Elvis Presley: What? Why?
Look Magazine - August 7, 1956 (cover and inside cover)
On May 25, 1956, while in Detroit,
Michigan on tour, Elvis and the band were joined by Gereon Zimmerman and Phil
Harrington who were doing an article for Look Magazine. They followed
them to Columbus, Ohio, then Dayton and then home to
Memphis, along with another writer and photographer in Dayton that were doing one
for Seventeen Magazine. While
the Seventeen piece was favorable, this one from the August 7, 1956
issue of Look is not so.
Recently, Michael Rose sent
us some photos, several unpublished, to use on the site from his collection that
he will be publishing in a new book soon, including some full size
un-cropped versions that appeared in the article. Lacking a
suitable use for the non performance related ones, I thought it would be
interesting to display them here in the context they were initially
published, along with the original article. Coincidentally, the
inside cover of the magazine had a full page ad for Cadillac, featuring
also a pink one.
This "cat" flies
with lidded eyes
A WILD TROUBADOUR who wails rock ’n’ roll tunes,
flails erratically at a guitar and wriggles like a peep-show dancer
is a U. S. entertainment sensation. He is 21·year·old
Elvis Presley, a former Memphis, Tenn., truck driver whose sullen
sweetness, ducktail haircut and long sideburns send girls (and
women) into hysterics. His RCA-Victor records (Heartbreak Hotel,
Blue Suede Shoes, etc.) have grossed almost $6 million. Presley's
fans adore him; some trample each other in the effort to tear off
his "cool" zoot suits. They send him 3,000 letters a week. His
unprecedented success seems incredible to a public devoted to
They say, “'He can't be!" But he is, and he has landed on top.
ELVIS PRESLEY . . .
He can't be . . . but he is
|through storms of shrieks and
Col. Tom Parker is Presley's manager. He says, "In
29 years of show business, I've never seen anything like this. Elvis is
a rarity, the genuine character." Parker is excited about Elvis' movie
future. Producer Hal Wallis, who signed Presley to a seven-year
contract, notes: "I signed him as an actor, not as a rock 'n' roll
type. He has unusual promise."
|Presley: "The Cadillacs and the
fan clubs are like a dream come true."
fame is a legend of the "American Dream” of success that is
overshadowed by a nightmare of bad taste.
Here are some of the "Dream" elements: Elvis never took a lesson on
his guitar, cannot read music. He paid $4 to make his first record
and a twister of reaction began; he was a smash hit on the hillbilly
circuit by 1955, without strong promotion. It seems certain that his
1956 income will top $500,000. He does not smoke or drink and
night clubs bore him. He is devoted to his parents and bought them a
$40,000 air-conditioned home (with swimming pool) in Memphis. He is
unusually polite and softspoken. He does everything on impulse, much
like the mixed-up teen-agers in his favorite movie, Rebel Without a
Cause. (Elvis’ film idol is the late James Dean.)
But Presley is mostly nightmare. On-stage, his gyrations, his nose
wiping, his leers are vulgar. When asked about the sex element in
his act, he answers without blinking his big brown eyes: "Ah don’t
see anything wrong with it. Ah just act the way Ah feel." But Elvis
will also grin and say, "Without mah left leg, Ah'd be dead.” Old
friends, like the Memphis Press-Scimitar's Bob Johnson, advise him
to clean up his "dances.” Elvis listens and then goes out and does
the same, very old things. His naive intransigence threatens his
Presley has taken the rock 'n' roll craze to new sales heights. He
has also dragged "big beat" music to new lows in taste.
Elvis likes amusement parks, where he plays
milk-bottle marksmanship games to win teddy bears for his bedroom.
Motorcycles are another passion, although he
is no mechanic. He also own as motor scooter.
Elvis plays bank pool with his
40-year-old father, who quit his factory job to handle overflow of
business matters when Elvis was catapulted to the big time.
He owns four Cadillacs. Fans collect the
dust from them and steal the license plates
Elvis' parents now
see him "between engagements," when he returns to his Memphis home
"A fine boy," says Dan Shackleford, who knew
Presley as a child in Tupelo, Miss. END
Produced by GEREON ZIMMERMAN
Photographed by PHIL HARRINGTON
Page added May 8, 2011
This article by Gereon Zimmerman is reprinted here as it
originally appeared in the August 7, 1956 issue of LOOK. All
pictures of Elvis on stage on this page were taken May 26, 1956 in
Columbus, OH. Phil Harrington's photos
appear on this site with the permission of Evan Harrington with respect
to his father and family and for which we greatly appreciate their use. As of December 2014 we have been informed
that all of Phil Harrington's photos including the ones pictured here are now and only licensed through Corbis.
Evan Harrington has created an account with Fine
Art America for the sale and distribution of individual prints.