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).
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.
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
In the Army
The Hollywood Years
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!
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!