The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum kicked off its two-day celebration of what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday at noon today with a cake-cutting ceremony.
Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs Jim Henke presented the event live on Channel 3 as pieces of the giant white cake were handed out to the 50 or so patrons assembled on the Rock Hall’s Main Lobby.
“He was the guy who brought rock ’n’ roll into the mainstream,” Henke said of Presley. “Without him, this building would probably not be here.”
The public was also invited to sign a large cardboard birthday card that will be sent to Graceland. “You’re still the King,” wrote one fan. “Love you tender,” wrote another.
After the cake cutting, Curatorial Director Howard Kramer led a guided tour of the small Elvis Presley exhibit that includes the King's purple 1975 Cadillac Continental Mark IV and his sequined “Snowflake” jumpsuit that he wore for several 1973 concerts.
“Elvis was really a country artist,” Kramer said while explaining why Elvis was on the cover of Cowboy Songs magazine that is on display. “But his role model was Dean Martin. He wanted to look like him and act like him.”
Kramer said the items on loan from Graceland will be returned this summer and replaced with a new set of artifacts, though he added that because it “barely fit,” the purple Cadillac will stay behind.
During the afternoon, the Rock Hall also showed footage from Presley’s 1986 induction as well as inductions of band members James Burton (2001), DJ Fontana (2009), Scotty Moore (2000) and Bill Black (2009) in its Foster Theater.
It’s worth seeing just to catch Keith Richards’ rambling induction of James Burton into the sideman category. Richards makes a series of odd jokes and plays with the braids in his hair. (“If you’re not mentioned, it means you’ve done your job fairly well,” he says of the sideman designation.)
Birthday festivities continue tomorrow. You can still sign the card during museum hours, and induction footage will continue to show throughout the day in the Foster Theater.
Also, the first 1,200 visitors to the Rock Hall today and tomorrow will receive a free three-song Elvis CD sampler. —Jeff Niesel