A Velvet Elvis is a painting of Elvis Presley on velvet. It typically represents a costumed torso of Elvis holding a microphone, painted on black velvet (or velvet of some other dark color, such as navy blue, red or purple). This iconic velvet painting is considered an archetypical example of kitsch.
A brief history of black velvet paintings is presented by Pamela Liflander in Black Velvet Artist, a booklet published by Running Press, Philadelphia in 2003, and included in an art kit by the same name. Liflander also details the life of Edgar Leeteg, "the father of American black velvet kitsch," whose "raucous and bawdy" life was previously captured by James Michener in Rascals in Paradise (1957).
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There are a number of examples of musicians alluding to paintings of this famous singer in their songs or stage names.
- Velvet Elvis, a contemporary heavy-psychedelic stoner rock band hailing from Rochester, NY. More info here.
- Velvet Elvis, a 1980s rock group based in Lexington, Kentucky, originally consisting of Dan Trisko (guitar, vocals), John Clark (bass, vocals), Sherri McGee (drums, vocals) and Doug Carman (keyboards, guitar, vocals). Scott Stoess (bass, vocals) and Jeff Yurkowski (keyboards, vocals) later replaced Clark and Carman. Velvet Elvis released two self-produced albums in addition to one for Enigma Records that was produced by Mitch Easter.
- Jonny Barber, an Elvis tribute artist known as "The Velvet Elvis", based in Denver, Colorado and voted Colorado's Best Elvis by the Westword Weekly
A number of songs reference velvet Elvis paintings: Alan Jackson's "Little Man" mentions a store that sells them; Switchfoot's "Poparazzi" mentions the paintings being sold "on the 90210"; Lard's "Sidewinder" has the lyrics "Slither into town/In the velvet Elvis night". Alannah Myles' song "Black Velvet" seems to allude to the paintings, but is more about Presley's singing style. Songs more directly about the paintings include:
- "Velvet Elvis" by STIR
- "Elvis" by Sister Hazel
- "Velvet Elvis" by Ralston Bowles
- "Velvet Elvis" by Alex Winston
- "Velvet Elvis" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, a whimsical ode to such a painting, in a pastiche of the musical style of The Police
- "Velvet Elvis" by Adrenalin O.D.
- "Elvis On Velvet" by the Stray Cats, about the intense commercialization of Elvis following his death, suggesting that "The King" would find such items (particularly the paintings) disrespectful
- "My Velvet Elvis" by Farnell Cole, a humorous song about an ex-wife who took everything.
- "Paint Me on Velvet" by Austin Lounge Lizards
"Velvet Elvis" is a theme that apparently lends itself well to bars, eateries, and entertainment venues; for example:
- The Velvet Elvis, the former name of a bar (now called The Jinx), at 127 West Congress St. in Savannah, Georgia
- The Velvet Elvis, a bar and live music lounge in Oshawa, Ontario
- The Velvet Elvis, a former theater and all-ages music venue founded by Deborah Crohn and Phillip Endicott in Seattle's historic Pioneer Square; its awning is on display at Seattle's Experience Music Project
- Velvet Elvis, a bar in Glasgow on Dumbarton Road, Partick
- Velvet Elvis Pizza Company, a pizza restaurant in Patagonia, Arizona
- An entire level of the video game Psychonauts, known as Black Velvetopia, is dedicated to such velvet paintings.
- In the PC game Fallout, a velvet Elvis portrait can be found in the crashed UFO encounter, on an alien skeleton. This refers to the rumors and jokes that Elvis is still alive and living with aliens.
- Numerous velvet Elvis portraits can also be found in the sequel to Fallout, Fallout 2.
- A Velvet Elvis can also be found in the PC game Fountain of Dreams in the Desoto's compound. It is the only type of painting that cannot be sold to Big Daddy for money.
- Hampshire College students had a tradition regarding a "Velvis", which was to be stolen by successive students, who would display it in a common area in their homes from where it could be stolen again.
- In The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Huxley points to a velvet Elvis painting as one of his many possessions.
- On an episode of the television series Pawn Stars Rick tells Chumlee he'd "have a velvet Elvis over his fireplace" after he buys a fake etching without Rick's permission.
- Velvet Elvis is the name of a yacht racing team, 2010 UK National Champions in the J/109 class.
- Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith is a book written by Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church, inspired by a velvet Elvis painting in his garage. While in college as the lead singer of _ton bundle, he wrote a song called "Velvet Elvis", inspired by the same painting.