John Lennon said "Before Elvis there was nothing." That's a strong statement from a man that became a rock legend too. There was a certain something about Elvis Presley that triggered such admiration from John and screams from the female fans as he sang in concert. Maybe, those two somethings were a bit different.
But Alfred Wertheimer hadn't heard of the King when he took an assignment from RCA Victor to photograph this 21 year old that became an American icon. In 1956, Elvis switched from Sun Records, the company that recorded "That's All Right," to RCA. In 1954, he garnered national recognition with the Sun Records hit. The 45 record b side song was "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
Wertheimer photographed unique shots that showed the way Elvis interacted with his admirers prior to extreme security precluding that close interaction. The open door to the King's life that this photojournalist took advantage of was an exceptional experience.
Last year, Wertheimer published a book entitled Elvis 56. David Adamson produced the 36 by 48" prints of Wertheimer's work. This pictorial documentation of Elvis at 21 highlights a kiss with his girlfriend, the to be King reposing at a lunch counter, and Elvis practicing with the vocal group The Jordanaires. He had to go to the window and ask his yelling admirers to hush: they complied. These forty pictures form the Smithsonian show now presented at the Mobile Museum of Art until December 4, 2011.
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