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45 years on, Elvis Presley’s Jewish mystique still lingers

16 2 23

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —Nashville calls itself “Country Music USA,” but Memphis is home of the blues—and its iconic Beale Street is the true birthplace of rock n’ roll. So when a recent muscular dystrophy conference took me to Tennessee, I seized the chance to visit both cities.

Along the way, I hoped to solve one of life’s most enduring mysteries: Was Elvis really a member of the tribe?

It’s not an original question. Many have speculated on the supposed Jewishness of The King, who died of a drug-induced heart attack on Aug. 16, 1977—exactly 45 years ago this week.

Soon after the conference began, my New York-based journalism buddy Robert Walzer—who needed a short getaway—met me in Nashville. Both of us had urgent deadlines to meet, but after three days confined to the sprawling Opryland Resort & Convention Center, with its nine acres of indoor gardens, winding rivers and fake waterfalls—not to mention its 15 overpriced restaurants and bars—we were desperate to get out and see the real Tennessee. Poster of Elvis Presley riding his motorcycle past Lansky Bros. shop in Memphis. (Larry Luxner)

Hitting the open road in a rented Chevy, we headed southwest on Interstate 40 for about four hours, past towns with amusing names like Dickson, Ripley and Bucksnort. We arrived in Memphis after dark and checked into the 450-room Guest House at Graceland Inn, which is itself located a few hundred steps from Graceland, the mansion where Elvis lived from 1957 until his untimely death at the age of 42.

That evening, while wandering along Beale Street after a jam session at B.B. King’s Blues Club, we came across a historical marker for the Chop Suey Café, a Chinese restaurant that had stood on that spot for 47 years, passing through a succession of owners—the last being a man named, of all things, Jew Sing. Historical marker on Beale Street, Memphis. (Larry Luxner)

That elicited a few chuckles from these two wisecracking Jewboys, but what really intrigued us was another marker several blocks up Beale Street honoring “Lansky Brothers—Clothier to the King.”

According to the plaque, Bernard Lansky and his brother, Guy, had founded Lansky Brothers clothing store in 1946 with $125 from their father. The shop, known for its outlandish, trendy fashions, ended up outfitting Elvis only 10 years later for his very first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

“I wonder if this Lansky guy is still around,” Robert mused aloud as we sauntered down Beale Street, surrounded by flashing blue neon signs and crowds of locals letting the good times roll. Advertisement

Memphis honors two Kings — Elvis and Rev. Martin Luther

The next morning, Robert got his answer. While I was interviewing hematologists at the nearby St. Jude Children’s Hospital, my inquisitive friend headed for the historic Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, where Lansky Brothers has sold men’s........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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