Lots New to See at 75th Elvis Presley's Birthday

Elvis Presley was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, so it's no surprise that its museum in Cleveland, Ohio, is rolling out the red carpet to honor rock's most intriguing pioneer.

Curatorial Director Howard Kramer says the museum's display of Presley artifacts and memorabilia has been updated for its new exhibit, "75 Years of Elvis."

"Every few years we freshen up the exhibit [with] artifacts, things that he used in his life," explains Kramer.  "Whether it's stage clothing, paper, concert-related memorabilia, and personally owned artifacts and objects.  There's just a tremendous amount of things.  Fortunately, Elvis didn't throw away a whole lot of stuff, so here we are, [more than] 30 years after his passing, and there are tens of thousands of items of his that are out there."

Some of the more popular items include Elvis Presley's 1975 Lincoln Continental automobile, his personal jukebox, and an acoustic guitar that was seen and heard by millions.

"We have one of his guitars that he used on the 1968 comeback [television] special.  It's a Gibson J-200, and it's a guitar he used a lot actually, starting from around 1961 forward," he said.

While Elvis Presley is primarily known for the songs that made him the best-selling solo artist in pop history, he's also remembered for his unique collection of custom-made jumpsuits.  Howard Kramer says Elvis himself probably lost count of how many jumpsuits he actually owned.

"There are about 117 total jumpsuits, and not all of them were white," notes Kramer.  "There were red, there's black, and there were vests with shirts.  There's an incredible amount of variations on that theme.  But, in fact, we do have one really cool jumpsuit with a cape on exhibit currently."

Each year, hundreds of thousands travel to Elvis Presley's home, Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, to pay respects to the so-called "King of Rock and Roll."  Graceland's Public Relations Director Kevin Kern says those coming to the Mansion to celebrate the 75th Anniversary will see a new Elvis exhibit called "From Tupelo to Memphis."

"It will take a look at the life of Elvis Presley as a normal human being, before he became a superstar," explained Kern.  "And that's our special 75th birthday exhibit that really examines that life of the rags-to-riches story; from Tupelo [Mississippi] and living in a shotgun [very small] shack, to when he was living in public housing and walked into Sun Studio and got his first recording gig and made rock and roll history."

As his fame grew, Elvis purchased Graceland in early 1957 and lived there until his death on August 16, 1977.  Kevin Kern explains why so many people, of all ages and from every corner the world, feel compelled to make the journey to the gates of 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard.

"Traveling to Graceland during August on the anniversary of his passing or in January for his birthday is really just a tribute to the legacy," Kern said. "Elvis really changed pop culture and music.  He was a part of the music and cultural and sexual revolution of the '50s.  Without Elvis, we can only imagine things might be a little different because he did have the unique sound.  He dressed differently, he moved differently, and he really changed popular culture.  And, I think the fans that come here are paying tribute to his life and legacy of which we're truly thankful for."

Elvis Presley 75th Anniversary tributes will continue throughout the year, including exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery and Newseum in Washington, D.C., and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, California.

Voice of America has contributed to the report.

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