When I get to Memphis, Im definitely stopping by this guys shop!
Part of Beale Street has been renamed in honor of one the favorite Memphis retailers, Bernard J. Lansky. Of course you may know him as the “clothier to the King,” for his special relationship with Elvis Presley, but at 82 years old, he still works seven days a week.
‘He always called me Mister Lansky’. The unmistakable Southern accent echoes through the clothing store in the lobby of the regal Peabody Hotel at 149 Union Avenue, Memphis. ‘I told him, ‘Call me Bernard’. But Elvis always said, ‘Thank you, Mister Lansky’. He was brought up right. His mother brought him up a gentleman’.
Bernard Lansky has seen a lot of Memphis history in his 78 years, and from his elegant haberdashery, which he runs with his son, Hal, he’s furnished the wardrobes of rock ‘n’ roll royalty for more than a half-century. His original shop, on famed Beale Street, is where music and fashion made beautiful harmony.
He remembers working for Elvis: “There were very few things he would turn down,” Lansky said. “I had an idea that he would look good in pink and black. That was one of my ideas. I put him in a pink coat and a black pair of pants — he was sharp.
Everyone else was wearing white and black, and I pushed that pink on him and it blew their minds. It was dynamite.”The store has since relocated to the Peabody Hotel, a block away from its original location, and Lansky and his family serve as a liaison to tourists from all over the world.
Bernard and young Elvis struck up a conversation. ‘He looked in the window and said, ‘You have some nice stuff in there’, Bernard recalls. ‘When I get rich, I’ll buy you out’. I said, ‘No, don’t buy me out, just buy from me’. Elvis was an usher at Loew’s theater at the time. He cashed his paycheck and made his first purchase, a $3.95 shirt. Later, while still attending L.C. Humes High School, he had the tailor create an ensemble set of black pants, pink coat and pink-and-black cummerbund for the junior-senior prom. ‘He always wanted to be the belle of the ball’, Bernard remembers.
‘One day he came in and said, ‘I’m going to be on TV with Ed Sullivan’. So, I got him dressed and told him how much it was. Elvis said, ‘I got a problem. I got no money’. I told him, ‘Yes, that is a problem. But I’ll tell you what, I’m going to float you’. That was the key in the lock for him and me’. It wasn’t long before Elvis bought Graceland–he was 22 years old. ‘He got good and did a lot of concerts’, says Bernard. ‘Memphis had a lot of pimps, gamblers. We had high fashion in the window. I’d do tailor-made mohair, silk and wool. Flare leg, no back pockets. Twenty-six-inch knee, 14-inch bottom drape. Then I made thinner legs’.