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"Elvis at 21" Offers a Pre-Fame Glimpse of The King

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, January 06, 2010, at 05:40PM
Grammy Museum Elvis Exhibit Eric Richardson [Flickr]

In "Elvis at 21," photographs of the singer are accompanied by recollections from photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer, who documented Elvis just before his rise to fame.

Friday, on what would have been singer Elvis Presley's 75th birthday, the Grammy Museum will open an exhibition of photos that document the time in the singer's life that immediately preceded his rise to stardom. 56 oversized black-and-white prints bring to life images taken by photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer of the 21-year-old who would later be called The King.

Wertheimer was hired by RCA Victor to shoot publicity shots of their newly signed recording artist, but the results were far more journalistic than staged. One set of shots captures a flirtatious encounter with a young woman backstage in Richmond, Va. Others show Elvis at home with his parents and standing in a crowd waiting to order food from a lunch vendor on a train platform. Just months later, Elvis would need police escorts to get through mobs of screaming fans.

The show, a traveling exhibit organized by the Smithsonian, is making its debut in Los Angeles. Along with the photos, the Grammy Museum has put together a display of artifacts that includes the first two guitars Elvis played. The show is the second to occupy the museum's special exhibit space, and will be on display through March 28, 2010.

Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer / Grammy Museum / / Opens to museum members on Friday, January 8, and to the public on Saturday, January 9.


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