On November 14, Elvis.Com/News announced a new exhibit of Elvis memorabilia at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The press release says it “provides a compelling look into Elvis’ Army career, the 1968 television special and his appearances in Lake Tahoe.” However, look at the two photographs used to illustrate the announcement.
That’s a shot of Elvis performing in the early days, plus a three-wheeled motorcycle. Because neither had anything to do with the Army days, the ’68 Special or the Lake Tahoe performances, I clicked on the link that takes you to the Hall of Fame website. Here’s another photo shown in the Hall’s announcement about the exhibit.
You’ve probably seen this shot of Elvis and Linda Thompson on what is called Elvis’ SuperTrike. I have it in my digital files along with some other interesting ones. Here’s a rarer picture showing an alternate perspective from that day of cruising around in Memphis.
Here, Elvis is turning into the Graceland drive (notice the Graceland wall on the left).
Linda wasn’t the only person Elvis drove around on his SuperTrike. Here is cousin Billy Smith in the second seat. Doesn’t look all that comfortable, does he?
And here is a picture of Elvis giving a ride to an unnamed fan on September 15, 1975.
So, I wondered what’s the story behind this strange-looking motorcycle. A little research turned up lots of interesting stuff about Elvis and his SuperTrike.
This is a shot of Elvis with his “first big bike”, a black 1957 Harley Davidson FLH purchased from Barfield’s Harley-Davidson in Memphis. Pictured with Elvis are B. W. Barfield (owner) on the right and Big Al McAlexander (Sales and Service Manager). Not pictured is the mechanic who actually prepped the bike for Elvis. His name is Earl Smith. Nineteen years later, Smith worked at a Memphis company called Super Cycle, and he did the prep work on Elvis’ custom-made Volkswagen powered SuperTrike. Here is the check that paid for it.
You will note three things about the check. Vernon, not Elvis, singed it. The sale price was only $3,100, which sounds like Elvis got a real bargain. And finally, the date is August 16, 1975, exactly two years before Elvis died.
Back in 2007, Mr. Smith, at age 87, still worked at Super Cycle, as did the men who had built Elvis’ SuperTrike and the man who painted the unique design on it. These old-timers embarked on a project to build a replica of it. This is a photo on the website about the replica project, but it doesn’t really look like the original. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any update about the success of the project.
Photos have shown up on the internet suggesting that Elvis owned other three-wheel motorcycles.
This one is parked in front of Graceland (note the white lion statue on right). If Elvis didn’t own it, he at least drove it, as evidenced by this photo.
And the website for ELVIS – The Private Collection of the King on Tour, an attraction that travels around to fairs and festivals, shows this as an Elvis-owned trike.
Maybe the exhibit includes some information on the Moody Blue Supertrike and some photos of Elvis on it, but the website does not.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibition sounds like it might be pretty good. Graceland has loaned them more than forty artifacts, including:
A selection of Elvis’ personal jewelry
The “If I Can Dream” white suit from the “’68 Comeback Special”
A rehearsal schedule for Lake Tahoe performances in 1971
ID bracelet and several rings
Official U.S. Army induction portrait (wallet size) that was taken and issued upon his arrival for basic training in 1958
However, if you go to Graceland in the next few months, you will note that Elvis’ SuperTrike will be missing from this display in the Car Museum.
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