In 1956 freelance photographer Alfred Wertheimer was assigned to photograph a 21-year-old singer whom RCA was promoting. It was Elvis Presley, a name the 26-year-old Wertheimer did not recognize when he trekked down to New York City’s Studio 50 (later to be named the Ed Sullivan Theater) to photograph Presley’s appearance on Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey’s Stage Show.
At the time, Elvis had already recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” and was beginning to gain some notoriety, but he was nowhere close to becoming a cultural icon. He could still walk the streets unrecognized, without entourage and bodyguards, so Alfred Wertheimer was able to shoot reams of film of Elvis, up close and personal, both on stage and off, in the last remaining months before Elvis’s life would change forever. A series of extraordinary photographs document this brief moment in time when the 21-year-old Elvis Presley was on the cusp of national stardom.