Sunday, December 28, 2008

A King In The Making

Sometimes I can't help but feeling jealous of certain people who got to see and meet Elvis during different stages throughout his life and career. One such person is photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer who was asked to photograph RCA's new raising star in 1956.

But, not only am I jealous when it comes to Mr Wertheimer, I'm also grateful to him for telling his story and making hundreds of his photographs available in his book Elvis: A King In The Making. I already owned his earlier effort, Elvis '56 - In The Beginning, but when I found the updated version at a bargain price earlier this month I didn't hesitate.

Turned out it was a good decision. Elvis: A King In The Making is a big book that weighs 2,2 kilos. (At least my copy does, according to my bathroom scales!). It's packed with photographs that document Elvis in a way that was never done again, and it's a joy to browse through.

That's what I did today, at the same time playing the perfect soundtrack, the album Elvis 56, released 1996. In fact, one of Werthheimer's shots graces the cover, and a couple more are included in the accompanying booklet.

Anyway, having listened to more than my fair share of Christmas songs these last couple if days it was a welcomed diversion. And, thanks to Alfred Wertheimer, I could see for myself how it looked in RCA's Studio One in New York the day Elvis recorded "Hound Dog," at the same time as I was listening to the song!

But, not only was Alfred Wertheimer in the studio with Elvis, he also visited his home at Audubon Drive in Memphis and the photos taken there are among my favourites. Maybe because I visited the house in 2005, but mostly, I think, because Wertheimer's work shows Elvis relaxed and feeling safe, together with family and friends.

The photographs of Elvis horsing around in the swimming pool are priceless! Apparently Wertheimer asked Gladys for a bathing suit so he could get in the pool and shoot Elvis at eye-level. Gladys, according to Wertheimer, kindly loaned him one.

Elvis: A King In The Making is a magnificent piece of Elvis history, and the reproduced, high quality prints make Alfred Wertheimer's photographs justice in a way that Elvis '56 - In The Beginning, never did. If I haven't convinced you to get your hands on a copy, then maybe this review will.

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