“For Corvette enthusiasts, the real star of ‘Clambake’ is the 1959 Stingray Racer concept— the car that is said to be the opening design salvo in what became the 1963 Corvette Stingray. While Corvette innovation was experience an exciting acceleration, the days of big money movie deals for Elvis were downshifting. Riffing on the similarity of every Elvis movie to every other Elvis movie, a studio executive once quipped: ‘Why do we bother to give his movies titles – couldn’t they just be numbered?'”

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1957 – Elvis Presley poses beside a Christmas tree in his home in Memphis, Tennesee. When Elvis recorded a cover of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas, it made him livid, and he launched a campaign to have it banned from radio airplay. Berlin despised Elvis, and felt that he was degrading the song, which held a very personal and painful meaning for him, long kept secret.

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joe_esposito_led_zeppelin_shirt elvis presley

Sept. 7th, 1976 — Joe Esposito (Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia buddy) wearing a Led Zeppelin 1975 Tour T-shirt at the Holiday Inn hotel with Elvis in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. 

I Was There. And more… as told by Elvis Presley’s step-brother

“I was 14 years old when Led Zeppelin came to Memphis in 1969. As the youngest step-brother to Elvis Presley, I was living at the Graceland Mansion. My divorced mother Dee Stanley married Elvis’s widowed father Vernon Presley on July 3, 1960. Anyway, I went to the concert with a friend and was blown away. John Bonham playing his solo on Moby Dick, Jimmy Page stroking his Les Paul with a fiddle bow, John Paul Jones laying down heavy bass, and of course the driving voice of Robert Plant. While growing up as Presley’s step-brother I was no stranger to great music. But it was Led Zeppelin that became MY MUSIC while growing up the King.

I started touring with Presley in 1972 when I was 16. I always had Zeppelin’s music with me. In 1974 while at the LA Forum Led Zeppelin came to see Elvis. Later that night after the show Robert, Jimmy and John Paul came to Elvis’s suite at the hotel across the street from the Forum. I met them as they came off the elevator and walked with them to Elvis’s room. I introduced myself, shook their hands and got their autograph. Of all the people I met during my life with Elvis, it was only Led Zeppelin’s autograph that I asked for.

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The folks at Harley-Davidson were kind enough to invite me down to Milwaukee, WI for a tour of the museum, and their storied archives. This trip had deep, personal significance for me, as I grew up on the rumble and roar of Harley. There is no other sound or feel like it. It quickens the pulse, raises the hair on your arms, and brings a pie-eating grin to one’s face. The distinctive “potato-potato” idle of the v-twin is iconic to the brand, and resonates deeply within many loyal riders who have made their lives one with Harley-Davidson. It’s the personal stories of these cultural icons who forged their destiny with Harley-Davidson, evolving together through the decades, that I love– and that are a source of inspiration and pride to this day.

In my mind, there is no other brand that better epitomizes the American spirit of Independence, ingenuity, and perseverance than Harley-Davidson. Hands-down. The cultural impact they’ve had on America (and around the world) is undeniable and evident all around us. It didn’t start with Easy Rider either, it goes back much further in time.

My mind immediately races back to the early days and the numerous innovations H-D had on franchising and branding. The following success of their notorious and ballsy “Wrecking Crew” racing team (that risked life & limb for victory on hostile dirt tracks and battered, oil-soaked wooden board tracks with dubious, improvised safety gear) further cemented Harley as the one to follow. I think of the soldiers returning from WWI & WWII–  maybe they rode a motorcycle in wartime, or were pilots looking to replace the thrill of flying, and coming home they bought a Harley-Davidson because they yearned for an intense, physical experience of freedom and speed that only a Harley could give them. A lot of those same servicemen who fell between the cracks of what society or themselves deemed “normal” formed the first motorcycle clubs that would inspire Hollywood films, fashion, music, art and attitude to this day. And yes, 1969’s Easy Rider which became the iconic counter-culture biker film that drove the chopper / Harley customization craze for decades to come, and created a look and lifestyle that many would influence for generations to come. Hell, my stepdad was nicknamed “Hopper” after his character “Billy” in the film because of his dark looks, and that suede vest with fringe that would whip in the wind as he roared down the road on his ’79 Low Rider. Two things he impressed upon me– never ride a Sportster (chick bike), and never use your electric start (for pussies).

The point is, Harley-Davidson and those who ride them are a breed apart. There is a profound connection between man and machine that is beyond words. It’s more than a motorcycle— a Harley has a soul. A mighty soul born in a crude wooden shed over 100 years ago.

ca. 1903 —  William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first motorcycles in this simple structure. Harley-Davidson’s very first “factory” (if you can call it that)– a wooden 10′ x 15′ shed that sat in the back yard of the Davidson family home. In 1907 Harley-Davidson was incorporated and the company was valued at $14,200. (Rewind– Harley-Davidson was started in a freaking 10′ x 15′ shed?! That’s the American “can-do” spirit in a nutshell, people. When I first heard that, I realized there are no excuses for anyone to not get out there and make it happen.) — Image by © Harley-Davidson Archives

1939 — The original shed was later transplanted to the new Juneau Avenue factory (built in 1906, and still the site of  Harley-Davidson’s corporate headquarters) as a symbolic reminder of the company’s humble beginnings. (The lesson– Never get so big that you don’t remember where you came from, folks. And never start acting like a big company– especially when you are one.) Tragically, the original shed was accidentally destroyed in the early ’70s by a careless crew doing clean-up at the H-D factory. — Image by © Harley-Davidson Archives

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Not to beat this whole Cramps thang to death…During an interesting conversation (mostly one-sided, and highly enjoyable via the internets with a new found friend), the following rock equation was confirmed.  You take the schmaltz, swagger, sex, and glitter of Elvis + the thundering gal on guitar and belting vocals of Wanda Jackson + the frantic, hollerin’ and hillbilly hunchin’ of Hasil Adkins + stir it up, add some hardcore NY snips and whips, pour it generously into a raging ’70s garage band, bake at 1,000 degrees = you might just have yourself The Cramps.

Wanda Jackson briefly dated Elvis, who encouraged her to go Rockabilly with her sound and show.

Check that pickguard made of old 45’s on Hasil Adkin’s guitar on the right…. Holy hot tracks, Batman!

The Cramps famously covered Hasil Adkins’ “She Said” which led to a new found interest in his music.

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Saying that Elvis is an icon doesn’t quite cut it. There’s really never been anyone else who’s come along since that could fill his mammoth shoes in terms of talent, looks, style, presence and star power– and likely never will be. Don’t even think the words “Michael Jackson,” no way. Not. Even. Close. Jackson took a lot of style cues from Elvis, from his trim black pants, white socks, and black loafers– and obviously his slick dance moves were a tribute to the King’s infamous gyrations first unleashed back in ’56 on “The Milton Berle Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Those infamous performances (for which he was paid handsomely for, and drew ratings that were off the charts) instantly made him public enemy #1 with parents (who feared the effect that his racy “colored” music would have on their kids) as well as self-appointed decency censors and morality police across the nation.

Looking back on these epic Images of “The King of Rock & Roll”– it’s easy to see what all the fuss was about. Electrifying music, intense energy & sexuality– complete with bad boy sneer & stellar style. Elvis created a bold & sexy Rock Star image unrivaled by anyone– back when the fashion landscape was sterile and buttoned-up. And he did it all through sheer originality, determination and attitude.  The signature slick-backed hair was died so black– it actually had a blue tint.  The clothes went from fierce, flashy Rockabilly Badass to uber-Vegas Lizard King– yet through it all he was and still is, the one and only “King of Rock & Roll”– warts and all.

photo by the multi-talented Kate McQueen

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend. “

The hair, the eyes, the sneer, the pelvis… Elvis

Memphis, 1956– Elvis Presley outside Jim’s Barber Shop on South Main Street. Looks like he’s gettin’ a ticket and funnin’ with the cop as only Elvis could.

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The Italians may have perfected the mid-engine super car, but it was British racing innovation that got us there.  The 1959 Formula One championship  marked the first time a mid-engine race car had ever claimed the ultimate victory.  Jack Brabham made racing history behind the wheel of a mid-engine Cooper T-51 race car, and the course of car design was forever altered, as mid-engined race cars began to dominate on the world’s racing circuits.


1963 Ferrari 250P Racing

The 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans -- won by the mid-engine Ferrari 250P.


By 1961 the Italians, who were at first slow to adapt to the mid-engine design were fully in the game, and all regular competitors in Formula One were driving mid-engined race cars. Other milestone victories for the mid-engine soon followed — the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans won by Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini in a Ferrari 250P; and the 1965 Indianapolis 500 won by Jim Clark driving a Lotus 38.


De Tomaso Pantera

The De Tomaso Pantera


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