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ELVIS PRESLEY’S

Presented by Elvis Presley Enterprises and The Commercial Appeal

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CopyrightŠ 2010 • ISBN: 978-1-59725-258-4 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright owner or the publisher. Published by Pediment Publishing, a division of The Pediment Group, Inc. www.pediment.com Printed in Canada

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Foreword by Chris Peck, Editor // The Commercial Appeal

Do you remember being 13? Everything begins to change. At 13, the place where you live begins to stamp an impression on your mind, your heart, your being. The sights, sounds and soul of Memphis still course through the music of Elvis Presley — who moved to Memphis at age 13. The city where Elvis came of age gave the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” his roots. No Memphis. No Elvis. On hot summer nights when he pulled out his guitar on the front porch of the Lauderdale Courts apartments, Elvis couldn’t help but hear the echoes of African Americans singing the blues. On Sundays at church he soaked up gospel refrains. The crackling sounds of early AM radio carried country music to Elvis when he came home from Humes High School. That was Memphis in the 1940s and 1950s — a place where blues, gospel and country music flowed together on a current as strong as the Mississippi River. And there was a deep undertow. The barriers of race and the strictures of religion were giving way to a new age. Memphis was bending, groaning, changing with the times. Elvis felt those tugs too.

He ventured into Sun Records at 706 Union searching for a new sound. At first he sang like Pat Boone. Then he cut loose — just as Memphis was doing the same. His sound, the unheard-of voice of Elvis rocking, went first to Memphis radio, into Memphis ears, and then was passed out from Memphis to the world in stories published by The Commercial Appeal about his rising stardom. The picture next to this introduction, in fact, is a snapshot of Elvis visiting The Commercial Appeal offices in 1956 and reading a news account of a Canadian radio station refusing to play his “evil” tunes. Elvis rocketed out of Memphis as if shot from a cannon. To the top of the pop music charts. To the “Louisiana Hayride” TV show, then Hollywood, Las Vegas and the world. Yet Elvis always held strong to his Memphis roots. Graceland, the mansion he bought in Memphis with his first million, remained his refuge and his home. He died there. Today, Memphis and Elvis live on together. To this day they share a passion, a culture that is rough, and raucous, and unique. The Commercial Appeal and Elvis Presley Enterprises feel this vibe. They have collaborated on the creation of “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” so Elvis fans around the world can feel it too.

Above:  Elvis Presley dropped by The Commercial Appeal

city room on the night of May 8, 1956, and saw an Associated Press story reporting that a Canadian radio station had banned his records. He said he was irked, “but there isn’t much I can do about it . . . A lot of people like it; it’s really hot right now.”  Barney Sellers / The Commercial Appeal 3

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Acknowledgments Contributing Writer // Michael Lollar, Reporter, The Commercial Appeal Contributing Writers and Editors // Robert W. Dye, Photography Manager, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Rosemary Nelms, News Research Director, The Commercial Appeal News Library This book represents the combined talents of many individuals. We are grateful to the following special people who contributed their expertise and support. Chris Peck, Editor of The Commercial Appeal, and Carol Butler, Vice-President, International Licensing of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. who together envisioned a joint book project and organized and nurtured it. Jack Soden, CEO, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Scott Hill, retired City Editor, The Commercial Appeal, and Scott Williams and Jen Swearingen at Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. for their eagle-eyed editing assistance. Angie Marchese, Director of Archives at Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc for her assistance and knowledge of the life of Elvis Presley.

Kevin Kern, Director of Public Relations, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Jan Smith, News Researcher, The Commercial Appeal News Library.

All the photographers included in this book whose images help to tell the story of Elvis and the city he called home.

Paul Jewell, Marketing Director, The Commercial Appeal.

The many Commercial Appeal journalists who, since 1954, have chronicled the life and legacy of Elvis Presley. Jeff McAdory, Commercial Appeal Picture Editor, who spent long hours locating and scanning Elvis-related images and provided well-researched documentation. Dave Darnell, Commercial Appeal Photo Editor / Administration.

Joseph Pepe, President and Publisher, The Commercial Appeal. Billy Riley of Combustion Design, for cover design. Dave Hollingsworth, Director of Sales and Marketing at Pediment Publishing, the Fenison family and the rest of the Pediment Publishing team for their patience and skill at creating a cohesive design from a variety of material collected from different sources.

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Table of Contents Arriving in Memphis........................................................................... 7

Photographers / Writers.............................................................. 109

Memphis Music............................................................................ 12 Pop Tunes.................................................................................... 20 Elvis and Beale Street .................................................................. 23

Charles Nicholas........................................................................ 111 Robert “Bob” Williams................................................................. 112 Barney Sellers............................................................................ 113 Dave Darnell............................................................................... 114 Robert W. Dye............................................................................ 115 William Speer............................................................................. 116 Alfred Wertheimer....................................................................... 118 Ernest Withers............................................................................ 119 Writers....................................................................................... 120

That’s All Right....................................................................................25

Dewey Phillips.............................................................................. 27 The Colonel.................................................................................. 30 Stage and Studio.................................................................................. 41

Ellis Auditorium............................................................................. 45 Recording in Memphis.................................................................. 67

A Most Generous Heart................................................................. 123

Elvis Fashion................................................................................ 81

Elvis plays Santa Claus – with sly grin on face.............................. 138 Ten Outstanding Young Men....................................................... 139

Musical Gates.......................................................................................85

Just for Fun.........................................................................................143

No Ordinary Homebuyer.................................................................. 71

Elvis had menagerie of dogs, fowl, horses..................................... 88 Decorating Graceland................................................................... 98

Mid-South Fairgrounds............................................................... 147 Memphis Beat............................................................................ 152

Private Presley.................................................................................. 101

No One Can Compare....................................................................... 157

“Elvis: The Memories, The Fans, The City He Left Behind”............ 162

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1948-1954

Arriving in Memphis Country Boy, Big City by Michael Lollar Like legendary political boss E.H. visited the city’s bars, sampling its music and, Crump, Elvis Presley was born into poverty in Mississometimes, its brothels and gambling joints. When sippi and migrated to Memphis. Both would become they needed a job, they came to the booming mythical figures with bronze statues built to honor them. As mayor, Crump cleaned up the hardscrabble river town Elvis and his parents moved into Lauderdale Courts when he was in his teens. The Housing Authority files once known as the nation’s show Elvis’ late mother was rated as “an excellent murder capital. Immortalhousekeeper.” The same records show a neighbor once ized in song by W. C. Handy, filed a complaint against the young singer, asking him to Crump died of heart failure in tone down his guitar playing at night.  —“Elvis Presley’s Old 1954 just after Elvis had cut Home,” Aug. 27, 1963, by Malcolm Adams, The Commercial Appeal the record that set him and Memphis on a fresh course to fame. The Presley family, Vernon, Gladys and Elvis, city. Between 1900 and 1950, Memphis almost strapped their few belongings on top of a 1939 quadrupled from 102,350 to 396,000 residents. Plymouth and drove from Tupelo to Memphis in Like so many in the Mid-South, the Presleys, 1948. They were part of a post-war population surge. former sharecroppers and laborers, were lookCrump had earned the city a reputation as one of the ing for better lives. They helped pave the way for cleanest and quietest in the nation. Elvis would soon Carl Perkins, a former Tiptonville, Tenn., cotton amend that image with a raucous music as loud as picker whose family had moved to Jackson in 1947. the pink and black outfits that he wore on stage. Perkins came to Memphis in 1954. In 1955, Johnny Memphis was the biggest city in the region. Cash, who had worked in cotton fields and sawmills When people were sick, they came to Memphis in Dyess, Ark., made his way to the city. Jerry Lee hospitals. When they wanted entertainment, they Lewis, who grew up on a farm in Ferriday, La.,

Above:  Elvis at Lauderdale Courts in 1951.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Opposite:  Memphis in 1948.  © Photo by Robert W. Dye 7

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1948 November 6 The Presley family moves to Memphis from Tupelo, Miss., renting a room at 370 Washington.

arrived in 1956. The city was a melting pot of the region’s music and cultures. Handy, the “Father of the Blues,” had arrived at the beginning of the century. An Alabama native, Sam Phillips, arrived in 1945, working as

fusion of all of the Mid-South’s musical ingredients. The Presleys first lived in a single room of a boarding house near downtown before moving into a two-bedroom apartment in Lauderdale Courts, public housing built as a 1938 WPA project. Public

Elvis Presley did something yesterday that must have done his heart a lot of good. He bought tickets for every member of the Humes High School student body, 1,400 of them, to the E. H. Crump Memorial Football Game for the Blind Friday night. The total cost, at the advance student ticket price of 75 cents, will be $1,050. The essence of it is that Elvis is an old (22) Humes boy himself, and just a half a dozen years ago he had to quit the football squad because – not to put to fine a point on it – he was too poor. “I had to quit and go to work,” he recalled. “That’s the way it had to be.”  —“Humes Students Treated by Elvis to Grid Tickets,” Dec. 1, 1957, by Thomas Michael, The Commercial Appeal

Memphis harbor project begins. November Vernon Presley begins work at Precision Tool Co.

an announcer and sound engineer for WREC-AM radio. He loved big band music, but the city’s blues heritage drew him too. Phillips opened Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union in 1950. He recorded B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf before Elvis helped him arrive at an untested recipe that was a

housing was a privilege. It was the “promised land” for those who had lived with outdoor toilets, fireplaces or cramped boarding house quarters. Lauderdale Courts had parquet wood floors, ceramic tile baths, gas stoves and steam heat. On the north edge of downtown, Lauderdale

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1949 William Faulkner wins the Nobel Prize in Literature. April 29 Vernon Presley begins work at United Paint. September 20 The Presleys move to 185 Washington in Lauderdale Courts public housing.

Courts was within walking distance of Beale Street, the Orpheum theater, Ellis Auditorium and other theaters, including the nearby Suzores No. 2, where 13-year-old Elvis watched the flickering movie screen while dreaming of a bigger life. He attended Humes High School, earning an encore performance of Teresa Brewer’s hit “Till I Waltz Again With You” in the school’s annual minstrel show two Above:  Elvis attended Humes High School from 1949 to

1950 Memphis is named the nation’s quietest, cleanest and safest city. January Sam Phillips opens Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union.

1953.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Left:  Elvis in front of 642 Alabama Street where he lived in the fall of 1953.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Right:  The Presley family’s 1947 U.S. tax return.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Opposite top left:  E.H. “Boss” Crump died Octo-

ber 16, 1954. He ran Memphis for nearly four decades, shaping local politics for years after his death. Opposite top right:  Elvis Presley at age 15 with

one of his girlfriends, Betty McMahan, across the street from Lauderdale Courts in Memphis. His family lived in the housing project from 1949 to 1953.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

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June Sam Phillips and Dewey Phillips (no relation) meet and form a business partnership. September Elvis works as an usher at Loew’s State Theater. September Elvis begins tenth grade at Humes High School and joins the ROTC.

1951 June Elvis gets a summer job at Precision Tool operating a drill press. September Elvis starts his junior year in high school. November Elvis’ mother, Gladys Love Presley, works as a nurse’s aide at St. Joseph Hospital.

1952

months before graduating in 1953. Elvis would then earn $1.25 an hour working for Crown Electric Co., driving trucks to deliver supplies to the men on the job. He planned to be an electrician before switching full time to music while recording for Sun Records in 1954. The first recording was on July 5, 1954, when Elvis recorded “That’s All Right,” the song that would become the Big Bang of rock ’n’ roll. It was a few days later that the song was delivered to disk jockey Dewey Phillips at WHBQ Radio. Elvis had to be summoned from the Suzores No. 2 theater to

be interviewed on the air. He had just slipped from one dream world into another.  ■

Above:  Elvis in ROTC class at Humes High School in

1952.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Left:  Elvis’ Social Security card.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Right:  Elvis’ report card from Humes High School

June Vernon buys Elvis a 1941 Lincoln.

1952.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Opposite top:  Elvis’ 1953 Humes High School

diploma.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Opposite bottom:  Library Club (Elvis back row

far right side).  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Opposite right:  Holiday Inn.  © Photo by Robert W. Dye 10

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August Elvis works for United Upholsterers Co. August 1 The first Holiday Inn opens on Summer Avenue in Memphis. Sam Phillips was one of the early stockholders in Holiday Inn, owned by Kemmons Wilson. September Elvis works at MARL Metal Products, a furniture manufacturer.

1953 January 7 The Presleys move from Lauderdale Courts to 698 Saffarans.

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Memphis Music by Larry Nager // The Commercial Appeal // July 23, 1995

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may be in Cleveland, but an amazing amount of the music enshrined there first saw the light within a 100-mile radius of Memphis. There’s the King of rock ’n’ roll of course, but don’t forget Elvis’ rockabilly pals — Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and some of the lesser-known but no less rocking Sun artists Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Rich, Charlie Feathers, Warren Smith, Sonny Burgess and more. But Memphis music didn’t start with Elvis. Around the turn of the century, when W. C. Handy first came to town as an itinerant bandleader, the Memphis sound was brass bands that played with a danceable beat. An astute businessman, Handy raided the local Beale bands for the best musicians and soon was working all over town. It was a few years later that he wrote a campaign song for E. H. Crump, then making his first run for mayor. “Mr. Crump Don’t Like It” helped Crump win the 1909 election and turn him into Memphis’s legendary Boss. But it also launched Handy’s publishing career in 1912, when, inspired by the previous year’s big hit, Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” Handy published “Mr. Crump Don’t Like It” under the new title, “The Memphis Blues.” Just as Berlin created a craze for ragtime pop songs, Handy popularized the blues. At first it was the white vaudeville singers who had the blues hits, people like Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson, but by the ’20s, black women were the blues stars, including Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Memphis’s own Alberta Hunter. Accompanying them on record were the first generation of African-American jazz musicians, such as former Memphians Lil Hardin on piano and Buster Bailey on clarinet.

By the late ’20s the blues craze had outgrown the vaudeville stage and field recording trips brought the whole spectrum of Memphis bluesmen and women to disk. The Victor Co.’s 1927 trip to Memphis has the distinction of being the first recording sessions in the state of Tennessee. Within a few years, such Beale mainstays as the Memphis Jug Band, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, Sleepy John Estes, Memphis Minnie, the duo of Frank Stokes and Dan Sane, Furry Lewis, Jim Jackson, Jack Kelly, Robert Wilkins and dozens of others were known among blues fans around the country. Down in the Delta, there was a whole generation of blues players coming up. Charlie Patton was the first to record, followed by Son House, Tommy Johnson, Bukka White and, in the mid-’30s, Robert Johnson, whose old Robinsonville, Miss., stomping grounds are now crowded with casino travelers. There were many pockets of the blues all over the country, but the sheer number — and quality — of musicians produced in the Mid-South is truly staggering. Memphis and the Delta continued producing blues and jazz musicians through the ’30s and ’40s. In the early ’50s, a local radio engineer, Sam Phillips, originally from Handy’s hometown of Florence, Ala., opened his Memphis Recording Service and Right:  The Home of the Blues Record Shop was located

on Beale Street, just down from Main Street. Run by Reuben Cherry, the store was part record store and part fun shop, with unusual items collected by the owner over the years. Dewey Phillips and Elvis both used the store to find what was new and out of the mainstream of music for the day. This photo is looking east down Beale from Main, circa 1950.  Courtesy Memphis Public Library

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1953 March 26 Elvis registers at the state employment office. April 19 Elvis performs in the Humes High School annual talent show. June 3 Elvis and classmates graduate from high school in a ceremony at Ellis Auditorium. July 18 Elvis visits Memphis Recording Service and cuts a demo record. August 5 Elvis interviews at Sears but is not hired. August 6 Elvis applies at Kroger but is not hired. September 21 Elvis works at Precision Tool at $1.55 per hour.

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recorded many of them, including Howlin’ Wolf, B. B. King, Little Milton, Walter Horton, Junior Parker, James Cotton, Joe Hill Louis, Dr. Ross and even future jazz great Phineas Newborn Jr. Phillips started his Sun label in 1952, but soon other labels were coming to town to record local black talent. So Phillips tried something new, recording a skinny 19-year-old kid with a bad complexion, greasy hair and an eccentric taste in clothes that mixed black hipster threads with cowboy flourishes. Elvis never really had a big hit on Sun, but he didn’t need one. He was soon on RCA and the rest is history. But Memphis wasn’t done yet. A few years later, some of the rockabilly-come-latelys were teaming up with black R&B players at a studio

owned by Jim Stewart, one of many Memphians who wanted to follow the Sam Phillips road to success. Stax, the label whose name was a combination of Stewart and Axton (Estelle Axton was his older sister and biggest investor), went on to become the longest-running and most vital record label in Memphis history. With the local backup band of Booker T. & the MGs, Stax produced an unparalleled body of hits for Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor, William Bell, Albert King, Isaac Hayes, the Soul Children and dozens more. By the end of the ’60s, the Stax sound had become the “Memphis Sound,” as Chips Moman put his own pop spin on it at his American Sound Studios, creating hits for Neil Diamond, Dusty

Opposite top:  Beale Street, circa 1946-1948.  The Commercial Appeal

Top right:  A jug band played on Beale Street in 1939.  Courtesy Memphis Archives

Opposite bottom left:  Payroll receipt from Preci-

sion Tool from March 15, 1954. Elvis earned $1.22 per hour.  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Opposite bottom right:  Looking east down Beale

Street in 1952. Handy Park on left.  Courtesy Memphis Archives

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Elvis Presley's Memphis