Photos: Elvis -- From 'Hillbilly Cat' to '68 Comeback
Elvis Presley is arguably the most photographed star in the history of rock 'n' roll, and esteemed music photo archivist Michael Ochs possesses one of the largest stores of Elvis pictures this side of Graceland.
Guiding us through a selection of Elvis images, Ochs, in his own words, delivers his impressions of the Hillbilly Cat who would be King.
1956: I believe this was the first color handout from RCA [Elvis' label]. They gave it to newspapers as 35mm slides. The way they deified him, from the colors to the lighting to the pose, it's totally godlike. If you want an image that sums up the true beauty of rock 'n' roll, this is so beatific it's almost beyond description.
June 1956: This is also an Earl Leaf shot. It's the only time I have ever seen Elvis with his trio -- Scotty, Bill and D.J. -- and the Jordanaires all in the same shot. To me, that's just totally unique. And then you throw in the general feel of the extras -- the girls sitting there -- and the fake Colony Music Shop background. But the key thing is that I've never seen all of them together in one picture.
June 1956: Again, this [Earl Leaf photo from the 'Milton Berle Show' sessions] just reminds me of an Alfred Wertheimer shot. The great thing about Elvis was he was very natural. He was so into the moment and into being Elvis the simple country boy, versus the biggest-selling recording artist in the country. He was always true to himself. To capture that -- that's not posing, that just him.
June 1956: There was a photographer for the teen magazines named Earl Leaf, and Earl mostly shot movie stars. The only two '50s rock 'n' roll sessions he's done were for Ricky Nelson, and he got to photograph Elvis at this 'Milton Berle Show' rehearsal. I think Earl Leaf's shots are just as good as Alfred Wertheimer's. You can see the complete intensity -- just riveting.
August 1956: This is during 'Love Me Tender' -- this is Elvis the first time he ever recorded without his usual musicians. He's at the 20th Century Fox soundstage studio. There's the novelty of him playing piano, which one seldom sees. Here he is in a whole new milieu -- he's in L.A. There's an openness and yet a startledness and a freshness about this shot.
December 1956: It was a Carl Perkins recording session at Sun Records. Elvis stopped by to see what's happening -- this was a year after he left Sun for RCA. Jerry Lee Lewis was always hanging around the studio -- he hadn't quite made it yet. So the three of them started goofing around, and [Sun Studio owner] Sam Phillips was smart enough to leave the tape running. After awhile, Sam realized the was an amazing occurrence, so he calls Johnny Cash and says, "Get over here quick!" So Cash comes over, and Sam calls the Memphis Press-Scimitar [newspaper] to send a reporter over right away, and they sent one with a photographer, fortunately.
1957: For some reason, people think this typifies the real Elvis. I don't think it does. I think the importance of this photo is that besides Elvis being the father of rock 'n' roll, it shows that he had some natural smarts. In 'Jailhouse Rock,' he personally choreographed all those dance numbers. Those were all his ideas. His gyrations put Michael Jackson to shame.
April 1961: This picture totally illustrates his unfortunate movie career. I especially love the fake rock that's holding the surfboard. The whole thing exemplifies his Hollywood years. This was a Paramount [Studios] giveaway -- they sent out 8x10 color positives to the newspapers, which is very unusual.
June 1968: This is the most iconic image of that period -- the NBC comeback TV show. As good-looking as he was in the '50s, he was never better-looking than in this brief period. This is the epitome of Elvis' sexuality and sensuality -- to me, it just captures it all.
Specially for the 30th Anniversary ;
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