The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Graceland exhibit traces highlights of Elvis' career after first record made 60 years ago

  • Print

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The telegram sent by Elvis Presley to his parents in November 1954 gives a glimpse into the young singer's priorities and his optimism, as he begins what will become a career as a rock 'n' roll icon and cultural phenomenon.

"Hi babies," says the telegram, sent from Houston by Presley to his parents, Vernon and Gladys, who were in Memphis. "Here's the money to pay the bills. Don't tell no one how much I sent. Will send more next week. There is a card in the mail. Love, Elvis."

The note is being displayed in an exhibit at Graceland, Presley's longtime Memphis home that today serves as a museum and tourist attraction. The exhibit, which opened Monday, commemorates the 60 years since Presley cut his first record, "That's All Right," at Sun Studio in July 1954. It was played on the radio days later, and many believe its release marked the birth of mainstream rock 'n' roll.

There are other theories about the creation of rock 'n' roll, which was born from a truly American mixture of styles such as country, blues, jazz and gospel. But in the eyes of Priscilla Presley — Elvis Presley's former wife — it was a defining moment in Elvis' life, when as a shy 19-year-old he walked into the studio run by visionary producer Sam Phillips and sang the lyrics, "Well, that's all right mama, that's all right for you."

"It had to be on his mind for a long time to get up the nerve to go in that place and want to meet Sam Phillips to record a song for his mother," Priscilla Presley told The Associated Press in an interview at Graceland on Friday.

"That's not something that he would have just thought about doing at the spur of the moment," she added. "I think it took him some courage to do that."

Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Miss., on Jan. 8, 1935. He moved to Memphis with his parents as a teenager and made the city his primary home. He lived at Graceland until his death at age 42 on Aug. 16, 1977.

Elvis and Priscilla met in 1959, and her first visit to Graceland was in 1962. They were married in 1967 and divorced in 1973.

The house opened as a museum in June 1982, and a complex built across the street houses permanent exhibits, two airplanes owned by Presley, gift shops and restaurants. The tourist attraction draws more than 500,000 visitors each year.

The temporary exhibit is in a room next to the house called the "annex." Visitors with a VIP ticket (about $70) can walk the entire exhibit in about 15 to 20 minutes. It details the trajectory of Presley's career through his hit songs, such as "Heartbreak Hotel," ''Jailhouse Rock" and "Suspicious Minds."

It's also the first new exhibit since Authentic Brands Group bought Elvis Presley's intellectual property from CORE Media Group in November.

Authentic Brands also is partnering with the founder of another company to operate the tourist attraction across the street from the home. Elvis and Priscilla Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, still owns the Graceland home and the original items inside it.

Along with the telling telegram, the "60 Years of Elvis" exhibit features jumpsuits worn on tour by Presley and an organ he would play in his California home. There's Presley's copy of the original "That's All Right" record — with "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on the other side — and the original contract Presley inked with RCA in November 1955 for a $5,000 signing bonus.

Priscilla Presley said her husband talked about befriending Phillips' secretary Marion Keisker, who is said to have recognized his talent and facilitated the first "That's All Right" recording.

"The timing was right ... under her guidance, it worked out," Priscilla Presley said. "He was nervous that day, as much as he was the day they first played his song on the radio."

Elvis also was nervous about how listeners would react to the song, which was played by influential disc jockey Dewey Phillips on his "Red, Hot and Blue" radio show on WHBQ a few days after it was recorded.

"Elvis was really shy by nature — I don't know if you all know that or not, but I do for sure," Priscilla Presley said.

Despite the flashy garments, confident onstage persona and sex appeal, Elvis was not one to boast about money. She said the phrase in the telegram asking his parents not to divulge the amount he sent is proof.

To this day, it remains unclear how much he actually wired.

"Enough to pay the bills, let's just put it that way," says Priscilla Presley, laughing.

___

If You Go...

60 YEARS OF ELVIS: Exhibit at Graceland, Memphis, Tenn., part of VIP tour, $72; http://www.elvis.com/ .

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Chief justices breakdown cameras in courtroom project

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google