The 75th anniversary of the king of rock & roll's birth has seen a more than a few commemorative cash-ins — the release of a splendid new four-CD box set Elvis 75, the delightfully lurid new Alanna Nash tome Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him, but ye olde Grammy Museum has mounted an exhibition that serves EP fans most delightfully. Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer collects the photographer's remarkable series of images from 1956, starting with the train ride from Memphis to New York, where a series of appearances on Stage Show, the Dorsey Brothers TV variety program first introduced the singer to America's goggled-eyed gaze and hurtled him from beer-joint roustabout to international sensation. While conceived as mere RCA Records promo fodder, the Wertheimer shots are arresting in their purity, capturing Elvis at the critical moment when his stuffed animals and comic books were still as important as the pussy, booze and amphetamines the lad was only just starting to luxuriate in. Wertheimer’s superb, spontaneous composition is second to none, and his subject, of course, was, as Jerry Lee's little sister, Linda Gail Lewis, described him “the single most beautiful person I have ever seen. Face, complexion, teeth, hair, physique, he was incredibly gorgeous.”Forget all those dim-witted”fat Elvis” jokes and drink in Wertheimer's long-lost reality –you'll never want to come back.
Mondays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 8. Continues through March 28, 2010
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