Between his rustic beginnings in Tupelo and the glamour and glitter of Las Vegas, rock ‘n roll legend Elvis Presley began his career in Memphis as the front man for “The Blue Moon Boys.” Combining several music genres with the emphasis on rockabilly, the trio became a quartet, prompted Presley’s first-ever television appearance and from there, spawned undoubtedly the most iconic and influential career in the history of American entertainment. This vintage promotional photograph showcases one of the earliest Elvis Presley autographs, as well as those of two of his “Blue Moon Boys” consorts and an additional music legend. On the reverse, Presley has penned a personalization and signed his name in ballpoint (“9’ strength). Flanking Presley’s scripting are those of drummer D.J. Fontana (“9”) and bassist Bill Black (d.1965, “8-9”). In the upper right corner, country music star Cowboy Copas (d.1963) has signed in pencil (“8-9”). Full photo LOA from JSA. More on our website.
The 7-7/8 x 10” black-and-white studio photo likely dates to 1955 and portrays the young heart throb with printed identifiers of “ELVIS PRESLEY” and “160 Union Ave, Memphis, Tenn.” along the lower border. All of 19 years old, Presley was still unknown and introduced to musicians by Sun Records founder Sam Phillips in 1954. Of course, it wasn’t long before Presley was clearly the main attraction, as his “can’t miss” voice and good looks took America (and especially its young women) by storm. On the photo’s reverse, Presley has inscribed “To Shelley – love ya” and signed “Elvis Presley.” As mentioned above, the bold scripting projects (“9”) strength and clarity.
In the upper left corner, D.J. Fontana has signed “Don Fontana” (“9” strength). While Fontana was not an original “Blue Moon Boys” member, he joined the group during a Louisiana Hayride Tour in 1955, likely pinpointing this photo to that year. Fontana remained with Presley for 15 years, performing on over 460 RCA cuts with “The King.”
Just below Presley’s autograph, Bill Black’s ballpoint signature shows (“8-9”) quality. Black played backup on Presley’s early recordings, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” before departing in 1958. Black died of a brain tumor in 1965.
In the upper right corner, Cowboy Copas has signed in graphite pencil (“8-9” strength) and inscribed “Thanks – WSM.” Copas replaced Eddy Arnold as the vocalist in Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry home, WSM. Copas, along with Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and pilot Randy Hughes, was killed in a 1963 plane crash in Camden, Tennessee.
The photograph, likely once the prized possession of the aforementioned “Shelley,” shows several creases, minimal surface loss (confined only to the borders) and two pinholes to facilitate previous display. Presley’s boyish looks seem to transcend those flaws, however, staring through the gloss. The autograph, early and strong like its author, is combined with those of three lesser celebrated musicians but certainly instrumental in the establishment and advancement of Presley’s career. The elements merge to make this one of the most incredible entertainment souvenirs extant.