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Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 70s?

Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:04 pm

This is one of the mysteries of Elvis' touring years. Nowadays virtually every performer has their own photographer, but why did someone of Elvis' stature not have his own official photographer who toured with the entourage to document the shows?

All of the best shots we have of Elvis on stage in the 70s come from 4 freelance guys who were never on the payroll of Elvis, RCA or The Colonel as far as I know. They were:

Ed Bonja
Joseph A. Tunzi
Sean Shaver
Keith Alverson

Were these men just 4 super-fans who followed Elvis on tour and paid for their own tickets and travel expenses etc?

It's strange that the biggest entertainer in history did not have a photographer in his retinue.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:19 pm

intheghetto wrote:
JRtherealJR wrote:This is one of the mysteries of Elvis' touring years. Nowadays virtually every performer has their own photographer, but why did someone of Elvis' stature not have his own official photographer who toured with the entourage to document the shows?

All of the best shots we have of Elvis on stage in the 70s come from 4 freelance guys who were never on the payroll of Elvis, RCA or The Colonel as far as I know. They were:

Ed Bonja
Joseph A. Tunzi
Sean Shaver
Keith Alverson

Were these men just 4 super-fans who followed Elvis on tour and paid for their own tickets and travel expenses etc?

It's strange that the biggest entertainer in history did not have a photographer in his retinue.



Why? My educated guess in two words...wait for it:

The Colonel

BINGO Give that man a Cegar :wink:

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:24 pm

Bob Heis also took some very good shots.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:27 am

Wasn't Ed Bonja Parker's nephew or some other family relation?

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:29 am

Bonja was connected to Parker.

But I believe that neither the Colonel, nor Mr. Presley saw the need for proper pictures or photos sessions for the album sleeves. They simply didn't care enough for the product as long as it sold as well as it did.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:47 pm

A. C. van Kuijk wrote:Bonja was connected to Parker.

But I believe that neither the Colonel, nor Mr. Presley saw the need for proper pictures or photos sessions for the album sleeves. They simply didn't care enough for the product as long as it sold as well as it did.


Really. It is perplexing that Elvis didn't give greater consideration to his artistic legacy. Maybe the 50's and early 60's were the "singles" era, but by the time the Beatles arrived on the music landscape, precedent was set for Presley to witness firsthand how to properly employ creative concern and license to put out a product one can be proud of

One of the Biggest Blunders and displays of carelessness exhibited in the 1970's regarding Presley product must be the double aloha album. Not only was the show incredibly significant historically, watched by over a TRILLION people give or take a billion depending on how you crunch the numbers and if include the population of Mars, the album a double album, a #1 album, etc. etc. but RCA COMPLETELY BLOWS CHUNKS by not only NOT using any one of a number of terrific pics from the performance, but pick one of the WORST pics of Elvis from the 70's, most notable because of the pose and the speculation on a humorous level of what is going on in the pic.

The Sun records compilation from the 70's is another MAJOR CLUNKER as far as album cover design. Seriously what the... It was pointed out on this board that the PROPORTIONS aren't even right on the irrelevant and substandard illustration. Geeeezzzzzzzz even grade schoolers can draw people with proper proportions yet a major global head in their rear company like rca can't.

It is amazing the 70's are looked at in as good a light as they are given all that Presley had against him from those on his OWN team nonetheless notably Parker, his squad of yes men, and last and certainly not least rca. No wonder Presley was depressed look at the people he had around him. What a waste.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:40 pm

After the movie years Elvis was tired of photo-sessions and the Colonel figured it was cheaper to have some pictures made while Elvis was on stage. And it saved even more money, if Ed was shoting the photos. So Elvis was happy not to sit in some photo-studio, the Colonel was happy to save some money and Ed was happy to have a job. And I truely believe RCA did not care, as long as the products sold.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:05 pm

Add George Hill & Harold Newton.
That makes 7 respected and talented photographers who followed Elvis on tour.
Bonja was even linked to the Elvis organization so what's the problem?

http://www.imagesinconcert.com/

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:56 am

It was obvious that Elvis started out this new phase of his career a lot.
Proof: 1968 comeback and 1969 return to a live audience. Anyone with a bit of an ear could not mistake the obvious care and vigor Elvis put in his performances. So what if the set lists are similar? He cared. Just listen. He cared. I rather have 20 shows of a caring Elvis than 5 shows showcasing Elvis on autopilot. Elvis caring means you get 20 different shows despite the setlists, because of his interpretation, his interaction with the crowd, his mood, what have you.
By 1970 slowly but surely the numbers started to creep back in. Quantity over quality. By 1971 this was a fact. Get the folks as fast as possible out of the showroom and into gambling. Elvis obliged for a huge part. In 1972 we see some return to form, probably because of the movie On Tour.
1973: Elvis basically took his Aloha show into the showroom and on the road or v.v.
1974: a dried out Elvis performs wonderfully but still looks unhealthy.
1975: up and down, mood swings, a cancellation of the LV August stint.
1975: december: probably the last time Elvis had decent vocal control troughout.
So... slowly but surely Elvis lost his grip. And when he lost his grip, his people working for him can't get a grip.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:21 am

epf wrote:It was obvious that Elvis started out this new phase of his career a lot.
Proof: 1968 comeback and 1969 return to a live audience. Anyone with a bit of an ear could not mistake the obvious care and vigor Elvis put in his performances. So what if the set lists are similar? He cared. Just listen. He cared. I rather have 20 shows of a caring Elvis than 5 shows showcasing Elvis on autopilot. Elvis caring means you get 20 different shows despite the setlists, because of his interpretation, his interaction with the crowd, his mood, what have you.
By 1970 slowly but surely the numbers started to creep back in. Quantity over quality. By 1971 this was a fact. Get the folks as fast as possible out of the showroom and into gambling. Elvis obliged for a huge part. In 1972 we see some return to form, probably because of the movie On Tour.
1973: Elvis basically took his Aloha show into the showroom and on the road or v.v.
1974: a dried out Elvis performs wonderfully but still looks unhealthy.
1975: up and down, mood swings, a cancellation of the LV August stint.
1975: december: probably the last time Elvis had decent vocal control troughout.
So... slowly but surely Elvis lost his grip. And when he lost his grip, his people working for him can't get a grip.


I'm trying to get the link with an official photographer here :wink:

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:28 am

Robert wrote:
epf wrote:It was obvious that Elvis started out this new phase of his career a lot.
Proof: 1968 comeback and 1969 return to a live audience. Anyone with a bit of an ear could not mistake the obvious care and vigor Elvis put in his performances. So what if the set lists are similar? He cared. Just listen. He cared. I rather have 20 shows of a caring Elvis than 5 shows showcasing Elvis on autopilot. Elvis caring means you get 20 different shows despite the setlists, because of his interpretation, his interaction with the crowd, his mood, what have you.
By 1970 slowly but surely the numbers started to creep back in. Quantity over quality. By 1971 this was a fact. Get the folks as fast as possible out of the showroom and into gambling. Elvis obliged for a huge part. In 1972 we see some return to form, probably because of the movie On Tour.
1973: Elvis basically took his Aloha show into the showroom and on the road or v.v.
1974: a dried out Elvis performs wonderfully but still looks unhealthy.
1975: up and down, mood swings, a cancellation of the LV August stint.
1975: december: probably the last time Elvis had decent vocal control troughout.
So... slowly but surely Elvis lost his grip. And when he lost his grip, his people working for him can't get a grip.


I'm trying to get the link with an official photographer here :wink:


I understand your remark. But the point is that everything was done as cheap as possible, the same way with photography. And it showed. Ofcourse there are exceptions.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:29 am

Maybe when you have a lot of (semi)professional photographers following Elvis they did not need to hire one. Im sure when they needed some pix for album covers they could choose from a lot of pictures.
Maybe they didn't care much. One can discuss the quality but you have to remind that it was the 70s, 40 years ago! When you see wallpaper from that time its brown and orange with huge flowers. Most people don't find that very attractive anymore either. (I agree though that the Aloha cover could have been much better, they should have used a picture of Elvis at the end of the show, on his knees doing the aloha greeting.

They had an original idea on the Elvis country album. With the picture they focused on Elvis humble country background. Wonder who came up with that idea.

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:55 am

As Bruce Jackson said to me, the "Presley Organisation was the cheapest" he had "ever work for". This comment came when discussing things like lighting and BJ's 4 track Teac recordings from '77 when Felton was too sick to work, and The Colonel gave BJ $500 cash to go buy the recording equipment. BJ was asked by Felton to pick the best tracks, then bounce the 4 track recordings to 8 tracks for overdubbing. BJ said he just whacked the tape on at the start of the show until it ran out. It was around this time he and one of the Stanley boys had to get a shot of penicillin from Dr Ghanem for a case of The Clap although I heard this same story but was set in Vegas on the balcony with EP and the guys making fun of them from the lounge room. Great stories from a top bloke. BTW, no permission was given for Charles Stone to use BJ's photos in his book from a few years ago but BJ was the kind of guy to shrug his shoulders a d get on with things. He did contribute to a book (with photos) based on the April-June period by Praytome that I think was never announced. Anyway, just a little aside sparked by the topic. Ed and BJ were mates though. I have some BJ photos he took on both the Nov 71 and June 72 tours: the tours I believe we're pretty "rock 'n' roll" between shows, if you know what I mean?!
And as BJ would sign off;

'Later!

Re: Why Did Elvis Not Have An Official Photographer In The 7

Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:16 pm

Jim Dandy wrote:As Bruce Jackson said to me, the "Presley Organisation was the cheapest" he had "ever work for". This comment came when discussing things like lighting and BJ's 4 track Teac recordings from '77 when Felton was too sick to work, and The Colonel gave BJ $500 cash to go buy the recording equipment. BJ was asked by Felton to pick the best tracks, then bounce the 4 track recordings to 8 tracks for overdubbing. BJ said he just whacked the tape on at the start of the show until it ran out. It was around this time he and one of the Stanley boys had to get a shot of penicillin from Dr Ghanem for a case of The Clap although I heard this same story but was set in Vegas on the balcony with EP and the guys making fun of them from the lounge room. Great stories from a top bloke. BTW, no permission was given for Charles Stone to use BJ's photos in his book from a few years ago but BJ was the kind of guy to shrug his shoulders a d get on with things. He did contribute to a book (with photos) based on the April-June period by Praytome that I think was never announced. Anyway, just a little aside sparked by the topic. Ed and BJ were mates though. I have some BJ photos he took on both the Nov 71 and June 72 tours: the tours I believe we're pretty "rock 'n' roll" between shows, if you know what I mean?!
And as BJ would sign off;

'Later!



Regarding BJ, a book on his total career would have been great (same approach as Jerry Scheff for example)
Can you post the Bonja pics?

(just kiddin')