Monthly Archives: August 2013

Elvis on Cassette Tape — A Flashback

Last month, Time magazine published a story celebrating the 50th anniversary of the cassette tape.

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Cassette tapes were invented by the Dutch company Phillips, who introduced them at the 1963 radio exhibition (Funkausstellung) in Berlin.  Can you imagine what it would be like if someone at that show could have time-traveled fifty years to see the electronics shows we have today?  Man, what a change.

As the 60s progressed, cassettes took over the market, putting a big hurt on albums and 8-track tapes.  By 1969, all cars came equipped with cassette tape players.  I accumulated hundreds of tapes, and, I must confess, I still have them all.  The two cars I own have cassette decks, and I hesitate to trade in for a new car, because I’ll lose my ability to play tapes while cruising down the highway.

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In the late 60s. when cassette tapes started taking over , I was no longer an Elvis fan.  My hero from the 50s was now pushed back to a forgotten corner of my brain, while I listened to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Moody Blues, and the like.  So, I never bought any of the original Elvis cassettes while he was alive.

But, ten years later, my rediscovery of Elvis occurred, and I hit the record shops and garage sales and record shows.  I bought many old Elvis albums, singles, and EPs, but just a few cassettes.  Here is a look at the seven Elvis cassettes I bought years after he was long gone, and I probably never paid more than $4 for any of them.

 

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Blue Rhythms:      Released 1984 — A product of Great Britain:

This is my favorite Elvis cassette, because it is a great collection of 24 blues songs spanning his entire career.  Some of my favorites are “I Want to Be Free,” “Reconsider Baby,” “Give Me the Right,” “Baby What You Want me to do,” and my favorite of all Elvis songs, “Like a Baby.”

I took the songs from this tape and added more of my own selection to make a ninety minute tape of Elvis Blues.  That one gets played in the car a lot.

 

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Elvis Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Parts 1 & 2:      Released 1974

This is another equivalent of a double album – 25 great hits from my high school years.  Pop this into the tape deck in the car, and it is nonstop Deja’ Vu for me.  However, I always wish they would have included “Love Me” and “Baby, I Don’t Care.”  Those two songs would have made it perfect.

 

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Elvis: The Beginning:   Released in 1996

I did not buy this for the five songs from Elvis’ Sun Records’ days.  Had them already numerous times on every format.  What I really wanted was Side 2.  It is 18 minutes of Scotty Moore telling “The Story of the First Year.” I’ve met Scotty a few times and hung out backstage with him and DJ once, so he is my favorite.  I like hearing the Elvis story from his perspective and in his voice.

 

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Elvis Inspirational:    Released 2006

I actually bought this in Egypt during a vacation trip six years ago.  (Good thing we got that trip in well before things went crazy over there.  Sure wouldn’t go there now.)  The tour company took everybody to a Cairo bazaar that dated back to the 1300s.  It went on for blocks, stretching deep into old, ethnic areas.  It had all kinds of authentic clothing, jewelry, food and trinkets, and my wife bought plenty of each.  But, my mission was to see if I could find something – anything – Elvis.

I found a music store.  It was 99.9% Arabic music, but down on a bottom shelf, they had three different Elvis cassettes.  I like this one, but don’t play it while cruising in the car.

 

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Elvis – TV Special:    Released 1978

The cover says just ELVIS, but the label spine calls it ELVIS – TV Special.  I guess the name ’68 Comeback Special hadn’t yet caught on in 1978.  I bought this tape primarily because it contains the unplugged pit session.  I like listening to Elvis singing acoustic, stripped-down versions of some great old songs.  When it gets to “Memories” and the songs backed by full orchestra – not so much.

 

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The Legendary Elvis Presley:    Released in 1987

This tape came from Italy, and I must have bought it because it was unfamiliar to me and it cost only 50¢ or a buck.  It is a mis-mash of songs from several genres and from all over Elvis career – no theme at all.  Probably one of the strangest Elvis compilations ever.

 

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Elvis:  Return of the Rocker:    Released 1986

I had to buy this one once I saw its unusual cover lay-out.  It is landscape, rather than the usual portrait.  Have you ever seen another cassette done like that?

The music was a very pleasant surprise.  It was Elvis’ hits from the early 60s, and features some underappreciated goodies like “King of The Whole Wide World” and “Marie’s The Name – His Latest Fame.”  This tape is my second favorite and is a lot of fun to drive to.

 

Here’s a footnote about cassette tapes.  The Time article says they are coming back. 200,000 albums on cassettes sold in 2012, an increase of 645%.  If this strong trend keeps up, I’ll be ahead of the curve with my trove of cassettes.

 

©  2013    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 Gifts Do Well At Auction

On August 10, Heritage Auctions wrapped up their Entertainment and Music Memorabilia Auction.  It contained 49 Elvis collectible items, including many with Letters of Authenticity (LOA) from his former Memphis Mafia buddies and his double cousin Patsy Presley Geranen. Five weeks ago, we previewed the six items at auction with LOAs by Patsy Presley.  There was one spectacular result and some other surprises.  Let’s take a look.

Army Jacket, Pants, and Hat:

Army Jacket, Pants, Hat

This lot containing Elvis’ complete Army dress uniform had a projected winning bid of $20,000, but it actually went for $35,000 (including buyer’s fee charged by the auction house).  There have been several sales of Elvis Army fatigues before, but they never brought in the kind of money these “summer dress greens” did.  Elvis’ size in the Army:  jacket (38S), pants (29″ x 32″), and hat (size 7).  Wow, Elvis had a 29″ waist back then.  In addition to the LOA, Patsy Presley also provided four photographs of Elvis wearing his dress uniform.

 

Diamond Ring:

Diamond Ring  14 carat gold

Here is another item that surpassed its projected selling price.  This 14 carat gold ring with a 1 carat diamond solitaire and two side diamonds went for $9,375, which is still fairly cheap compared to the prices folks for Elvis rings before the economic collapse five years ago.  Certainly no photograph of Elvis wearing the ring affected the bidding.

 

Gold Chai Pendant:

Gold Chai Pendant

 

Another big success, this 14k gold Chai Pendant had an expected sell price of $2,500, but it pulled in $10,000.

Elvis Wearing Gold Chai Pendant

The winning price was no doubt enhanced by the inclusion of a photo of Elvis wearing it, in addition to the LOA.

 

Graceland Gate Openers:

Graceland Gate Openers

 

This is an interesting item.  Remote openers were new in the late 60s and were owned mostly by the privileged.  Elvis had them for the Graceland front gate and also the back gate.  I didn’t know there was a back exit at Graceland, but it makes sense.  I wonder if that was what Elvis mostly used.  Projected to bring $800, it actually sold for $2,125.

Graceland Gate --  Opener in Elvis Hand

This photograph was included to show Elvis holding the remote opener, but I’ve blown it up, and it sort-of looks like Elvis’ hand is empty.  The remotes are supposedly still functional, but the Graceland gate controls have certainly been changed since then.

 

 

Graceland Office Wall Clock:

 Graceland Wall Clock  Did not sell

This was the only dog in the items Patsy Presley offered.  This carved and polished, battery-powered wood clock, inlaid with seashells, was given to Elvis by a fan and hung in the offices of Graceland.  I swear it looks more like a reject from the Jungle Room than the Office.  Expected to sell for $1,000, it got no bidders.  You can buy it online at the Heritage website for $500.  The clock is missing its hands and the “12” is missing its “2”

 

Racquetball:

Racquetball  Sold for 750

In the earlier post, I ridiculed the idea that this racquetball would bring the expected price of $800.  Guess what, it went for $775.  According to Patsy Presley, on the eve of Elvis’ passing, he had played racquetball with guests at Graceland, and this was one of the balls used. I guess if you can get something that was in Elvis’ hand just before he died, it’s certainly worth $775.

 

So, the items originating from Patsy Presley did pretty good.  Have fun with that cash, girl.  Thanks for making it possible for us fans see pictures of the Elvis goodies.

 

Now, let’s see how the Elvis clothing gifts to his buddies did at the auction.

 

Leather Fur-Trimmed Jacket – from Charlie Hodge:

Leather Fur-Trimmed Jacket from Charlie Hodge

Charlie Hodge provided the LOA on this, and he really praised the jacket: “Now this just looks like Elvis!  It should.  The style of the jacket with the large fur…cuffs was typical of how Elvis liked to dress offstage.” Another plus for this jacket was the fact that it came from Lansky Brothers and has the iconic label.  A minus is that it has some minor stains on the front.  A big minus is that there was no photo of Elvis wearing it. Projected to go for just $4,000, somebody spent $10,000 on it.

 

Maroon Shirt and Black Pants – from Richard Davis:

Maroon Shirt and Black Pants -- from Richard Davis

Elvis must have given tons of clothing to Richard Davis. That’s natural, because Davis was his valet and wardrobe manager, and was there in the room every time Elvis decided to part with an article of clothing. The pants sport the Lansky Brothers label, and the shirt is from “Anton” in Beverly Hills.  Davis says the shirt was custom made for Elvis.  It appears neither was worn more than a few times, so they are in excellent condition.  The winning bid of $5,625 came in more than double the projected price.  Even at that, this is a steal.  Congratulations to the smart bidder who picked up a custom made shirt from Beverly Hills and a pair of Lansky pants, both worn by Elvis.

 

Lace Shirt – from Sonny West:

Lace Shirt  from Sonny West

Sonny West was the proud recipient of this white lace polyester pullover sports shirt with an open V-neck, a prominent collar, and three-button cuffs.  The auction website says it appears to be from the late ’60s when the King was in superb physical condition. It’s a Jackman Original (Las Vegas), size large, and shows very little wear. The top bid was $4,375.

 

Corduroy Jacket – originally from Alan Fortas:

Corderoy Jacket from Alan Fortas

This coat was offered at auction by a collector who had purchased it previously from Alan Fortas.  Fortas gave him a Letter of Provenance then, and it’s showed up again for this sale.  It states in part that Elvis “had this coat for one of his movies but did not wear it in the movie. Elvis did wear this for the photo shoot (and) years later…gave me this coat.”

 CTan Corduroy Jacket on Album cover

The tan-colored corduroy jacket has two side slit pockets, two pleats in back, and an extra fourth closure at the neck – a pull tab to close it up.  It is shown in that style on the on the cover of his album Elvis Is Back. The projected winning bid was $5,000, but it had numerous bidders going after it, and the final price was $17,500.

 

Sweatsuit – from Sonny West:

Sweatsuit from Sonny West

Sonny West was the beneficiary of this two-piece nylon sweatsuit – dark blue with white stripes.  In his LOA, West stated that Elvis wore it when he played racquetball, lounged about the house, or rode his motorcycle.  This seems confirmed by some visible wear on the inside of the pants’ waistband.  The jacket is in much better shape.  A happy bidder took this one home for $4,687.

 

Tuxedo Shirt – from Joe Esposito:

Tuxedo Shirt  from Joe Esposito

Joe Esposito coauthored the COA on this tuxedo shirt.  Elvis apparently wore it a number of times, as indicated by some discoloration and minor staining. The off-white shirt with French cuffs is an Arrow, size 15.5″ x 34.”

Elvis Wearing Tuxedo

This photo was offered with the shirt, but it shows a shirt with all the frilly stuff down the button band, different than the auction item.

 

Silk Robe – from Sonny West:

Silk Robe from Sonny West

Sonny West received this dark green silk robe with white silk lining as a gift from Elvis, who had also received it as a gift from a Japanese fan in Las Vegas in the early 1970s. The robe has a large dragon embroidered on the back, and two smaller ones on the front.  The projected top bid of $1,000 seemed low, and indeed it was because bidding topped out at $4,375.  I’d love to see a photo of Elvis wearing it.

 

 

©  2013    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.

 

We Miss You, Elvis

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Candlelight Vigil 3

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Candle Light Vigil

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Vigil 2012

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Candlelight Vigil 4

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Candlelight Vigil 10

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Vigil 6

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Candlelight Vigil 6

We Miss You, Elvis

 

©  2013    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.

 

Battle of the Elvis Bobbleheads

I chose that title because it sounds so good, but there is no real battle of Elvis bobbleheads.  That has been convincingly won by this new guy:

Royal Bobbles 68 Special Elvis

Royal Bobbles 68 Special Elvis

 

I call him “Black Leather Elvis” because there is no other name on the box.  Instead, there is a lengthy article about the ’68 Special, so maybe that’s what he should be called: “68 Special Elvis.”  I like Black Leather better.  This is no toy.  It’s a limited edition collectible from Royal Bobbles.

Royal Bobblers

I received an email a few days ago from Rick Schwarz, their Social Media & Marketing Analyst.  I guess ElvisBlog is media, and it’s been analyzed and declared worthy.  I love this part of Rick’s email:

Now I wouldn’t expect you to review some stupid bobblehead of Elvis that looks absolutely ridiculous.  Lord knows there are plenty of those out there.

I was intrigued by the reference to plenty of stupid Elvis bobbleheads out there that look absolutely ridiculous.  I Googled to look for some ugly Elvis bobbleheads, but there aren’t any.  The worst I found was this:

Wacky Wobbler 68 Special

Wacky Wobbler 68 Special

But, this really isn’t so bad for an inexpensive toy.  Funko makes their Wacky Wobblers out of hollow PVC plastic.  They are mass-produced by a high-speed plastic injection molding process, chunked out by the thousands.  But still, not bad for $12, or so.

I also ran into this guy on a few sites.

NECA 1968 Special

NECA 1968 Special

At first glance, this looked pretty good.  The body pose is great and the face is very good, except for one thing.  The bottom of the head has a short cut-off neck coming down.  Then, the thin neck from the body goes up into the big neck.  This one does not work for me.  I can’t avoid noticing the points sticking down from his jowls. It doesn’t really matter because this design by NECA has been discontinued for several years, and is no longer available.  I couldn’t find any sites selling it.

Naturally, these three companies also have an Aloha jumpsuit model.  The new champ, Royal Bobbles, has a wonderful one:

Royal Bobbles Aloha Elvis

Royal Bobbles Aloha Elvis

This bobblehead stands almost nine inches tall and is surprisingly heavy.  I call it Aloha Jumpsuit Elvis.  Warren Royal, head man of the company, refers to it as the “Aloha From Hawaii” model, but that name is nowhere on the box.

Here is what Mr. Royal says about its quality:

They are hand-molded, hand-cast, then hand-painted, hand-polished, individually hand-checked for quality, and then hand-packed.   The result is that our pieces are much heavier, much more finely detailed, and of much higher quality.

Wow, that’s a lot of hands.

If you check the individual stones on the back and side of the Elvis “Aloha From Hawaii” model, you will see the remarkable detail that went into painstakingly painting each tiny little stone by hand. Some of the details are so tiny that the artists had to use a brush with only one bristle.

I looked at the back of this model with a magnifying glass, and he is right.  This is a serious, quality product, so the $30 price tag seems very reasonable.

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We looked at the FUNKO Black Leather Elvis above.  Here is their Aloha From Hawaii Elvis:   This stands about 6” tall, and the cape is a nice touch.  It looks stiff with the legs straight and joined together.

Funco Wacky Wobbler Aloha Elvis

Funco Wacky Wobbler Aloha Elvis

And the discontinued NECO line also included an Aloha Elvis:

NECO Jumpsuit Elvis

NECO Jumpsuit Elvis

This is about 7” tall.  I love the legs and torso, and the detail on the jumpsuit is excellent.  And the face is even better than their Black Leather Elvis, but it’s still got the two necks.

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Here’s the three Elvis bobbleheads side-by-side showing their relative height’s fairly accurately:

Black Leather Group

Aloha Jumpsuit Group.

So, if you are going to be at ElvisWeek this year, Warren Royal and his crew will be there with their two Elvis Bobbleheads.  Drop by and check out the outstanding quality of one of these:

Royal Bobbles '68 Special Elvis Bobblehead

Bobbleheads

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I think the Black Leather Elvis looks best in side view, so this is how I display my Royal Bobbles:

My Elvis Bobblehead Display

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©  2013    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.

 

A Jug of Corn Liquor at a Champaign Party

Believe it or not, the judgmental sentiment above came from a Newsweek magazine review of Elvis’ shows in Las Vegas.  How could this be?  Elvis was synonymous with Las Vegas and performed to sold-out crowds at more than 700 shows there in the 70s.

Signed New Frontier Postcard

The explanation for this incongruity is that Newsweek was actually reviewing Elvis’ 1956 performances at the New Frontier Hotel.

Newsweek wasn’t alone in its ridicule of Elvis’ New Frontier shows.  Bill Willard of the Las Vegas Sun ended his review of the show with this:

“His musical sound… is uncouth, matching to a great extent the lyric content of his nonsensical songs.”

Elvis bashing was a popular pursuit among entertainment critics in 1956, but there is more to this story.  Although Elvis was a huge success everywhere else that year, he actually bombed in his first appearance in Las Vegas.

Col Parker and Elvis at New Frontier Pool

It’s my opinion that Col. Parker made one of his few mistakes managing Elvis’ career when he set up the shows.  Instead of booking Elvis as the headliner in a smaller venue, Parker booked him to be the “extra added attraction” at a long-running show featuring Freddy Martin and his orchestra.  The venue was the Venus Room, holding almost 1,000 people.

Venus Room

Venus Room in 1956

 

Also on the bill were comedian Shecky Green, the Venus Starlets and a cast of 60 performers who made up a typical Vegas entertainment package.

 Flyer for Elvis at New Frontier Hotel

Freddy Martin was a popular name in big-band music, and his shows regularly drew large crowds of middle-aged fans.  For some reason, Col. Parker must have thought Elvis would appeal to these folks.  Unfortunately, the older crowd didn’t like Elvis at all.  Another disparaging quote from Bill Willard’s review sums it up perfectly.

“For Teenagers, the long tall Memphis lad is a whiz; for the average Vegas spender or show-goer, a bore.”

Elvis was well aware that the audiences ‘didn’t’ get it.’  Three years later, he recalled:

“After that first night I went outside and just walked around in the dark.  It was awful…. I wasn’t getting across to the audience.”

After causing near-riots everywhere else he performed, it must have been a hard thing for him to handle.

Other Las Vegas Sun reviewers were able to say some nice things about Elvis.  Bud Lilly wrote,

“Here is a young man who has an inherent ability to arouse mass hysteria wherever he goes, yet is unassuming and completely untouched by the fabulous success he has achieved almost overnight… His avid fans have elevated him to a plane reached only by a few singers of our time.”

 

Scotty and Elvis on stage at the New Frontier Hotel

Scotty and Elvis on stage at the New Frontier Hotel

 

Ralph Dent called Elvis The Shake and Shiver Kid, and then made a totally stupid statement.

“Here stands Elvis Presley, who has probably has yet to blow out his 21st birthday candle, drink his first beer or kiss his first girl.”

Dent might be right about the beer, but how stupid is it to say Elvis had never kissed a girl.  Come on, he had girls falling all over him at every stop.

Hanging out with teenagers at New Frontier pool

Elvis and two teenagers hanging out around New Frontier pool

 

As Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana’s books revealed about life on the road with Elvis, he did a lot more than just kissing.

The New Frontier Hotel had an interesting history.  When first built in 1942, the Old Frontier Hotel had a Western theme and only 105 rooms.  It was renamed the New Frontier in 1955 and remodeled with a space travel/celestial theme.

Frontier Hotel

 

By the mid-seventies, it had become an old, rather seedy relic of the past, and the New Frontier Hotel closed for good on July 16, 2007.  At the time of its closing, the sign out front advertised Bikini Mechanical Bull Riding and Mud Wrestling, and it promised Cold Beer and Dirty Girls.

Frontier Marquee

However, the old hotel sat on 34 acres, so it sold for $1.2 billion.  The New Frontier was razed and the property developed into a $5 billion complex, including a 3,500-room luxury hotel, private residences, a casino, and upscale shopping.

New Frontier Hotel lies in rubble after it was demolished

New Frontier Hotel lies in rubble after it was demolished

 

There is a footnote to this story.  The common narrative about Elvis’ first shot at Vegas is that he bombed.  However, he did have one concert there with no adults in the audience, and it was a huge success.  He also came back to Memphis with memories of many big-fun off-stage experiences.  Elvis adapted quite well to the Las Vegas nightlife and had a ball.  This was all covered in the 2011 ElvisBlog article titled Elvis’ First Trip to Las Vegas Was a Blast.

 

©  2013    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.