Bulger's Beat: 'Elvis at 21' on display at Nashville museum - WSMV Channel 4

Bulger's Beat: 'Elvis at 21' on display at Nashville museum

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He wasn't the King quite yet, but a series of photos of Elvis Presley at the age of 21 are still Smithsonian quality, and now they are making a rare visit from that museum to Nashville.

In 1956, photographer Alfred Wertheimer got what seemed like a simple, mindless assignment. He was sent to take some promotional photos of a 21-year-old singer from Tupelo who had just signed with RCA Records.

His name was Elvis, something.

At that time, he was still unknown, but the anonymity went away quickly that same year when he sang about that Hound Dog.

The stage and the adoring fans would stay with him for the rest of his life, and Wertheimer's photos capture those early, magical moments.

Fifty-six photos on loan to the Tennessee State Museum from the Smithsonian Institute show quiet, personal moments often hidden from public view.

In one, Elvis greets a fan on the street, and in another he seemingly first gets used to the idea of fan mail.

These are the photos taken before Elvis and stardom met. The pure, raw emotion in the photographs shows the charisma Elvis had at age 21 - a quality that he would hold on to the remaining 21 years of his life.

The exhibit, "Elvis at 21", will be in downtown Nashville through January, and the admission is free.

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