ELVIS: The Exhibition – The Early Years from Tupelo to Hollywood


Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8th, 1935 – August 16th, 1977) was born into humble beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi but soon made a rapid rise to the top of the music charts and went on to star in 31 feature films plus 2 concert documentaries. He was known as the “King of Rock and Roll” and in his later years became the number one show to see in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the 1970’s he performed hundreds of sold out shows in Las Vegas at the Hilton Hotel and was the ultimate entertainer that millions of people came to see. Some 40 years later Elvis is back in the building and taking care of business in the form of ELVIS: The Exhibition, which is presented by Graceland and displayed in the very same hotel but today it is known as the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (renamed in 2012).

ELVIS: The Exhibition Westgate Resort & Casino Las Vegas NV
ELVIS: The Exhibition
Viva Las Vegas poster (1964)
Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there
And they’re all livin’ the devil may care
And I’m just the devil with love to spare, so
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas” is a 1963 song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. It was recorded that same year by Elvis Presley for his famous movie Viva Las Vegas (released in 1964) which also starred the gorgeous Ann-Margret (what Elvis movie didn’t star a gorgeous starlet of the time?). Its one of those unforgettable Elvis movies, that’s for sure!

I am a big Elvis fan, so I couldn’t miss this exhibition and my recent visit to Las Vegas happened to coincide with the weekend that commemorated the anniversary of the sad and untimely death of Elvis at just 42 in 1977, so my timing was apt (I remember vividly being upset as a little kid finding out Elvis had passed away). This man could sing rockabilly, rock and roll, pop, country, gospel, soul and even Christmas songs! He truly was a legend and a one of a kind performer. This exhibition is fantastic! Long live the King!

The exhibition spans the life and  career of Elvis Presley from his earliest days in his hometown of Tupelo in Mississippi, through to his movies, his time in the US Army (1958 – 1960 during the height of his career, he attained the rank of Sargeant with the 3rd Armoured Regiment and was deployed to Germany. Always a generous man he donated his army pay to charity and purchased TV sets and more for the base), Graceland his home in Memphis, Tennessee and his early recording career. It seems amazing today but Elvis only ever performed a few shows outside of the United States and these were all in Canada in 1957.

Tupelo Elvis Exhibition Las Vegas
The Tupelo Years
Sun Records - Memphis Elvis Exhibition Las Vegas
Sun Records – Memphis

You can see many different artifacts from his early life and career including photos, memorabilia, mementos, clothing, jewelry, documents, letters, personal items, movie posters, movie scripts and costumes. This is all accompanied by information boards and multimedia displays playing his music, interviews, movies and more.

The Early Years

Elvis Early Years
Tupelo’s Elvis

Elvis movies Las Vegas Elvis Exhibition
The movie star
Elvis the exhibition Las Vegas
That guitar cover featured in a number of early performances including on TV
Elvis the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Exhibition Las Vegas Westgate Resport and Casino
Elvis the King of Rock and Roll

In the Army

Elvis US Army Elvis US Army Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas
Elvis was drafted into the US Army 1958 – 1960 during the height of his career, he attained the rank of Sargeant with the 3rd Armoured Regiment and was deployed to Germany
Elvis US Army Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas
By all accounts Elvis was as popular in the Army as he was in the general public
Elvis US Army Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas
In the army now

The Hollywood Years

Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
Viva Las Vegas
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
Musical movie memories
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
The Hollywood Years
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
Elvis had his movie scripts bound for his library collection
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015 Worlds Fair
It Happened at the Worlds Fair (1963) – as a kid this was the movie that inspired me to want to live in Seattle some day!

Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
Elvis the leading man
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
Debonair to khaki green
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
The movie gallery of ELVIS: The Exhibition
Elvis Movies Elvis the Exhibition Las Vegas 2015
The movie gallery of ELVIS: The Exhibition

Colonel Tom Parker (June 26th, 1909 – January 21st, 1997), Elvis’s infamous Manager, was instrumental in the huge success of Elvis but he had a very tight and manipulative control over his career, especially the movies he could do (Elvis apparently missed out on many great dramatic leads as Parker would not allow it). In the later years he is said to have pocketed 50% of Elvis’s earnings from his recordings and movies, plus 33% of his profits from live shows! Parker was also the first to market a performer on merchandise and in 1956 alone over 80 Elvis related items were produced that amassed over $22 million in sales within 6 months, which is the equivalent of $189 million USD today! Parker made plenty of money off his star!

Elvis 1950's merchandise
Elvis 1950’s merchandise
Music, movies, collectibles and items from Colonel Tom Parkers office Elvis Exhibition Las Vegas
Music, movies, collectibles and items from Colonel Tom Parkers office

In my next post I will show you the comeback years when Elvis moved away from making movies and got back into legendary live performances. Thank you very much!

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Have you read The Colonel by Alanna Nash ?

    1. Deano says:

      Hi Pierre,
      No I have not. No doubt its an interesting read?

      1. Pierre Lagacé says:

        You learn so much about Elvis and his career. It explains why Elvis almost never left the U.S. to perform. You can use Google to research this.

      2. Deano says:

        Oh yeah well aware of the background. The “Colonel” was far from what he seemed. It took Elvis a long time to get over his fear of flying too – Aloha from Hawaii was about as far as he would go since his army days! Ironic that he owned two jets!

      3. Pierre Lagacé says:

        The Colonel probably killed someone in Holland earlier in his life. He ran away. He was afraid of travelling outside the U.S. and get arrested…so to never allow Elvis out of his sights he kept him inside the U.S.

      4. Deano says:

        Does the author discuss the story that he did not have a valid passport? Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk that is!

      5. Pierre Lagacé says:

        I translated that book in French in 2006. He was an illegal immigrant if I remember correctly.

      6. Pierre Lagacé says:

        In 1968 Elvis was at a crossroad in his career. He chose to stay with the Colonel which led him eventually to his demise.
        Have you ever seen his 68 Comeback Special on DVD?

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_(1968_TV_program)

        Must see!

      7. Deano says:

        Great show and the Aloha 73. Elvis: That’s the way it is – another great music doco

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