Monday, August 31, 2015

The Final Performance

Elvis Presley's final concert took place June 26, 1977 in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Market Square Arena. The Arena has since been torn down however a monument remains on site marking the site as Elvis' Last Live Performance. The concert began at 8:00 p.m. and included hits such as Release Me, I Can't Stop Loving You and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Elvis arrived at the arena was his girlfriend Ginger Alden. The Memphis Mafia and his father Vernon were also in attendance. His long time drummer Ronnie Tutt however, missed this show due to personal reasons. Sadly, he would never play for Elvis again.
Elvis arriving with Ginger Alden
Elvis was not in good health. During his 1977 concerts he had several incidents where he had to leave stage due to intestinal issues. Just weeks before, Elvis had filmed a live concert for CBS. To fulfill his duties they had to record two concerts to get the results they were looking for. Elvis agreed to these concerts because of the money and the fact that his manager had practically guilt tripped him into it. Elvis was paid the high price of $750,000.00 for the CBS concert. His manager took half. Elvis wore the Mexican Sundial Jumpsuit during all of these performances and it was the last jumpsuit he would ever wear in concert.

Elvis was in good spirits during his last concert. He even brought his father Vernon onto stage with him. Vernon had had several health scares in the previous months including a heart attack scare. His improving health no doubt helped lift Elvis' spirits. He gave out scarfs, spoke with the audience in between songs and played the guitar.

While Vernon's health was improving, the members of the band had grown increasingly alarmed at Elvis' erratic behavior. They noted he was forgetting words to songs, slurring his speech and his graceful mannerisms gone only to be replaced with a slower and sluggish Elvis. No one knew that only months later we would lose the King of Rock n' Roll.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elvis & Charlie

You may have never heard this name before but you've probably seen him in photos.

His name was Charlie Hodge and he was one of the privileged to be one of Elvis' closest friends. They met in 1955 briefly when Charlie was playing guitar in a musical group. In 1958, they were both stationed at Fort Hood together in the Army. They quickly became good friends and at Elvis' request they were placed in the same area and were both sent to Germany.
Once they left the army, Charlie came back to the States with Elvis. He moved to Graceland and  began playing back up guitar for Elvis. He also went to Hollywood with Elvis while he filmed movies. Charlie was given many back ground parts. When Elvis' daughter was born Charlie was there and got to be one of the first people to hold her.
When Elvis went to make his comeback appearance in 1968, Charlie was there to support him on the intimate stage. He played guitar and back up vocals. Once the comeback launched Elvis in to performing full time again, he brought Charlie with him to Las Vegas for his sold out shows and then again on the road.
In one concert, Elvis took off his guitar and threw it behind him. Luckily, Charlie was there to catch it. Afterwards, Elvis was so impressed he started incorporating it into the act.

Charlie was present and behind the scenes for all of Elvis' major life events. He was there performing in Las Vegas, on the road, movies, etc. He even had a permanent room in all of Elvis' homes. He lived in Elvis' homes for more than 15 years.

The Memphis Mafia (which was Elvis' bodyguards and closest friends) say that Charlie was one of the few people who truly cared for Elvis. Charlie was one of the people who didn't need gifts or expensive things from Elvis. He really cared about his friendship. He remained by Elvis until the end. Charlie and Elvis were real friends. Charlie was also asked to be a pallbearer by Vernon for his funeral.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Riding In Style

Elvis was famously known for his on stage performances and his lavish lifestyle. He worked hard so he could play hard. He would splurge on fancy clothing, shiny jewelry and sweet rides. What comes with a lavish lifestyle? Automobiles! Let's look at some of Elvis' most famous cars and get a glimpse into those sweet rides.

In 1955, Elvis bought a Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60. The car was originally blue but he had a neighbor paint it pink with a white top. He gifted this car to his mother and it is widely known and probably his most famous vehicle. He was very quick to point out that this was his mother's car.

The most surprising car in Elvis' collection was a three wheeled car called the Messerschmitt. The car was German built and had a bubble. He kept this car for a few years and later traded it to the famous Lansky brothers for a shopping spree in their clothing store. He was allowed to shop in the store alone for a few hours and take whatever he liked.

The 1969 Mercedes Benz Pullman is one of the few cars that Elvis bought and kept. This car can currently be seen on display at Graceland. Elvis rode around this car and could fit multiple people inside it with him.
In 1961, Elvis celebrated a 5 year contract in the motion picture business by going out and buying a Rolls Royce. He was in Beverly Hills and had the car shipped back to Graceland. The glossy paint distracted his chickens on the Graceland grounds and the chickens pecked at the paint. Elvis had to have the car repainted several times.
The last car that Elvis was photographed in was his 1973 Stutz Blackhawk III. He had owned three different Stutz vehicles before owning this one. One was in a wreck and then just placed into storage. This 1973 car was one that Elvis kept for years and loved. It is also the last car that he was ever seen driving before his death in 1977.
In addition to cars Elvis bought motorcycles, ski mobiles, golf carts and bikes. He loved to ride around the grounds of Graceland in style. He also owned two airplanes: the Lisa Marie and Hound Dog. The Lisa Marie was a cross country plane that could hold a large group of people. This plane became a great investment to Elvis when he started touring across the country in concerts.
The Hound Dog is smaller but very colorful on the inside.
That's just a sampling of Elvis' car collection but you can get an idea of how much he loved his toys!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kung Fu Elvis

Elvis loved martial arts. He loved it so much he spent decades studying the art. He discovered karate while he was in the Army and spent a large part of his free time in Germany studying and practicing. Once he got back to the States he kept up the hobby. In 1960, in Beverly Hills he met Karate instructor Ed Parker and immediately started studying under him. By 1972, Elvis had earned his seventh degree black belt.

His early days of Karate
Elvis loved Karate so much that friends in his inner circle have been quoted as saying it was almost embarrassing how much he loved it. He would practice all of the time and get them involved. He also began incorporating karate moves into his movies and performances.

When Elvis would perform karate as an exhibition for friends or for a large group of people he would wear a specially made karate jumpsuit. It would have the red piping and his initials on the back jacket in red. However, when he was just practicing or not in front of a crowd of outsiders he would wear the traditional white or black karate pants and jacket.

Elvis enjoyed martial arts so much he started the makings of a karate movie called Gladiators. He started filming and financially backing the movie in 1973 and kept filming it until 1974. The film centered around Elvis narrating fights that the United States Karate team had done in London and Brussels. There was also demonstrations done by Elvis and his karate instructor Ed Parker.
When Elvis died in 1977, the documentary film had never been finished or edited for release. The raw footage laid in a garage in West Hollywood along with other memorabilia and was forgotten about.  When it was rediscovered in 2001, the footage was taken and restored. It was released later in 2002 as The New Gladiators. It will take you back to the 1970's and you'll really marvel at how much loved this sport. He even bestowed a TCB Karate patch to all of his Memphis Mafia who were involved.
At the time of his death, Elvis had practiced Martial Arts for over 20 years. He was the Karate King.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Jumpsuits

When Elvis came back to performing on stage with the 1968 Comeback Special, he wanted to wear something that would allow him to move, feel comfortable and look stylish on stage. He worked with costume designer Bill Belew to create the looks. Bill would sketch styles for Elvis to approve. Once the designs were approved, the jumpsuits would begin getting made. Elvis wore jumpsuits once or several times. It all just depended on his mood and what he chose to go out on stage wearing. The more popular or well known jumpsuits are usually the highly documents ones. It didn't necessarily mean that he wore them over and over.

The majority of Elvis' jumpsuits came with a matching belt. However, there are some that had alternating belts which would help change the look of the suit. Elvis also had several two piece suits made that he would wear on stage. Under the stage lights, the suits could get a little hot and the belts would weigh down on Elvis. Once he was bestowed the attendance belt in Las Vegas, he would often incorporate that into his outfit. It is currently on display in Las Vegas at the Westgate (formerly the International) Hotel at the Elvis Experience Exhibit.

Many of Elvis' jumpsuits also had a matching cape that was detachable. He would usually enter the show wearing it and leave wearing it. The capes were often heavy so he would remove them for the duration of the show. Let's take a look at some of his jumpsuits...
The Black Cisco Kid Suit and Green Yokes 1974

Black Conquistador Suit

Every jumpsuit that Elvis wore on stage has been named. The above jumpsuits are just a sampling of the many that he wore in concert. One of the most well known suits worn by Elvis was the Peacock suit...
So what's your favorite Elvis jumpsuit? Is it one of the better known ones or an obscure one he wore only maybe once or twice? He brought a whole new level of cool to the stage.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Meeting the President

It all started on December 19, 1970. Elvis had got into a heated argument with his wife Priscilla and his father Vernon when they confronted him on spending habits. Upset and feeling confined in his Graceland home, he left his home for the first time alone since he was 21 years old. He boarded a flight and went to Washington D.C. He checked himself into the Hotel Washington but then flew to Los Angeles to visit his friend Jerry Schilling.

At the time Elvis had an eye infection and was taking medication. He had an allergic reaction to the medication which was aggravated by chocolate that he ate on the plane. When he arrived in Los Angeles a rash had developed on his face and neck. Seeking refuge with Schilling and after seeing a doctor and getting some sleep, Elvis told Jerry that he wanted to return to Washington D.C. He also arranged for Sonny West (one of his body guards) to meet them there. On the plane ride back to Washington, Elvis met California Senator George Murphy. He told Senator Murphy that he was interested in acquiring a  Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge. 
The Senator suggested that Elvis write to President Nixon offering his services to help combat illicit drug use with youth. Elvis thought this was a brilliant idea and immediately wrote a letter on the plane.
Once they landed he hand delivered it to the White House at 6.30am on December 21. A few hours later Elvis visited the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs headquarters and met with Deputy Director John Finlator.  Elvis was unsuccessful in persuading Finlator to give him a BNDD badge.

While at the hotel, Jerry received a call from  Egil Krogh, President Nixon's deputy counsel, to arrange a meeting between Elvis and Nixon. Elvis immediately picked up Jerry and Sonny from the hotel and made their way over to the White House. All three of them were immediately accepted into the White House and met President Nixon.

Elvis persuaded Nixon to give him a BNDD badge, and after an official photograph was taken, the trio left, with Presley returning to Graceland the following day.

 Elvis signed photographs for the President and also received gifts from the White House.

Elvis got exactly what he set out to do. He met the President and got the badge that he so wanted. He offered up his services to be an Agent at large. It is said that Nixon met with Elvis to try to appeal to a younger audience.