Alfred Wertheimer, the American photographer who has died aged 84, had the foresight and chutzpah to attach himself to Elvis Presley for several days during the spring and summer of 1956, the year Elvis turned 21. The photographs he took have since become legendary, a remarkable visual record of a defining time for rock’n’roll’s most enduring figure.
A freelance up for anything, Alfred first saw Elvis on stage on March 17 in New York, on Stage Show, a TV series hosted by the Dorsey Brothers. He’d been hired by RCA’s press department and when he sent a set of contact sheets and six enlargements to RCA’s publicist Ann Fulchino, she set up further photo sessions with Elvis and Alfred, both in New York at recording sessions and at the Mosque in Richmond, Virginia. It was here, on June 30, that he snapped Elvis kissing a girl in the stairwell of the theatre, perhaps the best ‘fly-on-the-wall’ picture of Elvis ever taken. For the next few days Alfred accompanied Elvis everywhere, back to New York for recording sessions, on a 27-hour train ride to Memphis, and with his family in the city where he made his home.
RIP Alfred, and thanks for being there with Elvis when it mattered.