Monthly Archives: August 2007

MORE STORIES FROM ELVIS WEEK 2007

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If you were willing to allocate a bunch of time and money for Elvis Week, you came back from Memphis with one terrific experience.  Over the course of ten days, there was a wonderful array of Elvis stuff for you to do and see, and most people tried to cram in several every day.

 

Good for them.  I didn’t get to do many, but what I did was a super intense Elvis experience, so I’m happy.  And, I did pick up a few stories that will be fun to pass on. 

 

While talking with Millie Kirkham backstage, I asked her about once wearing a mini-skirt on stage with Elvis, and she brightened up and got very talkative.  Here’s the story.  Back in 1970, Elvis, along with the TCB Band, The Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations and Millie traveled to Las Vegas for the filming of Elvis, That’s The Way It Is.  Millie went to one of the better clothing stores on the strip and bought an evening gown to wear during the concert filming.  When everybody showed up, Millie saw the Sweet Inspirations were all wearing mini-skirts.  Millie thought she would look out of sync with them, so she hurried out and bought a mini-skirt.

 

In the film, they show Elvis and everybody walking briskly from backstage toward the International Hotel concert stage.  The clip lasts a few seconds, and you can clearly see Millie moving along on the outside of the group.  The mini-shirt is plainly visible. 

 

Millie says she didn’t have mini-skirt legs, and she cringes every time she sees that footage.  What really bugs her is that so many new Elvis DVDs have come out in the past twenty years, and they all seem to include that clip.

 

Another story is about a rumor that floated around the mezzanine level of the Peabody Hotel.  Two days before the finals of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, the word was that Shawn Klush already had it wrapped up.  One reason offered was that he was already signed up to perform on The Elvis Cruise in September.  But the big reason was supposed to be that Shawn had done the Elvis part in the filmed helicopter trip that would be the lead-in for Elvis, The 30th Anniversary Concert.

 

Well, it turned out that Shawn Klush was crowned the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist.  I don’t have a clue if there is anything to the rumor, and I don’t care.  I were a judge, he’d get my vote.  Shawn Klush is a terrific talent and the ideal package of Elvis looks, voice and moves.  I don’t know what Darwin Lamm paid him this year to perform in his Spirit of The King concerts, but he’ll never get Shawn for that price again.

 

If you went to Scotty Moore’s tribute concert, The Last Man Standing, you were treated to a fine vocal performance by Billy Swan.  Billy is good.  He was very approachable, and autographed my mint-condition 45 record of his hit “I Can Help.”  He also gave me a copy of his 1990 CD, Billy Swan’s Best.  It is excellent, and I just love his cover of “Don’t Be Cruel.”  Billy does it real slow, and it’s like a different song. 

 

Billy has done this sort of thing before — his 2000 CD of Elvis covers called Like Elvis Used To Do.  That’s a strange title, considering that Billy doesn’t do any of them the way Elvis did.   “Mystery Train” gets speeded up and gets some heavy guitar work,   “Viva Las Vegas” is done as a gospel number,  “Too Much” become a blues song, “That’s All Right” is done as reggae, and  “Jailhouse Rock” and “King Creole” are combined into a speeded-up medley.  It is a very clever and most refreshing change from the usual.  If you can’t top Elvis, you might as well put a new spin on his songs.  The CD is available on Amazon, and I recommend it highly.

 

When Joe Esposito came to our sales tables to sign books and photos, he quickly drew a crowd.  Part of the security staff was unavailable then, so I was asked to put on a security shirt and fill in.  The photo above shows me ‘guarding’ Joe and DJ.  When I showed it to a real security man, he said one thing was wrong: “Security guys never smile.”  Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

 

The last Elvis Week story is about Scotty Moore.  There was also a rumor about him.  His traveling group showed up at the sales tables with 1000 CDs autographed by everybody in The Mighty Handful band.  Everybody, including Scotty Moore.  Well, we wondered how Scotty could have signed all of them, considering his arthritis problem.  The rumor was that he was OK with the repetitive motion of signing his name.  It was the salutations, like “To Rosemary,” or “To Katherine” that were the problem.  The 1000 CDs had just his name, so it sounded pretty logical.

 

My wife’s name is Bev, and she admonished me to bring back some autographed pictures of Scotty and DJ addressed to her.  I probably broke protocol when I asked Scotty to sign for Bev.  I provided an article I wrote in the Birthday Tribute ’07 issue of Elvis…The Magazine.  It contained a sharp color photo of Scotty, in his mid-forties, holding his beloved Gibson Super 400 guitar.  Scotty had absolutely no trouble signing “To Bev,   Scotty Moore.”  I have to admit, I kind of wish that one said “To Phil.”

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

 

ELVISBLOG NEWS — 8/20/07

Big Spike in Hits on the Big Day:

 

There is always a jump in interest in Elvisblog during mid-August, especially on the 16th.  However, there was no reason to expect the number of visitors to the website would spike like it did this year.  On Thursday, August 16, Elvisblog received 1256 hits, almost tripling the old record of 425.  The next day, a new second place mark of 862 was set.  The weekly total came in almost 2-1/2 times the old record.

 

But Someone Helped:

 

I check out a lot of websites for ideas for Elvis articles, and one I frequently link to Is the Oldies Music section of About.com (http://oldies.about.com).   I have printed several articles written by the host, Robert Fontenot, and put them in my files for future blog ideas.  In my opinion, this is a website worthy of spending some time on.  However, I have never contacted Robert, or vice-versa.

 

He regularly searches the web for good oldies stories written by others.  The ones he likes get a short editorial tease and a link from his site.  He obviously found Elvisblog and liked one of my stories from last year.

 

On August 14, he posted a great feature:  “30 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Elvis.”  Number 3 was my July 24, 2005, Elvisblog article titled, “Elvira and Elvis.”   Robert’s tease was pretty cool.  It ended with:  “Was this another chorus girl conquest, or was everyone’s favorite Eighties TV horror host a little too innocent for the King?  Read more”

 

It was that read more link that caused a significant portion of the big spike at Elvisblog.  Lots of folks must be interested in Elvira and Elvis – 523 checked in the first day alone.  For all of Elvis Week 2007, this link caused approximately 1000 people to discover Elvisblog for the first time.  I hope these new visitors were impressedand will come back again. 

 

Thanks, Robert, and keep reading Elvisblog.  There are lots of good stories you can recommend.

 

Fans Show Increased Interest in Elvis’ Grandson:

 

People also come to Elvisblog as a result of Google and other searches.  During the past week, there was certainly a lot of interest in Benjamin Keough, Elvis’ grandson.  Almost 1200 people checked out Elvisblog to get more information on young Benjamin.  However, he’s not so young anymore.  On October 21, Benjamin Keough will turn 15.  I’m sure we will be hearing more about him in the years ahead. 

SO, HOW WAS ELVIS WEEK?

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If it is possible for an experience to be both a letdown and an exhilarating success at the same time, then that is the summary of my Elvis Week 2007.  I’m not real happy about never getting over to Elvis Presley Boulevard and soaking in some of the Graceland aura.   It’s hard to believe I never got down to Beale Street to party… and it was only two blocks away.  But the worst thing was that I never left the Peabody Hotel for four days, except to walk across the street to restaurants each night.

 

Wow.  Sounds like a bad Elvis Week for sure.  On the other hand, I don’t know how anyone else in Memphis could have had a more Elvis-connected experience than I had.  Over a three-day period, I had breakfast with Joe Esposito, sat ten feet away from Priscilla at the restaurant in the Peabody, and hung around in the Grand Ballroom backstage area with Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, the Jordanaires, and the TCB Band.  Nobody else did that.

 

I got people to take 30 photos of me with these music legends, and I got dozens of autographs from them, signed on articles I had written about them in Elvis…The Magazine.  My mission had been to use this probable last opportunity to gather a treasure trove of memorabilia, and it worked out perfectly.

 

Darwin Lamm, Publisher of Elvis…The Magazine certainly got plenty of work out of me at the tables selling concert tickets, magazines, books, DVDs and T-shirts.

I’m not used to standing on my feet for eight hours a day, so my legs got plenty sore.  For some reason, the sales group had the same club sandwiches and fries brought in for lunch all four days, and that was pretty lame.

 

The trade-off for the other workers was free tickets to three great concerts.  The trade-off for me was unlimited backstage access.  The reason I got the better deal is because of all the articles I had provided Darwin for the magazine and various promotional pieces. 

 

The TCB guys got their performer badges from me, so they were comfortable around me from the start.  When everybody got backstage, they seemed fine with me sitting around the table with them in one of the two rooms.  I mostly just listened and laughed at their stories.  They all seem to genuinely like each other, and backstage is fun for them.  When the subject of Elvis impersonators came up, they called them “impersonators,” not “tribute artists.”  As you might expect, the TCB guys are not too fond of Elvis impersonators.  That figures; they were around the real thing and have the best possible basis for comparison. 

 

Jerry Scheff got some grief about thinning hair, but James Burton avoided the same fate.  He wore a black TCB baseball cap all week.  In 2004, he had very little hair left, so the hat is a good look for him.  Ronnie Tutt has been wearing a ball cap for years, but I’m betting he’s got plenty of hair.  He certainly has plenty of beard.

 

DJ Fontana looked so smart in his shiny grey suit and red shirt and tie.  He complained about his favorite men’s store in Nashville closing down.  We spoke about his upcoming performing schedule.  He has a continuing tour with Shaun Klush, who is probably the top ETA right now.  (I have no trouble calling them Tribute Artists.)  We spoke about his new podcasting venture.  I want to follow up on that, because it sounds like some interesting stuff he talks about.  And, all his recorded conversations so far have been with special Elvis people.  There will definitely be a future Elvisblog story on DJ’s podcasting.

 

I have enough stories from Elvis Week to fill up several articles, so I’ll save some stuff for future posts.  One thing I have to write about now is my wonderful experience with Scotty Moore.  Everybody loves this man, and I got to experience hanging out with him for almost half-an-hour.  Again, I mostly listened to Scotty and the other guys in the Mighty Handful band talk around the table.   But every three minutes or so, I slid something over to him, along with an open Sharpie pen.  I knew his arthritis problem was the reason he wouldn’t be signing autographs after the show, so I didn’t want to be a pest.  But after a three-minute rest, I figured his hand was OK for another one. 

 

I ended up with five Scotty Moore autographs: two on photographs, two on my magazine articles, and one on a reprint of an article I wrote that is posted on Scotty's website.  He is always graceous and accomodating to fans, but this was something special he did for me.

 

The photo above is Scotty Moore as he exited the stage after “The Last Man Standing” concert.  The future will determine if Scotty ever chooses to do another live performance.  If not, maybe I caught Scotty’s last two seconds on a concert stage.

 

I guess I can give up Graceland and Beale Street for one year.  Not a bad trade.

 

 

© 2007  Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

 

I'M GOING TO ELVIS WEEK

There’s a stupid TV commercial where the woman bounces around saying, “I’m cleaning the litter box.”   I’m like that now, except that it’s, “I’m going to Elvis Week.”  I’d better cut it out, or my wife is going to get mad.  Being gone for four days is problematic enough, so there is no point in broadcasting how much fun I’m going to have.

 

This will be my fourth Elvis Week, and it may be a while until I take in another.  After this year, there won’t be any more “Good Rockin’ Tonight” concerts from Darwin Lamm, Editor of Elvis… The Magazine.  That’s been the connection that brought me to Memphis each time, but he says this is it.  He has been host to concerts in most years from 1992 on, but 2007 will be the last in a run of great Elvis Week shows for Darwin Lamm.

 

Elvis fans from all over the world have regularly supported his concerts, and they’ll be glad they made the trip this year.  For his grand finale, Darwin is presenting a incredible six shows. I’m excited; being a ‘gofer’ backstage is a great job.

 

I also have a sad, personal story about this Elvis Week.  Five months ago, I bought a bunch of albums and 45s from an old guy, and it included a near-mint copy of Boots Randolph’s Christmas promo release “Sleigh Ride/White Christmas.”  I was planning on taking it to Memphis and getting Boots to autograph it.  That won’t happen now.  We’ll miss you, Boots.  But, we’ll carry on.

 

I recently sent e-mails to eight people I expect to see during Elvis Week.  One of them is a musician coming in from Nashville to perform during the festivities.  The thing that struck me was his enthusiasm.  He is as excited as a fan.

 

Who wouldn’t be, in his situation?  Check this:  “It will be nice to see many old friends, including many of Elvis’ friends we have become close to over the years.” 

 

How would you like to have that going for you next week?  The quote comes from Steve Shepherd, who will be playing keyboard at two Scotty Moore tribute concerts.  The last time I saw Steve play behind Scotty, Steve also served as stage manager and ran rehearsals, so he will probably do that again this year.

 

The concerts where Steve will appear are called Scotty Moore: The Last Man Standing.  There’s a code word in the title.  If you can find a Las Vegas bookie who will give you odds that this will not be the last time Scotty Moore is up on stage, it might be smart to put a little money on the bet. 

 

I know another person who is going to Elvis Week and is super happy about it.  She gets to celebrate her 50th birthday in a bar across the street from the Peabody Hotel.  Kathy DeNike booked the “Big Foot Lodge” for the blast, and it is shaping up to be great fun.  I’m going with two lovely ladies, Judy and Shirley, wonderful friends from near Toronto. 

 

Kathy DeNike is a talent manager for a gang of Elvis Tribute Artists, and several will perform in Memphis.  She has a huge e-mail list of contacts and Elvis fans, so it must have been a chore to pare it down to the short list of the people who got invitations.  The invitations were e-mailed, and must be printed out and presented at the door.  What a great touch.  It will be fun to come up to the door with my invitation clutched tightly in my hand.  I even printed it in color.

 

For a lot of reasons, I’m pumped to be going to this Elvis Week.  I’m prepared to experience some bittersweet moments as I get an up-close view of aging artists performing.  Maybe, that will make it more special. 

 

Any way, “I’m Going To Elvis Week.  I’m Going To Elvis Week.”

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

AUGUST IS ELVIS MONTH ON TV LAND

I have never watched cable channel TV Land, but a little checking revealed that its programming consists of classic old shows like “Bonanza,” “I love Lucy,” “Gunsmoke,” “Andy Griffith” and “Mash.”    So, I’m not sure why they decided to have Elvis Month, but I am very glad they did.

 

Between August 3 and August 26, TV Land will feature twenty Elvis movies, concerts, and documentary videos.  Especially cool is the weekend line-up.  At 8PM every Saturday and Sunday night in August, we can watch Elvis concerts and other specials.  Also, on the big day, August 16, we can catch four different shows:  “Elvis, His Best Friend Remembers,” “Elvis By The Presleys,” “Ed Sullivan Rock & Roll Classics,” and “Myths and Legends – Elvis.”  And, if you can take long lunch hours from work (or are happily retired like me), there are four noon movies next week and three more the following.

 

The weekend concert videos of course include the big ones, “Aloha From Hawaii” and the “68 Comeback Special.  I’m more interested in some I haven’t seen so recently or frequently: “The Great Performances-1, 2 and 3,” and “Elvis On Tour.”  I’m also looking forward to “Elvis and Me, Parts 1 and 2.”

 

The movies are a mixed bag.  By the time this article is posted, the one evening movie, “Love Me Tender” will have already been shown at 8PM, Friday August 3.  After that the sequence is “Wild In The Country” (I like Tuesday Weld in this one, but I like he even better in the 1988 movie “Heartbreak Hotel.”), “Fun In Acapulco” (I’ll never believe the bit about Elvis climbing up that cliff.), “Roustabout” (Elvis looks great on a motorcycle), “Girl Happy” (One of my favorites.  And, I love Shelly Fabares.), “Paradise Hawaiian Style” (Perhaps the record holder for the most girls in bikinis in an Elvis movie.), “Easy Come, East Go” (Elvis singing a duet with Elsa Lanchester has to be a low-point in Elvis movie soundtrack songs.), and “Live A Little, Love A Little” (Another favorite.  See the June 3, 2005 Elvisblog article).

 

In addition to all this cable content, TV Land has a bunch of good Elvis stuff on their website at http://www.tvland.com/specials/elvis/.  A complete schedule of their August Elvis programming is available to print out and keep by your favorite TV-watching chair.

 

TV Land and the city of Honolulu unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Elvis last Thursday, July 26.  I recommend you take four minutes and watch the dedication ceremony on the website’s Video Gallery.  The statue is in front of the building where Elvis performed the “Aloha From Hawaii” concert in 1973.  Naturally, the Elvis statue is wearing the famous American Eagle jumpsuit, but bronze sequins don’t look near as good as rhinestones. For a selection of close-up photos of the Elvis statue, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqAb2bMxnvM and watch an excellent slide show posted on YouTube by regular Elvisblog reader Ryan Ozawa.

 

Another nice feature on the TV Land website is their Video Gallery, which shows the original theater trailers for all the Elvis movies they will present – almost.  The trailer for “Easy Come, Easy Go” is missing, and “Speedway,” which is not on the viewing schedule, is included.  Some movies have two different trailers, and “Speedway” has four.  Don’t worry about clicking on each one to view them.  They all run automatically in sequence.  I also liked TV Land’s Photo Gallery, which included pictures of the statue ceremony, shots from Blue Hawaii, and other random Elvis photos.

 

Another unusual feature on TV Land.com is the link to Radio Interviews.  There are two of them, both conducted by iconic Hawaiian DJ and celebrity Tom Moffatt.  In the summer of 1959, Moffatt interviewed Elvis in Germany by phone.  In the spring of 1960, Moffatt did another phone interview with Elvis and the Colonel.  Elvis was in Hollywood working on the movie GI Blues at the time.  I was struck by how natural and comfortable Elvis sounded on both interviews.  Just a regular, humble guy.  Good interviews.

 

So, explore all the Elvis stuff on the TV Land website and enjoy all the Elvis movies and videos on the channel in August.  I know I will.

 

(C)  2005   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net