August 27, 2020 Elvis Presley BIG 50 Auction
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/27/2020

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Offered is perhaps the single earliest Elvis Presley stage worn shirt in existence. The western style "Las Vegas by Cowboy Joe" button down shirt was given to Elvis to wear for one of his earliest appearances with Scotty Moore and Bill Black in the summer of 1954 at The Bon Air Club at the corner of Summer and Mendenhall in Memphis. At the time of Elvis' first stage appearance with Scotty and Bill at the Bon Air on July 17, 1954, the boys were still members of the band The Starlite Wranglers, and there was a little dust up between Scotty and other members of the band over why just he and Bill were backing the new singer. The band relented in the face of Scotty's insistence, and the three took the stage during one of the Wranglers' intermissions and played "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," which were really the only two songs they trio knew to play together. Elvis went on to play with Scotty and Bill during the Wranglers' shows on July 24 and July 31, as well. After one of these performances, Elvis gave the offered Starlite Wranglers shirt to a girl named Mary Joyce, an acquaintance of his and of his girlfriend at the time, Dixie Locke.

No photos exist of this first show, and in fact photos of Elvis performing at any of those earliest shows in the summer of 1954 are far and few between. That being said, there is strong first-person reporting of those events which indicate that Elvis would have been given and asked to wear the offered shirt at one of the three appearances with the Wranglers that summer. The "Las Vegas" model, heavily western-detailed shirts were worn by all members of the Wranglers at the time, and Scotty and Bill were still wearing theirs later that year for promotional photos with Elvis. The included modern copy of the promotional photo shows the offered shirt is an exact style match to the ones worn by Scotty and Bill.

In his book Last Train to Memphis, Peter Guralnick relates Scotty's recollection of the circumstances of setting up that first "show" at the Bon Air. Five days prior to the show, on July 12, 1954, (just a week after the legendary session at Sun that produced "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky") Scotty and Elvis signed an agreement making Scotty his manager. He was already the manager of The Starlite Wranglers, and Scotty's thinking was that "Elvis would become part of the Wranglers show, a kind of added attraction, which would make 'two acts in one, Scotty said, and in fact that was the way it was set up for the following Saturday at the Bon Air, the Wranglers’ regular weekend gig." 

In retelling the story of the first live shows with Elvis, Scotty Moore always included the detail that there was conflict around the fact that the rest of The Starlite Wranglers expected to be on stage when Elvis was going to sing, indicating that Scotty was pitching the young singer as a new member of the act. It follows that Elvis would have been given the offered shirt to wear as a member of the band during at least one of the three shows. By the time Elvis, Scotty and Bill played their third and final show with the Wranglers on July 31, it is likely that any thought of Elvis being a member of the Wranglers was fading quickly. They had already been veryt well-received while playing the Overton Park show opening for Slim Whitman, and the orders for the new single were coming in fast and furious. Considering this context, it is more likely that Elvis was given the shirt to wear for one of the first two appearances.

Accompanying the shirt is November 10, 2009 letter from Mary Joyce's nephew, Edgar Lundberg, relating the story of his aunt being given the shirt by Elvis Presley during the summer of 1954: 

This letter is to verify the information regarding the Starlite Wranglers shirt which was given to Elvis Presley. The following information given in the description is true and correct. This shirt has excellent color with no holes. It has the original Las Vegas Cowboy Joe's Wester Wear label. Cowboy Joe's was the predecessor to Nudies Rodeo Tailors. The original blue dye stamp on the satin lining is still distinguishable along with the original stitching which is impeccable. The mother of pearl snap buttons on the front and cuffs are all intact. The Starlite Wranglers were a Memphis based country & western group headlined by Doug Poindexter with Scotty Moore and Bill Black as band members. Elvis was given this shirt to wear while performing with the Wranglers for one of his first stage performances at the Bon Aire Club in the summer of '54. After one of the performances at the Bon Aire, Elvis gave this shirt to a girlfriend name Mary Joyce who was friends with Dixie Locke. Mary Joyce followed Elvis throughout the mid 50s attending many of his concerts at local fairgrounds and several Louisiana Hayride appearances. Scotty and Bill were photographed with Elvis wearing their identical shirts for a publicity photo taken in late '54. Elvis had already given my aunt the shirt prior to the photoshoot. This shirt has been in the possession of my family since the day it was given to my aunt by Elvis Presley during their extended acquaintance.

Also included with the shirt is a letter from Chris Davidson of EP Archives detailing the ownership of the shirt since it left the Joyce family in 2009. The shirt measures 15 inches, shoulder to shoulder, and is 31 inches long. The size is stamped on the interior of the collar, on the satin lining, and reads "FORM FIT / SMALL." The shirt and its many ornate stitchings and threadings remain intact, including the mother of pearl buttons on the front and sleeves. One of the pockets has a slightly different colored fabric--it may have been repaired at some point. There is one area of staining on the front. Excellent to Mint condition.

1954 Elvis Presley Owned “Starlight Wranglers” Western Button Down Shirt – Gifted to a Friend at The Bon Air Club in Memphis at one of His Earliest Concerts!
This lot has a Reserve Price that has not been met.
Current Bidding (Reserve Not Met)
Minimum Bid: $20,000
Final prices include buyers premium:
Estimate: $40,000 - $50,000
Number Bids: 3
Auction closed on Thursday, August 27, 2020.
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