Category Archives: CONCERTS

Surfing the Graceland Guest House Website and Facebook Page

Soundstage Aat Elvis Presley's Graceland

Two months ago, ElvisBlog looked at the Elvis Week events scheduled at Soundstage A at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. This includes six nightly concerts. In addition, there will be musical events at the Fedex Forum and the Elvis Week Entertainment Tent.

 

Guesthouse at Graceland Theater

Three months ago, we looked at some musical acts presented at the Graceland Guest House Theater. But a few days ago, I realized that all the Graceland Insider emails made no mention of any Elvis Week shows at the theater.

I couldn’t believe they would leave that beautiful new theater unused during Elvis Week, so I did some digging on www.guesthousegraceland.com.

Graceland Guest House Website

Then I clicked on EVENTS in the upper right, which brought me to this:

What's happening at Graceland

So, I clicked on DOWNLOAD MONTHLY ACTIVITIES CALENDAR.

Ongoing Events at Graceland Guest House

This is the top half of the July calendar with two musical events highlighted in yellow. The July 1 show was T.G. Shepherd, which we covered in the April blog post. The show on July 3 was the Memphis Ukulele Band.

Memphis Ukulele Band

 

Here is the bottom half of the July events calendar along with the image that follows — a promotional graphic of other diversions happening at the hotel.

Guest House Event Schedule - bottom

You will note there are no music events highlighted on the theater calendar for the rest of July.

However, you can play these lawn games: ping pong, cornhole, shuffleboard & foosball. There’s a catch -– you need to have a valid ID and credit card to rent the stuff you need from the Guest House Gift Shop. I wonder what they charge for the beanbags you use for cornhole.

 

Guest House Live Music

Depending on when you stay at the hotel, you can listen to one of these two acts in the Lobby Lounge. Something tells me they don’t play much Elvis music.  If anyone knows, please let us know in Comments.

 

EP's Happy Hour

EP’s Bar & Grill was advertised in the graphic. So, a draft beer costs $4.00 at Happy Hour. What do you think it is the rest of the night? I hadn’t seen much about EP’s in the emails from Graceland, so I looked elsewhere for pictures.

EP's Bar & Grill

EP's Bar & Grill at Graceland Guest House

If I stayed at the hotel, I would probably eat here. Photos of the other restaurants make them look really, really pricey.

 

Then I got back to my hunt for Elvis Week concerts at the Guest House Theater. I found a little calendar icon showing July, but with an arrow to click on for the next month. Look what I got.

No Upcoming Events at Graceland Guest House Theater

I added the circle around the news that there are no events in August. This was just too hard for me to accept, so I searched elsewhere and found two daytime concerts.

Bourke Performing at Graceland

Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest Showcase

This tribute artist showcase is interesting. If you bought tickets in the $209 section of the Ultimate ETA contest, you get a bonus of free tickets to a concert by the semifinalists.

Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest

So, there are two daytime music events at the hotel theater during Elvis Week, but nothing at night. I don’t get it. Maybe they want everyone to head over to Elvis Presley’s Memphis and spend more money.

 

Find us on Facebook

There was something at the bottom of that promotional graphic we looked at earlier. I didn’t know the Guest House had a Facebook page, but I figured it had some different pictures than the website, so I clicked on it. I was right, so here are a few.

Karaoke Night at EP's Bar at Graceland Guest House

This must be popular with the fans. I wonder if the song list on the karaoke machine is 100% Elvis hits.

 

These dramatic drapes at the Guest House at Graceland are a favorite spot for selfies

The caption under this picture is, “These dramatic drapes at the Guest House at Graceland are a favorite spot for selfies.”  It seems like there would be dozens of more interesting backgrounds for selfies to mark your trip to Graceland.

 

Inside Portico at Graceland Guest House

This is a nice shot from the front door out through the portico.

 

The deviled egg appetizer at EP’s Bar & Grill

They even show a photo of the deviled egg appetizer at EP’s Bar & Grill.

 

Above the pool table at Graceland Guest House.

The caption under this picture says, “If you’re playing billiards at The Guest House at Graceland, be sure to look up.” The pool table is located in EP’s Bar and Grill.

Guest House Pool Table at EP's Bar

 

Pool at Graceland Guesthouse

It looks like it would be cold if you tried to take a swim. Notice there are no leaves on the trees.

 

Heart-Shaped Fireplace at Graceland Guest House

Great caption: “Stop by for a little burning love by our heart-shaped fireplace.” I guess it is outside on the grounds somewhere.

 

This last photo from the Graceland Guest House Facebook page was obviously posed, but it’s very well done.

Happy National Martini Day at EP's Lounge

It promoted National Martini Day at EP’s Bar & Grill. That place is really starting to sound good to me. I wonder why they don’t give it more mention on the website.

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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A Summer of 40th Anniversaries

Elvis 40

Elvis Week 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, and EPE has a great event planned for the fans. There is so much quality stuff to do and see, enhanced by the new Graceland Guest House and Elvis Presley’ Memphis. I wish I was going.

Another 40th anniversary coming up is Elvis’ last concert performance on June 26 at the Haymarket Arena in Indianapolis. I had the privilege of contributing to an upcoming special on local radio station WIBC. Programmer Chris Davis interviewed me to get soundbites for the broadcast.

Elvis' last Concert - Indianapolis 1977

Not that I had attended the concert. He had already found some Hoosiers who had been there. He asked me general stuff like the difference between Elvis’ 1950s music and his 70s music, and what was it like to be a teenager when Elvis burst on the scene and changed everything. He also asked me my opinion of Col. Parker, but I’m pretty sure he won’t use my answer. I didn’t mince words about my disdain for Parker. If you’d like to read a 2009 blog post I did on Elvis’ final concert, click here.

 

Another 40th anniversary is the Elvis in Concert TV special on CBS. It aired on Oct 3, 1967, just a few weeks after Elvis died. However, it was conceived well before his death and was supposed to join the ranks of the ’68 Comeback Special and Aloha from Hawaii to create a trio of historic Elvis TV specials. The results did not live up to expectations, and Elvis in Concert has been mostly just a historical footnote.

TV ad for Elvis in Concert Special

This is a screen grab of the commercial CBS used to promote the program.

CBS advertisement for Elvis In Concert in 1977

 

Filming for the special was done on June 19 at the Omaha Civic Center and June 21 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota.

 

Start of CBS Special Elvis in Concert.

This is the opening shot from the one-hour broadcast.

Omaha Civic Auditorium

Elvis in Concert contained fourteen songs, but only three were included form the Omaha show. According to Peter Guralnick and Earnst Jorgensen, the authors of ELVIS – Day by Day, “it is one of the poorest shows Elvis has given to date, a sad and incoherent performance for the most part.”

 

Rushmore Civic Auditorium

Elvis was in much better two nights later in Rapid City. He performed memorable versions two songs, but one was not included in the special. Again, quoting ELVIS – Day by Day,

“Perhaps the highlight of the show (although it is neither easy viewing nor listening) is Elvis’ version of “Unchained Melody,” which will not be included in the television broadcast, though Elvis performs it in bravura fashion, alone at the piano.”

Elvis Singing Unchained Melody

 

I would like to disagree. There is footage on YouTube of Elvis performing “Unchained Melody” the same manner on April 24, 1977, two months earlier. If you have seen it, you’ll never forget it. Elvis was bloated, sweating profusely, and performing through a cloud of painkillers.

Elvis Singing Unchained Melody - Close Up

And yet, he gave an utterly moving rendition of the song. Maybe it wasn’t easy viewing, but it was compelling. It gave me the chills and a lump in my throat. It was a great triumph for Elvis to pull it off. I was so proud of him.

 

Are You Lonesome Tonight Laughing Version

The other memorable song in Elvis in Concert was “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Starting in 1969, when Elvis performed it onstage, he regularly played around with the words during the talking part part of the song. Often, this caused him to break into fits of laughter. If you’ve never seen a video of this, just go to YouTube and type in Are You Lonesome Tonight Laughing Version.

However in the Elvis in Concert broadcast, just before Elvis went into the recitation part of the song, the music was faded down and a devoted female fan is shown talking about her determination to see Elvis live in concert, then it switches back to Elvis after the talking part was finished. This may have been done so that viewers would not have to see Elvis fumbling through the recitation.

 

1977 Elvis in Concert double record set

Shortly after the broadcast, RCA released a double album also called Elvis in Concert.  Although it contained all the songs from the TV special, it also contained “Fans’ Comments,” “Elvis Talks,” a “Special Message from Elvis’ Father,” and a bunch of songs recorded at other concerts in June 1977.

 

The Elvis in Concert TV Special has never been officially released on VHS or DVD, and Elvis’ estate has issued a statement saying that they have “no plans” to release the special, due to the fact that Elvis was visibly “far from his best in the way he looked and the way he performed.”

However, the bootleggers have been busy putting out unofficial DVDs. Here are just a few.

ELVIS PRESLEY IN CONCERT 1977 DVD

 

And like everything else ever filmed, Elvis in Concert has shown up on YouTube – numerous times. Click here and take your pick.

 

 

© 2014 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Soundstage A — The New Epicenter of Elvis Week

Elvis Presley's Memphis Under Construction with Graceland Plaza in Front

I posted this aerial shot last week to show how much bigger Elvis Presley’s Memphis is compared to Graceland Plaza. Then I got curious about what the different buildings are. So I went to Graceland.com and found this:

Map of Elvis Presley's Memphis

Wow, there’s numbers in blue squares, more numbers in black circles, letters in black diamonds, and other symbols. And to figure out what is what, this code was provided:

Map of Elvis Presley's Memphis - Copy

Okay, let’s see. There are 15 attractions and exhibits and four places to eat. Then there was a separate list of six stores. I went back and forth to figure out what was what, but finally had to create this:

Finished Map of Elvis Presley's Memphis

 

Maybe in a later post we’ll look at the exhibits in detail. For now, just note the new auto museum on the top left, the huge Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum that’s got all the stuff they moved from across the street, and finally Soundstage A with the circle around it.

SoundStage A

 

This theater is huge. It seats 1,700 people; nearly quadruple the 464 at the Graceland Guest House Theater. The website says this about Soundstage A:

The Soundstage will be an extraordinary venue for live music performances, movie screenings and premieres, video productions… It will also be usable for private events, corporate meetings, conferences and trade show exhibitions.

During the Grand Opening, Soundstage A played host to a variety of live music acts that showcased the history of music in Memphis and the best of Memphis music today.

 

Side View of Soundstage A

This is Soundstage A from the side. It’s a big building, 20,000 square feet. You go through the gate and up to the ticket office. Turn right there and you are headed toward the theater entrance.

Walk to Ticket Office at Elvis Presley's Memphis

 

I think it is fair to say that Soundstage A will be the epicenter of Elvis Week festivities this year. It will host fifteen different events over a nine-day period. Here’s the list:

Elvis Week 2017 Fifteen Events at Soundstage A

EPE did a fine job scheduling two big parties on the first day, Friday the 11th. This should encourage some folks to come early.

So, there are five concerts: a gospel music show, three Ultimate Elvis contests, A Band of Legends Remembers Elvis, and The Ultimate Return.  I love that title, and it works because the concert features ten past Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist winners. That should be quite a show.

Those four different 10 AM Conversations all sound good.

Elvis 101 could be a sure thing for me. It’s got some guests I’d like to hear. The Salute to Sam Phillips is half talk and half music.

 

Hopefully these brief comments have made you want to know more. For full details on all of these events at Soundstage A, please click here.

There, you can also read about the events at the Guest House Theater and ballroom, The Fedex Forum, and the Elvis Week Entertainment Tent. The tent will be at Graceland somewhere, but right now they can’t tell you. That problem surely will be solved by Elvis Week.

Soundstage A and Exhibits

 

Yes, there are other strong Elvis Week events not at Soundstage A. But it is going to be one busy place. Fifteen events in nine days. Sounds like the epicenter of Elvis Week to me.

 

 

2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

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Concerts at the Graceland Guest House Theater – Part 2

Concert in Graceland Guest House Theater

Last week we took a look at the first big concert in the new Graceland Guest House Theater. Actually, big does not adequately describe the Joe Walsh “All Shook Up at Graceland” event.

Joe Walsh at Guest House Theater 2

It’s a package deal including two nights in the hotel, two parties, Graceland tour, a combination concert/ Q&A session/slide show by Joe Walsh, and much more. And it cost $1,795 per person.

There have been other concerts in the Guest House, and they have been on a more modest scale. For example:

Gospel Weekend at the Guest House Theater

This was a two-night package back in February, with Mark209 in concert on Friday, February, 24th, and Memphis Soul City performing on Saturday, February 25th. Anyone booked in a two-double bed room with a view of the central courtyard ($219 per night, double occupancy, plus 21% taxes and fees) could go to the concerts for free.

 

TG Sheppard and Kelly Lang

This is a straight concert, with no hotel room tie-in. You can be staying at any hotel or motel in town and come see this show for $25. T.G Sheppard had dozens of top 40 country hits, but his last was in 1988. He is 73 but maintains a busy touring schedule along with his wife Kelly Lang. I suspect that the Guest House will present more concerts of this nature than the extravaganza packages like Joe Walsh.

 

That being said, I would like to suggest three performers I think Graceland would be wise to schedule. While they are all up in age, they are still performing. And best of all, they all have a connection to Elvis, and I would love to see any of them in a concert.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson Smiling and Elvis

In 1955, Wanda Jackson was a seventeen-year-old aspiring country singer, with some minor hits to her credit and a half-hour radio show on KLPR in Oklahoma City. In July, she was booked on one of those packaged touring country music shows that were popular in the fifties. It was here that she met Elvis Presley, and they became fast friends. Wanda and Elvis performed in other touring shows in August and October, 1955, and again in early 1956.

Elvis Presley and Wanda Jackson April 15, 1956 San Antonio

April 15, 1956, San Antonio

Elvis and Wanda dated a bit, but her dad was her manager on the road, so things never got hot and heavy between the young singers. In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, she said, “Our dating amounted to what we could do on the road. If we got in town early, we might take in a matinee movie. Then, after the shows, we could go places with his band — and my dad, of course… It was very important, a girl’s reputation, in those days. There were things you could and couldn’t do, and my daddy made sure I never crossed the line.”

Wanda Jackson and Elvis

Elvis urged Wanda Jackson to branch out and try rockabilly music. He said, “It’s the next big thing, and you need to be singing it.” She took his advice and decided to try her hand in this wild new world of rockabilly. “He broke my train of thought and made me realize I could stretch myself.” Rockabilly songs are what made her mark in music history. As Rolling Stone said, “Her songs were full of vinegar. She sang them all with gravel-throated gusto.” The Smithsonian Institution would later refer to her as the sweet lady with the nasty voice. Her first national hit was “Let’s Have A Party,” which Elvis fans know he originally recorded for the movie Loving You in 1957. Jackson liked the song and recorded it in 1958 for her self-titled first album.

 

Later Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson went on to have great success in other four different genres – rockabilly, country, gospel, and rock and roll. She had huge popular success in Europe and Japan. In 2009, Wanda Jackson was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

In 2007, she recorded an album in tribute to her old friend titled I Remember Elvis. “[Elvis] has been a big part of my life. I worked with him and loved him very much for the person that he was, so it only seemed right that I should do a special tribute to him. I chose the songs he was singing when I was working with him in the fifties, and that gave it purpose. At the end of the CD, I also tell stories about my remembrances of the first time I met him, the first night I worked with him, and the last time I saw him.”

 

Wanda Jackson Concert Schedule

Although Wanda Jackson will turn 80 this year, she still does the occasional concert. I would be thrilled to see her perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater, and I’d bet she would pack the place. How about it, EPE? Please schedule Wanda Jackson while you still can.

Wanda Jackson in 2014

 

 

 

Johnny Rivers

Elvis & Johnny Rivers were friends in Hollywood in the early 60´s.

Johnny Rivers’ connection to Elvis started the same year as Wanda Jackson – 1955. At that time, he was Brooklyn-born John Ramistella, a twelve-year-old growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Young John and a buddy went to the local high school to see a country concert starring Minnie Pearl and Little Jimmy Dickens. Opening the show was an unknown singer named Elvis Presley. Minnie Pearl introduced him as “The Hillbilly Cat,” and he came out wearing a pink suit and white buck shoes. Elvis sang only two songs, “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Rivers recalled, “All that sexual energy up there on stage, people didn’t know what to make of it.” He said to his buddy, “Wow. This guy’s really cool.”

Johnny got a second look at Elvis after that high school concert. He went around behind the auditorium and saw Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black loading their gear in a trailer. Actually, Scotty and Bill were doing the loading. Elvis was talking to some of the country acts. Johnny remembers this about Elvis: “He was bouncing around, he couldn’t stand still. I’m thinking this is the coolest guy I ever seen.”

Within a year, Johnny was playing guitar in local groups, and by age fourteen, he was fronting the band “Johnny and the Spades.” In 1958 he performed at the Lousiana Hayride in Shreveport. Later that year, Johnny traveled to New York to seek work in recording studios. It was there he met legendary disc jockey Allen Freed, who convinced him to change his name to Johnny Rivers.

The next stop was Nashville, then back to New York City, and finally Los Angeles. In 1963 Rivers and his group began an extended stay as the house band at a local nightclub. This led to a lucrative offer to open the new discotheque Whiskey A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. Soon, his first album Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey A-Go-Go was released, and it quickly sold a million copies. Johnny Rivers’ career was on a roll.

With his newfound wealth, Johnny Rivers moved into a mansion in exclusive Trousdale Estates, and regularly drove his maroon Jaguar over to Elvis’ place in Bel Air for weekend football games, with other stars like Pat Boone and Jan and Dean.

 

Elvis on his 1966 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide and Johnny Rivers on a Triumph

Johnny Rivers and Elvis had one other interesting connection – the song “Memphis” written by Chuck Berry. Elvis recorded it during a two-day session in Nashville in May 1963 that produced fourteen songs. Time constraints limited “Memphis” to just two takes, and Elvis was not happy with either one. So, on January 12, 1964, Elvis went back in the studio to re-record “Memphis” and one other song. He wanted a more exciting, modern sound, because he planned to release “Memphis” as his next single. Elvis was dedicated and focused. He was in good voice, and he loaded up the studio with three guitar players and two drummers.

Elvis - Memphis Single

Elvis left the studio very pleased with the results, but “Memphis” was never released as a single – and Johnny Rivers was the reason. He and Elvis had jammed together on the song back in Bel Air. Rivers liked it so much he incorporated it into his repertoire at the Whiskey. In May 1964 a live version of the song hit the market and quickly went to #2 on the charts. That killed any chance of “Memphis” ever being an Elvis single.

Johnny Rivers- Memphis Single

 

There is one last Elvis/Johnny Rivers connection. I would strongly recommend his 1991 CD The Memphis Sun Recordings. Rivers recorded it at Sun Studios, with James Burton and Carl Perkins as special guests. It contains cover versions of four Elvis songs and three Perkins hits, plus others by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich. It’s a terrific CD, and I play it a lot.

Johnny Rivers -- The Memphis Sun Recordings

 

I find it hard to believe, but Johnny Rivers has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. How can they ignore an artist with 17 Top 40 hits, 9 Top 10 hits, and a Number 1 hit “The Poor Side of Town.” His most notable song over the years has been “Secret Agent Man,” which peaked at #3 in 1966.

 

Older Johnny Rivers

 

Johnny Rivers will turn 75 this year, but he still performs regularly.

Johnny Rivers Appearances

 

So, my second suggestion for an artist to appear at the Guest House Theater is Johnny Rivers. He could certainly wow the audience by performing the four Elvis songs on the Memphis Sun Recordings CD: “Mystery Train,” “Tryin’ To Get To You,” “That’s Alright, Mama,” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” Plus there is “Memphis.” Rivers also released an album Blue Suede Shoes, and the title song is the best version I’ve ever heard. If Graceland books Johnny Rivers, I guarantee there will be dancing in the aisles.

 

 

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley

Yes, I know this is a Photoshopped photo

Did you see this choice coming? How absolutely cool would it be to have Jerry Lee Lewis perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater?

I presume it isn’t necessary to detail the connection between Elvis and Jerry Lee. However, stories about their rivalry persist, so that’s worth mentioning. Elvis had been gone from Sun Records for over a year before Jerry Lee burst on the scene. In some ways The Killer had the better of it in this presumed competition. For one thing, Jerry Lee had much bigger hits at Sun Records than Elvis did. The sales of “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” and “Great Balls of Fire” absolutely dwarfed anything achieved by Elvis’ five Sun releases. “Breathless” and “High School Confidential” also made the Top 40, something not achieved by an Elvis song until he went to RCA. Jerry Lee’s career also shot out of the gates quicker than Elvis’. His first release “Crazy Arms” went nowhere, but the second, “Whole Lot of Shakin’,” instantly made him a national star.

 

Million Dollar Quartet

The supposed feud between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley is on pretty shaky ground. Consider what Elvis said after the famed “Million Dollar Quartet” session, his first musical interaction with Jerry Lee:

“That boy can go. I think he has a great future ahead of him. He has a different style, and the way he plays piano just gets inside me.”

Jerry Lee wasn’t afraid to put his stamp on Elvis songs. He has recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Elvis covered Jerry Lee’s’ “Whole Lot of Shakin,” and a few lesser-known Lewis songs.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis RockHall of Fame Photo

Both men are charter members of the Rock& Roll Hall of Fame, inducted together in the inaugural class of 1986. Check out the picture the RockHall uses as their stock Jerry Lee Lewis photo.

These days, Jerry Lee doesn’t climb up on the piano. He will turn 82 this year and his performance schedule is pretty skimpy.

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

He performed at his own club in Memphis this past New Year’s Eve, and then at a Country Music Festival in late February in Indio, California. His website does not list any upcoming appearances.

Jerry Lee Lewis On Stage - May 4, 2013

Hopefully, there is still enough time for EPE to book Jerry Lee Lewis for the Graceland Guest House Theater, but they better hurry.

 

Nesbit, Missippi

He lives on his ranch just south of Memphis in Nesbit, Mississippi.  They could send a stretch-limo down there and transport him to the Guest House in style. They could put him up in the Vernon and Gladys Suite.

Vernon and Gladys Suite

 

All that would probably run up the price of tickets, but I don’t think they’d have any problem filling up the place.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis is a Rock and Roll legend.

Come on EPE. Bring him to Graceland.

 

Older Jerry Lee Lewis

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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

*

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.

__________

.

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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