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January 9, 2022

Elvis Presley Photographed by Alfred Wertheimer Recording at RCA Studio 1 in New York on July 2, 1956

“Most of the time, Elvis never even knew I took his picture,” said Alfred Wertheimer, whose intimate and unaffected photographs of the young Elvis Presley on the threshold of superstardom, in 1956. “Elvis was almost laser-focused on whatever he did. So I would wait till he was involved—and Elvis was the kind of person who would be involved every 15 minutes in something else. Whether he’s combing his hair, or buying a ring, or in rehearsal; whether he’s talking to his father about why the plumbing isn’t working and the swimming pool isn’t full, or reassuring his mother that it’s O.K. to take a ride around the block on his motorcycle, or posing with some girls to take snaps by other girls, his life was full of activity.”

The most successful two-sided hit on Billboard’s Top/Hot 100 chart was Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”/“Don’t Be Cruel.” One side reached #1 on the chart, the other #2. The history of Presley’s phenomenal dual record began on July 2, 1956, when Elvis entered RCA’s studios in New York City to record two songs for his next single release.

Photographer Alfred Wertheimer, who was in the studio that day, detailed the session in his 1979 photo-journal, Elvis ’56: In the Beginning. According to Wertheimer, after about two hours and 30 takes of “Hound Dog,” the musicians listened to playbacks of the takes that were candidates for the “Hound Dog” master. “The engineer racked take twenty-eight,” remembered Wertheimer. “Elvis left his chair and crouched on the floor, as if listening in a different position was like looking at a subject from a different angle. Again he went into deep concentration, absorbed and motionless … At the end of the song, he slowly rose from his crouch and turned to us with a wide grin, and said, ‘This is the one.’”


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