Davide

The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:39 am

Here are the publicity stills used for both Sun Records and later RCA Victor

Blue Light Studio
Date : 1954?
Original Location : 130 Beale Street,Memphis,North West corner corner of Beale and Second Streets.
Photo by Margaret Sutton.
Blue Light is owned by Terry Garner, and is now located at 247 S Cooper St Memphis.
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The original Blue Light Studio,130 Beale Street,Memphis.

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Photo by Jim Reid,
Location : The Memphis Press-Scimitar Offices
Date : Tuesday July 27th 1954

Photographer Jim Reid recalls :
My first meeting with Elvis was in 1954 when he had just recorded his first songs at Sun,which was just up the street from the Press- Scimitar. The lady that worked there, Marion Keisker, she brought him down one afternoon.

That week I was working night shift - 3pm till 11.30am. At that time we used the big old speed-rapids,the 4x5's - which are now obsolete in news work,but all of our work was done with those cameras then. You had to load up all your holders before you went out on an assignment,and consequently you had two shots to a holder - one on each side. You didn't like to waste your shots because you hated to load holders. So as I was about to go out on assignment,one of our reporters dropped this young man down at our studio and said, "Jim, I need you to take a picture. This is Elvis Presley - he's a singer"

At the time, I was 24-year-old.. I looked at this individual and I had to turn away from him! I'd never heard the name Elvis before,and he was dressed in the most nondescript clothes you could imagine..his head was down and he was quite shy, and he looked like he wanted to run! I thought Elvis Presley? This guy's a singer? I had to turn to the wall and mentally say "Sure he is!" I sat him down and took two pictures - that's all. I asked him, "Raise your chin up" and he raised it. I shot the picture and flipped the holder over..and again his chin was back down. He was a very shy individual - very shy. I shot the second picture* then he went back over to the reporter's desk...and that was my first encounter with Elvis.^

Edwin Howard ..remembering how it all began for Elvis :
The morning of July 27th 1954, Marion Keisker (now Macinnes) phoned me from Sun Records,where she was Sam Phillips' right arm,and asked if she might bring a promising young Sun artist in to see me. Marion thought he had something. He had first come to Sun months before to use the studio's rental facilities to make a record for his mother on her birthday. Phillips had been intrigued and eventually recorded the boy commercially.

They would have to come in on the boy's lunch hour,Marion said, because he was still driving a truck for Crown Electric Co. I said I'd be glad to see them, and shortly after noon they got off the elevator on the fifth floor of 'The Press-Scimitar and came over to my desk.

The boy's hair looked as if it had been cut by a lawn mower, but the trademarks were already there - flat top, duck tail and sideburns. He was shy and, except for "Yes sir" and "No Sir", let Marion do all the talking. Here is the item that ran the next day in the The Front Row - the first interview with Elvis Presley.**
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An alternative image from the same time as the photo above.
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From the book 'The Rock´n´roll Years by' Ger Rijff' >>
The only information for this portrait that I have found is provided below.
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This publicity photo seems to have only been used for Sun Records promotions.

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Berlin/New York (bpb) A rare photograph of Elvis Presley was discovered in the Presley-Archive of the European Art Foundation Berlin. It shows the 19-year old guy in 1954. "At this age, I wanted to look always a bit older", Presley commented about this later. He believed that his "milky face" looked too soft. And because of this, people would not take him seriously.

The photograph was used in 1955 by his label SUN Records-Studios in Memphis, USA in a promotion campaign. The stylist gave Elvis a dreamy make-up, with dark eyelashes... The makeup artist further worked out his erotic lips by slight dash of dark red lipstick. The PR-photograph was distributed in black and white only. On a colored version he looked--according to what is known--to girlish.

Elvis can be seen wearing a bow tie,like the one above on the 25th February 1955,Texarkana - Municipal Auditorium. It is reported that Elvis flung his tie into the crowd on this date,and to keep up with demand,he bought a box of bow ties at his favourite clothing store in Memphis and hire a West Texas girl to sign his name on the,her payment was a kiss and a bow tie,authentically signed,***



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Sam Phillips,Elvis, and Manager Bob Neil.My feeling is that this photo was taken in Memphis, probably at Bob Neal's office, which was located at 160 Union Avenue. The large photo on the wall looks to be Mrs (Helen) Neal. The publicity stills below are, I suggest, all taken on the same day. Elvis' tie, shirt, suit and hairstyle all look identical. The above photo was taken to show that Bob Neil took over from Scotty Moore as Elvis' manager from the date of 1st January 1955. It was reported that Elvis' parents were also present at the signing, which with Sam Phillips also in attendance, would strengthen the case for the location to be Memphis.

As for the date,the photo's from this session,the first one that I can find being from the 'Boonville Banner dated January 13th 1955 - therefore they must have been taken before this time. My thoughts are that the actual date previously recorded of Saturday January1st 1955, may not be the date that the photo's were taken, and could have been shot on another date.
On New Years Eve night Elvis played at Houston, Eagles Hall,Texas, and as noted in 'Elvis Dy By Day, Billboard reported that Elvis stayed in the Houston area for some further performances,and appeared in Odessa,Texas on the 4th (It's possible that Elvis, Scotty and Bill drove the ten hour through the night drive after the New Years concert, back to Memphis, slept some and then signed the contract late afternoon of the 1st ,but I would suggest this to be unlikely)

My thoughts at this stage,taken into account the locations that Elvis found himself in during December 1954, are that they may have taken around the Christmas period of 54.

The above info will need to be updated (Nov 2013)

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This photo was printed up for publicity use and can be seen being held by a fan with Elvis on March 4th 1955.

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Location : Speer Photography,1330 Linden Avenue,Memphis
Photo's by William Speer
Date : July 1955
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Elvis returned to Memphis for a two--week vacation from tuesday July 5th - Saturday 16th 1955 (Elvis day By Day). The summer off 55 - Mr Speer mentions meeting Elvis shortly after the photo session - this would indicate that Elvis spent more than one day in Memphis,at this point.

Regarding the month of June, Elvis is accounted for being away from Memphis, on tour - so this, I feel rules out June. August is not possible as some publications started to use images from this session during that month.

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Speer's Elvis series includes a smiling Elvis, although, he says, "I don't usually take smiling jackass pictures. If you're looking at a person with a smile, all you see is the smile. The smile kills the whole thing. The picture is in the eyes."

"When he first stepped in front of the camera, I told him, `You sure would make a wonderful actor,' " says photographer William Speer of his most famous subject.

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William Speer grew up as a fan of black-and-white movie glamor shots in the glass cases in theater lobbies when he was a child. He used what he calls "Rembrandt lighting" with an overhead spotlight casting shadows downward. Before the photos were even developed, Speer and his wife, Vacil, knew there was something special going on:

"It felt like an electrical charge in the room. You can tell the famous ones or the ones who are going to be famous. They stand out in a room without you even knowing who they are," says Vacil Speer.

Speer remembers thinking Elvis "looked like Burt Lancaster. He could have played his brother in the movies." When the photographs were developed, no one was disappointed. "He came off that dead film like dynamite. Either you've got it or you haven't," says the photographer.


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Speer had to shoot at a distance because he used an usually large camera for portraits, are German Goerzdader lens that weighed more than twenty pounds. Instead of f-stops,the camera had 'waterhouse stops' where one drops different apertures into the lens.Elvis moved around so much that Speer shot him wide open

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The photographs were among the most memorable ever shot of Elvis, partly because Vacil Speer was bold enough to ask Elvis to try "something different" - a few shots with his shirt off. "He didn't look real happy about it," but he obliged, says Vacil Speer. Elvis seldom used the shirtless poses for publicity purposes. When he saw them, the Speers say he laughed and said, "These have got to go." But they have become collectors' items. In a 1987 column in the New York Daily News, columnist Liz Smith called one of the brooding shirtless poses "the most beautiful photo ever taken of Elvis." The photos also were turned into a 1993 calendar with Elvis the cover boy for 11 months and a separate Speer photo of Elvis's parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, as the 12th month.


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Vacil Speer says she missed her chance during the session to make it even more memorable. "Somebody said, `Why didn't you take his pants off while you were at it?' I could have been worth a fortune by now."


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Elvis sent his parents to Speer for their portrait and returned once with a girlfriend,Anita Wood to have her portrait shot. It was then that Speer thinks he may have offended Elvis, who never returned. While he was concentrating on photographing the girlfriend, Elvis was in the next room and began singing."I said, 'Stop the racket. I'm trying to take a picture.'"
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"The other thing I recall about that day was that he couldn't sit still. He was strumming and fidgeting and moving about so much I hardly had time to change apertures."

It was Vacil who suggested Elvis take his shirt off for some of the pictures. The Speers were accustomed to shooting female nudes,and there was something about Elvis,they recall,that inspired the same sexy approach. Elvis said he was embarrassed, but went along.

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William Speer pictured in 1992 with one of his favourite Elvis portraits.


The next day, he sent his parents to the Speer studio to have their picture taken,too.
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"Vernon was shocked when I told him it would cost a hundred and fifty dollars for the photograph,Speer says. He thought I was overcharging them just because of who their son was.

A few days after the sitting,at the Loew's Theatre in Memphis,Elvis ran into the Speers in the lpbby and wanted to know how the pictures had turned out,but he was shy talking to Mr Speer. "You don't like me" he said nervously, "So I guess I better talk to your wife". When he looked at the proofs,he wrote a note on the back of each of the bare-chested ones,saying,"I don't want this one!""I never photographed him again,but I used to see him later on, driving around memphis on his motorcycle. You know when he got old and let his hair grow long, he looked like his mother.

Any more info or corrections would be most welcome

with thanks Davide

*Mississippi Valley Collection
**Edwin Howard August 17 1977
***Elvis In Texas Lori Torrance and Stanley Oberst page 56/57
^ETMAHM N0.24 Page 19 Jim Reid talking to Trevor Cajiao
>>Thanks to DJC for the link, and Brian for the image
Last edited by davide on Thu Nov 21, 2013 1:28 am, edited 3 times in total.

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:47 am

Great stuff, and I've never seen many of those before. Thanks for sharing!

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:00 am

+1 :D

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:05 pm

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Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:07 pm

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Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:20 am

davide, thanks for posting. Some are new to me.

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:02 am

great stuff davide love learning when and where history of Elvis

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:08 am

Do we know who the photographer was for photos 7,8 and 9? Also does anyone have the photo of a fan holding picture 7 on March 4th, 1955?

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:25 am

Amazing topic. Priceless, thanks a lot!

And I so agree with that lost comment by Speers "You know when he got old and let his hair grow long, he looked like his mother."

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:19 am

One thought:

The Memphis Press-Scimitar published an alternate July 27, 1954 image in a later article that year, it's in one of Ger Rijff's photo jpurnals

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:48 am

Fantastic topic Davide, thank you !
:smt006
Lior

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:57 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:One thought:

The Memphis Press-Scimitar published an alternate July 27, 1954 image in a later article that year, it's in one of Ger Rijff's photo jpurnals


That's interesting - I would like to see the alternative if anyone has it?

Davide

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:50 pm

davide wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:One thought:

The Memphis Press-Scimitar published an alternate July 27, 1954 image in a later article that year, it's in one of Ger Rijff's photo jpurnals


That's interesting - I would like to see the alternative if anyone has it?

Davide


Here it is. Unfortunately not in very good quality but better than nothing.
540727-02.jpg

Scanned from Ger Rijff's "The Rock´n´roll Years"

And from my own microfilm-copy
540724-MPS-540908-pg19-bripet56.jpg


The photo was shot a bit more from the side which can be seen by Elvis' nosetip being almost in line with his chin.

I've only seen this photo in those 1954 newspaper-clippings.

Sincerely
Brian
www.brian56.dk
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Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:38 pm

Thanks Brian for posting the alternative image, which I have now updated.

Davide

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:09 pm

lewlew wrote:Do we know who the photographer was for photos 7,8 and 9? Also does anyone have the photo of a fan holding picture 7 on March 4th, 1955?


With regards to the photographer to photo's 7, 8, and 9 (and 6 also) I have been unable to find any further details.

This is the photo mentioned of Elvis with the fan holding the picture.The publicity still was later ripped up by Jo Hawkins boyfriend.

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Anne Braley (left), Jo Hawkes and Elvis,DeKalb March 4th,1955.
`Photo Courtesy of Willie Cox from the book 'Elvis In Texas - The Undiscovered King 1954-1958 by Lori Torrance with Stanley Oberst

Davide

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:50 pm

The alternative July 27, 1954 shot is mean, moody and magnificent.

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:44 pm

davide wrote:
lewlew wrote:Do we know who the photographer was for photos 7,8 and 9? Also does anyone have the photo of a fan holding picture 7 on March 4th, 1955?


With regards to the photographer to photo's 7, 8, and 9 (and 6 also) I have been unable to find any further details.

This is the photo mentioned of Elvis with the fan holding the picture.The publicity still was later ripped up by Jo Hawkins boyfriend.

Image
Anne Braley (left), Jo Hawkes and Elvis,DeKalb March 4th,1955.
`Photo Courtesy of Willie Cox from the book 'Elvis In Texas - The Undiscovered King 1954-1958 by Lori Torrance with Stanley Oberst

Davide


Davide, thanks so much for that picture. I've been told from Scotty Moore that the particular publicity still was not used for long (Maybe 5 months or so) and was a 'stop gap' photo until Elvis could afford to have more professional photos taken...the Speer photo shoot was the outcome just a few months later and he would change his on tour photographs to a Speer shot.

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:08 pm

Awesome! Thanks again davide!

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:33 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:The alternative July 27, 1954 shot is mean, moody and magnificent.


I thought that was Pete Best. ;)

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:22 am

Damn good pictures! The pic of Scottty, Elvis & Bill was used in the Hank Snow all Star Jamboree tour photo album.

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Feb 28, 2011 5:17 pm

Davide, it is a great joy to read your contributions. Keep them coming!

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:52 am

Another great post! Thank you.

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:53 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:The alternative July 27, 1954 shot is mean, moody and magnificent.


Which one is that Doc?

Re: The Sun Years - Publicity portraits

Mon Mar 07, 2011 1:51 am

Marko wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:The alternative July 27, 1954 shot is mean, moody and magnificent.


I thought that was Pete Best. ;)

Yes!


Joe Car wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:The alternative July 27, 1954 shot is mean, moody and magnificent.


Which one is that Doc?

Scroll up, bripet56 posted it.

Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:17 am

how do i delete a post? lol
Last edited by voldto on Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.