The Enthusiast®
May 1956


1916 cover of the first issue of Harley Davidson's The Enthusiast®
Photo courtesy HD Timeline

The Enthusiast® is/was a consumer magazine published monthly by the Harley Davidson Motorcycle company and is said to be "the longest consistently-published motorcycle magazine in the world." The first issue was published in 1916 and each issue contained photos and riding stories of interest to riders in addition to features on events and advertising of new models and accessories available from the company.


Elvis on the May 1956 cover of The Enthusiast® with his 1956 KH, "Lite Weight" Cap, and leather jacket
Ted Bruel Photo © Harley-Davidson, courtesy ebay

Who Is Elvis Presley?

THAT rocket blazing a fiery trail across the musical sky these days and nights is no rocket. It's 21 year old Elvis Presley, Memphis's contribution to the world of music. Presley's rise to fame has been little short of fantastic. Some time ago, Elvis walked into the Sun Record Company in Memphis, Tenn., and recorded his voice at his own expense. Sun Record Company liked Presley's style and signed him to a contract. Recently RCA Victor bought Presley's contract and he is on his way up. He recorded "Heartbreak Hotel". His unique style clicked at once. Now this record is a cinch to pass the million mark any day. He is in great demand for personal appearances and TV shows. More of his songs are being released. His head is in a whirl but Elvis is taking it all in stride. He appreciates his good fortune and is determined no to let it change him.

How does Elvis rate cover position in the ENTHUSIAST? He is a Harley-Davidson rider and is shown on his third motorcycle. He started out as the owner of a 165 and at present rides the 1956"KH". It is a red and white model and is his favorite. His new life makes great demands on him but, he still finds time to roll up some miles on his "KH". Good Luck for your future, Elvis. Bruel Photo

article on page 14 of the Enthusiast® © Harley Davidson, courtesy Claude Francisci

After Elvis bought a new Harley Davidson in January of 1956 they saw fit to put him along with his KH on the cover of the May 1956 issue along with a short article inside about his interest in Harley and his rise to fame. The photo shows him in the vicinity of his former home at the time on Getwell Road in Memphis.  He is pictured in his leather jacket waving his "Lite Weight" cap.


staff at a Harley dealership sporting accessory riding caps - ca. 1940s
Photo courtesy web


riders with their bikes in caps and leather - ca. 1940s
Photo courtesy web


1947 Harley Davidson advertisement
Photo courtesy ebay


Photo courtesy web

The look, though some speculate may have been inspired by Marlon Brando, was in fact common for riders and had been for some time.  Prior to the popularity of helmets and, more importantly, helmet laws, most riders wore caps or at least some kind of head gear. Harley Davidson itself over time offered several variants of the cap(s) that Elvis owned and had been popular with riders at least as early as the '40s. The style Elvis is most often pictured with, even when not riding was offered by Harley Davidson as an accessory called a "Lite Weight" cap and retailed at the time for $1.95, easily identifiable with its radiant star emblem.  By the summer of 1956 he also owned and wore the winged HD Logo cap which sold for $2.50.  These were offered at times in both black and tan with black or white visors depending.


pages from The Enthusiast®, Sept. 1955 and May 1956 issues
courtesy ebay



close-up crops from pages from The Enthusiast, Sept. 1955 and May 1956 issues
courtesy ebay


Elvis in Harley Davidson "Lite Weight" Cap - October 1956
Photo courtesy The Portal to Texas History, U of T at Arlington Libraries

The leather jacket, though often associated with a "badboy" image, no doubt because of its adoption for its rebelliousness look by non riders since the '50s, is actually utilitarian by design and worn by riders for that reason.  Until recently, it offered the best protection for riders against the elements, especially if/when they go down. Asphalt is very unforgiving.  Harley Davidson had been offering them well before Elvis bought one and still do. Even to this day leather is probably the most popular riding attire. When he purchased his next Harley, a 1957 FLH in November of 1956, Elvis was also pictured with it in the December issue of The Enthusiast®.


Elvis on his new 1957 Harley-Davidson FLH in the rear driveway at Audubon Dr. - Nov. 1956
Photo by Ted Bruehl


Harley Davidson Motorcycles cap logo - 1950s
Photo © James V. Roy


Elvis in Harley leather and cap at Audubon Dr. - Nov. 56
Photos courtesy Christopher David Giles

In 1968 when filming the NBC-TV special, a leather suit was made for him to perform in by the designer who though he dressed like that regularly in the '50s.  In reality he was rarely, if at all, pictured in leather when he wasn't riding, about to or just finished.  The caps though apparently caught his interest and he wore them often whether he was riding or not, though by the '60s the Harley Davidson caps were replaced by yachting caps, trading wings and wheels for lifesavers and anchors.


Elvis in Harley logo cap with Dewey Phillips and Nick Adams in Harley lite weight cap - 1956
Photo courtesy web


Elvis with passenger Marilyn Waste on the Matsonia on his way to Hawaii - Nov. 1957

Photo by Jim Waste courtesy Corby Waste



Harley Davidson Motorcycles cap - 1950s
Photos © James V. Roy


older beige cap and newer (AMF logo) cap
Photos courtesy web

In 2009, The Enthusiast was incorporated into the Harley-Davidson Harley Owners Group (HOG)® magazine which itself was reinvented with a new design and content direction to appeal to a wider audience. With a circulation of more than 800,000, the magazine is widely considered one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Harley Owners Group®.  Elvis himself, continued to own and ride Harleys and remained a card carrying member of the American Motorctycle Association until his death.


Elvis in the '60s with his 57 FLH sporting a yachting cap - ca. 1963
Photo © EPE Inc., courtesy Unseen Archives

page added November 17, 2013



Elvis on his 1956 Harley Davidson KH as seen on the May 1956 cover of The Enthusiast®
Photo by Ted Bruel © Harley-Davidson

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

 
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