Category Archives: CONCERTS

Elvis’ Oddball Antics on Stage

Elvis Laying Next to Nipper

You have probably seen this photo before, but do you know the story behind it? The dog is a large replica of RCA Records’ Nipper, and he sat on the stage as Elvis preformed in Los Angeles on October 28, 1957. When Elvis got to “Hound Dog” on the set list, he started singing it to Nipper.

Elvis and Nipper

As things reached the finale, Elvis rolled on the stage with Nipper. This caused so much commotion that the next day Dick Williams, entertainment editor for the LA Times Mirror, used this headline on his review: 6000 KIDS CHEER ELVIS’ FRANTIC SEX SHOW. I wrote a blog post back in 2008 about the whole episode. Click here to read more.

 

Wearing Helmet and Goggles on Stage

Elvis usually managed to have some fun time while performing on stage, especially during the 70’s. I have no idea what the story is behind this strange-looking helmet and goggles. If anyone knows, please share it on Comments below. I wonder if the items were tossed up on stage, or did Elvis bring them out himself.

 

Elvis Holding Up Bra

There’s no doubt this bra was thrown up on stage by a fan. You can’t blame Elvis for having some fun with it.

 

Elvis Holding Rubber Chicken

Talking about things being tossed up on stage, here’s an odd one. Why would anyone carry a plastic chicken to an Elvis concert? Is there a message here I’m missing?

 

Elvis on Stage with Duck

This appears to be a live duck. Why??

 

Elvis with Strange Expression on Stage

Let’s see some good shots of Elvis interacting with his audience. His expression here makes you wonder what the little girl said to him, doesn’t it?

 

Elvis - Hey, Look

This look appears to be in response more to something touched, rather than something said.

 

Elvis and Very Chummy Friend

I wonder how many times when Elvis got in this position, and the girl didn’t grab for the scarf.

 

Elvis Peaking Under Curtain

Whoops!

 

Elvis Squatting on Stage

I guess Elvis was trying to get up close and personal with the ladies on the front row.

 

Elvis and Chummy Fan 2

He’s certainly doing that here, but what is the fan doing? Looks like a belt in her hand. Whatever it is, Elvis seems to enjoy her attention.

 

Elvis Sitting on Stage

Another shot of Elvis sitting on stage. In 2013, I did a blog post on Elvis’ stage contortions and moves. There were no sitting shots there, but lots of great kicks and stuff. If you haven’t read that one, click here to check it out

 

Elvis Reading Song Lyrics

Looks like Elvis could have used some reading glasses for this. Hopefully, he isn’t reading the lyrics to the song he is singing.

 

Elvis Climbing off Loading Doc

Yes, I know Elvis is not on stage here, but this picture is so strange, and I have been looking for an excuse to use it for years. Elvis is obviously climbing down a loading dock, but look at the trash. Certainly not a highlight of that evening.

 

Elvis with Four Mics

Here’s two images snapped at the same concert. Elvis has four mics.

Elvis with Mics in His Ears

Now he has two in each ear.

 

Elvis Wearing Big Glasses

I’m sure you’ve seen this one before, but it always gives me a laugh, so here it is again.

 

Elvis with Guitar Pick in Mouth

This one is not so well known. From back in the seats, that guitar pick must look like a big buck tooth. Yes, Elvis always managed to have some fun on stage.

 

 

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Elvis and Pearl Harbor

Ticket to Elvis Concert for USS Arizona Memorial Concert

The 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor was observed this week. On December 7, 1941, more than 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,178 were wounded in the surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

All Elvis fans know he performed a benefit concert as part of the fundraiser for the memorial to the USS Arizona, which was sunk at the Pearl Harbor attack. 1,177 crewman on the Arizona died.

Newspapre Article on Elvis Performing at Pearl Harbor

 

As I started writing this post on December 7, I remembered that back in March this year, Graceland.com presented a Gates of Graceland video blog in remembrance of the 55th anniversary of Elvis’ concert at Pearl Harbor. I went back and viewed it again, and I recommend that you do as well.

Then, I checked into Graceland.com/news to see what they posted on the 75th anniversary of the attack. Sadly, nothing. This was the news post of the day.

graceland-com-news-post-on-dec-7-2016

Okay, the 60th anniversary of the Million Dollar Quartet is a pretty memorable event, and they did do the Gates of Graceland blog, so we’ll cut them some slack.

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of pictures on Elvis’ Pearl Harbor concert, and there’s no better time than now to put them on ElvisBlog.

 

Elvis wearing gold Lame jacket at Pearl harbor Concert

Here is Elvis performing. Yes, he wore the famous gold lame jacket.

 

100% Benefit Performance

Elvis’ performance can be considered a patriotic action, because every cent of the concert proceeds went to the USS Arizona Memorial Fund. Elvis bought the first ticket for $100, and required all members of his travelling party to do the same.

 

Elvis' Travelling group for the USS Arizona Memorial Concert

Here is a list of that travelling party. It’s interesting to study the names of the Elvis group flying on Pan Am to Honolulu. Cousin Gene Smith was up in first class with Elvis, but the other four members of the Memphis Mafia are back in economy. Red West’s ticket was obviously issued in his real name Bob.

Hal Wallis was the producer on Elvis’ movie, Blue Hawaii. Production had begun a few days before the Pearl Harbor concert, and filming with Elvis began a few days after. Country comedian Minnie Pearl appeared in the concert as a warm-up act for Elvis.

Tom Diskin was Col. Parker’s number one assistant. Parker probably had arrived in Hawaii earlier to be there when work on the movie started. I believe Freddie Birkenstock was representing RCA Records.

The last group on the list included the Jordanaires and the members of the band, including special guests Boots Randolph and Floyd Cramer. The photo above shows Bob Moore playing bass guitar behind Elvis, but he is not on the list. He probably sat in one of those five extra economy seats mentioned at the bottom of the list.

 

Elvis Presley and His Show Album

This is an album of Elvis’ Pearl Harbor concert. I think it is a bootleg. With all the screaming by the audience, I’d be surprised if the sound is any good.

 

To The Memory

Priscilla, Elvis, Charlie and Joe at Pearl Harbor Memorial

Here are Priscilla, Elvis, Charlie Hodge, and Joe Esposito observing the list of the Americans who died at Pearl Harbor.

 

Elvis at Bell Shaped Wreath at USS Arizona Memorial

1,177 carnations were used in this bell-shaped wreath, one for every serviceman who lost his life aboard the Arizona. The sash says, “Gone But Not Forgotten.”

 

Elvis Greeting Fans Before USS Arizona Memorial Concert

Elvis arrived in Honolulu at 12:20 in the afternoon and had his concert at 8:30 that night. In between that and viewing the memorial, he had time to hold a press conference.

Elvis Press Conference at Pearl harbor

 

 

Polish Picture of Elvis at Pearl Harbor

This is an interesting photo, made in Poland, no less.

 

The poster below has the Sears logo on it, because their stores in Hawaii sold tickets to the show.

Sears Poster for USS Arizona Memorial Concert

 

Elvis’ concert raised $62,000 for the USS Arizona Memorial. This is the equivalent of $496,000 in today’s dollars.

 

Our nation paused this week to remember those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. Here is Elvis doing the same thing in 1961.

Elvis Presley at USS Arizona Memorial

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

 

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The Elvis Concert I Would Most Have Liked to See

Elvis and Band Performing at New Frontier Hotel

In March 2015 and again this year, Graceland Blog has presented variations on college basketball’s March Madness betting brackets. They modified them so fans could vote their preference on different elements of Elvis’ career. Remember these?

Elvis Movie Madness:             Winner — Elvis: That’s the Way It Is

Elvis Bracket Challenge:         Winner – “Don’t Be Cruel”

Now Graceland has come up with an interactive concept allowing fans to vote their favorite of two choices in twelve different categories.

Would You Rather - Elvis Edition
You can see three of the twelve choices in the announcement box above. Fans preferred chatting with Gladys over Vernon buy a huge margin, and horses won by a hair over motorcycles. Other interesting choices were: Would you rather receive one of Elvis’ rings or a scarf he wore on stage? (The ring won 78% to 22%. I don’t know why it wasn’t 100% to 0%); Would you rather go for a spin in the Pink Cadillac, or fly in Elvis’ custom jet, the Lisa Marie? (Pink Caddy won, but I feel strongly that a ride in the jet would be way cooler.)

Vote for Elvis' '68 Special or Aloha from Hawaii

The first question in the announcement box made me think. I did vote for the winner, the ’68 Special, but I knew in my heart there was one other Elvis concert I would have strongly preferred over either of the two choices. It was a concert at 2PM on April 28, 1956. Here is the story.

Years ago while surfing the net I found an Associate Press story by Steve Kanigher on LasVegasSun.com that contained some significant facts about Elvis I did not know. The subject was his two-week engagement at the New Frontier Hotel’s Venus Showroom from April 23 to May 6, 1956. What I learned has caused me to question the prevailing belief that Elvis’ shows then were something of a bust and kept him from performing in Las Vegas for the next thirteen years.

Billboard for Elvis' Performance at the New Frontier Hotel

Elvis performed two shows a night, 8PM and midnight. The audience was older types who favored the traditional Las Vegas shows. Freddy Martin’s Band and comedian Shecky Greene fit the standard. But Elvis did not. The patrons just didn’t get him, and Elvis’ appearances were roundly panned by the Las Vegas press.

But one performance was much different. For some reason, Col. Parker decided to add an extra Saturday afternoon matinee show for teenagers on April 28. According to Elvis: Day By Day by Guralnick and Jorgesen the price was a mere one dollar, and that included one free soft drink.

Wow. Think about that for a moment. Suppose you were among the lucky teenagers who came along with Mom and Dad to Vegas that weekend. Can you imagine learning about a special Elvis show being added just for kids while you were there – and freaking out! And it only cost a buck. Sign us all up. We’re headed to the Frontier to see Elvis!

Elvis at New Frontier Hotel

Now, try thinking about how great that show was. We can tell by this description of how these young fans’ reacted to Elvis’ appearance. According to the Associated Press story, “Teens screamed with delight.” This is confirmed by a quote from D J Fontana in Scotty Moore’s biography, That’s All Right, Elvis, “The Colonel did a show for teenagers on Saturday, and it was just jam-packed, with everybody screaming and hollering.”

Scotty and Elvis on stage at New Frontier

Okay, so now we know Elvis had one Vegas show in 1956 with his real fans in attendance, and a fine time was had by all. Of course the teenage fans screamed. That was what they were doing for Elvis all over America in arenas and stadiums. But that Saturday matinee was in the intimate environment of the Venus Showroom at the New Frontier Hotel. Everybody there was up close and personal. No bleachers or nose-bleed section for this show.

Elvis on Stage at New Frontier Hotel

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Look how close those kids in the front rows were to Elvis. And those in the back weren’t very far away either. The attendance that day has been reported at a little over 1000 teenagers. This is much less than Elvis had been pulling in at arenas all year leading up to his gig in Las Vegas.

Venus Showroom at New Frontier Hotel

This is obviously not an Elvis performance, but it gives you a good idea of the intimacy of Venus Showroom audience and the performers on stage.

Elvis came to Las Vegas after performing in front of big crowds in large venues. The shrieking at all of them was so loud and so sustained that the music from Elvis and the band couldn’t be heard. I read somewhere that even the band couldn’t hear the music.

But, I doubt the volume of shrieking from the much smaller crowd in the Venus Showroom would had been enough to drown out the music. In that case, those 1,000 young Elvis fans in Las Vegas were not only close to Elvis, they could actually hear him.

Elvis Wth Scotty Moore Performing at Venus Showroom

If I could go back in time and be at just one Elvis concert in his entire career, I would pick the 2PM Saturday matinee at the New Frontier Hotel on April 28, 1956.

Elvis Performing at New Frontier

After a week of facing mature audiences that just did not get him, can you imagine what kind of performance Elvis gave in front of screaming teenaged fans? It was the same one-and-a-half show he gave every night, but the whole vibe had to be different.

Man, I wish I could have been there.

 

 

{Editor’s Note: While the photos above were snapped at the Venus Showroom, most were not actually the Elvis concert for teenagers.}

 

Elvis - Welcome to Las Vegas

 

 

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America Loses a Rock Legend — A Tribute to Scotty Moore

Scotty Moore and 63 Gibson Super 400

As every Elvis fan knows by now, Scotty Moore passed away on Wednesday, June 28, at age 84. Today you can find highlights of Scotty’s career with Elvis on many, many websites. And you probably know the story already, so I’ll take another approach.

This blog is usually fun to do, but writing about Scotty Moore leaving us is a melancholy experience. I think the world of him. I had the honor and privilege of having breakfast with him back at Elvis Week 2007, along with Darwin Lamm, publisher of Elvis International magazine. Scotty was in town to perform at two concerts Darwin was presenting, and I got to hang out backstage with him and the other musicians. He obliged me with autographs and a photo pose.

Phil Arnold and Scotty Moore Backstage 2007

I want to do a proper tribute and have so much I could share with you readers, but I don’t know where to begin.

Scotty has been mentioned in ElvisBlog over 80 times. There is a Scotty Moore tab under Blog Categories, and nine posts about him are in there. There’s also a lot more about the whole original band, Scotty, Bill Black, and DJ Fontana. Maybe the way to start this tribute is to feature excerpts from some of these old posts.

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This first blog article was written to highlight those 2007 concerts. billed as Scotty Moore — The Last Man Standing. This was a reference to the four men present on July 5, 1954 when Elvis recorded his first single at Sun Records. There is also an expression of my appreciation for Scotty Moore.

 

Scotty Moore – The Last Man Standing

 

Elvis, Bill, Scotty, and Sam Phillips

Graceland is a National Historic Landmark. Sun Records is a National Historic Place. I think we need one other special category – National Historic Person, and I have a fine nominee: Scotty Moore.

What qualifies Scotty Moore as a National Historic Person? Well, let’s see. On July 5, 1954, when Elvis recorded his first song, there were four men in the studio. The guitar player was Scotty Moore, and he had a lot to do with creating that unique sound. Scotty Moore’s guitar work made an immeasurable contribution to the initial success of Elvis’ music.

The other three men there that historic night are all dead. Bill Black died in 1965, Elvis passed away in 1977, and Sam Phillips left us in 2003. That’s too bad, because the session when “That’s All Right” was recorded was a very special moment in history. Three men gone, only one left. Scotty Moore, the last man standing.

It is now 53 years since that magic moment, and it’s nice to know that Scotty is still alive and well. Don’t count on seeing him at many more Elvis Weeks. It might happen, it might not. But we know one thing for sure. We can see him this year. Scotty is headlining two tribute concerts at Elvis Week 2007.

Those fans that admire and cherish Scotty Moore were thrilled to hear they could catch him on Wednesday, August 15, at the Peabody Hotel. To you folks that are going to Elvis Week but haven’t yet decided what to see, I’m telling you, buy tickets to one of Scotty’s two shows. They are going to be great.

Scotty Moore – The Last Man Standing is a unique concert concept. Both the 2 PM and 5 PM shows are double concerts. Scotty has invited two groups of his favorite musician buddies to perform, and they jumped at the chance to be on stage with him.

So, if you want some good entertainment at Elvis Week, take in one of the double concert starring Scotty Moore. He will appear at no other events in Memphis that week. This is the exclusive appearance of the genuine article, the last man standing. And sadly, it’s looking more and more like a farewell performance.

Join Scotty Moore’s many fans in honoring and appreciating him while you still can. Scotty may not have official recognition as a National Historic Person, but he truly is a national treasure.

 

Now, nine years later, the last man is no longer standing. And the fans who took in one of those Elvis Week 2007 concerts did indeed see Scotty Moore’s final performance.

Scotty Leaving Stage - Last Man Standing Concert 2007

I took this shot of Scotty as he left the stage after the 2 o’clock concert. I wish I had also taken a similar shot after the 5 o’clock concert. It would have been a photo of Scotty the last time he ever performed on stage.

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Scotty Moore Keith Richards Recording Duece and a Quarter.

That is Keith Richards backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. Those guys loved Scotty. So, here’s an excerpt from an ElvisBlog article that goes back to 2007.

 

Scotty Moore and the Rolling Stones Backstage

 

Searching through many Elvis-related websites is both prep work for ElvisBlog and a lot of fun. One site I go back to frequently is www.scottymoore.net . That’s right, the man who helped Elvis give birth to rock & roll has a great website of his own. It contains almost a dozen sections you can check out, but my favorite is SCRAPBOOK, a digital photo album. Hundreds of photos tell the story of places he’s been, people he’s met, and shows he’s done

I visit Scotty’s site frequently, but while I’m there, I’m always drawn back to the same set of pictures in SCRAPBOOK that I’ve seen four or five times before. You probably will understand why, when you see the title: “Backstage With the Rolling Stones in Memphis — December 15, 2005.”

Keith Richards and Ron Wood, who do the guitar fireworks for the Rolling Stones, both love and admire Scotty. They’ve recorded with him and had him backstage at four of their concerts. What started as admiration has grown into genuine friendship.

The SCRAPBOOK pictures show that Scotty and lady friend Gail Pollock and others obviously had a ball in Keith’s dressing room before the show. Then they had concert seats in the eighth row right in front of Mick Jagger (Scotty stayed backstage and watched from there). After the concert, there was a wrap party at the Peabody Hotel. It was here that Scotty got to spend some time with Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts. Ron Wood spent a lot of time posing for smoochin’ pictures with Gail and the other girls. Sure looks like it was a fun party.

Keith, Scotty, Elvis, and Bill Backstage at Rolling Stones Concert

One backstage picture is outstanding. The dressing area at the concert venue contained a full-sized, color cutout of Elvis in his famous gold suit. Of course, this got into several of the pictures. I just love the photo of four musicians, Keith, Scotty, Elvis, and Ron. Take a quick glance at the picture and see if Elvis doesn’t look real. I liked the photo so much, I downloaded it to my hard drive and printed it out. Very cool picture.

Scotty’s whole site is, too. You can get lost for hours scrolling down through HISTORY, and connecting on all the links. So check out Scotty’s excellent website.  He’s a gentleman who deserves all the good things going on for him now. He’s a national treasure to be cherished.

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When you watch Elvis movies over and over, like I do, you start to notice things you missed originally. Years ago, I became fascinated with the roles Scotty, DJ Fontana, and Bill Black had in Elvis’ first few movies. Their screen time was the most in Loving You, prompting this ElvisBlog article from 2012.

 

Loving You – Starring Scotty, DJ, and Bill (Plus Elvis, of Course)

 

I recently found something interesting on the website for a Rock and Roll memorabilia auction. It was a movie theater lobby card from Elvis’ 1957 film Loving You. Most Elvis movie cards and posters show pictures of him with one or more of his lovely female co-stars, but this one included Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, his original guitarist and drummer. I would guess neither man ever knew this lobby card existed, so I am sending copies to their webmasters.

Lobby Card for Loving You

Lobby Card showing DJ Fontana (far left) and Scotty Moore (far right)

Loving You was Elvis’ second movie, his first in color, and also the first of several (many?) where Elvis’ character was a singer. There are elements in this film that are considered auto-biographical. Elvis’ character, Deke Rivers, parallels Elvis’ start as a truck driver; for a beverage distributor in the movie and for an electric company in real life. Once he starts singing in the movie, all the famous frenetic leg-gyrations and hip-swinging are there to produce loud squealing by the young girls in the audience. There is even a female Col. Parker-like manager who gets Deke to sign a personal services contract giving her 50%.

The lobby card reminded me that all three of Elvis’ original bandmates, Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black, have considerable screen time in the movie, so I checked it out again to note all their appearances. Within seconds after the opening credits finish, they are up on a town square stage, in a country band providing music for a political candidate.

Scotty Moore and a Politician -- in Loving You

Scotty Moore and a Politician

After a few minutes of dialog by other characters, it’s back to the bandstand where we get a similar, but longer look at Scotty and Bill. In fact, Scotty gets his best screen time in any of the Elvis movies — fifteen seconds in a close shot, standing beside the politician.

About seven minutes into the picture, Deke Rivers is persuaded to get up on the stage and sing a song. He chooses “Got A Lot of Livin’ To Do.” This song is now used in Viva Elvis in the big trampoline sequence, which is generally considered one of the highlights of the Cirque du Soleil show.

Bill Black and Scotty Moore flank Elvis During Got A Lot of Livi to Do

At the eighteen minute point of Loving You, Elvis’ character is now a full time member of the band. He sings “Let’s Have a Party.” Scotty again fares best with screen time, followed by Bill, and last again, DJ.

Bill, Scotty, Elvis, and DJ Playing Lets Have A Party

Bill, Scotty, Elvis, and DJ Playing “Let’s Have A Party”

Another song in the movie is “Hot Dog.” For a few seconds, the camera shot cuts off the actor members of the band and shows only Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill. It’s fun to watch Scotty, because smiles so much and seems to be having a wonderful time. It is during this song that the manager creates a fake riot, very reminiscent of some of Col. Parker’s publicity stunts.

Elvis and the Boys Singing Hot Dog

Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill Black Playing “Hot Dog”

About 45 minutes into Loving You, Scotty, DJ, and Bill make their last appearance. Elvis’ character sings “Teddy Bear.” Although the band is visible, they are well behind him, and again the lights are dimmed until the song finishes. In this scene, as others, the bandmates move their lips as though singing. In truth, all the very fine vocal accompaniment in the movie came from the Jordanaires, an arrangement that would continue in many more Elvis films.

Elvis Taking a Bow after Singing “Teddy Bear.”

Taking a Bow after Singing “Teddy Bear.”

Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black also had significant screen time in Elvis’ third and fourth movies, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole. It would be so cool to find lobby cards showing them in these films as well. I’ll keep looking.

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These three blog excerpts provide a small glimpse into the many facets of Scotty Moore. I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg, so there will probably be a Part 2 to this tribute. I’ve got so many pictures of Scotty in my files, it might be fun to do a pictorial essay.

 

Good Photo of Older Scotty Moore

 

Good bye Scotty. We will really, really miss you. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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A Jug of Corn Liquor at a Champaign Party

Believe it or not, the judgmental sentiment above came from a Newsweek magazine review of Elvis’ shows in Las Vegas.  How could this be?  Elvis was synonymous with Las Vegas and performed to sold-out crowds at more than 700 shows there in the 70s.

Signed New Frontier Postcard

The explanation for this incongruity is that Newsweek was actually reviewing Elvis’ 1956 performances at the New Frontier Hotel.

Newsweek wasn’t alone in its ridicule of Elvis’ New Frontier shows.  Bill Willard of the Las Vegas Sun ended his review of the show with this:

“His musical sound… is uncouth, matching to a great extent the lyric content of his nonsensical songs.”

Elvis bashing was a popular pursuit among entertainment critics in 1956, but there is more to this story.  Although Elvis was a huge success everywhere else that year, he actually bombed in his first appearance in Las Vegas.

Col Parker and Elvis at New Frontier Pool

It’s my opinion that Col. Parker made one of his few mistakes managing Elvis’ career when he set up the shows.  Instead of booking Elvis as the headliner in a smaller venue, Parker booked him to be the “extra added attraction” at a long-running show featuring Freddy Martin and his orchestra.  The venue was the Venus Room, holding almost 1,000 people.

Venus Room

Venus Room in 1956

 

Also on the bill were comedian Shecky Green, the Venus Starlets and a cast of 60 performers who made up a typical Vegas entertainment package.

 Flyer for Elvis at New Frontier Hotel

Freddy Martin was a popular name in big-band music, and his shows regularly drew large crowds of middle-aged fans.  For some reason, Col. Parker must have thought Elvis would appeal to these folks.  Unfortunately, the older crowd didn’t like Elvis at all.  Another disparaging quote from Bill Willard’s review sums it up perfectly.

“For Teenagers, the long tall Memphis lad is a whiz; for the average Vegas spender or show-goer, a bore.”

Elvis was well aware that the audiences ‘didn’t’ get it.’  Three years later, he recalled:

“After that first night I went outside and just walked around in the dark.  It was awful…. I wasn’t getting across to the audience.”

After causing near-riots everywhere else he performed, it must have been a hard thing for him to handle.

Other Las Vegas Sun reviewers were able to say some nice things about Elvis.  Bud Lilly wrote,

“Here is a young man who has an inherent ability to arouse mass hysteria wherever he goes, yet is unassuming and completely untouched by the fabulous success he has achieved almost overnight… His avid fans have elevated him to a plane reached only by a few singers of our time.”

 

Scotty and Elvis on stage at the New Frontier Hotel

Scotty and Elvis on stage at the New Frontier Hotel

 

Ralph Dent called Elvis The Shake and Shiver Kid, and then made a totally stupid statement.

“Here stands Elvis Presley, who has probably has yet to blow out his 21st birthday candle, drink his first beer or kiss his first girl.”

Dent might be right about the beer, but how stupid is it to say Elvis had never kissed a girl.  Come on, he had girls falling all over him at every stop.

Hanging out with teenagers at New Frontier pool

Elvis and two teenagers hanging out around New Frontier pool

 

As Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana’s books revealed about life on the road with Elvis, he did a lot more than just kissing.

The New Frontier Hotel had an interesting history.  When first built in 1942, the Old Frontier Hotel had a Western theme and only 105 rooms.  It was renamed the New Frontier in 1955 and remodeled with a space travel/celestial theme.

Frontier Hotel

 

By the mid-seventies, it had become an old, rather seedy relic of the past, and the New Frontier Hotel closed for good on July 16, 2007.  At the time of its closing, the sign out front advertised Bikini Mechanical Bull Riding and Mud Wrestling, and it promised Cold Beer and Dirty Girls.

Frontier Marquee

However, the old hotel sat on 34 acres, so it sold for $1.2 billion.  The New Frontier was razed and the property developed into a $5 billion complex, including a 3,500-room luxury hotel, private residences, a casino, and upscale shopping.

New Frontier Hotel lies in rubble after it was demolished

New Frontier Hotel lies in rubble after it was demolished

 

There is a footnote to this story.  The common narrative about Elvis’ first shot at Vegas is that he bombed.  However, he did have one concert there with no adults in the audience, and it was a huge success.  He also came back to Memphis with memories of many big-fun off-stage experiences.  Elvis adapted quite well to the Las Vegas nightlife and had a ball.  This was all covered in the 2011 ElvisBlog article titled Elvis’ First Trip to Las Vegas Was a Blast.

 

©  2013    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Remembering Gordon Stoker

I’m usually thankful when something shows up in the news that inspires an ElvisBlog article.  The exception is when the news is about the death of another Elvis buddy or bandmate or anyone else from Elvis’ world.  In the past few years, this blog has remembered John Wilkinson, Jerry Leiber, Lamar Fike, Boots Randolph, and Charlie Hodge.  There were other losses as well, like Myrna Smith of the Sweet Inspirations

But none of these deaths saddened me the way it did this week when I learned Gordon Stoker had passed away at age 88.  I had personal contact with this wonderful stalwart of the Jordanaires, and he gave me some memories I will never forget.  So, my salute to Gordon Stoker will be to tell some of them here.

 

Milton Berle Show   June 1956

Elvis performing on the Milton Berle Show on June 3, 1956. Gordon Stoker is the second closest Jordanaire to Elvis.

 

Making Moves With Jordanaires

Another shot from that show, and Elvis is doing his moves. Gordon Stoker is second from the left. Did you recognize Elvis’ outfit in both pictures as the one he wore in the film clip of him doing “Hound Dog” on Milton Berle… the performance that created so much commotion.

 

Gordon Stoker between Ed Sullivan and Elvis

Gordon Stoker between Ed Sullivan and Elvis

 

Okay, the stories.  I spent a lot of time around Gordon Stoker during Elvis Week 2004, at the 50th Anniversary Legends Concert.  EPE had deemed it the 50th anniversary of rock & roll, dating back to July 5, 1954, when Elvis recorded his first song.

At that time, I was a contributing editor for Elvis International magazine, published by Darwin Lamm.  Darwin has promoted some great Elvis Week concerts, and he did it again for the 50th anniversary show.  This Legends Concert featured Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, the Jordanaires, Boots Randolph, Ronnie McDowell, and lots more.  They were followed by the TCB Band Concert.  Great double-bill.

I had backstage-access passes for both concerts.  I functioned mostly as a go-fer, but if somebody wanted a cold bottle of water, I was happy to get it for them.  Plus I was scoring autographs like crazy from everybody backstage.

I was around Gordon at the afternoon practice session, and all the hanging-out beforehand.  My contact with him was minimal, but I became a familiar face.  It was the same thing with the concert, but when it ended, I got a new job.  All the performers signed autographs after the show.  I was part of a four man group that escorted the performers to the autograph tables out in the lobby.  Then we positioned ourselves strategically behind the signers to make sure nobody got pushy in the lines or tried to come behind the tables.  At that point, I had gone from go-fer to bodyguard.

I was stationed near Gordon Stoker.  After a half-hour or so, I was told Gordon needed to leave.  After an active day, this eighty-year-old diabetic was having a little trouble.  All the Jordanaires decided to leave together, so we escorted them out of the lobby and to the service elevator.  I ended up with Gordon, and some stupid fool came up and wanted Gordon to stop and pose for a photo with him.  I had to tell the guy, “Hey, get back and let us pass.  Gordon needs to get some food.”

When the Jordanaires got to the elevator, they took off for the nearest restaurant.  So, after saying hardly anything to Gordon all day, I was now a favorably familiar face.

All this occurred on August 13, so there was lots more of Elvis Week to go.  Gordon and the Jordanaires were there for a few more days, and so was I. The next night I walked past the open restaurant area out in the hotel lobby and saw Gordon Stoker eating at a table alone.  I entered the restaurant, went up to him, and asked how he was doing.  He was fine, and we had a nice little conversation.  To my surprise, he asked me to join him.  You bet I did.

When the waitress came by, Gordon ordered for me.  He was eating meatloaf and raving about it, so he wanted me to have it, too.  He was right.  It was great meatloaf.  We chatted through the whole meal, and he was charming.   He gave me his business card, and wrote my e-mail and phone number on the back of another.  Said he would put it in his book.  I didn’t think we’d actually do any messaging, but he sure made me feel good.

Then, Gordon picked up the whole tab.  I had gone from go-fer to bodyguard to friend.  It was just a perfect night.

 

Sadly, we now say goodbye to Gordon Stoker.  Another member of Elvis’ world has left us.  We’ll miss you, Gordon.  Say hi to Elvis for us.

And, thanks for the meatloaf.

 

Cool shot of Gordon Stoker and Elvis

Cool shot of Gordon Stoker and Elvis

 

©  2013    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Who Is This Guy?

Look at this picture for a moment and try to guess who it is.  Maybe a young Leonard Nimoy?  Maybe a bad guy in a movie you saw recently?

The answer may surprise you.  It’s Elvis.  Or, at least it’s supposed to be, but it doesn’t look much like him, does it?  Here’s what’s confusing:

This an original ticket for “ELVIS –  Aloha From Hawaii,” the concert broadcast around the world on January 14, 1973   The ticket was the latest addition to the Image Gallery on the official Elvis Insiders’ website, so it we assum it’s the real deal.  The guy on the left is definitely Elvis.  But, the guy on the right sure doesn’t look like him.

It may be difficult to see, but under the pink ELVIS, it does say “Aloha from Hawaii – Via Satellite.”  At the bottom left, it says the concert was a benefit for the KUI LEE Cancer Fund.  Above that, it says the concert was at the Honolulu International Convention Center.

There’s one other interesting thing about the ticket.  Look at the time of the concert – 1:00 A.M.  At first, I assumed that was so the show would be seen during primetime for folks back in the mainland.  But then I did some research.  The sixty-minute live concert, broadcast by satellite on December 14, went only to countries in the Pacific: Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, South Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and a few other small nations in the Far East.  The next day, the concert was rebroadcast to twenty-eight countries in Europe.

However, Americans did not see the show until almost two months later on April 4, 1973 on NBC.  The telecast was expanded to ninety minutes with additional footage of Elvis’ arrival in Honolulu added for the opening sequence.  Also, Elvis had recorded four extra songs after the audience had left the Convention Center.  These were edited into the program in a format that would later be called a music video.

 

This is the schedule for the production of “Aloha from Hawaii.”  There are some technical terms and abbreviations on it, but you can pretty much figure out what’s going on.  Elvis had dinner at 8:30 and went to make-up and wardrobe at 11:30.  There was a warm-up act and audience shots until 12:30 A.M. when Elvis came on stage and performed for an hour.

 

And this is what he performed.  The website where I found it doesn’t say if it written by Elvis, but he usually worked out concert playlists himself.

So, “ELVIS – Aloha from Hawaii” was a really big event in Elvis’ history.  It was watched by more than one billion people.  It represented a big break-through in satellite broadcast technology.  It was produced on a budget of $2.5 million.

 

Editor’s note:  Thanks to alert reader David, the ticket mystery has been solved.  He states in the comment below:

“I believe the other photo on the Aloha From Hawaii ticket is Kui Lee, the songwriter who died of cancer and who wrote, I’ll Remember You, and who the concert is dedicated to and the proceeds were to go to the cancer fund in his memory.”

And this is from Wikipedia:

Kuiokalani Lee (July 31, 1932 – December 3, 1966) was a singer-songwriter, and the 1960s golden boy artist of Hawaii. Lee achieved international fame when Don Ho began performing and recording Lee’s compositions, with Ho promoting Lee as the songwriter for a new generation of Hawaiian music.

 

©  2012    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.

Impressed Again with Elvis’ Impact on Popular Culture

I live in Greenville, SC, a small city of about 70,000 people with an extended metro-area population of perhaps 400,000.  It is a pleasant, beautiful city, and it has a wealth of cultural opportunities, including five venues that present plays and musical events.

Last year, I wrote about one venue, the Greenville Little Theater, which presented ELVIS: Shake, Rattle, and Roll.  Elvis tribute artist Scot Bruce starred in this presentation, and it ran for eighteen shows over a three-week period.  I was skeptical that our community could support so much Elvis, but the shows were very popular and many were completely sold-out.

Now, a year later, it is obvious that my city can handle even more Elvis than that.  It is also obvious that Elvis’ impact on popular culture is strong and growing.  So strong, in fact, that the coming season at the Greenville Little Theater includes three Elvis-related events.

First, Scot Bruce is back for another extended run of his Shake, Rattle and Roll show, including on one on August 16, the date of Elvis’ death.  So, the big-time Elvis fans in the area won’t have to go to Elvis Week in Memphis to honor the King.  We can do it right here.

Scot Bruce specializes in Elvis’ music from the 50s and 60s.  Last year, he performed 28 songs, split into two segments. He opened with a delightful set of Elvis’ early hits.  I especially liked when he was joined at center stage by just the guitarist and bass player, and they did a tribute to Elvis’ songs from Sun Records.

 

I will be going back again this year to see Scot Bruce perform and I can’t wait.  This is a really fun show.

 

Then, a month later, the theater will present Smokey Joe’s Café, which features thirty-nine rock and roll songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The show is presented in revue format with no unifying theme or dialogue, just thirty-nine songs performed by the members of the cast in various combinations.  Smokey Joe’s Café has been around since its premiere in Los Angeles in 1994.  It ran on Broadway from 1995 to 2000, a total of 2,036 performances, and now theaters around the country present it for their local audiences.

Leiber and Stoller wrote a bunch of songs for Elvis, and eight are included in the show:

Mike Stoller, Elvis, and jerry Leiber in 1957

 

Finally, the Greenville Little Theatre will present a two-week run of the comedy Elvis Has Left the Building.  The title is appropriate, because in the play Elvis is AWOL on the evening of a big performance in 1970.

The main character is the Colonel, and the plot revolves around his efforts to save the show.   He reaches back to the old hypnotism shtick from his carny days, and somehow comes up with two emergency pseudo-Elvises.

When our local theater director picks the two actors for these roles, I hope he comes up with men that resemble Elvis better than these guys in a Virginia production of the play.

 

There is no denying that Elvis is prominent in the entertainment shows being presented this season in my little city.  I never considered Greenville, SC to be a hotbed of Elvis fans, but two years ago when Elvis on Tour had its one-night showing here, the theater was jam-packed, so maybe we are.

I think the real reason so much Elvis-related entertainment is coming to town is because Elvis, thirty-five years after his death, is ingrained in American popular culture more than ever.  Keep an eye out for Elvis coming to your town in one form or another.

 

©  2012    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.

 

Scotty Moore Returns to Live Performances After 24 Year Absence

When Scotty Moore returned to Nashville after appearing in the ‘68 Comeback Special, he never dreamed it was the last time he would perform on stage for 24 years.

Elvis and Scotty Moore in the famous “Pit Session” of the the ’68 Comeback Special

 

In fact, Elvis had talked about wanting to do a tour in Europe.  Now that he was essentially finished with movies, Elvis was energized to perform live again, and Scotty was excited about getting back on stage with him.  Scotty went home to Nashville and waited for a call from Elvis to say the European tour was on.

Of course, Col. Parker put a quick end to such an idea.  He was an illegal alien from Holland and knew he couldn’t get a US passport, so he could never accompany Elvis to Europe.  And, Parker was not about to allow Elvis to tour over there without the constant presence of his manager.  So the tour idea died.

Scotty went on with his life as a studio sound engineer, work that kept him associated with the music business, without ever performing.  Years later he owned a cassette duplicating company, and followed that by opening a printing shop that made the label inserts for the tapes.

Scotty’s guitars sat essentially untouched for years.  He actually thought of himself as a ‘former guitar player,’ and was comfortable with it.  He did, however, maintain contact with many dozens of folks in the music business – including Carl Perkins.

Perkins underwent cancer surgery in 1991, but in early 1992 it was in remission.  He felt strong enough to record a new album, and wanted to do it in the old Sun Studios in Memphis.  So, Perkins called Scotty and asked him to join the project.  Scotty resisted, repeatedly saying, “I can’t do this.”  However, Perkins persisted, and soon he, Scotty, DJ Fontana and a group of their studio musician friends completed the recording session that resulted in 706 ReUnion.

Cover of CD Re-release, Not Original Album

 

Two years earlier, Carl Perkins had been the headliner at the first “Good Rockin’ Tonight” concert, presented during Elvis Week by Darwin Lamm, editor and publisher of Elvis International magazine.  Perkins was unable to sing at the second annual concert in 1991 because of his cancer surgery, but he was back as headliner again for “Good Rockin’ Tonight 3” in 1992.

Again, Carl Perkins worked on Scotty to join him – this time, on stage playing the guitar. Scotty agreed, and became part of the most exciting line-up in the history of Elvis Week concerts.  Not only did the fans get to see Elvis’ first guitar player, they also got to see his last one, James Burton.

James Burton and Scotty Moore Rehearsing

 

The Sun Rhythm Section, featuring Sunny Burgess and DJ Fontana opened the show and wowed the audience with an excellent Rockabilly set.  Also on the bill were the Jordanaires who backed Elvis on too many records to count and Ronnie McDowell who sang the songs on several Elvis movies and TV biographies.

From left – James Burton, DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore. Behind Carl perkins on stool — Jardanaires, Ronnie McDowell (in black, white belt), and others.

 

Scotty’s long-time friend, Gail Pollock, summarized the show, “It was electric.”  Especially, when Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore were on stage together.

 

After that, Scotty was hooked.  A week after the concert in Memphis, he went to England to perform with the Jordanaires.  He had been away from performing for 24 years, but at age 61, Scotty Moore was back.  Thousands of fans have seen him at concerts in the years since, and Scotty Moore has brought tears of happiness to more than a few of them.

 

Many thanks to James Roy, webmaster for www.scottymoore.net, and to Gail Pollock for their help in supplying the photographs and historical reference material for this article.

 

©  2012    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.

The Most Significant Month In Elvis' History

Back in late 2005, I was trying to think of something to write for the upcoming Birthday Tribute Issue of Elvis International magazine. 

I always try to submit something for each issue, and Darwin Lamm, the publisher, likes to do anniversary themes.  So, I checked out what went on with Elvis fifty years earlier in January, 1956.  I quickly realized that lots of important stuff happened, and I had my story idea.  The result was an article with a short title and the longest subtitle I ever used:

 

Fast forward five years, and my buddy, Alan Hanson, posts an article on his Elvis-History-Blog.  Check out his title:

 

Hot dog, I thought.  Alan is pushing a different month.  I couldn’t wait to compare both arguments and see which month won.  In all honesty, it seems like March 1956 probably was the most significant, or pivotal, month in Elvis’ career.  Congratulations, Alan.  However, let’s look at Alan’s summary of life-changing events for Elvis in March and see how those in January 1956 compare.

First Hit on the Charts:  That, of course, was “Heartbreak Hotel,” and it appeared on the Billboard Top 100 pop chart at #68 on March 3. 

 
Elvis’ first national hit was a big event for sure.  But, not so fast.  When was it recorded?  On January 10, Elvis had his first recording session for RCA in Nashville.  Before that, all his recording had been at Sun Records in Memphis, and they were mostly Rockabilly numbers.

 
At RCA’s famed Nashville Studio B, Elvis recorded two songs that had previously been hits for other performers:  “Money Honey” (Drifters) and I Got A Woman” (Ray Charles).  But he also recorded one new song, a slow, bluesy number unlike anything he had done at Sun.  America’s teenagers would ultimately take “Heartbreak Hotel” to #1.

So, which month wins?  I’m sticking with January.  If you are talking about a pivotal event, you can hardly beat changing your record company, your studio, your musical style, and the make-up of your backing band – and getting a #1 hit out of it.  Sure, “Heartbreak Hotel” first reached the charts in March, but that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been recorded in January.

First LP Release:  Alan correctly notes that Elvis Presley was released on March 23, and it quickly rose to the top of the charts where it stayed for ten weeks. 

 

But once again, we can ask which is more important – when it was recorded or when it was released?  Elvis Presley contained twelve songs, but five of them had been recorded at Sun Records in 1955.  The other seven were all recorded in January 1956.  If all twelve had been recorded then, this would be another win for January.  So, we’ll be generous and call this a tie.

There is one interesting side note on the album Elvis Presley.  It did not contain the huge hit “Heartbreak Hotel.”  Apparently, Col. Parker decided the fans would buy the album anyway, and he was certainly correct.  He followed the same plan with the second album, Elvis, which did not contain the huge hits “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Final Appearance on the Louisiana Hayride:  In addition to new firsts for Elvis, March also contained some lasts.  However, so did January.  On January 2, 1956, Elvis performed at a high school auditorium in Charleston, Mississippi.  This was his last show in small venues.  From then on, it was all big theaters and arenas.  Is this more significant than the last of a long run at the Louisiana Hayride?  I think so.

 

However, there was one other important last for Elvis in January.  On January 20 in Fort Worth, he did his last appearance as a supporting act.  From then on, Elvis would always be a headliner.  That’s a pretty pivotal event.

Elvis had seventh billing on May 10, 1955

 

Final Appearance on Stage Show on TV:  Elvis made six appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show on CBS, and the last was on March 24.  How could that be more pivotal than his first appearance on the show on January 28?   Chalk up another win for January.

Elvis’ on His First TV Appearance – Jan 28, 1956

 

Ever Explosive Personal Appearances:  Okay, you have to give it to March on this one, but just barely.  Elvis did plenty of very explosive personal appearances in January, too.  Of course, this trend started before January 1956 and continued well beyond March, so it’s impossible to pick any month as the pivotal one.  Maybe this category should be skipped.

Hollywood Screen Test:  January had nothing similar to this for Elvis, so March gets the nod again.

Elvis Hooks Up With Colonel Parker:  This was a major significant event, and nothing occurred in January of comparable importance.

 

It looks like Alan’s last three points tipped the scales in favor of March 1956 as the most pivotal month in Elvis’ history.  If my focus had been different five years ago, I would have picked the same month as Alan, but, I was searching for a fifty-year anniversary theme to publish in January 2006.  If I had been searching for the Elvis’ most significant month, I would have written about March 1956, but I couldn’t have done any better job presenting the case than Alan Hansen did.  Be sure to check it out.

 

©  2010    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.