Daily Archives: June 18, 2006


When Elvis was drafted into the Army in 1958, the press reported he would be treated just like any other GI.  Perhaps he was during basic training in Texas, but when it was time for him and 6,000 other soldiers to board a troop ship in New York Harbor, strange things happened.  Col. Parker made sure Elvis’ send-off was a big event.


For one thing, it was estimated that 250 reporters, photographers, and cameramen were on the scene.  One of them was Alfred Wertheimer, who had taken thousands of photos of Elvis back in 1956.  This time, he did not have an exclusive, but he got plenty of good pictures.  He was also in position to see the master marketer, Col. Tom Parker, in action.


Wertheimer didn’t know if the official Army Band was present at all major troop deployments, but they were there the day Elvis shipped off.  Perhaps Col. Parker arranged for their appearance, perhaps not, but he still engineered a first in Army history.  He printed up copies of the music to several Elvis songs and passed them out to all the musicians.  Songs they played that day included “That’s All Right,”  “Hound Dog,”  “Don’t be Cruel,” and others that Wertheimer can’t remember.  No John Phillip Sousa marches to mark this occasion.  Dressed in full Army parade uniforms, the band played Elvis rock & roll.


Elvis held forth with a half-hour press conference.  Who but Col. Parker could have arranged this?  He probably worked out a deal with the Army brass, because Elvis stood in front of big “Join the Army” posters. There was one Army General who would not leave Elvis’ side.  He enjoyed being in the spotlight so much that he hovered around Elvis the entire time.


The hoards of photographers and cameramen wanted to get film of Elvis going up the ramp from the dock to the second deck of the ship.  Five soldiers were selected to join Elvis in the shot to make it look natural.  Of course, Elvis was carrying going-away presents as well as his duffel bag.  He was also in his dress uniform, while the other guys were in fatigues.  When one cameraman flubbed the shot, he asked them to repeat the trek up the ramp.  Wertheimer couldn’t believe it when they actually complied.


The ship had four decks and soon Elvis appeared on the top one – along with Col. Parker.  Wertheimer wondered to himself, “What is Parker doing on a troop ship?”  To give something to Elvis, it turned out.  Elvis opened a box from Parker, and guess what it contained?  Dozens of playing-card-sized autographed photos of Elvis.  Then, Elvis flipped then one-by-one over the railing, and they fluttered down to lucky fans standing on the dock four decks below as the band played “Hound Dog.”  Just your average troop deployment.


Many thanks to Al Wertheimer for sharing this story with me.  It wasn’t used in my Elvis International article about him, because the focus there was his 1956 experience with Elvis.  However, it was a good story I hadn’t heard before, and it deserved to be shared on this blog with other Elvis fans.


©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net


The first blog devoted to Elvis has reached a new milestone.  Last Sunday, the 100th article was posted on Elvisblog.  There has been a total of 76 weekly stories posted to the site, one each Sunday since February 1, 2005.  The Elvisblog Archives contain 22 longer articles reprinted from Elvis International, The Magazine.  And, there are two fiction short stories about Elvis.  Writers are always concerned about ‘word count,’ so someday I will add up all the words used in this body of work.  It ought to be pretty close to the numbers my writer buddies have in those novels they are working on.


Speaking of word count, the story I wrote about photographer Al Wertheimer came to 2,200 words.  It will be in the 29th Anniversary issue of Elvis International, The Magazine that comes off the presses in about a month.  Look for this story of Wertheimer’s photo-taking odyssey with Elvis in 1956 to show up in the Elvisblog Archives shortly after that.  The thousands of pictures he took of Elvis are his claim to fame, but the seven days he spent with Elvis are a remarkable story.


The first line in this news section contains the words blog and Elvis.  I am making a determined effort to use them in every article, hopefully to improve my Google search rankings.  If someone types elvisblog in the search box, the results are loaded with different links to this Elvisblog.  However, if you type in Elvis blog, the results are full of such junk that you would think no true blog about Elvis exists.  Google merely lists the popularity of sites with the words “Elvis” and “blog” in their text, so I’m going to get them in my articles one way or another (four times in this article, so far).


Somehow, many more people have discovered Elvisblog the past month.  When the web address changed and the automatic forwarding to the new URL stopped in February, there was a distinct drop in visitors to the site.  March was the low point, but each month since has seen nice increases.   Thanks for checking out Elvisblog regularly.  It is the Elvis blog (did it again) written by a fan for the enjoyment of other fans.  Glad you like it.


©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net