The TCB topic is yet another in a long list of topics where there are many variations of the story. If you are more than a casual Elvis fan, you probably are aware that many facts and figures in Elvis World are not consistent account-by-account, and often these various accounts are very much at odds with the others. The origin of the TCB logo is no exception. Here's a sampling of what we've been told by the people who were there:
· Joe Esposito claims that Elvis and Priscilla decided on “Taking Care of Business” as the logo (slogan) for the Memphis Mafia, and that Priscilla designed the medallions. Also, the lightning bolt was a Mafia symbol that meant,“Do it quick.”
· The TCB necklace was designed by Elvis and created by a jeweler in Las Angeles.
· Lowell Hays, a Memphis jeweler, made the original TCB jewelry from 1970 to 1977.
·“It was Sol [Schwartz's] partner, Lee Ablesser, who designed the TCB neck charm that Elvis gave away to friends and people who worked for him. Sol says he sold Elvis five hundred of the chains and charms, and another five hundred charm bracelets.”
·“Only thirteen of these [TCB] pendants were made, twelve for his friends and one for himself. Then the mold was broken.”(Lowell Hays in Memphis still uses the original molds to make TCB jewelry.)
· Marty Lacker claims the lightning bolt was incorporated into the logo because the of the phrase “in a flash,” and the fact that it was the insignia for the West Coast Mafia.
· Lamar Fike claims Elvis chose the lightning bolt “solely because it was the insignia for the West Coast Mafia.”
· Billy Smith claims the lightning bolt came from Elvis's army days, when the lightning bolt was the insignia for his battalion. Smith also speculates that it may have come from Captain Marvel, Jr.
· Kathy Westmoreland claims that Elvis told her the insignia was inspired by the pattern left on a marble statue by a bolt of lightning, which Elvis interpreted as a sign from God.
As you can see, these claims by Elvis's friends, family members, and associates do nothing to clarify the matter. It's not that I or any other Elvis expert cannot answer this question, it's that the available source materials do not give a concrete answer as to the origin of the jewelry (and design), nor do they explain the discrepancies between the accounts. So, to answer your question in the best way I can, based on my opinion, I believe Elvis designed the jewelry and had different jewelers create the pieces, depending in all likelihood on where he was at the time he wanted them (Hays in Memphis, Ablesser in LA). The inspiration for the design probably came from a mixture of the stories mentioned above, as Elvis may have embellished the story based on who he was discussing it with. And, it's not unreasonable to believe he could have been inspired by all these things, and simply incorporated them into the legend of the logo and design.(This is my opinion, and the conflicting claims do not allude to other possibilities.)
As for why he may have designed these things in the first place, and given them away to close friends and family, Elvis seemed to be the kind of person who maintained very strong bonds with people who were close to him, and these pieces of jewelry were a way to solidify that bond with a tangible representation of it, and perhaps to instill a sense of loyalty. That is, if Elvis gave you one of these necklaces, for example, that meant you and he had a unique bond or friendship. When he gave TCB jewelry to his male friends and family, he was signifying a fraternal connection to them; however, when he gave TLC jewelry to women, he was probably just doing so out of generosity. These are my opinions, of course, so take from them what you will.
I wonder which is true?