ELVIS 1952 (1-12)
January 1, 1952 to December 31, 1952

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B.B. King's version of Lowell Fulson's "Three O'Clock Blues" tops Billboard's Rhythm and Blues chart for five weeks; later this same year, Little Walter's "Juke" reaches number one. Ralph Ellison recorded "Invisible Man".

Apart from the church, the strongest musical influence in Elvis Presley's early life came from his companion at Lauderdale Courts. This was a public-assistance housing project that the Presley's called home from May 1949 to January 1953. Among Elvis' friends who occupied the Courts or lived nearby were Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, Paul Burlison, Jesse Lee Denson, Bill and Johnny Black, and Marcus Van Story. All of these young men would have professional careers in music of varying degrees.

Elvis Presley and his companions frequently gathered in the courtyard area or a nearby park to sing and entertain themselves. They also rehearsed at the Girls' Club and the Canteen, also called the recreation hall, at Lauderdale Courts. Johnny Black recalls that the boys would perform for the firemen at the station next to Suzore II Theatre at 279 North Mean Street and for customers at a corner gas station.

The Denson family connection passing offers another intriguing glimpse into Presley's early years. Jesse Lee Denson's parents ran the Poplar Street Mission, where, according to Denson's brother Jimmy Lee, the Presley's obtained most of their household possessions. Jesse Lee was a gregarious kid, which, by all accounts, Elvis was not; he appears to have taught Elvis Presley some rudiments of the guitar and brought him to the basement jam sessions and Girls' Club gigs at Lauderdale Courts. Jimmy Lee remembers Presley as a wallflower, in awe of bad-ass kids like Jesse Lee and Dorsey Burnette, who had served time together at state reform school in Nashville.

Jimmy Lee Denson's portrait of Elvis Presley is that of an incorrigibly wimpy and terminally withdrawn kid for whom complete sentences were a problem. That may be, but its clear that a transformation began to occur at some point in 1953 or early 1954 - a transformation that Denson wouldn't have witnessed, as he left town to sell automobiles in Houston in 1953. Jesse Lee remained in Memphis and eventually recorded for VIK, the RCA subsidiary, in 1957, apparently without Presley's intercession.


After his four year stint at the U.S. Marines, Jack Clement returned briefly to Memphis. Soon, he was off to Wheeling, West Virginia with Buzz Busby doing, "a bluegrass comedy duet thing", kind a like Homer and Jethro. Also at that time Jack Clement played in Baltimore and Boston and he made his first record.

"This was in 1953. We had been playing a radio show in Baltimore when Aubrey Mayhew, who managed Hawkshaw Hawkins, asked us to do a show on his WCOP "Hayloft Jamboree" in Boston. While we were doing that James Daliano was the owner but he let Aubrey run the label. We recorded my first two published songs, "I Can't Say Nothing At All" and "I Think I'll Write A Song". They were by Buzz and Jack, and we did them in the style of Webb Pierce''.


Jim Bulleit, owner of the Bullet label in Nashville between 1945 and 1949, returns to Nashville after working as a promoter for KWKH radio, the Louisiana Hayride, and as promoter of a country music jamboree in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Bulleit becomes involved in setting up distribution for Sun Records in the spring of 1952, along with his own Delta and J-B labels.

All the labels in Memphis concentrated on blues music. There were also some gospel recordings. The Spirit of Memphis Quartet recorded for King Records on location at the Masonic Temple in Memphis in 1952. Earlier the Reverend W.H. Brewster had recorded in 1950 for Gotham on titles which may have been made at WDIA radio or another Memphis location. WDIA radio would have been the most likely place for the recording of black music in 1949, and in fact the first two records made by B.B. King were recorded at WDIA radio for Nashville's Bullet label ".


Elvis Presley see the Newborn family band with Calvin Newborn and Phineas Newborn Jr. at such local nightspots as the Flamingo Room at Hernando and Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, and the Plantation Inn in West Memphis, Arkansas.

"He got rhythm from my dad, he got boogie-woogie from my brother and he got his poise from me", assert Calvin Newborn. Of course there are dozens of musicians around Memphis who'll tell you just how much Elvis Presley got from them, but Calvin has a point. Back then, the youngest Newborn was a wild man, famed for a stage act that included leaping into the air in mid-solo, a routine that earned him the nickname "Legs".

PLANTATION INN – Across the Mississippi Bridge in West Memphis, in the parking lot of Pancho's Mexican restaurant, is the site where the Plantation Inn Nite Club once stood. While there's no marker, plaque or sign noting that fact, the impact of the club, the music it hosted and the musicians it fostered, can still be felt decades after its demise.

Today, a group of West Memphis civic and cultural interests, the city's Blues and Rhythm Society, Public Library, Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and the Crittenden Arts Council, kicks off a two-day event celebrating the rich legacy of the Plantation Inn.

The festivities begin this morning at Southland Park Gaming & Camp; Racing with an educational symposium about the club. The panel includes ethnomusicologist Dr. David Evans; critic Robert Gordon; folk art specialist Dr. Mike Luster; musicians Wayne Jackson, Calvin Newborn and Willie Mitchell; former club bouncer Raymond Vega; and Brenda Berger O'Brien, daughter of PI founder Morris Berger. A dance concert will follow tonight, featuring trumpeter Jackson and an all-star PI Blues Band. A free amateur blues contest will be Saturday at Worthington Park.

"This event is part of a long-term project to really establish West Memphis' connection to the region's music, which is pretty considerable," says Janine Earney, executive director of the Crittenden Arts Council. "A lot of time we're just a footnote to Memphis, but many of the musicians lived and worked here, and what happened in our clubs had a profound influence."

The Plantation Inn had a long and varied history. Once an actual plantation house, later it was a gambling hall, and then a roadhouse. Morris Berger launched it as the Plantation Inn in 1942, and it soon became the hottest destination in an area boasting a thriving nightlife.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, West Memphis provided a lax legal environment that spawned a variety of musical venues, like the Cotton Club and Danny's. While those clubs catered mostly to country music, the Plantation Inn opened its stages to a host of great black acts: from the Newborn Family, father Phineas and sons Calvin and Phineas Jr., to bandleaders like Ben Branch, Gene "Bowlegs" Miller and Willie Mitchell. Although it survived an early-1960s crackdown on local clubs, the Plantation Inn closed its doors in 1964, but not before playing a key role in shaping Memphis music.

Long before his trumpet would anchor the Memphis Horns and punctuate inimitable hits for the Stax label, the West Memphis-raised Wayne Jackson got his education in Southland Park Gaming & Camp at the Plantation Inn. "When I was a kid I always heard about the Plantation Inn," says Jackson. "It was one of those places the adults went. They had linen tablecloths, good steaks and good music. Then as time went by, and we became teenagers we would go and sit around and listen to the bands and the singing. They'd serve us a beer and look the other way. We thought we were big time. But we got to hear what was being played and fall in love with the music."

"There were times where I couldn't get in," recalls veteran musician/producer Jim Dickinson. "Like if I didn't have a phony I.D. or something. So many a night I just went over there and got drunk in the parking lot, stayed in my car listening to the music, because you could hear it from outside."

Author Robert Gordon, who devoted a chapter to the Plantation Inn in his 1995 book "It Came From Memphis," notes that the club provided a whole generation of white musicians, often underage, with their first serious dose of black music.

"Kids could get into clubs more easily across the river, and the exposure to bands like Willie Mitchell's or Phineas Newborn's group, or the many others who came and went was crucial," says Gordon. "It provided those kids with a kind of primer for Southland Park Gaming & Camp: for the rhythms and the repertoires and the unusual horn arrangements."

"Of course some of those same bands also played Memphis clubs, it was just much harder to get into to see them," adds Gordon. "Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn (of Booker T. & the MGs) tell a story about going to the Flamingo Club on Beale Street and standing in the stairwell and listening to the music. But, because they were kids and were white, they couldn't get in beyond that. But in West Memphis you could practically get on the stage."

Beyond just witnessing the groups, the sights and sounds of what went on at the Plantation Inn had a visceral impact on those who would come to help define Memphis music throughout the 1960s and 1970s. "A lot of people say the origins of the 'Memphis Sound' began at the Plantation Inn, and I think there's a lot of truth to that," says Jackson. "We did get a lot of the ideas from those bands. We dressed up and shined our shoes and did steps, we got that idea from the Four Kings, who were Willie Mitchell's band. We just learned about rhythm and blues and what you had to do to make people dance. So at Stax, we always played with that intention."

To Dickinson, it was Plantation Inn bandleader Ben Branch and his group the Largos who provided a key inspiration. "They were the single most significant influence on what became the Memphis sound. All of what became soul music was derivative of what Ben Branch and Largos were doing," says Dickinson. "But overall, the PI itself developed a kind of sound. That had more to do with the same musicians in different groups coming and going. It was sort of what continued happening in the recording studios in Memphis later on, how the same group of musicians developed a kind of interplay and a style''.

As part of the tribute event, Jackson will be playing in a band led by Marvell Thomas, a Plantation Inn veteran who was a member of "Bowlegs" Miller's group as a teen, that will include local notables like guitarist Skip Pitts and saxman Jim Spake, among others.

The Plantation Inn Blues Band will be performing a set of standards from the club's heyday. "We'll be doing stuff from the 1940s through the 1960s. Songs like ''Tennessee Waltz'', ''Missouri Waltz'', which were favorites of the Berger family'', says Jackson. "And songs by Bowlegs Miller like ''One More Time'', Willie Mitchell's ''20-75'', and a whole bunch of other things from the era''.

As the Crittenden Arts Council's Janine Earney notes, the Plantation Inn event is just the first step in a larger effort to highlight West Memphis' contributions to the region's musical history and heritage. "It's important that document our history because it's very valuable. B.B. King lived and worked here, as did Sonny Boy Williamson, and Howlin' Wolf. So there's a really rich wonderful musical tradition in West Memphis, and the Plantation Inn is a very big part of that''.

CALVIN AND PHINEAS NEWBORN JR. - Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, his father Phineas Newborn Sr. was one of the most in-demand drummers on Beale Street, playing in most of the top bands. In 1949, Newborn Sr. formed with his sons, Calvin on guitar, and Phineas Jr. on piano, his own band. A few earlier the young Newborns made their debut on Beale at the street's legendary amateur contest at the Palace Theater. Calvin says the Newborn family band had a particularly strong influence on a young white musician who often came by to see the group on local nightspots in Memphis.

In the early 1950s, Calvin and his family band helped B.B King make his first recordings in the studios of WDIA, and the family band appeared on many early Sun Records recordings. Phineas junior continued playing his behind off. it was, in fact, that portion of his anatomy that caused him to alter the pronunciation of his first name. Phineas senior preferred the rather unorthodox "Fine-us", even spelling it phonetically on the family band's equipment. But Calvin recalls that in high school groups of girls would follow his elder brother down the halls.

In the early 1950s, the Newborn family band was one of the hottest acts on the Memphis club scene. Calvin's wild guitar playing and even wilder showmanship, and Phineas senior's rock solid rhythm. Phineas junior didn't want to just to play blues for a living and jazz after hours. A couple of years after the early B.B. King sessions, the pianist, like so many Memphis jazzmen, left for the jazz capital of New York. Blessed with dazzling technique, an unerring sense of swing, and deep blues feeling, Newborn formed his own trio in 1955. He earned rave reviews for a 1956 appearance at New York's Club Basin Street.

In 1958, he teamed with bassist-composer Charles Mingus to provide the music for jazz-loving filmmaker John Cassavetes "Shadows". A year later the pianist travelled to Europe with Jazz from Carnegie Hall tour. As always in the music business, talent alone wasn't enough to guarantee commercial success, and Newborn's genius proved too fragile. Problems with drugs and alcohol exacerbated his already delicate emotional make-up, and the pianist was occasionally committed to mental hospitals during the sixties and seventies. In 1989, Newborn, weakened by drug and alcohol abuse, died of heart problems at fifty-seven.


Gladys Presley is forced to quit her job at St. Joseph's Hospital because, with her salary figured in, the family is earning too much money to qualify for public housing. Vernon explain to the Housing Authority that he has hurt his back and been out of work for a while and that the family is "trying to pay ourselves out of debt. Bills are pressing and don't want to be sued". As a result, The Presleys are permitted to sign a new lease at $43 per month.


Chess and the Biharis resolved their conflict in an agreement by which Chess kept Howlin' Wolf and the Biharis kept Roscoe Gordon from Sun Records. Chess released their second Wolf single immediately after the deal was struck. Nevertheless, both Wolf and Roscoe would have to wait a number of years to recapture their initial success.

"The first time I saw Howlin' Wolf", says Jim Dickinson on June 1990 in Hernando, Mississippi, "I was still too young to know any better. It was the early 1950s. I was with my father at a warehouse in West Memphis, Arkansas. My father and the warehouse manager were counting cartons of clothes pins. Over the hum of the big band built into the wall I could hear what sounded like jungle drums. I followed the pounding up wooden stairs to an office. Painted on the glass door was a lightning bolt and red letters KWEM RADIO. The door was open. Four negro men in unbleached work clothes were playing music. One man - bigger than the others - was growling words I could not understand into a silver microphone.

I watched until my father found me. The music stuck in my head and wouldn't go away. I found it later on the radio. KWEM - 1070 WDIA "The Black Spot On Your Dial" - WLOK 1340 with Hunky Dory - Dewey Phillips Red Hot And Blue on 56 WHBQ radio.

I had an older friend with a 78rpm copy of Wolf's "I Love My Baby". I listened to it over and over. Then one day in Ruben Cherry's "Home Of The Blues" record shop on Beale Street, I saw the grey album cover with the drawing of a lone wolf howling to the moon. I took it to the check-out counter, and Ruben said, 'Boy, you got the blues there'. "I was hooked. In 1958 my high school combo was playing versions of "Evil" and "Killing Floor" to our white teenaged Memphis audience. By the mid-1960s the Rolling Stones were playing Howlin' Wolf songs to the world.

I have heard Sam Phillips say that his discovery of Wolf was more significant than his discovery of Elvis Presley. The Only artist to share the surreal darkness of Robert Johnson, Wolf brings out his band an ensemble counterpoint unlike anything else in the blues. His voice seems to hang in the air, and make the room rumble with echo. His singing is so powerful that between the vocal lines the compressor-limiter through which the mono recordings were made sucks the sound of the drum and the French harp up into the hole in the audio mix. Notes blend together and merge into melody lines that are not being 'played' by any one instrument. Wolf is not bound by the three-chord blues pattern, and often seems to crass the bar lines of western music. He is a Primitive-Modernist, using chants and modal harmonies of the dark ritualist past brought up from mother Africa and slavery through electric amplifiers.

Like the unsolvable mystery of 'smokestack lightning', Howlin' Wolf contribution to the blues goes beyond musical phrases. The 'idea' of Howlin' Wolf makes blues history somehow deeper and richer. Bloody but unbowed, Chester Burnett is forever frozen in the time - space of these first recordings made by Sam Phillips. Howlin' Wolf sings out his frustrations, never surrendering to the hopeless situation of existence. The same giant pulled a plow like a man-mule in the Mississippi Delta, and lived to ride a Shriners' mini motorcycle on-stage at the Newport Folk Festival. He toured the world playing the blues, and would sit in his hotel room in his boxer shorts and do-rag, and imitate Senator Everett Dirkson. His life is a legend. His legacy is a treasure as unique as the man himself. Share his vision of love, sex, death, and man's predicament in the Universe. Heed the call of the Wolf, the haunted cry of an animal alone in the night. And that music, loved Elvis Presley".


Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner leave Sun Records for Chess Records in Chicago. Sam Phillips need to find new talent ever pressing, he turned to a precocious young piano player named Rosco Gordon. Eddie Hill leaves Memphis to work for WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee.


Sam Phillips borrowed some money from Nashville record magnate Jim Bulleit to begin his Sun Records operation. Sam learned a great deal from Bulleit. Bulleit's company provided another model for Sun Records. Sam Phillips reasoned he could duplicate its success in Memphis. "I thought I could maybe make a go of a company that just recorded rhythm and blues numbers", Phillips

APRIL 1952

Elvis Presley returns to work at Loew's State Theater but is fired five weeks later after an altercation with another usher. Loew's State became notable for being the place where Elvis Presley got his first job, in 1948, as an usher and later being fired, and then re-instated. The auditorium was built into an older warehouse which actually fronted Second Street. Second Street wasn't a suitable address for such a prestigious theater so Loew's acquired a single storefront on Main Street which aligned with the warehouse/auditorium on 2nd. Unfortunately, there was an alley between the two buildings which the City of Memphis would not allow Loew's to close off. The solution? The storefront was gutted and turned into a lovely half-block-long lobby which ended in a single grand stairway. This stairway rose to a level high enough to allow a bridge over the alley and entered the auditorium at balcony level. When the LS was not at peak capacity, the sign on the stairs said "downstairs closed" instead of the usual "balcony closed" so familiar to those going to the movies in the 1960's.

The State had a vaudeville stage and pit. The hall was never renovated during its life and so retained all it's Thomas Lamb "Loew's Adam" decor to the end. The first organ in the Loew's State was a Moller. It was replaced by a Wurlitzer in the mid-1920's. The 2 big Loew's theaters in downtown Memphis were under construction at the same time.

(Above) One of the places Elvis and his friends visited was the The Blues Shop, or sometimes called Charlies, a record store. Customers could take a record from the inventory and listen to the music on phonograph players inside the store. It was at 281 North Main according to the 1954 Memphis telephone directory. Storefront right next of the Suzore II is the apparent location for this store.


Elvis Presley started hanging out at The Blues Shop, referred to as "Charlie's", a little records store, which was at next to the Suzore II on 286 North Main Street across the firehouse. It had a jukebox and a little soda fountain and even sold "dirty" Red Foxx comedy records under the table.

The owner Charlie Hazelgrove, never kicked anyone out; the store was a hangout for youngmen who were passionate about the music.

"One time we were hanging around Charlie's", recalled Johnny Black, "and Elvis said to me, 'Johnny, someday I'm going to be driving Cadillacs. It's so weird to think about - we're talking about an era when we probably couldn't have gotten the money together for a Coke between us".

"In 1954, I was in Charlie's Record Shop and Elvis Presley came in and asked to borrow a dollar-fifty", said Barbara Pittman. "I asked him what he needed the money for. He said, 'I'm broke. I need the money for a movie'. I was earning money babysitting at the time. I coughed up my life savings - that buck-fifty - and gave it to him. I thought maybe he was going to take me with him to that movie. But he went off without me. Spent fifty cents each getting himself and Dixie Locke into the movie and spent a quarter each for a bag of popcorn". "And he never paid me back the dollar-fifty! In 1978 they brought me to an Elvis convention in Chicago to relate my memories of being with Elvis and they paid me fifteen hundred dollars. I finally got my money back!".

This paperback "The 1952 Senior Herald" from Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee,belonged to Frances Grear, as noted on the first page in blue ink. This was Elvis' junior year and heis pictured twice: first in a group photograph of the Company B Second Platoon ROTC, near thecenter in the second row in uniform, and then again on page 57 in the back row of the second yearspeech group photo. Elvis has signed and inscribed above the platoon photograph in blue ink, "Bestof everything to a very likable girl Elvis''.

Notations and inscriptions from various friends andclassmates appear throughout the yearbook. The yearbook is being sold with a letter from FrancesHunter which reads in part, "It's still hard to believe the very quiet and polite young man in mySpeech and Drama Class became the King of Rock And Roll. He did not sing at school until thesenior year I'm told. The only time I heard him sing in those early years was in our Speech AndDrama Class. Miss Lochrie brought in a machine that made these 45 plastic records. She allowed usto sing, play an instrument or perform a drama piece and she recorded it''.


According to his cousin Gene Smith, Elvis Presley particularly enjoyed the choir at the Centenary African Methodist Episcopal Church at 878 Mississippi Boulevard in Memphis, and the two after sat in on Sunday morning services. It is difficult to imagine the two boys only white faces in the otherwise all-black congregation, yet they were always welcomed.

Out of courtesy Elvis Presley and Gene Smith sat in the balcony, as blacks were required to do when they visited white churches and social events. "Elvis would be swept up by the singing", Gene said, "and although he couldn't sing alone with the choir down on the ground floor because we had to be respectful and keep quiet, he continually wanted us to go there on Sundays so we could sit and listen to the hymns being sung and partake of the spiritual power of that particular gospel group". The Bible Days Revival Church now occupies this building.


Elvis Presley showing up backstage at the monthly gospel concerts at Ellis Auditorium on North Mean Street. These shows were produced by the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, a local institution with a national following. The Blackwood family belonged to the same church as the Presley's, and Elvis Presley knew several members quite well. During these visits, he met performers who would play an important part in his professional life. J.D. Sumner, who would sing bass behind Elvis in the 1970s, was with the Sunshine Boys at this time. Sumner remembers assisting Elvis in getting backstage. G.L. Coffey, building superintendent at the Auditorium, recalls that Elvis Presley would walk on stage after the show and sing over the public address system to the empty Auditorium.

Along with the gospel concerts, Elvis Presley was a frequent visitor to the East Trigg Baptist Church located at 1189 East Trigg Avenue in Memphis. Here, Reverend W. Herbert Brewster was supported by one of the finest black gospel choirs in the South. The lead vocalist with the choir was Queen Cee Anderson. According to elders at the church, while Elvis Presley was in High School he often sang as a member of the East Trigg congregation. "Those white boys used to get out sometimes", Brewster recalled. "They were emotional and they got out on the road sometimes... The Happy Goodman Brothers, I wrote for them too, and several other white groups. They took the songs and didn't do much changing. Elvis Presley came out here, a truck driver, and now he is the greater thing". Elvis Presley never recorded any of Brewster's songs, he did absorb a good many of the other songs he heard at East Trigg and over the airways.

REVEREND HERBERT W. BREWSTER - Pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. An important composer and contemporary of Thomas A. Dorsey, Brewster composed scores of gospel songs beginning in the early 1930s. Many of his compositions were written specifically for his choir of the Brewster Singers with his famed soloist, Queen C. Anderson, but two of his songs, "Move On Up A Little Higher" by Mahalia Jackson, and "Surely, God Is Able", gained wider popularity. He also wrote Clara Ward's "How I Got Over".

"My music has never been to make money", Brewster would say. A gospel song was simply a sermon set to music, he felt, and a good sermon has the power to influence. Harper Brewster knew that the challenge of any minister is to get people attention. "It's a funny thing", Reverend Brewster once said, "So many people will listen to a song when they won't listen to a sermon". Once when he was criticized by a group of ministers for putting "all that jubilation" into his services, Reverend Brewster said, "You want to catch fish, you got to fish with the kind of bait they'll come to. If singing a song too slow rocks them to sleep, pick it up". He was thrilled that so many people would come to his church to hear his music. Brewster recalled, "There'd be as many white faces - and sometimes more - than black faces at evening services. Elvis Presley was just a casual boy who came for the singing".

Reverend Harper Brewster used the power of music to fill the thirty-two pews of his small church. His radio show on WDIA radio, called "Old Camp Meeting Of The Air", was one of the first gospel shows on radio, and through it he was introduced to a white audience who eventually came to the church to hear his powerfully delivered message. He had the gift of "whooping" - the ability to tell a story in a melodious style. His sermons were lyrical and dramatically delivered in his rich, mellifluent voice. And the music, well, everyone came to hear the music.

EAST TRIGG BAPTIST CHURCH - Located at 1189 East Trigg Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, Reverend Harper Brewster had a favorite saying, "When grace is in, race is out". The doors of his black church in South Memphis were open to everyone, and the number of white visitors who sat in his congregation during the years before desegregation were testimony to his ministerial gift. One of those visitors was Elvis Presley.

Today East Trigg Baptist Church is still active, although the congregation is now predominately black. After the turmoil surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis in 1968, many white people avoided places that they considered to be predominantly black, such as the East Trigg neighbourhood.

GUY L. COFFEY - Was concessions manager at the Ellis Auditorium. About an hour before a show, he would open the doors on Poplar Avenue, on the south side of the building, and look out over a sea of allwhite faces boys from Humes High, South Side and Tech High schools, all wanting a chance to make a dollar or two in commissions so they could buy school lunches the next day, the following week.

"I had gone to Humes", said Coffey, "so I knew what this meant to them. I knew they needed the money. So, in selecting, I always leaned toward the Humes kids. They were good kids. Elvis Presley would show up for the Monday night wrestling matches, for the gospel sings, for the country music gigs. He stuck mostly to selling Cokes. On a good night, he could earn three or for dollars. And while the money was needed, equally important to Elvis was the opportunity to be around performers. Sometimes, after a night event had ended and the Humes kids had settled up, financially, Elvis would go up on stage and play to imaginary crowds, bowing to their applause", said Coffey.

"I would have to tell him, 'Come on now, Elvis, we have to close the place up'. And he would say 'Yes, sir', and we would walk silently out of the building", said Coffey.

BLACKWOOD BROTHERS - Perhaps the most popular group in southern gospel music history, the Blackwood Brothers parleyed their rural Mississippi sharecropping background into a million-dollar entertainment empire.

For many fans in both the South and the mid-West, the Blackwoods defined the singing quartet style that is the backbone of classic southern gospel music and engineered many of the musical and promotional innovations that permitted gospel singers to professionalize their music.

They were among the first to issue their own phonograph records, to break from the songbook publishers that had dominated gospel music for the first four decades of the century, to begin their own radio transcription service, to consciously seek out and adapt new or original songs, to travel by air, and to adapt harmonics and accompaniment appealing to a nationwide popular audience.

The original quartet was formed in 1934 at Ackerman, Mississippi, by three brothers, Roy, Doly, and James, sons of a Delta sharecropper and his wife who sang casually in church; the fourth member was Roy's young son, R.W. By 1937 the group found itself broadcasting on radio at Jackson, Mississippi, doing not only gospel but pop and country tunes, and after April 1939 they performed on a 50,000-watt station, KWKH, recently opened in Shreveport, Louisiana. Here they began an affiliation with the songbook publisher V.O. Stamps, who provided them with a car, contracts, a stipend, and a piano player, thus casting them into the format of "four man and a piano" that had become characteristic of earlier gospel quartets. In 1940 Stamps sent them to Shenandoah, Iowa, where they began a decade's stay at KMA that saw them develop their unique style and build a huge following in the mid-West.

At Shenandoah the quartet began to experiment with modern harmonies (built on sixth and ninth chords), developing their precise enunciation and diction and borrowing verve, dynamics, and solo breaks from pop and black gospel music. In 1946 they began to make records, first on the White Church label and then on their own Blackwood label, recording some 49 singles between 1946 and 1951. A move back from Shenandoah, Iowa to an office on Jefferson Avenue in Memphis in August 1950 put them in the center of the then-burgeoning gospel movement, where both black and white groups vied for air time and for places at "all-night sings", popularized by promoter Wally Fowler in 1948 and 1949, in Ellis Auditorium at North Mean Street in Memphis.

With their broadcasting base at WMPS radio, the Blackwoods - now with only two of the original four still singing - became one of the first postwar gospel groups to sign with a major label when they began recording for RCA Victor on January 4 1952. Hit records and a win on the nationally broadcast Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show in 1954 followed. Memphis Mayor Frank Tobey issued a proclamation designating the date as Blackwood Brothers Quartet Day for the "great credit" the group brought to the city, but barely two weeks after the Godfrey show two members of the group, R.W. and bass singer Bill Lyles, were killed in a plane crash. On July 2, 1954, Governor Frank Goad Clement gave the eulogy at the funeral.

Within a month the Blackwoods had recovered and regrouped and were back on the concert circuit; another Blackwood, Cecil, the brother of R.W., stepped in, as did bass singer Jerry D. Sumner, who was to play an important role in the group's sound throughout the 1950s. A string of national television appearances and successful record albums followed in the mid-1950s, and the group's promotional activities reached new heights through their founding of the National Quartet Convention in 1957 and of a new all-gospel record company, Skylite, in 1960 as well as through the purchase of several of the old gospel songbook companies, which had fallen on hard times. From 1967 to 1977 the group won numerous Grammy awards and as late as the mid-1970s still featured James Blackwood, his son Jimmy, and his nephew Cecil.

The Blackwood Brothers discography is voluminous. In addition to hundreds of singles, it includes at least 58 long-play albums on RCA Victor from 1956 to 1973 and at least 42 albums on the Skylite label from 1961 to 1981; probably 20 albums exist on various other labels. Songs the Blackwoods have been most associated with include "Have You Talked To The Man Upstairs" (their first RCA hit and the winning song on the Godfrey show), "Swing Down Chariot", "My Journey To The Sky", "Paradise Island", "In Times Like These", "Looking For A City", and "The Old Country Church".

The influence of the Blackwood Brothers was perhaps at its strongest during Elvis Presley's later performances. When Elvis began touring again in the 1970s, Elvis had gospel singers accompany him on vocals. The first male quartet Elvis Presley employment was The Imperials, which included Terry Blackwood, a son of Doyle. In 1972, Elvis Presley hired J.D. Sumner and The Stamps Quartet to perform with him.

In times of their greatest need, the Presley family called upon the Blackwood family. Elvis Presley paid for their flight back to Memphis so they could sing at his mother's funeral. Less than Twenty years later, Vernon Presley asked James Blackwood (who then sang with the Masters Five) to sing at Elvis' funeral. Today the Blackwood family continues to sing gospel music around the country. Only James Blackwood remains from the original family quartet.


Elvis Presley frequent attended at the Blackwood Brother' Record Shop and Offices, located at 186 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis. The shop at Jefferson provided office space for their various enterprises and a retail outlet for their recordings. Doyle Blackwood stopped performing with the group to manage this shop. It was open for business in the early 1950s, so it is likely that Elvis Presley did visit the site.

BLACKWOOD BROTHERS RECORD SHOP AND OFFICES - During the 1950s, an office and shop located at 186 Jefferson Avenue served as the headquarters for the Blackwood Brothers, a gospel quartet that had a profound effect on Elvis Presley. In 1960, the Blackwood moved their shop to 209 North Lauderdale Street, just around the corner from Poplar Tunes. This shop had room for their own recording studio and coincided with the creation of Skylite Records, their record label.

The Blackwood Brother's Record Shop and Offices were located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Third Street. The building has been replaced by the One Memphis Place Office Tower. The Blackwood Brother's Shop at 209 North Lauderdale Street is still visible. From Poplar Avenue, turn left on Lauderdale Street. The shop is on the west side, just south of Exchange Street and Lauderdale Courts.


Elvis Presley, shopped at Lansky Brothers, a Memphis men clothing store, officially named Lansky's Clothing Emporium, located at 126-128 Beale Street, established in 1949 by Bernard and Guy Lansky as an Army surplus store. Lanky's specialized in loud clothing, i.e. yellow suits, pink sport coats, and white shoes. The store catered mainly to black patrons, including Rufus Thomas and Junior Parker. Later, Elvis Presley bought clothing from Lanky's for many years.

Many of the Sun recording artists - Sonny Burgess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Feathers, Roy Orbison, Bill Justis, and brothers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette - also bought their clothes at Lanky's. Elvis Presley's favorite colours where pink and black.

Lanky Brothers provided the suits for both Elvis' and Vernon Presley's pallbearers at each one's funeral. Among other things, the Lansky brothers owned their own Memphis record label for a while, Peak Records. In 1956 Elvis Presley traded Bernard Lansky his Messerschmidt automobile for new clothing. "He came down and looked through the windows before he had any money, we knew him strictly by face", recalled Guy Lansky. "He was working at the theater at that time, holes in his shoes and socks, real shabbily dressed, but he stood out, his hair, sure, but it was his... what I'm trying to say, it was his, you know, manners. He was just a very nice person".

LANSKY BROTHERS UNIFORM SHOP/MISSISSIPPI RIVER CAFE/BLUE LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO (THAN NAMED ELVIS PRESLEY'S MEMPHIS CAFE) AND THAN (HARD ROCK CAFE) NOW A NEW LOCATION ON THIS SIDE - Before 1890. Located at 126-128/130 Beale Street, tel, 901/525-3655, across Second Avenue, Lansky's Clothing Emporium outfitted the best of Memphis' musicians, including Rufus Thomas, Junior Parker, Sonny Burgess, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Rufus Thomas, and others.

In 1946 Samuel Lansky bought and opened a shop for his two sons, Bernard and Guy, at 126 Beale Street, originally a store which sold leftover Army supplies from World War II, Bernard took advantage of the elevating Beale Street music scene and looked to provide clothing for the typical characters of Beale who wanted to dress dapper.

Elvis Presley first shopped at Lansky's in May 1952, when he was still in high school. Many items from his "loud" wardrobe were purchased at Lansky's. He continued to shop here throughout his life. Upon Elvis' death, Lansky's supplied his pallbearers with suits. Lansky gave Rufus Thomas free suits for advertising his store. When Rufus appeared on the stage of the Handy Theater, he opened his coat and shouted, "Ain't I'm clean? You know who makes me clean?". The audience screamed back, "Lansky Brothers!". Although this building currently has a single address, 130 Beale Street, it originally consisted of three separate stores. Between 1900 and World war II, 126-128 Beale Street contained secondhand clothing, furniture, restaurant, and shoe repair businesses. Beginning as a uniform store in 1946.

The building which housed Lansky's has undergone numerous changes. When Elvis Presley had his first publicity photo taken, the Blue Light Studio was part of the Lansky building. In 1942 the Blue Light Photography Studio entrance was located at the corner of 130 Beale Street and Second Street. In January 1956, just before Elvis Presley first television appearance on Stage Show, he had a professional portrait made there. It was not his first portrait, if you count the unflattering photograph taken by a Memphis Press-Scimitar photographer just before his appearance at the opening of the Lamar- Airways Shopping Center. Elvis Presley trusted the Blue Light Studio because he had passed by the shop and looked at the pictures on display for years. On this particular day, Mrs. Margaret Sutton took Elvis' photograph.

In the early 1960s, it became part of Lansky Brothers Big and Tall Men's Shop. The fate of the Lansky building is uncertain, eventually it may reopen as a book and record shop in music history as the Center for Southern Folklore (Phone 901-525-3655, Fax 901-525-3945. Documents the people and traditions of the South with films and exhibits plus Memphis music, books, arts, and crafts. Beale Street and Delta Region tours also offered. Distinctive gift-shop. Memphis musicians perform in an engaging smoke-free performance space. Coffee bar. Admission is free. Contributions of $2 for adults and $1 for seniors suggested. Inquire for charges for guide tours). Although it deals with all aspects of Southern culture, this museum provides the best in-depth background to Delta blues and rockabilly in Memphis. Special exhibitions change regularly, and the walls are always covered with archive photos, obscure record sleeves, and average biographies. Opened in 1989 and run on a nonprofit basis, the center also contains a gift shop selling books about blues, plus compact disc compilations of various regional musical styles. There's also a small performance space where septuagenarian blues pianist Mose Vinson, once a janitor at Sun Records, plays every Friday and Saturday while enthusiastically explaining the basics of his boogie-woogie style.

Prior to World War II, the building was used mostly as a restaurant. Thomas Pappas operated one from around 1919 to 1940, usually under the workingsma's trademark, Joe's Lunch Room. In the summer of 1997 the new venue will called Elvis Presley's Memphis will open inside the renovated Lansky building.

This club will be the first of several teemed nightclubs conceived by Elvis Presley Enterprises Entertainment in the world. It will be a two-story restaurant and bar with seating for about 300 people, and it will have a performance stage and small retail area, plus a wine cellar. Live musical entertainment will be the key of the atmosphere, along with a first rate menu from southern food will be served and top quality service.

Mainstream blues, rock and roll and gospel will be a part of the musical mix, but the emphasis will be on classic and current rock and roll, performed by known and up-and-coming bands. Of course, Elvis Presley recordings and memorabilia on display, and specially produced Elvis videos will have a constant presence.

The Blue Light Studio survived the decline of downtown Memphis. In the 1970s when Beale Street was abandoned, the studio simply moved a few blocks away to 145 South Main Street. In 1994 the Blue Light Studio moved again to 115 Union Avenue. Today one can still walk in to have a portrait taken, and one can still see the portraits of Elvis Presley. The site of Lansky's at 126 Beale Street is now occupied by Elvis Presley's Memphis nightclub and restaurant.

The original location was on the northwest corner of Beale Street and Second street. Today the Blue Light Studio is on Union Avenue between Main Street and Second Street, west of the Peabody Hotel. Lansky Brothers today located on 149 Union Avenue, in the lobby of the luxurious Peabody Hotel, only a waddle away from the famous Peabody ducks.

A note from Bernard Lansky's Clothier to the King reads: "Remember the excitement of the fifties? America was breaking away from the wholesome boy-next-door look in favor of ducktails, turned-up collars and bopping to sings like "That's All Right", Mystery Train" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".

It was an era that changed the face of America - the world. Haven't you ever wanted to turn back the clock? Be cool again? Here's your chance. I've just created this limited collection of clothes for the young at heart, those who would like to go back to the freedom of the fifties when everybody, but everybody, was be-bopping to this evil music called rock and roll".

In 1999 Bernard J. Lansky said, "I looked up one day and saw this young man looking at the display in the window of our menswear store on Beale Street in Memphis. I had seen him before. I knew enough about him to know he worked as an usher at Loew's State theater on Main Street, just around the corner. I didn't know his name. But, I get ahead of the story of how Lansky's became known as Clothier to the King".

Actually, as my brother and I started out just after coming home from the Army in World War Two, we sold military surplus goods. The war was over. People were looking for inexpensive clothes. They could come into our shop and drop down fifty cents and walk out of there with a cap or something. For a dollar ninety-five, they could get a fatigue shirt or fatigue pants. All of this is a far cry from the reputation we were to build within the next decade on Beale Street".

"When the surplus era began phasing out, we switched to high-fashion menswear and all the merchants up and down Beale, and around the corner on Main Street, were looking at us with raised eyebrows. High fashion? On Beale? Are you crazy or something?".

"But we had seen a void in the Memphis market. Practically everyone was selling the same plain old things everyone else was selling. No one was selling really high fashion clothes. I mean, we carried nothing but the finest. That's what the kids of the late forties, early fifties wanted. And we gave it to them".

"Now, back to that young man eyeballing the haberdashery in our window. I walked outside to greet him and told him, 'Come on in and let me show you around'. He said, 'I don't have any money. But when I get rich, I'm going to buy you out'. I had no idea what his name was, but I told him, 'Do me a favor, will you? Just buy from me. I don't want you buying me out'".

"And that's how Elvis Presley began shopping at Lansky's and via our connection with Elvis and a flood of other well-known artists, that's how we earned the reputation of Clothier to the King. Elvis started out buying things in a pink and black combination. After his early records on the Sun label began making him a local hero, all the kids were swarming down to Lansky's on Beale because they wanted pink and black, just like Elvis wore".

"We had everything they wanted. Black pants with pink shirts with big high collars; the row collars with the big sleeve; with three button sleeves; and with big sleeve cuffs. Something different. They were looking for something different, and we gave it to them".

"We knew what this young man should be wearing when he went on stage, on television, things like that. We knew he should be wearing something different from what other entertainers were wearing. So we started him out with big shirts, peg pants, half-boots of patent leather. He would also come into the store and buy fly clothes. This was with the rolled up collars".

"He would watch TV and see those gangsters wearing those big hats - we called them Dobbs hats. I think we sold them for twenty-five, thirty dollars. They would cost a hundred and a half today. Elvis would call and say, 'Mr. Lansky, send me over a half-dozen of them hats. And send some over for the other guys, too'. So everybody in the group - they later became known as the Memphis Mafie - got a hat".

"Elvis was a dynamite young man. What he did for us... well, he was a great public relations man for us. Anybody asking him where he got his clothes, he would answer, 'I got them from Lansky's on Beale. Once he hit it really big, he came in more often and, no, he never bought me out. Every time he dropped by he wanted something different. We outfitted him for his appearances on the Louisiana Hayride. We outfitted him for the Ed Sullivan and Dorsey Brothers shows on TV. Knowing he was going on the Sullivan show, I sold him a coat with a velour collar. That was a real shock, that and his pegged pants and patent leather half-boots". "And despite how tremendously big he became - you know RCA/BMG has named him Artist Of The Century - he was the nicest ever want to Meet. It was always, 'Yes, sir, Mister Lansky'. And I would tell him, 'Mister Lansky is my father. I'm Bernard'. And that never changed. And when he came in on a shopping spree, if you happened to be in the store when he was there and you wanted something you liked, he'd buy it. He didn't care who it was or what it was. He bought it for them".

"We sold to quite a few well-known entertainers: B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Rufus Thomas, Bobbie Blue Bland, Charlie Rich. For years Rufus would go on stage and show off his clothes and say, 'Ain't I clean? Lansky's. Rufus introduced Walking The Dog and Do The Funky Chicken to the world. When we went to the markets, we were always on the lookout for something different for Elvis, because Elvis would put them on and walk out on the streets and he was going to be our advertising, our billboard". "People would ask, 'Elvis, where are you buying your clothes'? And he would say 'Lansky's. We did a lot of mail order sales because of him. He was a real sharp dresser. Real neat. His clothes looked great on him. He was clean as Ajax. I mean, really nice. We would get new merchandise in and we would load it into a truck and I would have my son drive it out to Graceland for Elvis to look at. When the truck came back, it was empty. Elvis had taken all of it".

"I still remember his size. At that time it was a 42 coat with a 32 waist, a size 10 1/2 boot. He wore a medium shirt - 15 1/2 by 34 shirt. We knew what Elvis concerts were like, filled with screaming women. When he first started throwing scarves into the audience, those were scarves we got for Elvis. When Elvis came into the shop, I would treat him like a baby. Put clothes on him. Stand him in front of a mirror. Marked his clothes (for alterations). And I would say, 'Elvis, this is what you want, right here. This is what I've got for you'. And he would start laughing, and then buy it".

"He walked into the sore one day and said, 'Come look what I've got'. Outside, he showed me a German Messerschmidt car, saying it had been given to him by RCA Victor, his record label then. I said, 'Elvis, that's a nice one. When you get tired of it, I want it. That's mine. He laughed. And thirty days later he gave me the car. I still have it". "And I still have all those wonderful memories of when Elvis was a Number One customer and a Number One walking billboard for Lansky's, which soon became known as the Clothier to the King".

In 1981, Bernard Lansky bought out his brother, and he and his son Hal Lansky opened a big and tall l business. It grew to 11 Lansky Big and Tall stores and Hercules stores in the Mid- South. In 1994, they sold for a nice profit.

In 2001, Lansky's established a new line of clothing entitled "Clothier To The King," which provides reproductions of clothing that Elvis actually wore combined with new 1950s-inspired clothing. Lansky Brothers has since moved its location from Beale Street to Memphis' renowned Peabody Hotel, but is still as busy as ever. Bernard Lansky remains an ideal figure of Memphis history. Musicians that currently shop there include Elvis Presley made it famous for the likes of The Jonas Brothers, Robert Plant, Eddie Floyd, Stephen Stills, Steven Tyler, Dr. John, Gavin DeGraw, and numerous others.

On Sunday August 14, 2011, Lansky Bros. will unveil a historical marker located at 126 Beale Street to celebrate the history of Lansky Bros. at the original location.

Guy Garret Lansky died on January 6, 2005 of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his Jewish home in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 83. His brother and storyteller, and most notably, Clothier to the King, Bernard Joseph Lansky passed away peacefully at the age of 85 on November 15, 2012 at his home in Memphis, Tennessee.

On July 3, 2014, the old Lansky Brothers clothing store, and Elvis Presley's Memphis Cafe is rebuilt for the new location of the Hard Rock Cafe after 16 years at 315 Beale Street. The renovation costing $2.5 million dollars.

JUNE 1952

One of the first clubs that Eddie Bond with his Stompers hired Elvis Presley to play was at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hall, 4263 Old Highway 51 South in nearby Hernando, Mississippi, rural town, half an hour from Memphis, Hernando was home to a long, white VFW building with a huge parking lot, one often used by moonshine whiskey drinkers. It was located on the outskirts of town and, according to Bond, "drew a hell of a crowd".

Saturday night dances were a tradition, and people of all ages showed up for the music. The young men dressed up and the girls had on their finest dresses. At intermission time, the parking lot was filled with refreshment seekers. "Elvis Presley was nervous that hot summer night in Hernando", Edyth Peeler, a local resident recalled. "He wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a plaid jacket. We had no idea who he was". "They surrounded him at the intermission. He sure was a good-looking boy.

Now that I recall, I also liked his singing". Comments like these were repeated by a number of other Hernando residents, all of whom had found memories of the night Elvis Presley performed in their little white VFW Hall. Elvis' appearance with the band provided some insights into his future career. When Elvis Presley arrived in Hernando and got out of his car, he was horrified at the dance site. "Elvis' hand't played any country honky-tonks", Eddie Bond recalled. "He was stunned by the drinking in the parking lot". Moonshine whiskey was in abundance and it was not unusual for a gun to fire followed by a rebel yell. The VFW dance was a place where the farmer, the small businessman, and local workers could let loose. Young girls, not so young women with big breasts, and the traditional-looking army couple crowded the dance floor. To Elvis Presley, it was a strange environment to sing romantic ballads. Elvis Presley told Eddie Bond that he would convert the crowd to his kind of music. Bond had no idea what Elvis Presley meant. When Elvis Presley performed Guy Mitchell's 1950 classic "The Roving Kind" and Johnny Ray's 1951 hit "The Little White Cloud That Cried", it was clear that he selected songs the locals liked. "I saw those tunes on the jukebox inside the hall", Elvis laughed. "I knew those folks would like those songs", he told Eddie Bond.

During his performance, Elvis Presley sang two sets of songs. During each set he sang "Crying In The Chapel". No one was really sure why Elvis Presley repeated his songs, considering how many he knew. The reason was simple. He used these small shows to perfect his delivery of a particular tune. Since he favoured pop ballads, no one really cared if Elvis Presley sang a song more than once - he was able to work the girls into a frenzy with anything he sang. What it amounted to, though, was that long before Elvis Presley became the first rock and roll superstar, he was consciously practicing the act that would take him to the pinnacle of show business success.

Today the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall are still operate on the original location, and according to Memphis musician Don McGregor: ''On March 12, 2011, my friend Jimmy Newman called a bunch of musicians together to play at the Hernando VFW that day to help raise money for his good friend and neighbor, Butch Angelo, who had recently had his house burned down by addled and irate relative. More people played than just the ones pictured. We called ourselves Lost Dog that day, one of the several appellations applied to Crawpatch. The band consisting that day of Jimmy Newman, Brandy Parks, Andy Morton, Jimmy Crosthwait way in the back on washboard, the late, great Sid Selvidge, and me, Don McGregor. Also playing with us that day were David Luttrell, Kenny Brown, and Dr. Charles McNutt. We raised a good bit of money for our friend Butch, and had a great time doing it. The VFW is a timeless old place. Every one I've ever played in was exactly the same, full of the smells of cigarette smoke and hot grease, and full of old friends who have known each other all their lives, who gather there in the smoke filled rooms to drink their whiskey and beer, and tell all their old stories again and again. I love the stories. Hunting stories, fishing Stories, and, in North Mississippi, Dane Layton stories''.

Don McGregor is a Memphis, Mississippi and Arkansan son of the South. He has been playing music all his life. Never overly interested or involved in mainstream music, he has always searched out the obscure, the un-commercial, the un-championed jewels of real, unadulterated music often found on the back sides of albums, on old 78’s, or written by friends and underground heroes. He has been writing original songs since 1970's and, as all good songs must be, they are distilled from life experiences. Don was involved in many Memphis underground bands during the early 1970’s such as Crawdad, Horse Shoe, Briarpatch, and Crawpatch, as well as later bands such as The Rhythm Hounds and Ripple. Currently recording as well as playing shows with The Bluff City Backsliders, 1920’s and 30’s jump jive, Lost Dog, and the reunited Crawpatch, (country/bluegrass/Grateful Dead), he continues to write, record, and perform his solo act.

(Above) Home for the Incurables, 1467 McLemore Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee. Founded by the King's Daughters and Sons of Tennessee, the home opened in 1908. A new building was completed in 1912. The institution provides a home for persons afflicted with diseases pronounced incurable.


Another venue for Elvis Presley and Eddie Bond was on the south side of Memphis at the Home for the Incurables on 1467 McLemore Avenue in Memphis. According to Eddie Bond, Elvis Presley frequently entertained with the band even though he wasn't always invited. When the musicians arrived to set up, Elvis would be there waiting. In these appearances, according to both Ronald Smith and Eddie Bond, Elvis Presley sang contemporary pop ballads.

Home For The Incurables was a residence for the physically handicapped, and the patients loved to see live musicians. Johnny Fine was the group's bass player, and he remembers that Elvis Presley's ballads had a soothing effect upon the patients.

Ronald Smith often had to defend Elvis Presley, because some of the other musicians were tired of seeing him show up at the gigs. "I used to be Elvis would be waiting for us", Kenneth Herman remarked, "but we always let him sing something". Kenneth Herman continued to reminisce: "We still don't know how Elvis Presley found out we were playing". At the country or hillbilly nightclubs, Elvis Presley was adept at jumping on stage to fill a few intermission minutes or to appear in an amateur night spot. It was typical of Elvis Presley find every opportunity he could to play his music in front of an audience - any audience. "Sometimes we went to the Home For The Incurables over in the Glenview area. They used to have live radio shows with live singers there, recall Buzzy Forbess, "a West Memphis radio station set the whole thing up. Well, one night over at the Home for the Incurables, Elvis got up on the stage and he picked his own guitar. The rest of us just bopped while he was picking. The patients loved it. Elvis was playing his own version of Kay Starr's "Harbor Lights". It's a slow song, you know, but Elvis was putting his own little touches to it. He couldn't fast dance in those days, but he could slow dance. Everybody could slow dance".

"I had been playing in joints since I was fourteen", said Ronald Smith. "I knew a lot of musicians and you could always put a band together by calling around. I got Curtis Lee Alderson, Kenneth Herman and Elvis Presley to go with me out to Kennedy Hospital. The guys really enjoyed it. Some of them were there in wheelchairs. Some on crutches. Curtis had a raw talent like no one you ever heard. We played mostly jump tunes for the soldiers, nothing slow at Kennedy. And they applauded each song and really appreciated our coming out there. But I think we were the ones who had all the fun that day". "Elvis Presley was really in true form that night at the Memphis Home For Incurables", said Ronald Smith. "After the show, one of the patients came up and he was mumbling what he was trying to say. We asked him two or three times to repeat himself, and he did, but he was mumbling so bad we couldn't understand him". "Finally, someone from the Home came over and asked him to repeat it, and then turned to Elvis Presley and said, 'He wants to know if you have a bone in your ass'. We really laughed when we heard that", said Smith. Alderson went on to a rewarding career in music in Las Vegas and Hollywood.

The Memphis music scene was a very competitive one, and it was a natural place for Elvis Presley to develop his talent. In small clubs like the Silver Slipper, the Silver Stallion, the 1600 Club, the Green Owl, the Green Beetle, the Rosewood, the Officers Club Airport, the Blue Haven, the Bon Air Club, the Palms, the Coral, the Wayside Inn, the Gypsie Village, the Hut, the Hi-Hat Supper Club, the 5 Gables, the Cottage Inn, the Peabody Hotel on Union Avenue, the Hotel Chisca, the Hotel Clarage, the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Danny's, the Wagon Wheel, the Plantation Inn, and the VFW Hall in Hernando, Mississippi, Elvis Presley learned his craft. These little, out-of-the-way clubs provided the training ground for a number of other Memphis musicians who were soon to burst into the national spotlight. There was also a "Teen Canteen" that offered an opportunity for fledgling musicians to find an audience.

GREEN OWL - A beer joint for blacks located at Market on the corner of 260 North Main Street. Despite segregation in the South, the working-class neighborhoods were for the most part racially mixed. Living in the inner city, Elvis Presley was exposed to all of the music and culture the black community had to offer. Charlie Bramlett, Elvis' boyhood friend who grew up at 573 Alabama Avenue, remembers a lot of black entertainers performing on different corners in the neighborhood. Near Winchester Park, at the bottom of the hill, were a lot of juke joints. "Going down there you'd hear really good black entertainment", Charlie said. "They'd play harmonicas and guitars and pitch washers. That's the way it was on Beale Street too. They would be out there singing and passing the hat".

The Green Owl was the joint, not far from where W.C. Handy once operated his office and sheet-music shop and is the club that Buzzy Forbess remembers most from teenage days with Elvis Presley. "Every now and then we would walk into the Green Owl, a beer joint for blacks. Elvis loved the Green Owl. They always had a crowd there, and people would spill over onto the sidewalk. He particularly liked one of the musicians in the Green Owl. This guy had fashioned a five-gallon bucket and a broom handle into a bass, and he was pretty good at playing it".

"We would walk down to Beale Street and spend a lot of time looking at the photographs in the window of the Blue Light Studio. We would spend a lot of time on North Main, in the theaters, and every now and then we would walk into the Green Owl. It was the Green Beetle, for whites, down on South Main. Elvis loved the Green Owl. They always had a crowd there and people would spill over onto the sidewalk", remember Buzzy Forbess, "He particularly liked one of the musicians in the Green Owl. This guy had fashioned a five-gallon bucket and a broom handle into a bass and he was pretty good at playing it".

For most southern whites, the black culture was witnessed from afar, still separate by law and custom no matter how close they lived to one another. But Elvis Presley's love of black music, played at places like the Green Owl, helped him to see past those barriers. As Vernon Presley once said. "Elvis was more color blind than most". The Green Owl is now demolished.

RONALD SMITH - A South Side High School student who later graduated from Mann Private School, Smith dated Barbara Hearn, who eventually went out with Elvis Presley. During his high school years, Smith was a professional musician playing nightly in Memphis clubs. He had to leave South Side High and enroll at Mann Private because of the rigorous demands of his music career.

Most Memphis observers rate Smith's guitar work as superior to Scotty Moore's. Because of his musical skill, Ronald became a close friend of Elvis' during his last year at Humes High School and often went out with him. It was Ronald Smith who organized Elvis' first band. In May 1952, they played their first gig at the Hi-Hat

Supper Club on South Third Street and Ronald Smith remembers they didn't get paid. At the Hi-Hat, Mark Waters played drums, Dino Dainesworth played saxophone and clarinet, Smith played guitar, and Aubrey Meadows played piano. This band played pop music and hired Elvis Presley as the lead singer. This was essentially Eddie Bond's band, but they were musicians who played rhythm and blues and dance music. This band, with some change in members, played the Columbia Towers at Main Street, the Home for the Incurables, and the Kennedy Hospital, located at 1030 Jefferson Avenue, with Elvis Presley as the lead singer. In September 1954, Smith played at Cherry Valley High School in Arkansas and at the Poughkeepsie, Arkansas, High School. Bob Neal booked these concerts, Elvis got paid but Ronald Smith, Curtis Alderson, Kenneth Herman, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black didn't get paid for these gigs. "I wasn't hostile, we were young and it was fun playing with Elvis", Smith remarked in 1986. Smith was also the guitarist with Eddie Bond And The Stompers, and his rockabilly guitar riffs were an important influence upon Elvis Presley. Smith also helped Elvis select 45rpm records and generally talked music with the future King of Rock and Roll. A dedicated historian, Smith has preserved records, badges, memorabilia, and artifacts that trace Presley's musical roots. He still active as a performer in the Memphis area.

KENNETH HERMAN - Steel guitar player, Kenneth (Kenne Dwain) Herman was born in Port Arthur Texas in 1937. He and his mother and grand-mother moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1941. When he was 8 years old he saved his change, for ever it seemed. He bought a harmony guitar for eight dollars. He still has this guitar. When he was ten he bought a six string National steel guitar from a neighbor and learned how to play it.

By the time he was thirteen he had learned how to play well enough to win the Ted Mack Amateur Show, out of New York City. He went on to play the Steel at the Grand Ole Opry, Louisiana Hayride an all of the other places that played Country and Rockabilly Music. He played for Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, and many other artists. He played for several years at the Western Steak House & Lounge in Memphis.

In the 1950s, he toured with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison, Herman is an inordinately talented musician who fused country and rockabilly music. Herman could also play the bass, and there was talk for a time that he would replace Bill Black and tour with Elvis Presley. Like Ronald Smith, Herman played with Elvis Presley prior to the Sun days and was a close friend of the Presley's. An intelligent maverick, Herman carved out a reputation in Memphis as a private investigator while continuing to pursue country music as an avocation. He currently lives in Florida and pursues country music.

EDDIE BOND AND THE STOMPERS - Country and rockabilly singer, disc jockey, promoter, radio and television station impresario, song-writer, charity worker and law enforcement officer, all parts of the multi-faceted person that is Eddie Bond. For over forty years now he had been completely immersed in the southern musical culture that spawned the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison et all. Whether he is performing in Memphis, Tennessee, Drew, Mississippi or Prudhoe, Tyne and Wear, England, Eddie Bond continues to be a living embodiment of the traditional sounds of country and authentic rockabilly music. Bond was born in Methodist Hospital, Memphis, on July 1, 1933, Eddie James Bond grew up in a South Memphis neighborhood in an apartment above Kickapoo Inn across the street as a drug store soda jerk, an essentially non-musical family, which still provided some encouragement to the young member of the family who, at the age of eight, had put together enough nickels and dimes to buy his first guitar. His initial interest had been aroused by listening to Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb who, at the time, the early 1940s, were widely heard on the radio and record; his early experience of performing developed through his teenage years as he gigged around the beer joints of Memphis. He attended Pine Hill Junior High School and South Side High School. On leaving school in 1950, he held down a variety of jobs including furniture factory worker, paint sprayer and, a job common amongst Memphis rockabilly truck driver. After an eighteen month stint in the Navy, Bond returned to work in paint, this time selling not spraying for Campbell and Son as a salesman. The time had now moved on to 1952 and he formation of his band the Stompers took place over the ensuing months; well-known members would be Reggie Young, John Hughey, Jimmy Smith and Johnny Fine. Earlier incarnations of the band included Ronald Smith, Enlo Hopkins, Cutis Lee Alderson and future "Musical Warrior" for Charlie Feathers, Jody Chastain. In the early 1950s Bond played with the Snearly Ranch Boys, and he developed a strong interest in country music. By 1953 Eddie Bond and the Stompers were a fledgling country and western band with rockabilly overtones. Bond, who graduated from Memphis' South Side High School two years before Elvis Presley, following failed auditions at Sun Records and Meteor, Eddie secured as well-known musician signed a recording contract with Ekko in 1955, although an Los Angeles company, had a Memphis office which was located at 36 North Cleveland in Memphis.

Although not certain, Eddie now believes the Ekko session was held at a Murray Nash Associates connected studio in Nashville. Celebrated pickers were brought in by Artists and Repertoire man Red Matthews, who supervised the session, resulting in two single releases at the tail-end of 1955; "Double Duty Lovin" was coupled with "Talkin' Off The Wall" (Ekko 1015), "Love Makes A Fool (Everyday)" being paired with "Your Eyes" (Ekko 1016). No fabulous sales were achieved but they formed the basis for the next session which saw Eddie move further towards the bi-time and a major label deal for Mercury Records in 1956. His band, the Stompers, included two fine musicians, one of whom - guitarist Ronald Smith - was an important influence upon young Elvis Presley. Historians have overlooked the influence of Eddie Bond and the Stompers upon Elvis, because Bond recorded after Elvis was already a regional star. In 1953-1954, however, Bond hired Elvis Presley to sing "pop songs" at the Stompers' engagements. As a result, Elvis was influenced by Bond's rockabilly and country singing style and intrigued by Smith's guitar work. When Elvis' Sun Records sound emerged, it depended heavily upon Bond's style.

Other developments during this time included appearances on the Louisiana Hayride alongside Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley and Sonny James, and further touring alongside Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Harold Jenkins (later to become Conway Twitty), and Charlie Feathers. Concurrently a move to develop links with radio were set up when the "Eddie Bond Show" was transmitted on KWEM, beginning a relationship with the airwaves that continues today. So now touring was joined by broadcasting as well as recording in the continually broadening of the Bond career. At the same time Eddie signed with Bob Neal's Stars Incorporated, located at 160 Union Avenue in Memphis (now Holiday Inn Hotel), then looking after the interest of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash with Warren Smith and Roy Orbison soon to be added to the ranks.

Four sessions were recorded for and by Mercury, the first of which he poses a mystery. Held at radio station WMPS in Memphis, and produced by Mercury Artists and Repertoire man Dee Kilpatrick, four songs were recorded but only two were issued on Mercury, "I Got A Woman"/ "Rockin' Daddy" (Mercury 70826), the remaining two songs, "Sister Jenny Won't You Pray For Me" and "Blue Suede Shoes" do not even appear on Mercury paperwork never mind tape vaults. Eddie Bond confirms they were recorded and that he does not have tapes either. What happened here is unknown, perhaps an independently produced session with an option taken up by Mercury was effected? Mercury usually recorded in Chicago or Nashville, so why use WMPS radio in Memphis? Eddie is certain that Dee Kilpatrick was involved but could he have been there in an audition situation resulting in these tapes being used by Mercury? There has to be a reason for the remaining two titles not appearing at Mercury either on tape or on paper. What is certain is that the Stompers' were featured on this cuts which, when released on a single, sold healthily. Thirty-seven years on Eddie speculates: "It probably sold more than some current hits today as figure are calculated quite differently".

Nashville was the location of the next session that produced Bond's strongest rockabilly performances ever with "Boppin' Bonnie" (Mercury 70941), "Flip Flop Mama" (Mercury 70882), "Slip Slippin' In" (Mercury 70882) and "Baby, Baby, Baby (What Am I Gonna Do)" (Mercury 70941) used by Mercury on two singles in June and September of 1956, which sold well enough for Mercury to organise two more sessions held in Houston, Texas, in 1957. As Bond's natural inclination was towards country, these two sessions focused more on country material than the previous two studio forays. With the then current tie-up of Mercury and Starday, Pappy Daily of the latter company was at the helm. Daily was then steering George Jones through his initial success period, so was well placed to watch over Eddie Bond's Houston sessions which were held at the Goldstar Recording Studio. The material was supplied by Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell, Darrell Edwards, and Roger Miller, as well as Eddie Bond himself; "You're Part Of Me" was tagged with "They Say We're Too Young" (Mercury 71067), "Lovin' You, Lovin' You" teamed up with "Hershey Bar" (Mercury 71153) and "Backslidin'" ended up being the final Mercury release when backed by "Love, Love, Love" (Mercury 71237), "One Step Close To You" (MG 20360) was held over until 1960, when it was used on a collection featuring Louisiana Hayride stars, leaving "King On Your Throne" to make its debut on Zu Zazz Z 2005. The fourteen Mercury titles represent the essence of rockabilly and authentic fifties country music.

Following the Mercury deal, Eddie began label-hopping through the South, particularly around Memphis. First stop was 706 Union Avenue in Memphis for Sun Records, where Jack Clement produced three titles included, "Show Me", "Broke My Guitar" and "This Old Heart Of Mine", all in a more-country-than rockabilly mould. None were issued at the time having to wait for the rockabilly revival and subsequent glut of compilations released in the 1970s and 1980s (Bear Family BCD 15708).

Although not part of this, but recently re-issued on Stomper Time STCD 1, there followed a plethora of recordings for "D", Stomper Time, Wildcat, MCCR, Decca (through his friend Webb Pierce), and United Southern Artists. All were basically country releases.

Early 1962 saw Eddie back in Memphis recording at the 639 Madison Avenue for, Sun Records flip label Phillips International, or re nearly thirty sides were recorded during January and February; the fruits of these sessions being a selection of gospel items that were eventually used on an album in 1963, "Eddie Bond Sings Greatest Country Gospel Hits" (Phillips 1980), plus a mixture of country standards and a couple of Bond revivals. Although not strictly recorded by Sun or Phillips International, these recordings were all bought in and have been embraced as "Sun" tracks as a result of the Phillips International album release. Further stopping-off places on the label circuit included Memphis, Pen (leased on Decca), Diplomat ("Monkey And The Baboon"), Millionaire, Goldwax, Memphis, MCCR and Tab, which took Eddie to the end of the sixties during which time he had expanded his radio operations and achieved great success by increasing his listening audience noticeably to the extent that a 64% share was achieved and a plaque presented to him by Billboard to honour the achievement.

The Tab recordings of 1969 inaugurated the Buford Pusser Years, when Eddie was involved in writing and recording about the dubious character of Sheriff Pusser who became a southern hero when Hollywood portrayed him in the film "Walkin' Tall", and ran for sheriff in Hernando, Mississippi, in 1974. Bond later admitted to having mixed feelings on the subject but there was a certain fame that was achieved through the association. Many country fans were first introduced to the exploits of Buford Pusser through the recordings of Eddie Bond. In the wake of his meeting and ventures with Pusser, the office of Chief of Police in Finger, Tennessee, was achieved by Eddie Bond. Coincidentally, Finger was the birthplace of Buford Pusser himself.

The following years saw more country sessions on Tab in the States and, following the first U.K. visit in 1982, rockabilly recordings were issued on Rockhouse Records in Holland produced by Dave Travis, whose band always support Bond on tour, as was the case in 1982, 1985 and 1992.

He continues to be an outstanding performer with a strong European following. A successful businessman in Hernando, Mississippi, Bond's records are released to large European sales. This retrospective of his associations with Ekko, Mercury, Sun Records and Phillips International documents his genesis as a country and rockabilly singer; a role perfected over his long career in the recording and broadcasting industry.

Through it all, the consensus is that Eddie Bond made more friends than enemies. In the late 1990s, he moved east to Bolivar, Tennessee where he opened a store and a club that he was anxious to mention was not a nightclub. Morbidly obese, Bond moved to an assisted living facility for a time.

On Wednesday morning, March 20, 2013, Eddie Bond died from complications of Alzheimer's disease and dementia at his home in Bolivar, Tennessee, at the age of 79.

KENNEDY VETERANS HOSPITAL - Located at 1030 Jefferson Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley to entertain someone. "Sometimes it would be at the old Kennedy Veterans Hospital to entertain the veterans", recalled Buzzy Forbess, "for the wounded coming home from the Korean War. There we would just mingle with the guys, talk and maybe shoot pool with them. Anything to take their minds of their problems".

When the hospital was opened in 1944, it was located at the corner of Park and Shotwell Avenues. The city fathers didn't think Shotwell Avenue was an appropriate name for a street on which a hospital caring for the war wounded was to be located, so they changed the name of the street, south of Park, to Getwell. It remains Shotwell immediately north of the property, which today is a part of the University of Memphis.

During 1945, when the sergeant in charge of entertaining the troops put out the call for ideas, Army Sergeant Joe Broussard - who had been badly injured when his scout motorcycle, running dark during maneuvers, had crashed into a troop-carrying truck - came forward. "I've got this nephew who pitches on a Little League baseball team and they're pretty good. Maybe we can get that team to play one of their league games out here. I'm sure the fellows would love to see some baseball".

The invitation was issued. Lawson-Getz, which was to become the Exchange League's champion that inaugural summer, played WHBQ radio, winning 504. More than two thousand wounded soldiers really got into the game, choosing sides and loudly cheering "their" team. The youngsters on both teams were nervous, but thrilled. Never before had they played before such a large, vociferous crowd. Broussard's nephew, who rang up a 28-2 record that summer, was a tall, skinny, olive-complexioned twelve-year-old named Bill Burk. And the sergeant in charge of entertainment, after the war, went back to Hollywood where he resumed his movie career and later starred in the television series, Sgt. Bilko. His name: Phil Silvers.

THE SILVER SLIPPER SUPER CLUB - In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the Memphians flocked to a place on the outskirts of town called the Silver Slipper, this popular nightclub was located on 70 Macon Road in North East Memphis, just outside the city border. By all accounts, Bob Berryman was a shady character. A rather notorious gambler and bootlegger, he served eight years in prison for murdering a bouncer at a downtown nightclub. The club was built of white stucco with a tile roof and rows of arched windows. And on the sign at the main entrance sported a huge illuminated slipper.

It was considered ''Memphis'' most luxurious nightclub. In addition to the dining and dancing, there was gambling. Generations of Memphians spent many evening there. The Silver Slipper operated off and on from 1929 until it was destroyed by a fire in 1958, but the actual site today is just off present-day Shelby Oaks Drive.

The Silver Slipper also featured live entertainment. They were not the biggest headliners, but entertainers on their way up, and in some cases, on their way down. The Andrews Sisters appeared there in 1933 before they hit big-time. Name dance bands did appear there Even Elvis Presley performed here at the beginning of his career with his friends. Toward the end, the Silver Slipper entertainment leaned more toward burlesgue. When the building was demolished, Elvis carried off the famous mirror ball as his trophy.

BOB BERRYMAN – Born in 1888, Robert Arthur Berryman was a Memphis native. Very little appears in print about his life. Although never mentioned in newspapers accounts, he was a bootlegger, gamblers, well known nightclub operator, and a murderer.

As his reputation grew he was referred to as ''Czar of Memphis night life'' or a ''sportsman about town'', and ''King of Memphis gamblers''. During a 1927 crackdown, the police discovered a thriving Monte Carlo run by Berryman in the Gehring Hotel, right under their noses at Main and Union. Two years later he invested $100,000 in the Silver Slipper, a plush nightclub on Macon Road, just outside the city limits. On opening night, the newspapers reported that ''the 400 of Memphis society were among the 450 guests lucky enough to get reservations''. It wasn’t mentioned, but dice and roulette were available at the club. All the vices were closely regulated by E.H. Crump in the time-honored fashion of ''keeping the business in local hands and keeping strangers out''.

In 1937, Berryman began a new adventure, a motor hotel on Highway 61, known as Berryman's Tourist Court. It was a rather unique adobe architectural style arranged in a semi-circle with a two-story manager's residence by the entrance. It was featured on many postcards of the period and became quite well known but most folks didn't associate it with the Berryman of Silver Slipper fame. Years later the name changed to ''Adobe Village''. It has now been demolished, of course.

In 1940, an associate of Berryman named John Phillips was standing outside the entrance to Joe Foppiano's Grill. Bob Berryman drove up, parked, and then pulled a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun and shot him. The wounded Phillips ducked into Foppiano's and made his way to the rear exit. Berryman followed and shot him again. When Phillips begged for no more, Berryman pulled out a snub nose Colt and emptied it into Phillips, and then calmly waited for the police.

Charged with murder, Berryman pleaded self-defense, claiming that Phillips was out to kill him. The jury didn't buy Berryman's story, and in spite of threats, they gave a guilty verdict and Berryman was sentenced to life in prison at the Tennessee Penitentiary. Foppiano's didn't stay in business much longer after this. The building went through a series of Furniture Stores and was eventually demolished in the 1960s.

Even with a life sentence at the Tennessee Penitentiary, Berryman was on occasion spotted at Nashville hotels with his wife. He had been such a ''model prisoner'' that he was given ''special privileges'' which included overnight trips to Nashville. The governor of Tennessee was later persuaded by Berryman's friends to commute his sentence due to ''health reasons''. He had served only 8 and a half years of his sentence. Robert Arthur Berryman died in Nashville in 1965 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.


Memphian Kemmons Wilson opens the world's first Holiday Inn on 1941 Summer Avenue in Memphis, which was then the main highway to Nashville. A builder who had once been the country's top Wurlitzer jukebox distributor, Wilson decided to build the sort of dependable family motels he'd always wished for when the Wilsons were on vacation.

Though amorous Memphis teens might have preferred one of Wilson's rooms, young lovers made do with the area's drive-inn movie theaters. Sam Phillips was one of the early stockholders in Holiday Inn.

Wilson came up the idea after a family trip to Washington D.C. during which he was disappointed by the quality and consistency provided by roadside motels. By 1957 the chain was franchised and followed his tenet that all Holiday Inn properties should be standardized, clean, predictable, family-friendly and readily accessible to road travellers. By 1968 there were 1000 Holiday Inns. The chain dominated the market. By 1972, there were over 1,400 Holiday Inns worldwide. Kemmons Wilson sold his interest in 1990.


Elvis Presley worked in the table department at Upholsteries Specialties Company, located at 210 West Georgia Avenue in Memphis, while in high school. Elvis Presley gave his birthdate as January 8, 1934, to add one year to his age. As job references, he listed his previous jobs with Precision Tool and Loew's State Theater. Elvis' uncles Travis and Johnny get him and cousin Gene Smith on the crew at Precision.


Elvis Presley had begun frequenting the rough hillbilly bars on Highway 78. During the spring and summer of 1952, Elvis Presley had discovered for the first time Eagle's Nest Night Club, located at 4090 Lamar Avenue, in Memphis, a large and popular country music bar that was undergoing a musical transition. Many of the future rockabilly and rock and roll stars tried out their now songs at the club. Johnny Burnette, while still working for the Crown Electric Company on 475 North Dunlap. , would often play guitar on weekends there, and it was Burnette who got Elvis Presley a job cleaning up in the club. Burnette played country music, and was thinking about forming his own band. Elvis Presley attended concerts at Ellis Auditorium and was a regular at the St. Mary's Dance.


On the corner of North Parkway and Dunlap Street, the city operated an artesian well and The Parkway Pumping Station, named as Water Works, where Elvis Presley and his friends from Humes High School often played. Elvis' high school friend Buzzie Forbess remembers a particular football game there. During those days not only were the schools segregated, but their sports teams never played opponents of a different color. One day, Elvis Presley, Buzzie Forbess, and about ten of their buddies went over to the water works to toss around a football.

When they got there, they found about forty black kids already at the park. They quickly organized teams, white against black, and began to play. Elvis Presley's team could generally hold their own, but this time they were no match. Maybe their hearts weren't quite in it, or maybe they were just silly. While Elvis Presley normally took football seriously, on at least this one occasion, his humour overcame his completive spirit.


Elvis Presley perform at the Teen Canteen, a small building in the Lauderdale Courts apartment. "Elvis Presley was a central part of the neighborhood", Buzzy Forbess remembers. "Most of the parties were at his house, and in the evenings things centered around Elvis Presley and his guitar". Elvis was sop busy playing the guitar that he seldom danced. When Elvis Presley did dance, it was to Kay Starr's "Harbor Lights". Johnny Burnette, who graduated from Humes High School in 1952, was a frequent visitor to the Presley household; Johnny Burnette and Elvis Presley would sit around and play their guitars. They spent long hours talking about different types of music and trying out new songs. One of these counselling sessions stood out in Elvis Presley's memory. He continually talked about the time on Thanksgiving Day, 1952, when Johnny Burnette came hot on leave from the U.S Navy. Burnette came over to the Presley's house and persuaded Elvis Presley that better times were ahead. Like the old days during their youth, they played and sang for hours. Johnny suggested that Elvis develop the same unique rockabilly sound that they both enjoyed, and he urged Elvis Presley to consider forming a group.

At this time Elvis Presley, Buzzy Forbess, and the other young men from the Lauderdale area played football at the Triangle. "That was on the north side of Lauderdale Courts, on Exchange, east of Lauderdale", recalled Buzzy, "It was shaped like a piece of pie, so we called it the Triangle. All the kids in the neighborhood met there after school and on Saturday. We would choose up sides between ourselves and play some knock-down, dragout football games. We also had this Lauderdale Courts team". "There were other teams from Winchester and Malone Parks and at the Water Works over on North Parkway. Each Saturday our team would play one of those teams. Elvis was one of our ends. He had good speed and good hands and he could catch the ball well. And while he did mix it up, that was really not his bag".

On September 1952, Elvis Presley took a part-time job at the MARL Metal Company, located at 208 Georgia Avenue, Memphis. On the application he filled out at MARL Metal Company, Elvis Presley listed his previous job at Precision Tool. When the supervisor at MARL Metal called the Precision boss, he received a glowing report about Presley's work. He was told that Elvis Presley was let go because he was too young, but the supervisor noted that he was an aggressive and responsible worker. At MARL Metal, Elvis Presley had a dead-end janitorial position. All he did was sweep up during the evening shift, but the dollar-an-hour pay was excellent. In less than eight weeks, he worked from 3:00 to 11:30 p.m. each day, though, Elvis Presley's school work suffered dramatically.

MARL METAL MANUFACTURING COMPANY - Memphis firm located at 208 Georgia Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley worked after-school for a dollar an hour for two months, starting September 1952. The company manufactured dinette sets. He worked a full shift from 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. proved to be too difficult considering he was still a full-time student. When he began to fall asleep in his high school classes, his parents made him quit his job at MARL Metal. He quit after two months.

Nonetheless, it was a valiant attempt to help his family. His application for employment, according to Vince Staten, an early biographer, listed five dependents, an astounding claim for a fresh faced young kid. Elvis Presley had only one co-worker because everyone else at MARL worked the first shift. By all accounts, Elvis Presley got along well with his partner, and they took their breaks together. Elvis wasn't much of a conversationalist, though. It seems he was too busy playing the guitar. MARL stood for Morris, Albert, Robert, and Louis Bozoff, the brothers who owned the company. Elvis Presley was hired by Robert Bozoff to work in the fabricating division.


There was one club, from owner-entrepreneur Andrew "Sunbeam" Mitchell, the Hippodrome, located on 500 Beale Street, that catered to young white kids. "If you looked like you wouldn't make trouble, they let you in", Ronald Smith recalled.

"We loved to go there and watch the black musicians", Elvis' friend Kenneth Herman remembered. It was at the Hippodrome that Elvis Presley continued to develop his musical style during 1952. Performances at the club also inspired Elvis Presley, Ronald Smith, and Kenneth Herman to talk about making a record.

In sum, the atmosphere in Memphis was a very special one. On street corners, country bluesmen played for tips. In Handy Park, jug bands vied with informal groups that played the blues and popular songs for the crowd's attention. The theaters along Beale Street featured vaudeville blues singers such as Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, and Ma Rainey. Young musicians like Memphis Slim and Sunnyland Slim, who drifted in as supporting musicians, wound up as local celebrities. The Memphis blues scene soon took on a professional quality. When Elvis Presley began frequenting Beale Street in the early 1950s, it was in the midst of a revolution.

THE TRIANGLE / LAUDERDALE COURTS - On the northern boundary of Lauderdale Courts was a grassy area that residents called "The Triangle". The Triangle was the home of many social gatherings at Lauderdale Courts - some of the kids played football here, some of the adults visited with each other, and sometimes the Courts musicians played here.

Jean Lazenby Foster, a resident of Lauderdale Courts, said, "When we were coming up in the Courts, we used to sit out and have little groups all the time. Everybody singing and playing, and sometimes there's more than one guitar. There wasn't much on the TV back then so we stayed outside and played music, and it was the good old days".

Johnny Black remembers, "I could make him talk. If you'd get him to talk to you, he would open up. Sometimes he was just lonesome and needed someone to talk. He wasn't quite our age. I was into music and some of the same interests he had, so it made it easier for us to talk", Johnny recalled. Jean Foster remembers a day when she was about fifteen and was sitting on the edge of the Triangle. Elvis was living at Graceland then. "Elvis Presley came back to bring his mother and father to visit friends. I was playing the guitar facing the street, and the kids were facing me. They didn't see Elvis drive up, and I didn't tell them that he drove up. He gave me the high sign and the motion to be quiet, and he waved at me. When he came back out with them about thirty minutes later, he winked at me and waved good-by and blew me a kiss".

Jean smiled at Elvis that day, but she didn't wave. Elvis deserved his privacy, and she knew that the kids would race toward him. She waited until his car had disappeared from view, and then she told the kids that Elvis Presley had just left. "They almost killed me", she remembers.

Buzzy Forbes, Farley Guy, Paul Dougher, and Elvis Presley, the quartet got to joking, after a tough football game on the Triangle, about a new entertainer fellow named Liberace, how he dressed up funny, how he had a candelabra on his piano, how people laughed at him. Elvis' contribution to this conversation was, "If I could be like him, I would laugh, all the way to the bank".


Beginning his senior year, Elvis Presley has become a somewhat difficult student, failing exams that bring down his average and often missing school. He is spending more time around the Memphis music scene on Beale Street. His good looks and flashy style of dress gain him notice, not always positive, and Red West intervenes on several occasions. Elvis Presley meets Marty Lacker, a fresh kid from New York City.

"I met Elvis in the seventh / eight grade 1949. I was still in high school", said Red West. "Elvis had just had his first hit in Memphis and I was going to get on a bus.... I was in a football team and ... he pulled up in this little ol' green car he had - he was just coming out to visit and I yelled at him come over. So he came over and said that he was going on the road somewhere in Mississippi - and did I wanna go with him. I said, 'Yeah!'. I guess he thought he may have some trouble with people or whatever... So while I was still in high school I started traveling with him. I was a senior - he'd already graduated. So I travelled around with him down in Mississippi, Arkansas, The Louisiana Hayride - all over the place".

"I drove a lot. Back when he was on the Dorsey Shows in New York - they would go in and do those once a week and then fly out to Florida - well I drove from New York to Florida. I'd drive all the instruments down there. They'd have instruments for the show and then their own instruments down where they had to be next. I'll never forget that trip - that's quite a drive", said West.

FALL 1952

Elvis Presley wanted to play football for his high school team at Humes but had to work after school. Instead, Elvis Presley watched the team play on Friday nights during the fall season. Many of the Humes games were played at Crump Stadium, which was adjacent to their archival school, Central High. Crump Stadium is located at Linden Avenue at Cleveland Street.

Until 1965, when the Memphis Memorial Stadium (now the Liberty Bowl) opened, Crump Stadium was the largest arena in Memphis, used by both colleges and high schools. Today, it is still in use as a high school football stadium, with seating for twenty thousand.


Sam Phillips and Jim Bulleit are in discussion about a new distribution set-up to facilitate a re-launch of the Sun label.


Ronald Smith, one of Elvis' friends and a student at South Side High School nervously prepared for the South Side Amateur Night Show. The sixty-cents admission benefit the concert at 8:00 p.m. for the school band. Ronald Smith and Elvis Presley played acoustic guitars and performed as a duo, with Elvis Presley singing cover versions of Lefty Frizzell's "Til Then" and Billy Ward And The Dominos' "60 Minute Man". The Shelby Falen band were special guests on the show, but weren't allowed to compete for prizes. Falen's group was semi-professional and solidly-booked into local clubs. Paul Burlison played lead guitar for the group, and he was intrigued by Elvis' talent. Paul Burlison, a close friend of Ronald Smith's, was extraordinarily gifted on guitar, and he engaged in a friendly guitar duel with Ronald Smith that night. Elvis Presley benefied greatly from such musical battles. Although Ronald Smith and Elvis Presley failed to earn enough applause for an encore, they left feeling good about the show.

Each night as Elvis Presley prepared the Eagle's Nest for its musical explosion, he talked with the musicians. Almost everyone ignored Elvis; he was simply another nice kid talking music. Doug Poindexter and the Starlight Wranglers played regularly at the Eagle's Nest. "That boy was always around the music scene", Poindexter remarked thirty years later. "I knew he had something special, and my boys were jealous of him", Poindexter commented sipping on a whiskey. "I think Elvis Presley judged himself against the other boys", Poindexter remarks confirmed that Elvis Presley studied and adopted the best that local musicians had to offer. It was as Elvis Presley watched Poindexter's group that he concluded that he had to form a backup band for himself. So, Elvis Presley began looking. One person he admired was Paul Burlison, lead guitarist for the Rock And Roll Trio. Not only was he a musician that Elvis Presley envied, but Burlison had a style that Elvis Presley loved. No one could play lead guitar like Paul Burlison; that is, until Elvis Presley saw the musicians in Doug Poindexter's band. He realized that Scotty Moore's guitar and Bill Black's bass were the best he had ever heard. They had a sound that Elvis Presley believed could transform his voice. As he entered his final year at Humes High, Elvis Presley had finally acquitted the confidence to pursue a musical career.


In November 1952 it was determined that the Presley's projected annual income had risen to $4,133 a year, well over Housing Authority limits, and on this date the Presley family got an eviction notice, requiring them to move out by February 28, 1953, of the Lauderdale Courts.

On the Presley family's 1952 two W2's tax return Gladys declares an income of $555.70 from St. Joseph's Hospital and Vernon $2,781.18 from United Paint. Vernon's mother, Minnie Mae, is declared a live-in dependent, and Gladys' retarded brother, Tracy Smith, is listed as a resident ten days a month. The income return is handwritten. Elvis is listed as a dependent. Both copies are on a standard withholding form, beige in color with brown lettering. Vernon's W2 is torn on the left bottom side. Also attached is a adding machine tape with the total amount of income, deductions, and amount due on the tape.


The Memphis Housing Authority notified the Presley's that they no longer qualified for public housing. The family income exceeded the among required to live in the Lauderdale Courts.


Memphis automotive contest Road-E-O sponsored by the Jaycees in which Elvis Presley was named "Mr. Safety" in the fall of 1952. Elvis Presley also got his picture in the local newspaper.


Elvis Presley attended the Midnight Rambles at Handy Theater, on Park and Airways Avenue. A whole gang would get together on Sunday night and go out to the coloured district in Rorange Mound for the late show, which was whites-only. There you could catch jazzy bluesman Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, born December 19, 1917 in Houston, Texas, Ivory Joe Hunter, Wynonie Harris, and local acts like Bobby "Blue" Bland, Little Junior Parker, and the comedy act of Rufus Thomas.


Elvis Presley performed during amateur nights at the Silver Stallion Night Club located at 1447 Union Avenue and the Palms Club on Sumner Avenue in Memphis. The appearance on the Palms Night Club had been set up by Sleepy Eyed John. The Silver Stallion would be mentioned in the upcoming 1953 Senior Class Prophecy of Humes High School. About this time, James Luther Dickinson, a Memphis music entrepreneur, remembers seeing Elvis Presley singing at parties in the basement of the Chisca Hotel on 272 South Mean Street where 56 WHBQ radio had its broadcasting studio on the second floor.

Memphis record producer and musician Jim Dickinson (who later worked at Sun Records as part of the Jesters), remembers seeing Elvis Presley play at small clubs and hops around town before "That's All Right". "Presley would play quite regularly at basement parties in the Hotel Chisca", recalled Dickinson. "I started noticing as a producer", Dickinson asserts, "that Spooner Oldham, the keyboard player, played drastically differently in different places. His best playing was done in Memphis. I wondered if the same was true of me, so I got out my own tapes, and by God it's true. I may not play better in Memphis, but I certainly play differently, and if I stay away too long I start to play funny. Memphis music is about racial collision in both directions. The rednecks who are playing blues still feel funny about it because they're playing black music".

When the Memphis Development Foundation, one of the many groups trying to organize the "Beale Street Project" in the late-1970s (which is what the "Beale Street problem" has become), decided to make a record album about Beale Street to boost their cause, they turned, perhaps fittingly, not to one of the street's black regulars, but to a white named James Luther Dickinson. Dickinson's credits were impressive - he had toured with the Rolling Stones as a keyboard man, worked with the seminal Dixie Flyers in Miami, and produced extensively, including working for Ry Cooder.

The results were spectacular, if unexpected. The album, "Beale Street Saturday Night", is a masterpiece, going beyond the idea of a record to Oakum, as one writer called it, a folk tale, a tiny mirror of Beale Street the way it was. The song was sung by Sid Selvidge, another white, and he melded perfectly with such Beale Street greats as Furry Lewis and Sleepy John Estes and Prince Gabe. Proving, perhaps, that some people can still hear the words. Dickinson went on to produce the Beale Street Saturday Night album, which evidenced a depth of understanding for Memphis music that is especially rare in Memphis. "It was an excuse to give money to a bunch of old black people, and I really liked doing that".

Enlightening, but it still doesn't explain what he is doing back in Memphis, on the other side of the world from rock and roll success. He gets up from the couch and paces, in his pyjamas, around the living room. Two or three times he starts to speak, then shifts gears and continues pacing. Finally he walks through the dining room to a window and jerks back the shade.

"Come here", he says, "Look out there and tell me what you see", says James Luther Dickinson. "Like hell". "What you see is nigger houses, sharecroppers shacks. And, damn it, I want to be able to see those shacks. I want to be able to see those honky-tonks. There is just something in me that loves it. Now maybe that makes me a racist, I don't know. But this is - we saw a change in Memphis that affected the whole world... A bunch of crazy rednecks playing nigger music". "People don't understand the life of Elvis Presley, and people won't understand the life of Elvis Presley. Elvis did just what he wanted to do. He never did anything but rock and roll. He played the Ubangi Stomp till he rolled over dead. This is where I want to be".

Furry Lewis lived at 811 Mosby Avenue in Memphis, and he liked to talk about Elvis Presley: "I go somewhere and people ask me if I am going to practice. I tell them, "No, I don't need to practice 'cause I knew what I was going to do before I left home". "Just like you got a guitar and I got one and I don't care what you play, I go right on behind you and it sounds good, too. I just know how to do it. Go on and play; I'll be witcha. Elvis Presley, I tell you, he's good. He's fine. He made plenty money, more'n I ever will made. But he just couldn't play the blues and sing the blues like I can, I'll tell you that right now". Furry Lewis died in Memphis on September 14, 1981 and buried on 2012 Hernando Road in Memphis, across Graceland. On Walter "Furry" Lewis beautiful guitar-painted tombstone grave in 1983, reads: "When I Lay My Burden Down".

LATE 1952

Sam Phillips began to experience some local success, he in turn was faced with the fact that other labels were signing his performers. Duke and Peacock were the chief culprits, with RPM//Modern also attempting to sign selected acts. Sam was learning some hard lessons about contracts, Meteor Records entered the blues and rhythm and blues field, further challenging Phillips' local hegemony.


Sam Phillips tried released the recordings of Red Hadley. He offers the songs to several labels but they are not taken up. Sun itself is concentrating on blues, not country. Lester Bihari forms Meteor Records, located at 1794 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis. The label records blues, country, gospel and rockabilly, providing the final impetus for Phillips to revive the Sun label.


Planters Peanuts opened a shop in Memphis at 24 South Main, Memphis in 1949. Elvis Presley in 1952 at The Peanut Shoppe, located at 134 South Main Street, Memphis. Justin Adler, who bought the stores from Planters Peanuts and renamed ''The Peanuts Shoppe'', would come in early every morning to polish the windows and clean the store thoroughly before opening for the day. "I kept that place sparkling", she said.

Mr. Adler remembers the times Elvis Presley would come into the store. "You know how Elvis used to loll around things?". Mr. Adler said, "He used to fool around on those showcases and talk to the sales ladies. I'd walk in the customer's aisle and just slip my hand under the back of his usher's coat, grab him by the belt, and escort him out". Given Elvis' fondness for peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, it stands to reason that he was drawn to the smell of freshly roasted peanuts.

According to artist and art teacher Gene Gill, "You could always smell the aroma of roasting nuts when you got near Planter's Peanuts. As you approached the store window you heard a "tap, tap, tap". It was a small mechanical version of Mr. Peanut, whose cane tapped on a 50 cent coin glued to the front window.
The real Mr. Peanut was always on the street nearby passing out samples to anyone who held out their hand".

Memphian Bob Mann said, "Yes, I remember this guy (I guess it was a guy) out on the sidewalk by the Loew's State Theater. The aroma in that area was wonderful. Once I bought a half-pound of cashews at that store and ate them all during the movie. I felt pretty sick afterwards but really enjoyed them while I was eating them".

THE PEANUT SHOP - Located at 134 and 24 South Main Street, in the 1950s and 1960s, there were three Peanut Shops in Memphis, two on South Main Street and one on Summer Avenue. As shoppers hurried past the downtown stores, "Mr. Peanut", an iron statue of the familiar peanut wearing a monocle and top hat, would tap his cane against the window to attract their attention. To protect the window, a coin was glued to it at precisely the point where Mr. Peanut's cane met the glass.

The store at 134 South Main Street was near the Loew's State Theater, and when Elvis Presley worked as an usher there, he often stopped in this Peanut shop. The store at 134 South Main Street no longer exists. The location is part of the Peabody Place office complex. The store at 24 South Main Street is still in business. With "Mr. Peanut" tapping away on the window.


Elvis Presley performed in the December 1952 Humes High Christmas Talent Show. He sang his standard repertoire "Keep Them Cold, Cold Icy Fingers Off Of Me" and "Till I Waltz Again With You". Elvis Presley was the only act awarded an encore; he performed his good luck song, "Old Shep".

Elvis Presley's history teacher, Mildred Scrivener, remembers how nervous Elvis was performing in front of his classmates. "He was standing on the edge of the stage, half-hidden by the curtain when I told him, it's you, Elvis, go out and sing another song". Suddenly Elvis' stature and popularity hit a new high.

After Christmas, as Elvis Presley sat outside Kay's Drive Inn on Crump Boulevard, his newfound confidence was demonstrated in casual banter with close friends. Frequently ensconced at Kay's Drive Inn, Elvis Presley got many invitations to perform at house parties.

When he sang for friends at these dimly lit affairs, he covered recent rhythm and blues tunes. These gatherings gave Elvis Presley a chance to perform the rhythm and blues hits that he spent so much time listening. Yet, as we know, this was only one form of music that interested Elvis Presley.

"Well, I had a nice red flannel shirt with white buttons and Elvis wanted to wear it on the show", recalled Buzzy Forbess, "He had the shirt on a hanger and when he put it in the closet and closed the door, a small hole was torn in one of the sleeves of the shirt. He was probably afraid of how I would react when I learned of the hole in my nice shirt, so when he went on for his number, he had the sleeves rolled up and before he began singing, he said, 'I want to dedicate this number to Buzzy Forbess".

"He was confident in himself, in his abilities", recalls Billie Chiles Turner, a classmate. "It seemed every time we had a talent show at school, every year we had a school carnival, Elvis seemed to be one of the performers. He seemed to always be involved in these things". "Each time Elvis would go on stage", she said, "his classmates would whisper among themselves, 'Not again Elvis'".

MILDRED SCRIVENER - History teacher at L.C. Humes High School, located at 659 North Manasas Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and Elvis Presley's homeroom teacher during his senior year. Scrivener took a liking to Elvis Presley and later said that "Elvis always acted like a gentlemen". She put Elvis Presley in the annual Minstrel Show on April 9, 1953, which she also produced.

"Elvis and I had several classes together at Humes", says Georgia Avgeris Scarmoutsos. She was a darkhaired Greek beauty and her mother was one helluva cook. "After school he would walk me home a lot. He never tried to entertain me during these walks. We would talk a lot. We were real good friends and I always thought the world of him. In one of our classes, he was sitting in the back row and I was sitting a couple of rows in front of him. He would throw wadded up gum wrapper foil at me in class to get my attention. After school was out, we would often go to Garner's to get something cool; maybe some ice cream or a cool drink. When he was working as an usher at Loew's State he had this flashlight so he could guide people to their seats in the dark theater. He would always seat me to make sure I got a good seat. I was a cashier down the street at the Malco theater and when he would some to the Malco, I would let him in free and then I would seat him". Georgia Avgeris Scarmoutsos still lives in Memphis.

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