Home / CRUISING THE PAST / Throwback Thursday – Elvis Presley on the train from New York to Memphis in 1956.
Throwback Thursday – Elvis Presley on the train from New York to Memphis in 1956.
Elvis, in a chair car, wants to know if the young ladies are coming to his concert in Memphis?

Throwback Thursday – Elvis Presley on the train from New York to Memphis in 1956.

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  • “Elvis who?”
Elvis with his Panda Bear in his chair car seats heading for Memphis.

Elvis with his Panda Bear in a chair car after leaving his Pullman heading for Memphis.

  • Photographer Alfred Wertheimer recalls uttering that very question in early 1956. A publicist from RCA Victor Records had contacted him, asking if he was available to photograph a young singer named Elvis Presley. “I’d never heard of the man,” Wertheimer told TIME Magazine in an article 40 years later. “He didn’t have a gold record yet.” (By the end of the year, Elvis was known around the world and was a millionaire at a time when a million dollars meant something.)
  • Elvis started his remarkable career in 1954, and two years later had his first number-one hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” RCA released the record in January 1956.
Elvis Presley at Penn Station heading for Memphis. The magnificent station was destroyed by greedy developers.

Elvis Presley at Penn Station heading for Memphis. The great station in New York was destroyed by greedy developers.

  • After a ratings-grabbing appearance on ‘The Steve Allen Show’ and a recording session in New York City that produced ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ Elvis returned to Memphis on July 3rd, 1956 by train for a concert at Russwood Park.
  • Elvis’ mother encouraged him to take trains as she had a strong fear of flying.
Elvis in his Pullman Bedrom. With his portable record player. 

Elvis traveled in his Pullman Bedroom, with his portable record player, from New York to Alabama. But  Elvis had to change trains and head but head into Memphis in a chair car.

  • Wertheimer accompanied Elvis on the train trip from New York to Memphis.
  • The photographs Wertheimer took of the early Elvis remain some of the most remarkable and intimate photographs ever made of any major celebrity, in any era.
Elvis in a chair car heading for Memphis.

Elvis in a chair car heading for Memphis.

  • In the morning, Elvis repaired to Penn Station to start a 27-hour train ride home to Memphis. At Penn Station he ran into fellow singer Gene Vincent, congratulating Vincent on the success of his hit ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’!
  • Elvis started his remarkable career in 1954, and two years later had his first number-one hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” RCA released the record in January 1956.
  • But a few months later, it appears, Elvis was still able to travel by train without getting mobbed.
  • To be continued in Part 2 of Elvis heads to Memphis from New York.

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Elvis Presley, Trains, Streamliners, the 1950s, Retro, Pullman, Michael Grace, Social History.

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About Michael L. Grace