topped out at $9,375.
Elvis inscribed the back side of the black-and-white photo postcard in pencil to “My (high) tempered little sister-in-law” for Dixie’s sister. Elvis and Dixie had talked seriously of marriage during their relationship, and at the time, the two were sure that marriage was in their future. Thus, the reference to his little sister-in-law.
The photo had at one time been trimmed, cutting off part of Elvis’ inscription. The auction website sums up things nicely: “This early and delightfully playful keepsake captures the youthful star and his adoration for his young love and her family. The photo measures 4 7/8 by 3 1/3 inches.”
Over the years, I have reported on many autographed Elvis photographs at auctions, but I don’t remember another bringing in over $9,000. Looks like it makes a big difference if a photo is one of a kind and has never been reproduced on the internet.
The Auction at Graceland website had a quite detailed and interesting background story about a 24” by 36” Elvis concert poster.
Scotty Moore invited Elvis to join his band, The Starlite Wranglers, in July of 1954, and Elvis played just two songs with the group in front of a live audience for the first time at the Bon Air in Memphis on July 17. Just three short weeks later on August 7, Scotty, Bill and Elvis break from The Starlite Wranglers for their first real performance together at the Eagle’s Nest in Memphis. The Eagle’s Nest was a nightclub that was located above the changing room of the restaurant and pool at the Clearpool complex located on Lamar Avenue.
The Clearpool was an entertainment complex that catered to a country and western swing crowd. The house band was led by Memphis DJ “Sleepy-Eyed” John Lepley, and at one time or another, the house band members included Jim Stewart, Stax Records founder, and Jack Clement, producer at Sun. Elvis performed here 16 times in 1954 before the club fell victim to fire in the late 1960s. This venue was one of the first paying gigs for Elvis and his very first consistent venue at the birth of his career. It was at the Eagle’s Nest that Elvis initially gained notoriety among the teen crowd, who would rush in from the pool to hear Elvis sing and then return outside when the next act came on. This is also where Elvis’ own style began to flourish and he was recognized as something out of the ordinary.
Offered is a hand-painted, cardboard poster that hung at the entrance to the Eagle’s Nest and touts “Memphis’ own Elvis Presley with Scotty & Bill.” The poster is signed and inscribed “I spent a week there one night / Scotty Moore / DJ Fontana” in white ink on the black background.
The poster lists three songs: “Heart Breaker,” “That’s All Right,” and “Good Rockin.” Elvis had released “That’s All Right” and “Good Rockin” with Sun by September of 1954, while he had been using “Heart Breaker” in his set before recording it as “You’re a Heartbreaker” in December 1954. As Elvis’ performances on the Louisiana Hayride began in mid-October, taking his career into the direction of concert performances at other venues in various cities, his appearances at the Eagle’s Nest begin to wane. Elvis’ last two shows at the Eagle’s Nest were on November 17 and December 10, when, given the songs advertised, this poster was likely used. Since no specific date is listed, enabling the poster to be used more than once, this custom example may have even been used to advertise the appearances on both of those nights.
The auction website traces the ownership of the posters over the years, and one owner, Brian Beirne, a famed Los Angeles radio personality, purchased it in the late 80s or early 90s. He then got Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana to autograph it, approximately 35 years after they had performed there.
Mr. Beirne says, “I consider this poster one of the true Holy Grails of concert posters.” The auction website said, “This amazingly rare survivor from the club where Elvis’ legend was launched perfectly captures the spirit of the scene from one of the most formative years in Elvis’ career. One of the earliest known Elvis concert posters.”
Bidders certainly must have been impressed, as it sold for $18,750. Wow
Here is one last auction item that has an interesting story. You can’t tell from this picture or the one at the beginning of this article that they are actually posters. Big ones – 22 inches by 28 inches. Hey, ladies. Wouldn’t you love to have one of these posters of Elvis hanging on a wall in your house?
The auction website describes them:
“The Colonel would create generic posters of Elvis that could be altered with snips and venue information and used to promote stops on Elvis Presley’s 1970 tour. These generic posters are few and far between, especially in such an exemplary state of preservation as this one. In true Colonel style, the larger-than-life, bewitching image of Elvis graces the full size of the entire poster. This unusual and rare example with printed Elvis inscription …. is very difficult to come by.”
These full-face posters were given by Tom Diskin [Col. Parker’s assistant] to a fan(fans ?) after a Sept 1970 St. Louis, MO. concert appearance.
I think some folks got very good deals on these posters. The one with the brooding Elvis face went for $687, and the one with the microphone at his mouth went for $812.
It’s less than five months until the next Auction at Graceland. I can’t wait to see what new special things they will come up with.
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