WOULD ELVIS WEAR A MASK DURING THIS PANDEMIC? I found an arresting photo of a young Elvis wearing a bandana-like mask with what appeared to be modern demonstrators in the background. I found the image on Elvis Rare Records, where the site’s owner, Dave Reynolds, had sent me regarding another issue. When I saw this image, I had to have it!
Dave found it on Rockapedia, which sports a gigantic copy of the photo titled “Elvis Presley – The Masked Man.” From there, I tracked the image to a page on Flickr, where it is posted with the title “Black Block Presley.” The person who posted the image is Will St. Leger, who I assume is the artist. I also assumed that the image was his clever take on Elvis and the Great Pandemic of 2020. But the Flickr page states that the image was taken on November 10, 2009.
There aren’t any notes from the artist about the nature of the image. I assume from the title and the background—a photo of Elvis from 1956 is seta against a photo that appears to have been taken during a demonstration—that “Black Block Presley” is a political statement. What the artist intended escapes me but he could be imagining Presley as a demonstrator or even a bloody looter. 1
To see Will St. Leger’s Flickr page with this image, click here. 2
The image led to pose a question: What would Elvis do during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020?
This photo of Elvis was taken by David B. Hecht in January 1956.
Not a penny
The original photograph of Elvis used by St. Leger was taken by David B. Hecht in a photoshoot done at RCA Victor’s behest in January 1956. Hecht’s photos were used on the front covers of several Presley records, the most famous gracing the cover of his second LP album, ELVIS (RCA Victor LPM-1382).
That same photo appeared on ELVIS, VOLUME 1 (RCA Victor EPA-992), the first EP album by any artist to sell a million copies. According to Hecht, Colonel Parker and RCA Victor took his photos and never paid him.
Decades later, Hecht recalled being taken advantage of by Presley’s people:
“A day or two after I’d finished the photo session with Elvis, Colonel Parker came to my studio to look at the results. He took all the films away with him, saying that he was to have a meeting with the folks at RCA to discuss which photographs were to be used for Elvis product. He told me to contact RCA the following week and work out a deal with them. When I rang RCA, I was told they were thrilled with the results but to contact the Colonel regarding payment.
Back then, I was pretty naïve and believed his secretary when she told me the Colonel was out every time I rang. After a while, it became clear he didn’t want to talk business with me and I began to realize he had no intention to pay me for my work. I don’t know if he still has the original films, but to this very day, I’ve not seen a penny for them.” 3
This photo of Elvis was altered (or reimagined) by Will St. Leger in 2009, possibly seeing Elvis as a demonstrator.
Would Elvis wear a mask?
So, the question remains: What would Elvis do during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020? Or, to be more precise, Would Elvis wear a mask?
Of course, he would!
He’d find someone who could emulate the designs of Nudie Cohn and he’d have thousands of special masks made for himself and for the guys.
He’d record a new version of an old hit and title it Won’t You Wear A Mask Around Your Face.
He’d give masks away on the streets of Memphis.
Hell, he might even request a secret meeting with the President and give him one . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from the full image above. Finally, if Elvis was alive he’d be 85 years old, an age that would put him at risk. Thanks to Dave Reynolds (Elvis Rare Records) for turning me on to this great image!
1 Yes, I’m assuming a lot in this article, something that is usually a must to avoid for me.
2 I left a message on the site inquiring if Mr. Leger would answer some questions about his work and hope to hear from him.
3 I’ll bet a book can be compiled of stories of people who were ripped off by Parker or RCA in their dealings with Presley.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)