The exhibition takes place in a new cultural events venue Arches London Bridge and explores the extraordinary life and style of the best-selling solo recording star of all time known as the “King of Rock and Roll”. It features over 400 artefacts, including a wide range of ultra-cool outfits and vintage memorabilia.
All of items were owned and worn by Elvis Presley and transported directly from his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee. Eager to find a rural refuge away from wild fans, 22-year-old Presley purchased his forever home on March 19, 1959 and created the private haven he would never sell, despite his ever-increasing fame over the following two decades.
From Graceland with love
Among the items from Graceland that are displayed are Elvis’ red MG automobile as featured in his classic film “Blue Hawaii,” a gold-plated rotary dial telephone from the celebrity’s upstairs bedroom, the keys to Graceland and his gold microphone used on stage in Las Vegas, 1969.
Speaking of gold, Elvis’s gold Rolex watch and golden international belt adorned with diamonds, sapphires and rubies are also on display. Elvis would wear the latter both on and off stage. The belt was on the singer when he was famously photographed meeting President Richard M. Nixon on December 18, 1970. After exchanging gifts, Nixon, couldn’t restrain himself any longer and finally made a comment to The King about his less than conservative choice of attire for a meeting with the President of the United States. “Well, Mr. President,” Elvis is said to have replied, “you’ve got your gig, and I’ve got mine.”
The iconic Presley outfits
In a time before celebrities had teams of personal stylists, Elvis carefully crafted his own look. His ground-breaking style evolved from the soft trousers and argyle socks of the 1950’s to the risqué leather rocker of 1968, to the flamboyant glam bling of the 1970s.
Without a doubt Presley has left his mark on the fashion world and set the bar high for stylists pushing their celebrity clients to reinvent their look to stay current. Not only clothes but shoes, including white stage pair worn by Elvis on multiple performances in the 1950s can also be seen at the exhibition.
The life of American music icon
In addition to exploring the high profile and enduring legacy of his celebrity, the exhibition will delve into the lesser-known aspects of Presley’s early years, interests and personal life. For example, Elvis’ first job application and the crayon box he took to school can be found here.
Among other, more amusing items Elvis’ mobile briefcase phone from 1960s and police light the singer would place on top of his car, he would pull people over and give out his autograph instead of tickets.
According to Liz Koravos, Managing Director of Arches London Bridge: “When it comes to artefact-based exhibitions we want each item to tell a story. What really makes this exhibition special is the glimpse each visitor gets behind the public persona, behind the image of Elvis. He famously said at his Madison Square Garden press conference in 1972, “Image is one thing and a human being is another.” Direct From Graceland: Elvis gives each visitor a peek backstage to meet the human being that is also the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” We could not agree more.
More views than the Moon landing
Some of the most recognisable items traveling from Memphis to London are the Gold Lamé Suit worn by Elvis in the 1950s, plus one of the two jumpsuits he used for his 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” television special and the cape he famously tossed into the audience at the end of the show. The “Aloha from Hawaii” special was the world’s first live televised satellite concert, watched by a record 1.5 billion people – more views than the 1969 Moon landing!
Direct from Graceland: Elvis runs until 26 February 2024 and located at Arches London Bridge, 8 Bermondsey St, London, SE1 2ER. Tickets and more info can be found here.
Image credits: © Aled Llywelyn and Travel with Style