There’s an exciting new Smithsonian traveling exhibition titled Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer at the GRAMMY MUSEUM in Los Angeles. On January 8, 2010, Elvis would have been 75 years old—can you imagine? Better for us fans to remember the sexy, iconic vocalist as he was when he burst onto the music scene long ago.
In 1956 photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer was hired by RCA Victor to shoot promotional images of a recently signed recording artist. The artist was ELVIS and Wertheimer tagged along with him after the assignment, continuing to photograph what would be a shooting star—brilliant, stunning, and, way too soon, disappearing into the dark sky. These images bring his early sweetness and sexy appeal back full force and, whether you remember those days clearly or have simply heard about them, you won’t want to miss this exhibition either in LA or when it comes to a venue near you.
Developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and the Govinda Gallery—and sponsored nationally by the History Channel—Elvis at 21 will follow it’s Grammy Museum closing date of March 28th with sojourns in museums around the country through 2013.
Wertheimer spent time with Elvis on the road, backstage, in concert,
in the recording studio, and at home in Memphis, taking these photographs in the brief period before “Colonel” Tom Parker, Elvis’s manager, restricted access.
These were the days before Elvis was a celebrity hounded by paparazzi and fans everywhere. The hope and longing, the teasing good humor of a down-home boy from Tennessee, are readily apparent—and raise our own hopes and longing for unspoiled talent, real people achieving their dreams in a time before big media corrupted the system.
(Images: © Alfred Wertheimer. All rights reserved.)