Monthly Archives: January 2005

ELVIS JUKEBOX RANKINGS

Guess what is Elvis’ most successful record in terms of jukebox play?

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According to the Amusement & Music Operators Association, it is HoundDog/Don’t Be Cruel from 1956, the 3rd biggest jukebox hit of all time.  This trade association of jukebox owners, operators, and suppliers compiled their list back in 1989 (100th anniversary of the jukebox).  They updated it again in 1996, and there were no changes in the top of the rankings.

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So,Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel seems to be permanently locked into the #3 position.  It’s no surprise that this double-sided hit got the most play of all the Elvis records featured on jukeboxes.  Hound Dog stayed at the top of the record charts for twelve weeks, and then Don’t Be Cruel took over the next week.   That’s a long run of popularity during an age when jukeboxes were really big.

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What two songs could possibly beat Elvis?  #2 is the 1979 Bob Seger hit. Old Time Rock & Roll, no doubt helped by Tom Cruise singing it in his underwear in the movie, “Risky Business.”  #1 is Crazy by Patsy Cline.  That song came out in 1962, but I’ll bet you can still find it on some jukeboxes in 2005.  Talk about staying power.  Elvis’ next best finish in the jukebox rankings is All Shook Up at #38.  Seems like it should be higher.

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© 2005  Philip R Arnold

BACKSTAGE With 21 MUSIC LEGENDS

 From:  70th Birthday Tribute, January 2005

 

by Phil Arnold

 

It’s been a real kick contributing to Elvis International magazine for six years, and my best fringe benefit so far happened in Memphis during Elvis Week 2004.  It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.   Darwin Lamm, Editor/Publisher of Elvis International, put on the two biggest concerts of the week … back to back on one night.  Darwin is exceptionally organized, and he has been promoting concerts since 1988, but he still needed two “Production Assistants” for these shows.

 

Gary Olsen, a Vancouver, BC, disc jockey and experienced concert promoter, was the number one man.  I was the go-fer.  Gary carried around a stack of papers, referred to them often, made decisions and gave orders.  I went for ice.  I also went for sandwiches, sodas, and Xerox copies (three different times).  If Scotty Moore wanted a bottle of water from the VIP room, I was tickled to go-fer it.

 

The first of the two concerts was “The Legends Salute the 50th Anniversary of Rock & Roll.”  The title, of course, was tied to the theme for this year’s festivities, a celebration of the 50 years since Elvis recorded his first release “That’s All Right (Mama)” in 1954.   The Legends concert was scheduled to start at 6:30 PM, but Darwin, Gary and I got to the venue at 9:30 AM.  And what a venue — The Cannon Center for The Performing Arts.  This theater is almost brand new and there isn’t a bad seat in the place.  It is home to the Memphis Symphony, so you know it has superb acoustics. 

 

When we arrived backstage, the two biggest names on the whole program, Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, were already there. There wasn’t any of that big-star-late-arrival stuff for these good old boys. 

 

Also on the scene were several members of Ronnie McDowell’s band.  Steve Shepherd, keyboard player in the band, quickly assumed the role of floor manager, as he put tape down on the stage to mark where the vocalists and other performers were to stand.  It looked like he had plenty of experience doing this.  Later, I learned he is also a superb keyboard player, and he contributed significantly to the quality of the music that evening.

 

Scotty and DJ supervised the construction of the riser, which is an elevated platform, three steps above the floor, on which DJ would do his magic.  It was at the back of the stage, but the height enabled the audience to see him. 

 

As time went by, other performers strolled in.  Bob Moore, who was Elvis’ bass man for 18 years, was an early arrival.  Billy Swan, one of five featured vocalists, showed up soon afterward.  One by one, the four Jordanaires joined the group.  Millie Kirkham, who did back-up vocals for Elvis for 15 years, was warmly received by all the men.  Everyone was in a happy mood, catching up with the others.  It began to resemble a family affair.  Each new arrival made the rounds, talking with the rest, just like at a reunion.  Obviously these folks were dear old friends.

 

Lee Rocker, fresh off the Straycats reunion tour in Europe, added his unique presence to the swelling crowd of performers. He sported black leather and lots of sterling silver ear-rings.  Ronnie McDowell, who would be the surprise vocal guest of the night, dressed another way with shorts, tee-shirt and sandals.

 

Stan Perkins, oldest son of rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, arrived with a few friends and had a good time shaking hands and talking with everyone.  Eddie Miles, the great Elvis tribute artist, showed up wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.  His entourage blended into the growing group of people who displayed all-access badges, but who had no specific part in the performances.  It just added more to the party atmosphere.

 

Finally, the one man everybody adores, Boots Randolph, strolled on stage.  It didn’t take long to figure out that Mr Yakety-Sax is a super nice guy.  Boots was so friendly and had lots of stories to tell.  Later, backstage at the second concert, when a chair next to Boots became available, I wasted no time claiming that prized spot.

 

Actually, the entire day at the theater was a prize, one that gave me the opportunity to go autograph hunting.  For a fifteen hour period I carried with me the 50th Anniversary issue of Elvis International.  Darwin Lamm had honored me by publishing in this milestone issue three articles I had written.  One was about Scotty, DJ, and the Jordanaires, plus a nice sidebar piece on Bill Black.   Another was about all the singers and other musicians who joined them in the Legends concert.  Finally, I wrote about the four members of the TCB Band, plus Terry Mike Jeffrey.  He handled the vocal duties for the second concert, “The TCB Band Salutes Elvis and the 50th Anniversary of Rock & Roll.”

 

In total, the three articles featured short biographies and other commentary on 21 performers.  My goal was to get each one to sign their name over the text I had written about them.  In my mind, every performer was a legend with a connection to Elvis, and I was out to get all their autographs in my magazine.

 

First, and most important to me, were Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana.  I got them early while the concert hall’s crewmen were assembling DJ’s riser.  By the time the Legends Salute rehearsals and sound checks began, I had the autographs of everybody appearing in the first concert.

 

Rehearsals were interesting, but these folks had all worked with each other enough times in the past that not much rehearsing was needed.  Sound checks were kind of boring.  I was surprised to learn that there is so much difference in the settings each singer specifies to the guy up in the sound booth.

 

In between the autograph seeking, I did various Production Assistant jobs.  I helped to set up lunch in the VIP room.  I was blown away when Elvis’ long-time nurse and friend Marion Cocke pulled into the backstage loading zone with a car full of sandwiches.  This wonderful 78 year-old woman made them all in her kitchen.  There were four different kinds (but no peanut butter and ‘naner).  Later, after the thirsty crowd of performers and their guests consumed all the cases of bottled water, we solved that problem by loading the large bottled water unit in the venue office on a cart and taking it to a prime spot just off-stage.

 

By the time the first group of performers finished rehearsals, Terry Mike Jeffrey and the four TCB Band members were ready to do their thing.  Drummer Ronnie Tutt had been hanging around for several hours spending time with old buddies, and I got his autograph early.  Terry Mike was another early arrival, so it was easy to get his signature. 

 

However, guitarist James Burton, bass player Jerry Scheff, and piano player Glen D Hardin got right to business before I could shove my magazine and black Sharpie pen in front of them.  The TCB boys really didn’t have to do any rehearsing, as they have played together so many times in the “Elvis, The Concert” shows.  Terry Mike Jeffrey has performed with them numerous times in the past few years.  I decided to skip their sound check and went back to the hotel for a little nap.  It would be a long night, and I wanted to be sharp for all of it.  I’d get their autographs later, before the show.

 

The nap was great, but it turned out to be poorly timed.  By the time I returned to The VIP room, a catered hot supper had been delivered … and consumed.  I settled for two slices of bread, some potato chips and a soda for my meal.  Soon, all thoughts of food vanished as other responsibilities called.  My favorite Production Assistant assignment of the night occurred when the son and daughter of the late Bill Black couldn’t get their will-call tickets at the window.  I went out front and was able to save the day by talking some sense to the ticket lady.  I felt so proud of myself.  It also gave me the opportunity to get both of Bill’s children to sign my magazine over the paragraphs I had written about their dad. 

 

The only other non-performer to sign my magazine was Red Robinson, another Vancouver DJ, who served as master of ceremonies and announcer for both concerts.  Red turned out to be a real buddy and a great guy to hang out with on Beale Street.

 

Other writers in this magazine will regale you with accounts of the two concerts as they experienced them from their seats in the audience.  My vantage point was backstage, or should I say side-stage.  True backstage would be behind the tall black curtain.  However, there was a series of parallel side curtains which allowed us to look at the bands from the side, but the audience couldn’t see us.  With so many singers and musicians in the Legends Salute, there were a lot of folks backstage.  It was so much fun being part of this group.

 

When the first concert ended, another important Production Assistant job was to guide the performers out to tables in the lobby where they would sign autographs for the fans.  We had to be firm with several determined folks who wanted to get autographs before the musicians got to the tables.  Once everybody was seated and the line of fans was moving nicely, my assignment was to help out at one of the doors.  The venue employee there was overwhelmed trying to take tickets from new fans while trying to keep track of those coming back into the building after a smoke break.

 

I helped him for twenty minutes, then I begged off to go backstage again and pursue more TCB Band autographs.  I got Glen D Hardin’s, but James Burton and Ronnie Scheff were on center stage working out some stuff, so I didn’t bother them.  I returned to the lobby and helped escort the Jordanaires back to the VIP room.  It was almost 10 PM, and Gordon Stoker needed to get some food before diabetic problems got to him.  We literally had to push our way through fans who wanted him to pose with them for pictures.  Gordon is too nice to ever say no to fans, so us Production Assistants had to be the bad guys and say, “Sorry, can’t do it.”  Gordon paid me back the next night, buying me a meatloaf dinner at the hotel restaurant.  Did he ever tell some funny Elvis stories that will never make it to print.

 

The second concert was also terrific, but it seemed a bit more business-like than the first.  There were fewer musicians and only one singer.  Terry Mike Jeffrey meshed his traveling band with the TCB boys, and his off-stage entourage consisted of only his daughter-in-law.  This time, hardly anybody was backstage, because the whole gang from the Legends show was now in the audience to watch the second concert. 

 

That was good because it gave me a chance to talk more with Boots Randolph.  This distinguished 78-year-old gentleman was the only performer to wear a coat and tie.  He had been a huge audience favorite during the first concert when he played a down and dirty sax part on the Elvis blues classic, “Reconsider Baby,” followed by an energetic romp with his own hit, “Yakety Sax.”  I yelled and cheered during both songs, just like most other folks backstage.  Boots was impressive.

 

Terry Mike Jeffrey certainly thought so, too, because he cornered Boots between the shows and talked him into doing the songs again during the second concert.  As we sat together backstage, waiting for Boots’ time to go on, I asked him which he preferred, the keyboard we heard in the first concert, or the piano playing in the second.  Boots started out saying he liked both equally well, but the more he talked, the more he realized he liked the keyboard sound better.  So did I.

 

I actually got to walk out on stage during the TCB Salute.  Between songs, Jerry Scheff signaled he was thirsty, and I carried a paper cup of cold water to him.  It was fun later when a friend of mine from Canada said she saw me on stage. 

 

It was past midnight when the TCB Band Salute ended.  I still lacked the autographs of Jerry Scheff and James Burton.  I wasn’t sure they were going out to the lobby, because they had a 7AM flight departure that morning for Las Vegas.  I hated to bug them, but the window of opportunity was about to close.  My new friend Red Robinson helped me get Scheff’s autograph, and I found the nerve to approach James Burton as he was putting his guitar in the case.  Both musicians were pleasant while doing my little favor.

 

So, my magical night backstage with 21 genuine music legends ended on a high note.  I went back to my hotel room exhausted, but I was too hyper to sleep.  Before finally dozing off, I pondered whether the health of all these people will hold up for another couple of years so we can do this again.  I sure hope so.  I know where they can get an experienced go-fer.

 

© 2005  Philip R Arnold

GENUINE AMERICAN MUSIC LEGENDS…Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, The Jordanaires

From:  50th Anniversary Of Rock & Roll, August 2004

 

SCOTTY MOORE

 

The heart of any band is the lead guitar player, and Scotty Moore will be ‘The Man’ for the 50th Anniversary Legends Salute, just as he was for Elvis.  Scotty will be the most admired and appreciated man in Memphis this year during “Tribute Week, 2004.”  Now that Sam Phillips is gone, Scotty Moore is the only remaining link to Elvis’ original start in music.

 

In June 1954, Elvis came to Scotty’s house and met him and Bill Black for the first time.  Eight days later, the three musicians recorded “That’s All Right (Mama)” at Sun Records.  Everybody knows the story after that.  The history of rock ‘n roll spun into a new orbit, with Elvis at the helm and Scotty stoking that musical engine.

 

The closest we can now come to those days will be at Darwin Lamm’s Legends Salute on August 13 at the Peabody Hotel Grand Ballroom.  A few thousand lucky folks are going to have a real treat.  Scotty will be surrounded by a group of superb musicians and singers, but his work on guitar will be the main item of interest for most fans. It’s worth the price of admission just to hear Scotty’s guitar licks.  After all these years, he produces charming guitar sounds so close to the original, it’s like those fifty years had never passed.

 

What makes this even more incredible is that Scotty did not perform live for 24 years.  After the ’68 Comeback Special on TV, Scotty pretty much put his guitar away and took on new challenges in the music business.  He started a record label, supervised all elements of studio operation, and produced albums and a hit record.  He owned a tape-duplicating business, and he specialized in record and TV engineering, the latter for Opryland Productions.

 

In 1992, publisher and concert promoter Darwin Lamm, along with the help of Carl Perkins and DJ Fontana, lured Scotty back on stage.  He was paired with Carl Perkins as part of the “Good Rockin’ Tonight Concert,” an Elvis Week staple.  Scotty’s reemergence into the public eye was so well received, it became the catalyst for his return to regular touring and recording.

 

Which brings him back to where it all started.  Memphis – 50 years later – reunited with DJ Fontana and the Jordanaires – and backed by a most excellent crew of bandmates.  This is going to be such a terrific show.

 

DJ FONTANA

 

The early touring schedule for Elvis, Scotty, and Bill took them to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport in October, 1954.  The house drummer, DJ Fontana, joined in during their performances, and he meshed perfectly with the other musicians.  Soon, DJ was a full-fledged member of the Elvis team, and he went on to play on approximately 460 RCA cuts with Elvis.

 

For decades, DJ Fontana has been a veritable fixture in the Nashville music scene.  He has recorded with a who’s who of country and rock singers and musicians, including Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Kieth Richards, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, and Ringo Starr.  For nine years he toured with an all-star band, the Sun Rhythm Section.

 

In 1998, DJ and Scotty teamed up to record a new CD, All The King’s Men.  It received the Nashville Music Award for the best Independent Album Of The Year.

 

Now, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the birth of rock & roll, interest has intensified to get DJ inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  In fact, a campaign to make this happen is led by four famous drummers:  Levon Helm of The Band, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr of the Beatles, and Max Weinberg from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

 

DJ has performed in every “Good Rockin’ Tonight Concert” since 1989, and Darwin Lamm, promoter of the concerts has been quoted, “DJ is such a down home ‘good ole boy’ that when you get to know him, you’ll forget what a great legend he really is.”  After you see him in the Legends Salute, you will never forget it.

 

DJ has more fun at Elvis Week than just about anybody.  He makes hundreds of new friends each year as he tirelessly signs autographs.  DJ is a great guy, and everybody loves him.  Plus he plays some mean drums.

 

THE JORDANAIRES

 

When it comes to legendary achievements, it’s hard to top the Jordanaires.  It  has been estimated that songs with their backing vocals have sold over 2.6 billion records.  Think about that: 2,600,000,000 records in a half century of singing behind stars like Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, K.D. Lang, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ricky Nelson, Ringo Starr, Chicago, Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett, Connie Francis, Julie Andrews, the Judds, Billy Ray Cyrus, Vince Gill, and, of course, Elvis Presley.

 

The Jordanaires were formed in 1948 in Springfield, MO, and made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry the next year.  In early 1955, they appeared at the Cotton Carnival in Memphis.  Elvis, who was just in the beginning of his career, came back stage to meet them.  He remarked, “If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up.”  True to his word, soon after Elvis signed with RCA, the Jordaiaires backed him on the session that produced “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Any Way You Want Me.” 

 

The Jordanaires personnel at that time were Gordon Stoker (lead tenor), Neal Matthews (second tenor), Hoyt Hawkins (baritone), and Hugh Jarrett (bass).  They appeared behind Elvis on most of his landmark TV appearances in 1956 and 1957.  In 1958, Ray Walker replaced Jarrett, and the new lineup performed together for the next 24 years.  The lineup appearing at the Legends Salute will be Gordon Stoker and Ray Walker, along with newer members Louis Nunley (baritone) and Curtis Young (second tenor).

 

Elvis had many musical influences, but it was the gospel quartets that moved him the most.  The Jordanaires were one of his favorites, because he heard them every Saturday night on the Opry radio show.  Once Elvis connected with them, they sang on almost every song he recorded over the next 13 years.

 

The Nashville Music Association has presented the Jordanaires the coveted ‘Masters Award.’  The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave them an award for having sung on more top-ten records than any other vocal group.  If awards were presented during Darwin Lamm’s Elvis Good Rockin’ Tonight concerts this year, the Jordanaires, Scotty Moore, and DJ Fontana would all be recognized for what they are: Genuine American Music Legends.

 

Since rumor has it that this will be Darwin Lamm ‘s last concert in Memphis, this could very well be the last time you will see all the legends performing together.  Don’t miss it.

 

© 2004  Philip R Arnold

 

Contributing Editor Phil Arnold will be in a front row seat for the Legends Salute.  He can be reached at philarnold@charter.net

A SALUTE TO BILL BLACK — The Unsung Legend

From:  50th Anniversary Of Rock & Roll, August 2004

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

The 50th anniversary of the birth of rock & roll cannot pass without giving just praise to one of the men who was there: Bill Black.  Scotty Moore and Bill were the old pros in Sun Records studio on July 5,1954, when “That’s All Right (Mama) was recorded.  They were pioneers, just like Elvis, in the unearthing of this new sound.  Their musical talents on guitar and base blended with Elvis’s powerful vocal to create history.

 

Scotty Moore is a headliner of the 2004 Legends Salute.  Bill Black, unfortunately, will not be on stage, as he died in 1965 of a brain tumor.  His memory should be honored, not just for his contributions in the studio, but also for the huge benefits Elvis’ early live shows got from his stage presence.  Quite often Bill’s joking around warmed up the crowd and took some heat off Elvis.  Scotty Moore states, “If it hadn’t been for Bill, there were a bunch of shows where we would have died on the vine.”

 

Bill Black’s bag of tricks included blacking out some of his teeth, wearing oversized bloomers, and riding his stand-up base across the stage.  In “That’s Alright Elvis” Scotty Moore tells of the times on stage when Bill would take off Scotty’s belt while he was doing a guitar solo, and throw it out into the audience.

 

Bill parted company with Elvis in 1958.  He went on to considerable success with a string of instrumental hits by Bill Black’s Combo in the early 60’s.  He is a true trailblazer in the birth of rock & roll, and should be remembered when “The Legends” salute the 50th anniversary of rock & roll.  Bill Black’s spirit will be up on stage with them that night, a legacy from the ‘unsung legend.’

 

© 2004  Philip R Arnold

NOW APPEARING WITH THE LEGENDS

From:   50th Anniversary Of Rock & Roll Issue, August 2004

by Phil Arnold

Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, and the Jordanaires are the headliners at Darwin Lamm’s “The Legends” Salute the 50th Anniversary of Rock & Roll in Memphis this year.  But you will see many other musicians and singers on stage, rounding out the band and belting out the lead vocals.  All of them have a history with Elvis, a musical connection we draw on for this spectacular show.

Just about every artist on the stage at the Legends Salute has recorded with Scotty, DJ and the Jordanaires numerous times.  This show will be like a reunion of sorts for a group of veteran musicians who have known each other for 30-40 years.  When all these musical buddies assemble in Memphis in August, it won’t take a great deal of rehearsal time for them to get back into the old groove.  Scotty and DJ will have a very tight band that night.

BOB MOORE (Standup Bass):  No relation to Scotty, Bob Moore followed Bill Black as the bass player in the band behind Elvis for 28 recording sessions from 1958 to 1966.  He played bass on such hits as: “A Big Hunk of Love,” “I Got Stung,” “A Fool Such As I.” “Stuck On You,” “A Mess Of The Blues,” “It’s Now Or Never,” “Are You Lonesome tonight?”  and many, many  more.   Bob Moore is the quintessential Nashville session man, and has played bass in over 17,000 recording sessions.  The list of singers he backed would go on for several pages, but some notables include Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Roger Miller, Jim Reeves, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Don McLean, and Debbie Boone.  It has been noted that his dependability, his rock solid beat, his impeccable timing, and his ability to work well with other musicians were the keys to his success in a recording studio.  Bob Moore’s web-site claims he may well have played on more recordings than any other musician in the world, and that he could be the greatest all around bassist that has ever lived.

BUDDY HARMAN (Drums):  You will notice the Legends Salute has two drummers.  Second drummer duties will be performed admirably by Buddy Harmon, another famed studio musician, with almost as many recording sessions to his credit as Bob Moore.  Buddy Harman played on most Elvis recording sessions from 1958 to 1968.  Nine soundtrack albums from Elvis’ movies feature Buddy Harmon’s drumming.  His career also includes drum work with the Everly Brothers, Johnny Burnette, Patti Page, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrell, Simon and Garfunkel, Ann Margaret, Ringo Starr, and dozens more.  Buddy Harman has had two terms as house drummer for the Grand Ole Opry, and he was awarded ”Drummer of the Year” in 1981 by the Academy of Country Music.  He had the privilege of performing for four American presidents:  John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Regan.  Buddy Harman can be especially proud of being named by the Country Music Hall of Fame as one of a handful of top musicians recognized for creating the “Nashville Sound.”

BOOTS RANDOLPH (Sax):  Another member of the band was among the pioneering creators of the ‘Nashville Sound,’ and he has reached “legend” status on his own.  Boots Randolph has been a star ever since he recorded “Yakety Sax” in the early 60’s.  Several other hits followed, as did more than 40 albums.  In addition to recording and performing, Boots has been a much-sought-after session musician.  He was the first sax player to play on Elvis recordings, and the only one to have a sax solo in an Elvis song, in the superb blues number, “Reconsider Baby.”  Boots Randolph contributed to the soundtrack music for eight Elvis movies.  He has played with Chet Atkins, Buddy Holly, Alabama, Al Hirt, Johnny Cash, Pete Fountain, and Doc Severinsen.  He has appeared on numerous network TV shows, like those of Ed Sullivan, Mike Douglas, Johnny Carson and Jimmy Dean.  More recently, Boots has been a frequent guest on TNN’s “Music City Tonight” and “Prime Time Country.”

MILLIE KIRKHAM (Vocalist):  The Jordanaires and Millie Kirkham have recorded and performed together so much that, to many fans, Millie seems like the female member of the vocal group.  Millie was with the Jordanaires during her first Elvis recording session in September, 1957.  She last backed Elvis at a session in June of 1971.  In between her strong, clear soprano voice was recorded on dozens of Elvis’ songs including:  “Don’t,” “Blue Christmas,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Guitar Man,” “Surrender,” and ”Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  Millie Kirkham also appeared on stage with Elvis in Las Vegas.  As a fixture in the Nashville recording scene for decades, she has appeared on record with a galaxy of stars including:  Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, Brook Benton, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, and Eddy Arnold.

BILLY SWAN (Vocalist):  You will see a number of men playing guitar during the Legends Salute, and one of them, Billy Swan, will step to the mike to take over lead vocal duty for a part of the night.  He’s had lots of practice singing Elvis songs, having released a CD of them titled “Like Elvis Used To Do.”  Billy Swan had a two-million seller hit in 1974 called “Let Me Help,” which Elvis later recorded.  Billy Swan has been through just about every area of the music business.  In addition to his own singing, he has written songs covered by Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and many more.  Indeed, Swan wrote the Clyde McPhatter hit “Lover  Please” when he was just 16 years old.  He produced three albums including Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie.”  He was tour manager for Mel Tillis, Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, and Floyd Cramer.  Billy Swan even appeared in two movies and served as Assistant Musical Director on “Great balls Of Fire.”  Over the past decade, he has released a dozen CD’s, including “The Sun Studio Story.”

EDDIE MILES (Vocalist):  Only one Elvis tribute artist will be presented at the Legends Salute.  Eddie Miles is without a doubt among the very best, and he has a huge national following.  All tribute artists have the costumes and the hair, and they sound like Elvis, but no one looks more like the King than Eddie Miles.  On top of that, he has a smile that connects with the audience.  You just want to like the guy.  Scotty Moore once said, “Eddie Miles, a fine entertainer, respectfully re-creating the image.  But, most of all, keeping the music alive.”  As he did at the Legends Concert two years ago, Miles will specialize in songs from the jump suit era.  He will dig deep into the Elvis musical library and perform some lesser-known songs.  Fans who dig Eddie Miles will be able to see him headline his own show later in Elvis Week.

STAN PERKINS (Vocalist and Guitar):  If DJ Fontana or Buddy Harman need to take a break during the Legends Salute, Stan Perkins can fill in admirably.  He is the first born son of Carl Perkins, and he played drums in is father’s band for 22 years.  He also recorded with Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Paul Simon and John Fogerty.  After Carl Perkins passed away, Stan emerged to pursue his own career.  He is an accomplished guitar player, an excellent singer, and a grand showman who carries on the family tradition in rockabilly and rock ‘n roll music.  You will be thoroughly entertained when Stan Perkins talks the stage to sing the songs of both Elvis and his dad.

LEE ROCKER (Vocalist and Standup Bass):  A big surprise at the “25th Anniversary, The Legends Concert,” was Lee Rocker, who has currently rejoined the Stray Cats on a European tour and returns just in time for The Legends Concert August 13th.

 

© 2004  Philip R Arnold

 

Contributing Editor Phil Arnold wouldn’t miss the Legends Salute for anything.  He can be reached at philarnold@charter.net.

THE NEARLY FORGOTTEN ORIGINAL SONGS

From:  69th Birthday Tribute Issue, Junuary, 2004
 

by Phil Arnold 


Elvis’ first commercial recording session at Sun Recoerds, on July 5 1954, produced three songs.  That’s All Right (Mama) started a musical revolution.  What’s the story on the other two songs?
 
We’ve all heard the tale many times.  Elvis and Scotty and Bill were playing a few songs that first night, but nothing really clicked.  Then, Elvis started cutting up with That’s All Right (Mama), a blues song released eight years earlier by Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup.  Scotty and Bill joined in, and in no time the three musicians were cookin’.
 
Then, Sam Phillips rushed out of the control room and asked Elvis what he was doing.   Sam told them to do it again, this time with the tape player going.  A short time later, Elvis had the song for his first 45 RPM release in the can, and the rest is history.
 
So what were the two songs they did before catching magic in a bottle? 
 
Harbor Lights was the first song put on tape, and Sam Phillips was not happy with it.  Elvis’ voice was high and thin, as though the song should have been played at a lower key.  The instrumentation is sparse and at a surprisingly low volume.  Even Elvis’ chorus of whistling in the middle did nothing to enhance this generally weak ballad.
 
Sam Phillips filed the tape away as nothing more than a warm-up effort, where the boys got used to working together.  When RCA bought Elvis’ contract and his entire Sun catalogue of 19 songs, they apparently saw little value in Harbor Lights.  It remained unreleased for the next twenty years.
 
Even when RCA released “The Sun Sessions” in 1975, Harbor Lights was still in bad favor and was not included.  The producers correctly assessed it would distract from the cohesive Rockabilly sound of the rest of the Sun songs.  “The Sun Sessions” album was compiled to present a top quality package, so Harbor Lights would have to wait for use as a curiosity item.
 
And curiosities were exactly what RCA featured in the 1976 double LP, “Elvis – A Legendary Performer, Volume 2.”  Even back then, record producers realized the strength of the public’s demand for never-before-heard Elvis songs.  This album contained a little bit of everything:  an alternate version of I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, in which Elvis reversed the lyrics; unreleased live versions of Blue Suede Shoes and Baby What You Want Me To Do from the “68’ Comeback Special”; an alternate version of Blue Hawaii from the “Aloha from Hawaii” TV special; in addition to the nearly forgotten song from that first Sun recording session.
 
Harbor Lights was also selected for the six-record boxed set, “A Golden Celebration.”  Released in 1984, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Elvis’ birth, this album also tapped into the deep vein of fan yearning for something different in Elvis songs.  It contained outtakes from the Sun sessions, as well as songs from “The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show”, “The Milton Berle Show”, “The Ed Sullivan Show”, and the ever-popular “Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.”
 
Harbor Lights also appeared on the four-disk “The Complete Sun Sessions” in 1987 and the five-disc “Elvis, The Complete 50’s Masters” in 1992.   It has probably been on several other CD’s since then, but it’s been hard to keep up with everything that’s coming out these days. 
 
Its not surprising Elvis chose this song.  It had previously been a popular number for Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Ray Anthony.  The Platters had a top-ten hit with Harbor Lights in 1960.
 
The second song recorded on July 5, 1954, was I Love You Because, previously released by Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry, Eddie Fisher, and Patti Page.  Although Elvis and the boys improved with their second effort, Sam Phillips wasn’t crazy about this song, either.  There still wasn’t any spark in Elvis’ voice, and more whistling certainly didn’t help.  At least he instrumentation was better, indicating the three musicians were starting to get comfortable with each other. 
 
Sam had five takes, but he deemed none to be worthy of commercial release.  However, when Elvis’ fame skyrocketed, RCA saw it differently.  In early 1956, they created a hybrid version using splices of takes #3 and 5 from the Sun tapes and included it in Elvis’ first album, “Elvis Presley.”  Later that year, RCA put I Love You Because on the flip side of a 45 record featuring another previously unreleased Sun recording, Trying To get To You.
 
A different version of I Love You Because showed up in 1974 on “Elvis – A Legendary Performer, Volume I.”  This time it was take 2.  Both the spliced version (now called the ‘master’) and take 2 appeared on “The Sun Sessions” in 1975.  This album was re-released on CD in 1999 and is now considered a must for serious collectors of Elvis music.  VH1 named “The Sun Sessions” number 20 in their ranking of the Top 100 Rock & Roll Albums Of All Time.
 
The most dedicated Elvis collectors were enticed by 1987’s four-disc set, “The Complete Sun Sessions,” which must contain every single minute of tape Sam Phillips recorded when Elvis was singing.  It has outtakes galore and a numbing quantity of alternate versions, including all five takes of I Love You Because.  If that sounds like overkill, the album contains seven alternate takes of I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.
 
When Elvis went home the night of July 5, 1954, he must have been excited about the prospects for his first single release.  He and Scotty and Bill were back the next night, and they clicked again on Blue Moon of Kentucky.
 
 On July 19, Sun Records released Elvis Presley’s first record, That’s All Right (Mama) with Blue Moon of Kentucky on the flip side.  The world was never the same since.
 
© 2004  Philip R Arnold

HOW MANY MUSIC HALLS OF FAME CAN ONE MAN BE IN?

From:  69th Birthday Tribute Issue, January 2004

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

Much heartfelt praise of Sam Phillips has been given in other sections of this journal.  His huge contribution to American popular music has been deeply chronicled and generously applauded.

 

All this achievement has also been recognized by four different music halls of fame.  Sam Phillips is comfortably enshrined in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Blues Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and The Country Music Hall of Fame.  It is safe to say this achievement is something few other people have any chance of equaling.

 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized Sam Phillips first.  Back in 1986, when the charter members were enshrined, Sam Phillips was one of two inductees in the Non-Performer category. As the Hall’s web-site states, “Sun Records produced more rock and roll records than any other label of its time.  They included songs that served as the foundation for rock and roll.” 

 

The other charter member in the Non-Performer category was Alan Freed, the legendary disc jockey who is credited with bringing the phrase Rock and Roll into popular use.  Over the years, this category has added more legends like Dick Clark, Phil Spector, and Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who wrote “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and eighteen other songs Elvis recorded.

 

Not only was Sam honored as a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, so were two of his famous protégés. Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were in the elite class of only ten performers selected.  The next year, two more Sun Records performers, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, joined the group.  The circle was completed in 1992 when Johnny Cash became the fifth performer who started with Sam Phillips to join him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

These five singers who joined Sam in the Rock Hall are with him as well in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  This is not surprising, because this hall has over 5000 members, all of which were inducted in 1997.  The list includes many other Sun Records performers, most notably Charlie Rich, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Feathers, and Rosco Gordon.  Even if the Rockabilly Hall of Fame had a much more exclusive membership, it is safe to say that Sam Phillips and these nine singers would all be included.

 

The Rockabilly Hall of Fame’s web-site pays special tribute to the sound that Sam Phillips’ recordings produced.  “Sun records were often imbued with a “slapback echo,” created by a small tape delay when the signal was bounced between machines.  Whether on sessions principally overseen by Phillips or others, Sun studio personnel were good at positioning instruments so that an especially crisp sound merged.  The resulting ‘Sun Sound’ was recognizable enough that many collectors automatically respect and purchase almost anything on the label.”

 

In 1998, Sam was selected for membership in the Blues Hall of Fame, again in the “Non-Performer” category.  This time, he was preceded by several of the blues greats who got their start with him at the Memphis Recording Service, the precursor of Sun Records: BB King, Walter Horton, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Milton.  A few years later, Rufus Thomas and Junior Parker, two other artists Sam successfully produced, joined him and the other performers.  It is interesting to note that two of these bluesmen also made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:  B.B. King as a performer, and Howlin’ Wolf as an early Influence.

 

The Blues Hall of Fame recognized Sam Phillips’ contributions to blues music with this praise on their web-site:  “Before Elvis Presley ever walked through the door…, Sam Phillips’ place in history was already assured, thanks to the hundreds of powerful blues recordings he produced in the early 50’s.  It is for that body of work, some of the best most classic blues recordings of all time, that he is now being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.”

 

Sam Phillips’ most recent recognition was given By The Country Music Hall of Fame.  In 2001, barely two years before his passing, Sam was enshrined.  It makes you wonder what took them so long, when you read a quote like this from their web-site, “Just as the music his artists created still inspires new generations of performers and fans in country music and other genres, Sam Phillips stands as one of American music’s most singular figures.”

 

Two of Sam’s protégés proceeded him into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Johnny Cash was in the class of 1980, and Elvis was inducted in 1998.

 

So, there it is – Sam Phillips is in four different music halls of fame.  He was the producer for seven performers who made The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, six who made the Blues Hall of Fame, two who made the Country Music Hall of Fame, and nine genuine legends in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

 

It’s very easy to agree with the assessment that Sam Phillips was one of the most influential figures in the history of American music.

 

What The Halls of Fame Web-sites Have to Say

About Sam Phillips

 

 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

 

“Phillips not only recorded the varied streams that flowed throughout the South in the Fifties – from blues to country and gospel music – but was convinced he could bring them together in on irresistible package.

 

Phillips launched Sun records on its 16-year, 226 single run.  These 45’s with the familiar Sun logo amount to a treasure of music whose greatest moments mark the spot where rock and roll originated and thrived in all its frantic, wild-eyed abandon.”

 

Rockabilly Hall of Fame: 

 

“Sam Phillips is not just one of the most important producers in rock history.  There’s a good argument to be made that he is also one of the most important figures in 20th-century American culture.”

 

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />Blues Hall of Fame:

 

“Sam Phillips was often greeted crudely by the citizens of Memphis who couldn’t understand the traffic of black musicians in and out of his recording studio.  Back in the early days… blues legends-in-the making such as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Little Milton, Rufus Thomas and dozens more were making regular trips to 706 Union Ave.”

 

Country Music Hall of Fame:

 

 “By helping to ignite the rockabilly explosion of the 1950’s, Sam Phillips dramatically shaped the history of country music.  Phillips encouraged artists not to polish their work but to rely on their own natural energy and straight-ahead, unfettered performances.”

 

© 2004  Philip R Arnold

ELVIS ALMANAC: A Flashback of Memorable Elvis International Issues

From:  26th Anniversary Issue, August 2003

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

“ELVIS”, a.k.a. The ’68 Comeback Special  

 

“Elvis International” featured The ’68 Comeback Special in our first year, and again ten years later in the Winter 1998 issue.  In the more recent coverage, Donna Deen personalized this turning point in Elvis’s career by describing some of her own feelings as she watched the show.

 

“… Elvis was in the prime of his professional and personal life, singing with an urgency and rawness that couldn’t help but reach out and grab me.  In the ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis looked a bit dangerous, maybe a little too good-looking, and he dripped with attitude – not one of arrogance, necessarily, but certainly one that shouted, ‘so don’t you mess around with me.’  There were precious moments, though, when his vulnerability, humor and sheer love of performing shined through loud and clear.”

           

Later in the article, Donna pointed out some of the special moments during the live set where Elvis wore that famous black leather outfit.  “Remember the fan with the ELVIS button on her dress who sat ringside and gave Elvis a hanky to wipe his sweat?  Or the lady who carefully placed a piece of lint from Elvis’ face in her purse after Charlie Hodge presented it to her?”

           

Two other features on the ’68 Comeback Special round out the coverage in the Winter 1998 Elvis International, one of our most popular issues ever.  Fortunately, good quantities of this back issue are available for those wishing to read more.

 

ELVIS!   “You’re In The Army Now!”

 

In the fall of 1995, “Elvis International” found a unique way to feature The Army Years.  We reprinted the entire Associated Press article describing Elvis’ first day of military processing, including all 13 accompanying photographs.  The 37 year-old flashback began:

 

“ARKANSAS, (AP) Fort Chaffee, Tuesday, March 25, 1958   Elvis Presley arrived at Fort Chaffee, Monday night wearing a gray plaid jacket and black and pink socks.  21 other recruits from Memphis accompanied the rock ‘n roll star.”

 

The article goes on to describe in minute detail all sorts of interesting tidbits, such as what Elvis ate for breakfast (eggs, toast, and cereal), and what he washed it down with (milk, not coffee).

 

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the AP writer got long-winded when describing Elvis’ Army haircut.

“The sideburns went first, next the back and then the top.  Elvis shortly had a regulation haircut, one inch long, high in the front, tapering in the back and no sideburns.  Presley smiled for photographers as the haircut progressed.  He blew locks of the hair off  the palm of his hand for the benefit of the cameras.  Before the hair could be dumped in the trash, several photographers and Chaffee soldiers scooped it off the floor.”

 

The Fall 1995 issue of “Elvis International” is full of additional Elvis Army photographs.  For those fans who would like to read more about this significant period, there are a limited number of back issues available.

 

NIGHTMARE IN MEMPHIS    August 16, 1977

 

The 20th anniversary of Elvis’ untimely death came during the tenth year of “Elvis International.”  Of course, a tribute issue was in order, but how do you present such a heart-wrenching story?

 

The answer was to share the poignant memories of a true fan who actually went to Elvis’ viewing in Graceland.  Judy Kuniba heard on the Today Show that the Presley family had decided to allow fans to view Elvis one last time, and she knew she had to go to Memphis – immediately.

 

Her fascinating story touches the emotions on several levels, as shown in the following paragraph:  “As I walked through the door into Graceland, I felt dazed and unsure of my senses.  Images of a crystal chandelier and mirror seemed to hurl themselves at me.  Everything seemed to reflect red, and I was conscious of people in adjoining rooms and children on the steps.  Then, I saw HIM and nothing else.  He was all in white with a light blue shirt, and my first thought was that he looked like a real Southern gentlemen, the master of this fine old home.  Then, he suddenly reminded me of Vernon Presley as he had never done before, something in the set of his jaw and expression.  His hair was very black, which accented the paleness of his face.  He seemed to be sleeping.  It was so unreal to me.”

 

Very heavy stuff, Judy.  Very moving for all of the readers of the Summer 1997 issue of “Elvis International.”  Limited quantities of back issues available.

 

The Las Vegas Years

 

Our very first issue in 1988 featured the Las Vegas years, and we have come back to this wonderful subject many times.  Especially in one of the best Elvis International issues ever:  Spring 1996. 

 

Although thousands of people saw Elvis perform in Las Vegas, not very many got invited to the after-show parties at his suite atop the International Hotel.  Well, two of the lucky fans who did told their remarkable stories in this same issue.

 

Luck really had nothing to do with it.  Commitment to a dream, and determination to carry it out, were far more responsible for the success of Kathie (Kitten) Spehar and Robin Rosaaen.  One year, Kathie went to both Elvis shows every night for two weeks.  Robin logged in an impressive total of 72 Elvis performances in Las Vegas and California.

 

Kathie had the thrill of being invited to Elvis’ suite a few times, and she chose to write about her experience helping a good friend get invited for the first time.  It took four days of serious effort to pull it off.  Kathie kept after Red West with three phone calls and one visit in the lobby, before success was achieved.

 

Here are Kathie’s words as Elvis walked into that party.  “All of a sudden, we heard Elvis’ voice and he came into the living room area and he looked absolutely gorgeous!  Tight black pants, a blue print shirt with the collar up in back, black boots, black and silver belt, everything about him was perfect!”

 

When Robin saw her first Elvis concert in 1970, it started what she called “a six and a half year affair of the heart with the King of Rock ‘n Roll.  With each new concert attendance, I became a little more educated in methods of obtaining closer proximity to the object of my desire.”

 

Once she became a front row regular, Robin came up with a unique idea to get Elvis’ attention.  “I worked for European Health Spa.  One of our promotions at the time included a slogan which read “I Want Your Body.”  I had numerous opportunities to offer buttons, T-shirts, etc. to Elvis with this suggestive phrase written prominently upon them.  In turn, I was rewarded with scarves and kisses, until one evening in February of 1974 …”  You’ll have to read the Spring, 1996 issue to find out what happened, and fortunately there are fair supplies of back copies available.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

ELVIS PERFORMERS UNITE FOR 25TH ANNIVERSARY

From:  68th Birthday Issue, January 2003

(When It Comes To Elvis Week concerts, Nobody Can Assemble Musical Friends of Elvis Like Publisher And Concert Promoter Darwin Lamm)

by Phil Arnold

 

The man at the head of this fine magazine is too modest to toot his own horn, so I will do it for him.  It’s hard to imagine the 25th Anniversary celebration in Memphis without the concerts presented by Darwin Lamm – and the incredible list of people from Elvis’ past Darwin gathered together at these events. Elvis International, The Magazine sponsored three major concerts on August 13, 14, and 17, 2002.

 

THE LEGENDS

 

 First up was “The Legends” concert featuring Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, and The Jordanaires.  The fans packed the grand ballroom of the downtown Peabody Hotel, and they were treated to a night of outstanding music.  You could feel the love and admiration of the crowd for these two pioneers of Rock ‘n Roll.  DJ has played drums behind dozens of notable singers in Nashville for decades, but Scotty once went for 28 years without performing on stage.  Fortunately, Darwin was able to coax him to play at this big event.  Those familiar, classic guitar licks didn’t sound one bit rusty.  Scotty was back in the groove.

 

Of course, it takes more than two musicians to make a band, so Darwin also presented a talented group of men who played on various Elvis recording sessions in the 50’s, 60’s, and the 70’s.  On bass was Bob Moore, who played on 28 of Elvis’ sessions following the departure of Bill Black in 1958.  Bob also wrote the theme song for the hit TV show “My Three Sons.”  On keyboards was David Briggs, who played  at eight of Elvis’ recording sessions and several live concerts.  Second drummer duties were handled admirably by Buddy Harman, a studio musician who performed on nine Elvis movie soundtracks.  Buddy’s career also included drum work with the Everly Brothers and the Johhny Burnrtte Trio.

 

Special guest treatment at the “Legends” concert was afforded to the only man ever to perform a saxophone solo on an Elvis hit – Boots Randolph.  Boots, a hit maker in his own right, performed on twenty-one Elvis recording sessions in Nashville.

 

Of course, all these great musicians couldn’t put on a concert without somebody singing, and here Darwin scored big.  The evening started with Lee Rocker, former bass player for the rockabilly band  “The Stray Cats.”  Lee pounded on a big old upright bass and did a great job on the vocals of almost every song Elvis recorded at Sun records.  It was a great start for a long evening of favorite old songs.

 

Next up was Billy Swan, another rockabilly singer of note.  Billy blended well with Scotty Moore, playing rhythm guitar the entire evening, but he shined when he took the mike to sing many Elvis songs from the 60’s.  Billy had a hit in 1974 called “Let Me Help,” which Elvis later recorded.  Billy also wrote the Clyde McPhatter hit “Lover Please” when he was just 16 years old.

 

During Billy Swan’s set, back-up singers of the first order were added.  The Jordinaires treated the fans to their beloved harmonies on several songs that just wouldn’t seem the same without them.  Fan favorite, Gordon Stoker, has been with the group since it first recorded with Elvis in 1956, and Ray Walker has been on-board since 1958.  Joining the Jordinaires, as she did many times in the past, was Millie Kirkham.  Millie sang back-up on Elvis recordings and in live performances for fifteen years starting in 1957.

 

Next up as lead singer was Stan Perkins, son of the legendary performer Carl Perkins, and a heck of a talent in his own right.  Carl had been a regular fixture at the Good Rockin’ Tonight concerts Darwin Lamm presented at past Elvis Weeks, and Stan should be welcome at any future shows.  His far-too-short set included three of his dad’s hits, and he really had the crowd hopping.  Of special interest was his performance of a song containing only the names of Elvis songs as lyrics.

 

Believe it or not, there was even more talent to come.  The final set gave the audience a taste of the next night’s main attraction, Eddie Miles.  Eddie is without a doubt one of the very best Elvis tribute artists, and he did a few of the King’s hits from the 70’s to end the show.

 

SALUTE TO ELVIS

 

 The fans walked away from “The Legends” happily extolling it as on of the most fun concerts they had ever attended.  Many of these same folks were back in the audience at the Peabody the next night for Darwin second spectacular concert, “Salute To Elvis.” 

 

This time, Eddie Miles headlined and proved why he has such a national following.  All tribute artists have the costumes and the hair, and they sound like Elvis. But no one looks more like the King than Eddie Miles.  More than that, he has a smile that connects with the audience.  You just want to like this guy.

 

Backed by his own band, Eddie turned in superb performances on dozens of songs, especially those from the jump-suit years.  However, Darwin gave the audience more, adding many additional faces to the normal Eddie Miles road show.

 

MC duties were handled for the second night in a row by Red Robinson, generally regarded as the first Canadian disc jockey to play Elvis recordings on the air.  Robinson’s famous interview of Elvis on August 31, 1957 in Vancouver, BC is included in his narration of his concept album “Elvis – A Canadian Tribute,” featuring songs written by Canadian composers.

 

For most of the night, Eddie Miles also had the benefit of background singers with strong Elvis connections.  Ed Enoch and The Golden Covenant, former members of JD Sumner and The Stamps, did a great job on many of the songs they helped Elvis record from 1972 to 1977    JD was missed, but Ed and the boys carried on in the Stamps tradition and added much to the feel of a live Elvis concert.

 

So too did Myrna Smith, another veteran of the 70’s touring years.  Along with two other fine ladies, she provided the familiar female backing sound so generic to the ‘Vegas’ sound of Elvis’ later music.

 

The band and singers took short breaks when Darwin brought out two old Elvis buddies.  Joe Esposito almost needed no introduction for Elvis fans, but he got one anyway:  Army buddy, road manager, best man, and dear friend.  He certainly is one of the fan’s favorites.  Joe can go on for hours with Elvis stories, but time was short.

 

The other old buddy, Charlie Hodge, talked about Elvis, and he also sang harmony with Eddie Miles on two songs.  Charlie is famous for handing Elvis his water and scarves on stage, but he did much more than that.  Charlie was a guitarist and singer who recorded two duets with Elvis and complemented his vocals on stage.  Charlie became an Elvis buddy in 1956, served with him in the Army in Germany, and lived at Graceland for seventeen years, supervising many musical and personal aspects of Elvis’ life.

 

When Eddie Miles sang the last song, the audience knew they had indeed seen a fitting 25th Anniversary Tribute concert.  Darwin Lamm had presented a second night of great Elvis music    but more was to come.

 

THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TRIBUTE

 

The fans had to wait three nights for the third and last of the Elvis International trilogy.  After a fitting pause in deference to the midnight vigil on Thursday night and the huge 25th Anniversary presentation of “Elvis – The Concert” on Friday, August 16th, Darwin blew it out the following night.  For the fans still in Memphis on Saturday night, August 17th, this was indeed the “Farewell Tribute Concert.”

 

The grand ballroom of the Peabody Hotel was crammed with wall-to-wall people, all anticipating a bang-up performance by the famous TCB band.  They certainly were not disappointed.  All four men were at the top of their game.

 

James Burton of course anchored the group as lead guitar player.  James was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, joining Scotty Moore as the second Elvis Presley guitar player to be honored in the relatively new Sideman category.  He was a member of the Louisiana Hayride house band in the mid-fifties and was requited for Ricky Nelson’s band in 1958.  For the next eight years James recorded and performed with Nelson, including appearances in all the closing musical segments of the Ozzie and Harriet TV show.  When Elvis asked James to form a new band, he professed watching the show every week to see him play.  James organized the TCB band and toured and recorded with Elvis from 1969 to 1977.

 

Playing bass was Jerry Scheff, another original member of the TCB Band.  Jerry’s association with Elvis goes back to 1966 when he played on the “Easy Come, Easy Go” soundtrack recording session.  During the concert Jerry related a number of charming Elvis stories to the fans.  We learned how he composed the song “The Fire Down Below” about Elvis’ determination to conquer his problems and get back to good health.  Jerry is convinced to this day that Elvis was going to do it, but the tragedy of August 16, 1977 came first.  Elvis had planned to record the song, but never got the chance.

 

Pounding out the ivories on the piano was Glen D. Hardin, a TCB member from 1970 on.  Prior to his time with Elvis, Glen performed with the post-Buddy Holly Crickets, and subsequently performed in Emmylou Harris’ traveling band.

 

Providing the rhythm behind these bandmates was drummer Ronnie Tutt.  Ronnie looked great, obviously recovered from the heart bypass surgery he underwent in 1999.  After his seven years in the TCB Band, Ronnie backed Neil Diamond on tour for almost 20 years and recorded or performed with dozens of rock and country acts.

 

With a group of musicians this talented, Darwin had to come up with an equally great singer, and he did.  Terry Mike Jeffrey is a renowned performer who has taken his show all over the country and numerous foreign countries during the past twenty years.  His repertoire of songs is huge, but he specializes in Elvis material.  In fact, Terry Mike has released three albums of Elvis songs.

 

Unlike Elvis tribute artists, Terry Mike performs without the jumpsuits, black hair and sideburns, and he makes no attempt to sound just like Elvis.  But he can do a bang-up job singing the songs.

 

The show opened with the Terry Mike Jeffrey Band, including his wife and son.  One notable substitution was DJ Fontana on drums for the first few songs.  When DJ left to catch a plane, he got a rousing send-off from the appreciating crowd.

 

A short time late, Red Robinson introduced the TCB Band, and things got hot.  Terry Mike handled the singing duties alone for while, but soon a cast of Elvis friends joined the action.  Charlie Hodge was back to sing a few duets and tell stories..

 

Fan favorite Joe Esposito enlivened the proceedings on stage for a while, and there were two especially poignant moments.  After being too ill to appear at the earlier shows, Sam Phillips came out this night to thunderous applause.  Sam looked great in a spiffy white suit, and he delivered inspiring, but all too short remarks. 

 

Darwin came up with something of a surprise for the audience with guest singer John Wilkinson.  Best known as the TCB rhythm guitar player, John and James Burton were the only two musicians in every one of the bands performances with Elvis.  Before that, John enjoyed a solo singing career and occasional fill-in duty with the Kingston Trio on tour.  When Elvis turned the stage spotlight over to his bandmates, he had John sing the hit “Early Morning Rain.”  In 1989 John suffered a severe stroke, ending his guitar playing days.  But he did a great job singing at the Farewell Tribute concert.

 

To end the evening Darwin called on the legendary Al Dorvin to proclaim his famous words, “Elvis has left the building.”  As the fans left the building, they knew they had witnessed an historic concert.  If they had attended all three of Darwin Lamm’s productions, they had to be impressed with the wealth of talent he had assembled.  It is doubtful that as many musical friends of Elvis will ever be together again, but if anybody can do it, Darwin will.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

THE ELVIS STAMP REVISITED

From:  68th Birthday Issue, January 2003

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

Can you believe it’s been ten years since the Elvis stamp came out?  You and I and every other Elvis fan bought 124 million of them, making it the biggest seller in US history.

 

Of course, we put most of our Elvis stamps away as collectibles.  A short time later, the Postal Service threw us a curve by reissuing the stamp as part of their Rock ‘n‘ Roll Pioneers series.  It had the same picture, but used the full name, Elvis Presley, and you had to purchase them as part of a set with eight other early rockers.

 

I bought the sets, separated out the Elvis stamps, and used Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Holly and the rest to mail envelopes.  I probably should have saved the sets, but at least I saved the second Elvis stamps.  They’re the ones that are going to be rare and valuable down the road.

 

Do you remember the Postal Service’s contest to decide which Elvis picture to use on the stamp — the ‘young Elvis’ from his early Memphis days or the ‘old Elvis’ from his Las Vegas days?  I voted for the young Elvis seven times.  A total of 1.2 million votes were cast nationally.

 

Voting was easy.  You simply went down to the post office and asked for ballots.  They were self-addressed postcards showing the two competing drawings, with boxes to check for your choice.  I got ten ballots and kept three as collectibles.

 

Yes, I admit it.  I’m an Elvis collector, but I’m not compulsive about it.  I showed my restraint when a catalog from Graceland came in the mail shortly after the stamps were issued.  It contained 28 items featuring the Elvis stamp picture, but the only things I bought were the baseball cap, the T-shirt, the refrigerator magnet, and the beach towel.  The Elvis stamp watch doesn’t count, because my wife gave it to me for Christmas later that year.

 

Back when the Elvis stamps first came out, I bought lots of other related stuff, too.  The Postal Service got surprisingly creative and offered a full-color commemorative book in the exact size and shape of an old vinyl LP album cover.  Naturally, I had to have that.

 

I also put in an order with one of those mail-order stamp collectors societies to get five special envelopes, postmarked in Memphis on the first day of issue, January 8, 1993.  In addition to the stamp, each envelope had a different full-color drawing of Elvis on it, and the postmarks were in the design of the grillwork of the iron gates at Graceland.  Someday, I hope to trade one or two of these envelopes for some equally cool Elvis goodie.

 

That special purchase put me on the permanent mailing list of the mail-order stamp company, and since then many catalogs have come in, all containing new Elvis stamps.  One had a choice of Elvis stamps from eight foreign countries.  Big stamps.  Expensive ones.  Even a nifty set of nine different poses, connected together to make a sheet.  Yes, I had to get that.

 

For years, each catalog from that mail-order company contained different, colorful Elvis stamps issued by the Republic of Chad in Africa.  I guess the Chad government figured they had a good thing going and decided to keep issuing new ones.  Someday you may look up Chad in the encyclopedia and see their main export listed as Elvis stamps.

 

The most unique offer from Chad was a double stamp.  On one side was Elvis holding a guitar; on the other was Bill Clinton holding a saxophone.  The caption above the picture of the stamp set said (I’m not making this up), “Elvis and Bubba.”  That was pretty funny, but I didn’t want Bill Clinton’s face in my Elvis collection, so I didn’t buy any of these stamps.

 

However, if the Postal Service would ever consider pairing Elvis with someone else, I have a suggestion.  How about an “Elvis and Gladys” stamp, issued as a Mothers Day commemorative.  The Postal Service would be hard pressed to find another image that better depicts a son’s love for his mom.

 

They better hurry, though, or Chad will beat them to it.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

 

Phil Arnold is a free-lance writer and big Elvis fan at e-mail address:  philarnold@charter.net