In a portrait of a young Elvis Presley, painted by Nashville-area artist Wayne Brezinka, there’s something odd going on in that trademark pompadour — 40 years after the superstar's death. The three-dimensional hair is striped with green, yellow, blue, red and white wires.
Those wires were ripped from a 1950s-era phone system in the home and office of Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker. In fact, it’s likely they're the very wires that carried the voice of Ed Sullivan, when he called Colonel Parker to discuss Presley’s now-famous appearances on Sullivan’s TV show.
Parker was a notoriously shrewd and hands-on manager, and his relationship with Elvis dates back to the singer's early career when Presley was part of a trio called the Blue Moon Boys. Parker promoted Elvis aggressively and became instrumental in Presley's enormous success.
Almost Lost To History
Those phone wires used in Elvis' hair — along with a bounty of other obscure artifacts — ended up in Wayne Brezinka’s hands during a massive salvage mission at the Madison, Tennessee house — just before the wrecking ball showed up.
The Colonel Tom Parker house has been knocked down now. Preservation efforts of the building didn't pan out. And a car wash is being built in its place.
Everything inside would be lost to history if not for the efforts — and investment — of a local music memorabilia collector named Brian Oxley. He purchased all that could be removed from the site, and he was able to get quite a lot according to Brezinka.
“They numbered each board, and took out counter tops and tile and dismantled the entire thing. It took months and months,” Brezinka says.
The idea is to reassemble the interior of the Elvis Presley fan club headquarters from an outbuilding on the property. The home's insides may even be rebuilt using old photos for reference.
Gluing In Relics
In the meantime, Oxley handed a number of loose items to Brezinka to incorporate into one of his trademark, relic-infused paintings. Brezinka has done similar portraits that incorporate artifacts of history — of Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Cash and even Nashville media luminary John Seigenthaler.
Brezinka glued in several pieces of mail from the mid-1950s found inside of a wall cavity during demolition, including an envelope from country singer Hank Snow, another artist managed by Parker.
In the painting, Elvis stands next to a Greek-style column partially made of wood from the room Elvis slept in when he was in town recording.
“There’s a money clip they found in the Colonel’s closet, which I thought was pretty symbolic," Brezinka says. "Later in Elvis’ career, he convinced Elvis to split all the profits 50/50, which is unheard of in the entertainment world. So ... I slipped a two dollar bill into that money clip because I thought it was symbolic of ‘you get a dollar, I get a dollar. Every dollar you make, I get half.’”
Brezinka also incorporated some blue and white patterned Dutch shelf paper. Colonel Parker was a Dutch immigrant, initially coming to the U.S. illegally, and he had the shelves of the Elvis fan club building lined with a reminder of his homeland.
Brezinka's Elvis Presley portrait, along with his painting of Johnny Cash, is currently on display at The Storytellers Museum in Bon Aqua, Tennessee.