June 11 - Review ‘Elvis November 1956’

As fans, we do not always realize that what we think we know about Elvis’ life, happened in short periods of time. Paul Belard’s visual biography series illustrates how hectic Elvis’ life and rise to fame was. 

The latest release in Paul Belard’s series of photobooks, covering just one month in 1956, highlights just how much happened.

By Nigel Patterson (Elvis Information Network) and Kees Mouwen (Elvis Day By Day).

 

Design

The book maintains the look and feel of previous volumes in the series. We wonder if the author ever thought of using another color – preferably white – as the page background for his books? A lighter color would improve the look of  the mainly black and white pictures. 

Overall, the quality of the images is good. In order to as fully as possible, visually record Elvis’ life story, Belard isn't shy in adding lesser quality pictures to show something new / different or colorized pictures (all identified as colorized).  

Many fans will appreciate that Belard adds the source and credits for all the content he collected and used. In this day and age, a lot is taken for granted. 


Content

This volume covers the month November in 1956. With his second album just out, Elvis spent the month on tour and on vacation. 

It was a busy time. Elvis spent time with his girlfriend Natalie Wood and buddy, Nick Adams on his new Harley Davidson. He did a small tour in the south with Scotty, DJ and Bill - taking some friends along with him - making stops in Toledo, Cleveland, Troy and Louisville, Kentucky. And he went on a 10-day holiday with Bitsy Mott, Gene Smith and Richard Dougher to Las Vegas, returning to the New Frontier Hotel. 

Meanwhile ‘Love Me Tender’ premiered and opened nationwide a few days later. Belard includes all the great images of those classic marquees with Elvis’ name up in lights and the many fans lining up to see their singing hero on the big screen. We did notice one error. On page 191, the photo is of the opening of ‘Loving You’ (not ‘Love Me Tender’) - Paul can blame his editor for not picking up the error!

As we expect with a Belard release, there are many great visuals.

Elvis looks almost Brandoesque (ala ‘The Wild One’) on his new Harley Davidson, and ultra-cool in a raincoat and sunglasses with Nick Adams at Lansky Brothers. Nice to see how Lansky proudly shows the gold colored jacked Elvis wore on the tour. This is the beauty of these kind of books, they shows Elvis preparing for a show, traveling, on stage, and offstage relaxing. 

While on holiday, Elvis did what all visitors to Vegas do, visit shows. We see him with the ‘Female Elvis’ Alis Lesley backstage at the Silver Slipper Casino (a 20 page spread including several proof-sheets), on and back stage with Liberace teaming up for an "impromptu act” and with other performers. 

Other visual highlights are:

  • A stunning b&w image (p100) of an open-mouthed Elvis live on stage, on tiptoes, legs bent, with his left hand pressed against his left eye (the image is presented colorized a few pages later).
  • Seemingly missing his left arm and putting out his back (p102).
  • An unusually lit image of an unusual looking Elvis in bowtie with an unknown woman and man (p122).
  • Screaming fans except for one who looks as though she has been possessed (p129). Coincidentally, on p126 there is a photo of Elvis looking as though he has been possessed.
  • Heavy police presence during his show in Troy, Ohio (p176).
  • Elvis being escorted by police through the crowd at the E.H. Crump Memorial Football Game in Memphis (p199).

The beauty of these books is that Belard finds some great original archival material that complement the historical context of the images. 

RCA’s marketing, some would say ‘over the top’ marketing, of Elvis, was also well on display in November 1956. Belard includes an RCA flyer which promotes 15 Elvis singles, 5 Elvis EP’s and Elvis’ new LP. 

The 'Perfect for Parties’ EP is highlights how RCA Victor used their newest star's fame to promote other artists and make more money.

RCA Victor also released a signature Elvis Presley record player. 

Reading the memoirs from actress Mamie Van Doren, she had a steamy evening with Elvis. But we can’t help thinking that over the years these memories get better and hotter, but who can blame her. 

Looking at the images of the - mainly female fans - and the effect Elvis had on them, we have to have some sympathy for the parents, boyfriends and husbands. 

A press article, Fight Over Elvis Presley includes this fun quote: 

"This guy walks up to me and says "you ..., ..., my wife carries a picture of you in her wallet, but doesn't carry one of me. Let's step outside." According to the police Elvis was getting the best of the battle when they arrived ... 

We have selected just a few of the events in Elvis November 1956 that add to the illustrious Elvis Presley story. Looking at everything that happened, day after day, with Elvis as the one that had to deliver it all, shows the pressure he was under – with part of the public opinion turned against him - straight from the start of his career. 


Conclusion

Paul Belard’s photo record books of the Elvis story are a good companion to the Day-by-Day books by Guralnick and Jorgensen and Lee Cotten. The latter books set the Elvis timeline, with Belard illustrating another month through pictures, news-clippings, advertisements, and moreWith 18 volumes already published in his series, and the 1950s not yet fully covered, it is staggering to think how many volumes Belard will end up releasing.

The book ‘Elvis November 1956’ can be ordered directly from the author (pbelard@hotmail.com) or from >>> Amazon.