Monthly Archives: November 2006

EPE GIVES OK to ETA's

I just read the news that Elvis Presley Enterprises is finally going to embrace Elvis tribute artists next summer in Memphis.  They will stage The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest on August 17th at the end of Elvis Week 2007.  I think this is a great move, both for Graceland and for the fans.  This is outstanding news.

 

I regularly check out www.elvisnews.com to look for story ideas, and this announcement was posted on November 16.  It received a massive number of Comments, and most of them were negative.  People were saying the tribute artists had no talent and were tarnishing Elvis’ image.  Wrong!  These naysayers are so wrong. 

 

Sure, there are some fat, no-talent imitators around, but that’s not what you’ll see at the final stages of this competition.   At this level, the ETA’s are entertainers of the first order who know how to give outstanding performances.  I can’t wait to see this show.

 

I have qualifications to say stuff like this.  I went to the Collingwood Elvis Festival in 2003 and 2005, and took in the final competitions there.  The best seats went for $75 (Canadian), the cheapest cost $25, and the arena was packed both times.  People would not pay that kind of money unless the shows were great, and they all left the arena happy.

 

Well, now the Collingwood competition in July will be a preliminary round for The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis.  With the EPE stamp of approval, the level of competition in Elvis tribute will go up even more.  The other announced preliminary round will be Tupelo’s Elvis Presley Festival Tribute Artist Competition in June.  Don’t be surprised if other Elvis festivals come on board, too.

 

There are a number of ETA’s who have full time careers with their traveling shows and no longer appear in contests.  I’m hoping some of them will want to get back into competition for this one.  I worked a Darwin Lamm concert at Elvis Week 2005, and saw five of these guys battling, trying to top each other, even though it wasn’t a competition.  If I was a judge, I’d pick them all as first place.

 

Sure, it’s not Elvis.  It’s 30 years too late for him to make the show in Memphis next year, but lets be happy with what we’ve got:  a couple of dozen or so of the top Elvis tribute artists in the world battling it out for the title.  If a fan wants to see what the live Elvis show was like, these guys can take you there.  When the lady fans run up to the stage to get a scarf and a kiss and come back to their seats in radiant happiness, you know these guys have nailed it pretty good.

 

They were backed at Collingwood by a live band, a very good one called “The Expense Account Band.”  Six or seven musicians and two female back-up singers.  They brag about knowing over 400 Elvis songs.  You can bet there will be a top-level band for the Ultimate Elvis competition.  Also, it will be held at the beautiful Cannon Center.  This is where the Memphis Opera performs, so you know the acoustics are wonderful.

 

I hope the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest uses the same divisions as Collingwood, because I really like The Early Years competition.  These performers put a lot of the Elvis body action into it, and that adds to the show.  Plus, they sing the music of my teenage years, so I love the songs they do.  Lot’s of folks said the Inspirational Elvis competition at Collingwood was outstanding, so we can look forward to a Gospel category in Memphis.  The Concert Vegas Years competition is very popular, but it usually gets down to a battle of ballads, including “If I Can Dream,” “American Trilogy,” and “Hurt.” Sorry, I want to see my Elvis move.  The Youth Division is cute and enjoyable, and it’s cheaper to watch.

 

If you are attending Elvis Week 2007, you should take in The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest at some level.  As soon as I post this, I’m sending off an e-mail to see about getting a comp ticket to The Early Years finals.

 

©   2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

Searching for Elvis in Cairo

For my wife and I, every vacation consists of two main pursuits: seeing interesting sights – and shopping.  Our just completed trip to Egypt was loaded with both.

 

Early in the schedule, we saw the awesome Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the priceless array of artifacts from King Tut’s Tomb.  Then came the thing that really turned my wife on – a trip to Cairo’s immense Khan El Khalili Bazaar that dates back to 1382.

 

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I got bored while she bartered with vendors over Egyptian jewelry, clothing, and trinkets, but I spotted a music kiosk and decided to amuse myself.  I went to the counter and asked the man if he had any Elvis Presley music.  He gave me a look easily interpreted as “Are you kidding me?”  Then, he briskly replied, “No Elvis.  Only Arabic music.”  I found small comfort in the fact that he at least seemed to know who Elvis was.

 

So, I wandered a bit farther into the market looking for another booth with CDs and tapes, but I couldn’t find one.  I didn’t get into the deeper recesses of the maze of narrow streets, and I never found anything like an American flea market. Every tiny store had new Egyptian souvenir stuff – and my wife bought tons of it.

 

On the cab ride from the Bazaar to the hotel, I recognized an interesting challenge and decided to accept it.  If my wife could bring home all her Egyptian stuff, I was determined to bring home some Elvis stuff.

 

The next day I walked a short distance from the Ramses Hilton to a gift shop called “My Love.”  Posted on the open front door was a panel showing two-dozen window decals.  Sure enough, there was an Elvis profile.  Flushed with success, I went in and showed the cashier what I wanted.  She got out a book with decals protected in clear plastic sleeves on each page. However, most sleeves were empty, and I had the sinking feeling I was going to get so close – but not score.  Then, near the end of the book, after five or six consecutive empty pages, she came to the Elvis decals.

 

There were even two versions of the Elvis pose: one in black and one in white.  They cost six Egyptians Pounds (about $1.15), so I bought one of each.  Later, I showed them to my wife and told her I was going to put one on our good car.  She snapped back, “No Way.”  Actually, her answer had one more word in it that you can figure out.

 

The following day I checked out the Ramses Hilton Center adjacent to our hotel.  This is a seven-story vertical mall with a movie theater, a video arcade, and a McDonald’s on the top floor.  I thought my chances of finding Elvis stuff might be pretty good.

 

One promising-looking shop had only an Arabic name on the sign, but it turned out to be a winner in my quest.  I found a four-inch square metal box, about one inch deep.  The lid had a clear plastic insert revealing a picture of Elvis glued inside.  The price was fifteen Pounds (about $2.65), so I bought it on the spot.  The store’s name translated into “The Good Face” or “The Face of Luck.”  The little box had no uniquely Egyptian use, so I will just call it my “Good Luck Elvis Box,” and store a deck of Elvis playing cards in it.

 

My last success was at a kiosk with the clever name of “Music” (in both English and Arabic).  When I asked the guy what he had by Elvis, he knelt down and shuffled through six-deep stacks of cassettes on the very bottom shelf.  There must have been a hundred tapes of American music, and he found three by Elvis.  They were a set of compilations with the titles “Rock,” “Country,” and “Inspirational.”  I chose the latter, paid my fifteen Pounds, and walked away a happy man.

 

My quest to find Elvis goodies in Egypt had been successfully achieved in just two days.  The quest to find the artifacts of another King, Tutankhamun, took eight years.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All Rights Reserved     www.ElvisBlog.net

 

ELVISBLOG NEWS — 11/05/06

A Week Without A Blog:  Your Elvisblog host has lost both his mother and his dog over the past seven weeks.  I need to get away for a while to let the hurt dissipate and to recharge the batteries, so there will be a week without a new post for the first time in the history of Elvisblog.  There is a new article posted today, but there won’t be another until Monday, November 20.  And that one will be posted late in the day after my wife and I return from our trip.

 

New Web Link:  I am proud to announce that Elvisblog has been added as a link on Scotty Moore’s website, www.scottymoore.net.  Scotty’s site is so filled with interesting stuff that it takes a long time to work your way down through the list of topics and reach Links, but some of his visitors have already clicked on “Elvis Blog” and discovered this site.  Thank you Scotty.

 

Looking Ahead To 2007:  Next year, this writer will retire from his paying job and have much more time to devote to Elvisblog.  My blogware software allows many more options than are currently being utilized, and three could be activated in 2007.  Pictures and photos should become part of many new articles.  The process for readers to post comments will be simplified, and a sign-in box to get regular e-mail notification of new posts may be instituted.

 

Phil Arnold, your Elvisblog host.

ELVIS' FAVORITE ROLLER COASTER GOES TO NORTH CAROLINA

A few months back, I researched an article for Elvisblog, but I didn’t write it because it seemed like there had to be another chapter of the story yet to come.  Well, finally this week, the missing piece was announced.  The famous Zippin Pippin roller coaster was sold to the tourism bureau in Roanoke Rapids, a small city in North Carolina.  It will ultimately be part of a very big project taking shape just off I-95 a few miles south of the Virginia border.

 

When it is completed, the Carolina Crossroads music and entertainment district will be a 1,000-acre tourist destination complete with water rides, a 1,500-seat music theater, a quaint shopping village, and Elvis’ much beloved Zippin Pippin.  Carolina Crossroads will be operated by Randy Parton, brother of country music superstar Dolly Parton, who operates Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN.

 

The Zippin Pippin had long been the top attraction at Libertyland, a Memphis amusement park that suffered from falling attendance and financial losses in recent years.  A sign at Libertyland proclaimed, “The King rented Libertyland August 8, 1977 from 1:15 am to 7 am to entertain a group of about 10 guests.  Decked in a blue jumpsuit and black leather belt, huge belt buckle with turquoise studs and gold chains, the King rode the Zippin Pippin repeatedly during a two-hour period… Elvis’ Libertyland rental became his last public appearance.  He died on August 16, 1977.”

 

According to www.elvispresleynews.com, in 2002, Joe Esposito related a story about Elvis at Libertyland: “His favorite joke was to ride the Zippin Pippin to the top and get the attendant to stop the cart at the top where he would get off and hide.  When the cart returned and Elvis was not there, everyone not in on the joke would freak out, thinking Elvis had fallen out.”

 

The Zippin Pippin is a 3,000-foot wooden roller coaster originally built in Memphis in 1912.  In 1923, it was dismantled and moved across town to the horsetrack in Montgomery Park, later known as the Mid-South Fairgrounds.  In 1976, many other rides and attractions were added to the property, and it was reopened as Libertyland.

 

After losing about $600,000 annually in recent years, Libertyland closed on October 29, 2005, and everything went on the auction block on June 21, 2006.  The winning bid on the Zippin Pippin was made by Steven Shutts and Robert Reynolds, owners of the Honky Tonk Hall of Fame & Rock-N-Roll Roadshow, a traveling collection of country and rock memorabilia.  Shutts and Reynolds really wanted to buy only the lead car in the train, the one Elvis always commandeered when he and the gang rode the Pippin.

 

However, the auction rules required all bids to cover the entire structure and all the cars.  Shutts and Reynolds had planned to go as high as $2,500 for Elvis’ lead car, so that’s what they bid for the whole works.  And they got it.  While other, more compact rides garnered as much as $170,000, the Zippin Pippin held little value for potential bidders, because of the logistical nightmare required by the auction rules — dismantling the entire structure and removing it within 30 days.  Obviously, Shutts and Reynolds did extensive negotiations with Libertyland, because the roller coaster is still there.  Now, it looks like things worked out well for everybody concerned (except for some die-hard Memphis folks still trying to keep the coaster there). 

 

Carolina Crossroads is delighted to be getting the Zippin Pippin.  Roller coaster enthusiasts are pleased that wrecking crews won’t demolish the country’s second oldest operating wooden coaster.  Memphis can redevelop their valuable mid-town property.  And Shutts and Reynolds most likely made a few bucks on the deal, although they aren’t saying what the sales price was.

 

I’ll venture a guess that they held on to Elvis’ lead car and it will become a prominent part of the Honky Tonk Hall of Fame & Rock-N-Roll Roadshow. As it travels around the country to conventions, college events, grand openings, etc., it offers photo opportunities featuring some of the memorabilia.  If they offered you a chance to be photographed in Elvis’ Zippin Pippin roller coaster car, wouldn’t you go for it?  I would!

 

©   2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net