Giving Back

Many folks have given thanks for Elvis Presley’s generosity. Not many people realize what a generous and giving legacy Elvis left behind. Not only did he give the world his time and talent, he also gave back to those in need. He donated thousands to charities, nonprofits and those who needed a helping hand. Elvis started giving back as soon as his career began, and this was a trend that continued throughout the rest of his life. Early in his career, he donated toys to a Marine drive for children and gave $1,050 to Humes High School so that all 1,400 students could go to the annual E.H. Crump Memorial Football Game for the Blind. In 1959, he donated blood at the Wartturm Barracks in Friedberg for the German Red Cross. Never one to forget his roots, Elvis performed in his hometown, Tupelo, in 1956 and 1957 to raise money for a youth center and park. Following a devastating tornado in McComb, Mississippi in January 1975, Elvis performed a benefit concert for the city in May of the same year. At the show, Elvis presented a check for more than $100,000 to Mississippi Governor Bill Waller. In 1961, he performed a concert to build the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and raised more than $65,000. And 12 years later,  Elvis donated the proceeds from his 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” satellite-concert to the Kui Lee cancer fund. He loved Memphis and wanted the best for the city. On Dec. 1, 1967, he pledged $10,500 to the Memphis Jewish Community Center Building Fund and paid a $2,500 installment on that date. On Dec. 12, 1966, he donated checks totaling $105,000 to various Memphis charities. September 29, 1967 was declared “Elvis Presley Day” by Memphis Mayor William Ingram and Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington in recognition of the King’s many charitable contributions. A massive wooden plaque was given to Elvis by the City of Memphis in recognition for his contributions to more than 50 local charities. That plaque, along with numerous checks he wrote to charities, are on display at Graceland. Elvis was known to give plenty of gifts – there are countless stories of surprising friends, family and even total strangers with brand new cars – but he also helped his friends pay their medical bills (and often sent personal get-well notes, too). In 1974, he contributed to a fund for singer-songwriter Ivory...
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Preparing for ‘Elvis at The O2’ Exhibit

It takes a lot of thought and care to create an exhibit as extensive as “Elvis at The O2.” “Elvis at The O2: The Exhibition of His Life” is the largest Elvis retrospective in Europe, and it’ll open in London on Dec. 12. The nine-month exhibit will showcase more than 300 artifacts from the Presley Family’s Graceland Archives, some of which have never been exhibited outside of Graceland in Memphis. “Elvis at The O2” chronicles the rise of the rock ‘n’ roll icon and how Elvis impacted pop culture around the world through his music, movies and personal style. Angie Marchese, Graceland’s director of archives, decided to start at the beginning of Elvis’ story. “First you develop a story line. We met with several design firms, told them what we were looking for and how we want to best represent Elvis. Our goal is to have an immersive exhibit one that really grabs the guest and draws them into the story. So we picked out artifacts that helped tell that story – pieces that really had meaning. We want the visitor to get not only Elvis the entertainer, but to see Elvis the son, the father, the friend. We want the visitor to really understand who he was and why he is still so relevant today,” she said. To tell the story about the King, you also have to tell the story of the King’s castle. “We wanted to give the guest at The O2 an authentic Graceland experience and leave them wanting to learn and see more,” she said. Some of Marchese’s favorite pieces are in The O2 exhibition. “They are so personal,” she said, “like Elvis’ 1st grade crayon box, his graduation program and tassel, a dress of Gladys’, his wallet with photos of Lisa in it. These are things that really showcase Elvis the man.” Her favorite part of The O2 experience so far? “The best part is getting to pick out all of the amazing photos we will feature in the exhibit, editing together the video content to help bring each area to life and putting together the closing concert experience.” The first collection of artifacts is almost packed now, and soon everything will be ready for Dec. 12. “All of the artifacts have had the conditioning reports done, the images have been taken and they have been prepped for display,” she said. “Now it...
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Inside Elvis’ Record Collection

Fans have enjoyed Elvis’ music for decades, whether it was on vinyl, 8-track, cassettes, CDs or on their iPhones. But what music did Elvis listen to? Elvis’ personal record collection, which includes more than 2,000 singles and albums, is diverse: There’s rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, doo wop, country, soul, classical, Christmas tunes, jazz and much more. The following photos are from Elvis’ collection here at Graceland. A great portion of Elvis’ collection is made up of gospel records. Elvis loved the Blackwood Brothers. Some of the group’s albums he enjoyed include “Paradise Island,” “Oh Happy Day,” “Roll on Jordan,” “His Hands,” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Hymn Sing,” from 1956. His expansive collection of gospel albums includes records by Mahalia Jackson, The Stamps Quartet, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Statesmen Quartet and Jimmy Dean, to name just a few. Elvis had plenty of Christmas and holiday music, too. His collection includes secular and sacred seasonal music; he owned Christmas albums by the likes of the Jackson 5, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and The Temptations. Elvis loved the twang of country music. He had several records by his pal Johnny Cash, as well as records by Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. His collection includes a 45 of “Ode to Billie Joe” by fellow native Mississippian, Bobbie Gentry. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll had plenty of rock records, too. He had records such as a Dave Clark Five greatest hits album, “Magical Mystery Tour” by The Beatles and “Eat a Peach” by the Allman Brothers, and his 45s included “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “All I Have to Do is Dream” by the Everly Brothers and B.J. Thomas’ “Hooked on a Feeling.” He also had a copy of Mott the Hoople’s 1972 album, “All the Young Dudes,” and “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company. Elvis enjoyed plenty of popular artists as well, like the Bee Gees, Tom Jones, Neil Sedaka and Peter, Paul & Mary. Ray Charles is an artist whose music pops up repeatedly in his collection. Elvis had 45s of Charles’ “America the Beautiful,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “Hardhearted Hannah” and “In the Heat of the Night,” as well as several albums. Elvis loved his R&B, soul and blues records. He had albums and singles by the likes of John Lee Hooker,...
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Remembering Al Wertheimer

Elvis lives on today through his music, movies and even photographs of the man they called the king. Earlier this week, famed Elvis photographer Alfred Wertheimer passed away peacefully at his home in New York. Al was a friend to Elvis fans and the man often times behind the camera never turned down a request for someone to have their picture made with him at any one of the dozens of fan events he has participated in over the years. His images of the icon, Elvis, are themselves iconic. His style was simple: be a fly on the wall and capture what was happening around him. The shots were rarely posed and only at Elvis’ request. In March, June and July of 1956, Wertheimer was hired by RCA to capture photos of their rising star named Elvis Presley. From that three month assignment, over 3,800 memorable images came out of the time spent with Elvis. One of the more notable photographs is “The Kiss,” taken in Richmond, Virginia at the Mosque Theatre minutes before a performance in the summer of 1956. Wherever Elvis went, Al went. Following a record-breaking ratings performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and RCA recording sessions that produced “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Elvis hopped on a train from New York to Memphis. Wertheimer was there with his camera for ALL 27 hours of the train ride. He later remarked that it was Elvis’ willingness to get close that allowed him to capture some memorable photos, including Elvis as he was listening to the recordings from his recent RCA sessions. Following that train ride to Memphis, Wertheimer found himself at home with the Presley family on Audubon Drive. It was a casual side of Elvis rarely-seen in photos following his rise to superstardom.   Upon hearing the news of Wertheimer’s passing, Priscilla Presley issued this statement on behalf of the family: “I’m deeply saddened by the death of Alfred Wertheimer. He was a dear friend and special soul. I feel he was a gift for all who knew him, especially Elvis Presley. There has been no other photographer that Elvis ever allowed to get as up close and personal in his life through photos as he did with Alfred.” A mantra of sorts around Graceland is “Long live the King,” and Elvis’ legacy certainly lives on because of people like Alfred...
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Unseen Graceland: Beyond the Ropes

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to explore every inch of Graceland? Kind of like a “win the lottery” type golden ticket to Graceland that allows you to really check out every square inch, go through drawers and cabinets, walk around in the rooms and really take a good look at things? Before we get your hopes up, sadly, no such thing exists, nor will it anytime soon. Sorry if you thought this was the lead in to the end all, be all Graceland sweepstakes contest. However, we were able to take a look at a few unseen, off the tour path spots recently that we know true fans might find of real interest, especially if they have been on the tour more than once, OK, who are we kidding, more than a dozen times. First stop, the dining room. Little did you know that there is actually a doorbell type buzzer under the table so Elvis or whoever was at the head of the table could summon the staff in the kitchen. There were no cords to pull that rang bells in the basement like we see on Downton Abbey. Pretty fancy stuff for the 70s. Speaking of the kitchen, let’s take a look inside the cabinets. Here we see a glass etched with the name “Minnie” for Minnie Mae who was Elvis’ grandmother, not Minnie Mouse. However, we also see a glass from EPCOT at Walt Disney World in Florida. What this souvenir from the happiest place on earth really tells us is that Graceland was – and still is – a family home even after Elvis passed and opened to the public. Five years after his passing, the first visitors made their way through the front door of Graceland in June of 1982, however EPCOT didn’t open until October of the same year. A young Lisa Marie would often travel to Memphis and spend time at her childhood home with family, including her great grandmother Minnie Mae. In fact, someone lived at Graceland up until 1993, 11 years after it first opened for public tours. Today the Presley family still makes frequent visits to Graceland in Memphis, often having dinner at their famous home after tours for the day have ended when some of these very glasses may be put to use. In the kitchen we can also open a drawer to see where it appears Lisa Marie...
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