Two weeks ago we learned that Conan O’Brien is a huge Elvis fan. Because of his fame and media presence, Conan has been able to manifest this more than the average fan. In his interview with Peter Guralnick, he stated:
“[In] 1983, I listened for the first time to the Sun Sessions, Elvis’ earliest work that he did with Sam Phillips. It blew my mind. It was like a drug. I couldn’t get enough. It made me go out and buy a guitar. It made me try and play that music.”
Now, thirty years later, we know Conan was successful in his effort to play Elvis music. Thanks to Google and YouTube, there are examples of Conan performing three Elvis original hits and two of his famous cover songs from albums or live shows.
When Conan left the Tonight Show in 2010 after NBC’s sorry late-night scheduling snafu, he was contractually prohibited from other TV work for six months. He had often spoken of his fantasy to be a traveling rock musician, and he decided this would be the perfect time to do it. With the remnants of the Tonight Show Band, re-christened The Legal Prohibited Band, backing him up, Conan created a comedy/music variety show and took it on the road.
Most of the songs he sang were from the genre he had loved for thirty years – Rockabilly. However, each song was retooled with humorous lyrics reflecting Conan’s own life story. “Polk Salad Annie” is a great example. You remember the spoken part in the beginning where Elvis explains what polk salad is and tells about a poor girl down South who cooked it all the time because they were so poor and had nothing else to eat. Conan changed the story to being upper-middle class in Brookline, Massachusetts and goes on with some really funny stuff.
On June 10, 2010, his concert was recorded for a vinyl album. No CD – Conan played homage to a music format of the past, just as he did with his choice of songs.
In addition to “Polk Salad Annie,” you will note two other Elvis songs on Side One of the album: “Blue Moon of Kentucky” from Elvis’ Sun Records days, and “Too Much Monkey Business” from the Guitar Man album.
To hear Conan sing “Polk Salad Annie,” click here.
To hear Conan sing “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” click here.
To hear Conan sing “Too Much Monkey Business” click here.
In his introduction, Conan knowingly gave due credit to Chuck Berry who wrote and originally recorded the song.
Side 2 opens with another Elvis classic, “King Creole.”
To hear Conan sing “King Creole,” click here.
I looked up some of the other songs. “Twenty Flight Rock” was a song Eddy Cochran sang in the 1956 movie, The Girl Can’t Help It. Another example of Conan’s deep involvement in Rockabilly music.
All of the links above take you to YouTube, but the videos are just a static pictures of the album labels. We can hear but not see the performances. I guess they recorded the show, but didn’t film it. Too bad.
However, there is one Elvis song that Conan preformed that was captured on film. On April 30 of this year, Conan and the band did “Hardheaded Woman” on his TV show.
Conan gave a wild and exuberant performance. He even did a move that would have made Elvis proud. While still playing guitar, Conan danced around behind the mic stand.
If you would like to see Conan sing “Hardheaded Woman,” click here.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Conan O’Brien’s tribute to Elvis. Don’t be surprised if he shows up wearing a jumpsuit one of these days and sings more Elvis hits. I can’t wait.
© 2013 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.