ELVIS 1956: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer

Open September 13, 2010 - January 2, 2011 | Main Exhibit Hall

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has unveiled its latest exhibit devoted to the King of Rock and Roll as a part of the Museum’s 15th anniversary celebration this September. ELVIS 1956: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer is open to the public in the Circular Gallery of the Main Exhibit Hall. Taken during the year Elvis turned 21, Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs are a remarkable visual record of a defining time for rock and roll’s most enduring figure.

1956 was the year Elvis first appeared in the national consciousness. His RCA records and national broadcast helped make him a star. Alfred Wertheimer, then a young freelance photojournalist, was there to document the extraordinary transition.

ELVIS 1956 is the first and last unguarded look at Elvis, featuring images of him in every aspect of his life—from performance and with the fans, to the recording studio and at home with his family. On stage and off, Elvis defined the notion of “rock style.” His electrifying synthesis of rhythm and blues, gospel, and country bridged traditional divides between white and black, urban and rural. For tens of millions of fans, Elvis transformed the beat of everyday life. His music and style helped launch a cultural revolution.

In addition, the Rock Hall has on display nearly 30 new artifacts on loan from the Graceland Archives and are located next to the photography exhibit. Highlights include:


·    Shirt and belt Presley wore for performance rehearsals in 1970. Seen on the poster for the film Elvis: That’s the Way It Is.

·    Hand-painted poster for Presley’s February 1955 performance in Memphis.

·    Presley’s 1974 Grammy Award for Best Inspirational Performance for “How Great Thou Art,” the handwritten set list and jumpsuit from the show where the performance was recorded.

·    Proclamation from the City of Memphis declaring February 25, 1961 to be Elvis Presley Day .

·    A 1974 Guild acoustic guitar used by in concert by Presley in 1976.

This exhibition has been organized in conjunction with Govinda Gallery, Washington, D.C.

The photographs showcased by the Rock Hall represent a rare alignment of cultural institutions each synthesizing a creative and cultural history wave. The Smithsonian Institution is traveling large-format pigment images printed from negatives from the same period of intimate and informal Wertheimer images featured in the Rock Hall’s exhibition.  Developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the Govinda Gallery, “Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer” will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.,  Oct. 23 through Jan. 23, 2011. “Elvis at 21” is sponsored nationally by HISTORY™. 



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