Category Archives: NEWS

Elvis’ Original Graceland Piano Returns to the Music Room

Elvis' Knabe Grand Piano

 

Ten days ago, Graceland.com/news made this announcement:

Most Significant Musical Artifact

“Elvis Presley’s Graceland has announced the acquisition of one of the most significant pieces of Elvis’ musical history, which will be returned to Graceland 60 years after it was first purchased by Elvis for the home in 1957 – a white, baby grand piano with gold accents and a custom-made, gold, metal bench designed by Elvis with a white, leather cushion. For the first time ever, the public will be able to see this legendary Knabe branded piano on display in its Graceland home.”

 

Knabe Piano Logo and Keys

 

This is a special piano, as we will report in detail, and its acquisition seems to be the catalyst for a complete restoration of the Graceland music room to its original 1960s-era appearance. The white piano will be complemented by the original white and blue draperies, and the gold couch that was part of the room’s décor in 1964. Doesn’t it sometimes seem like nothing at Graceland was ever thrown out? I guess it was all put into storage in the attic, basement, outbuildings and elsewhere.

Elvis Standing in front of Knabe Piano

 

History of Knabe Pianos:

William Knabe, a German immigrant, started his piano-manufacturing company in Baltimore in 1837. His instruments were of high quality and well regarded, especially in the antebellum South. Owners and players of Knabe pianos through the years include Albert Einstein, Brigham Young, Rutherford B. Hayes, Francis Scott Key, and Hans von Bülow. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky played a Knabe at the opening concert of Carnegie Hall in 1891, and Knabe pianos were used by the New York Metropolitan Opera for forty years. Based on the serial number, this particular instrument was manufactured in 1912.

 

Owners Before Elvis:

It’s a mystery who may have owned this piano from 1912 until the 1930s when it was installed as a stage instrument at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee. For the next three decades, the Knabe piano at Ellis was played by the finest local and national touring musical acts of the period, including W. C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and many others.

In early 1957, this Knabe grand piano was sold during a remodeling project at Ellis Auditorium. The purchaser was Jack Marshall, owner of Marshall Music at 3627 Park Avenue in Memphis. Marshall knew of the quality and history of this piano; he had played it onstage at the Ellis numerous times as the accompanist for the legendary Southern Gospel group, the Blackwood Brothers.

As soon as Elvis heard of the availability of this instrument, he wanted it as part of the original furnishings for his new home called Graceland. On May 28, 1957, Elvis purchased the piano from Jack Marshall s for $818.85.

 

Elvis and Ellis Auditorium:

What possessed Elvis in 1957 to choose this particular “used” piano for his grand new home? There were certainly plenty of other pianos, both new and used, to choose from. A new one could probably have been ordered in white, avoiding the lengthy refinishing process. A look at the history of Elvis Presley and the Ellis Auditorium may answer that question.

Ellis Autorium, Memphis Tennessee

As a poor teenager, Elvis often attended the Gospel “Sings” that took place at Ellis Auditorium. He and his mother both loved that type of music; they attended the First Assembly of God Church where the Blackwood Brothers were based. On the nights that Elvis couldn’t get a job selling sodas at Ellis to earn admittance and didn’t have the pocket change, he could usually count on the Blackwoods to let him sneak in through the back door. He would sit in the audience, watch Jack Marshall play this Knabe piano with the members of the beloved quartet he called friends. Elvis also dreamed of the day he might perform on that very stage.

Of the many memories Elvis held of Ellis Auditorium, one of the proudest must have been the night that he walked across that stage for the first time. The date was June 3, 1953, and the occasion was his graduation from Humes High School. His parents were likely in the audience beaming with pride at their son.

 

The very first time Elvis performed on that hallowed Ellis stage was on February 6, 1955. He was fourth-billed, behind Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, and Martha Carson.

Elvis' Concerts at Ellis Auditorium 1955

Fourth Billing February 1955  — Top Billing November 1955

At Elvis’ next gig at Ellis Auditorium, on November 13, 1955, he was top-billed over Hank Thompson, Carl Smith, and Carl Perkins. During 1955 and 1956, Elvis performed at Ellis Auditorium six times.

Elvis Performing at Ellis Auditorium

Performing at Ellis Auditorium, May 15, 1956
Is that the Knabe Piano on the left?

 

Elvis had become a superstar by the time he bought this piano in 1957, but he most certainly still had a strong emotional connection to Ellis Auditorium. When the piano became available, it’s no wonder that Elvis felt he absolutely had to have it for his very own. What an amazing story — from sneaking in the back door to hear it played behind his favorite Gospel group to owning it and playing it himself in his own music room just a few short years later!

Elvis Playing Knabe Piano

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Elvis Had the White Knabe Grand Piano Refurbished:

He had a definite vision of the appearance he wanted. To that end, Elvis personally supervised the refinishing of the Knabe, a process that took place in Jack Marshall’s store, with a young high school-aged member of the singing Blackwood family named Ron Blackwood performing most of the stripping and sanding procedures.

Blackwood had a fond memory of Elvis and the piano:

“One special event involving this piano occurred when one evening while I was working on the refinishing in the warehouse at Jack Marshall’s music store, Elvis came by to check on the progress, as he often did. He and several of the Blackwood Brothers began singing and playing gospel songs together. This continued until past 4:00 a.m. I was still in high school at the time, but I stayed and participated in the sing-along jam session the entire night. I was so tired the next morning, I couldn’t go to school. My mother was so upset.”

When piano was completed to Elvis’ satisfaction, he purchased a matching bench and had them moved into a prominent place in his music room at the new mansion. That is where this piano stayed for twelve years. During that time, the piano was the musical focal point of many hours Elvis spent rehearsing and entertaining guests, and it was played constantly by Elvis as well as visiting celebrities. Elvis enjoyed playing and singing alone in private moments, but especially enjoyed gathering family and friends in the music room as they ran through a broad repertoire of favorite songs – particularly gospel and R&B.

According to Elvis’ close friend George Klein:

“One special event involving this piano occurred when one evening Sam Phillips called and asked if he and Jerry Lee Lewis could stop by Graceland. The result was that Elvis and Jerry Lee played and sang together on that piano for over two hours.”

If I was granted a special wish to go back in time to any Elvis event, I think I would pick this two-hour Elvis and Jerry Lee jam session.  That would be some experience.

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The End of the Knabe at Graceland:

As a present for Elvis’ and Priscilla’s first wedding anniversary in 1968, she gave him a new gold piano to replace the Knabe. Off to storage it went, its mellow voice sadly silenced for several years.

In 1976, Vernon Presley decided to sell the grand piano to Ted Sturges, a local recording studio owner and record producer. During the five years Sturges owned this Knabe, it was used in recording sessions for more than 50 albums by various artists. In 1981, Sturges sold the piano to a close friend of Elvis, entertainer Jimmy Velvet. He had opened an Elvis Memorabilia Museum in Memphis, and he proudly exhibited it there until 1990. At that point, it returned to private ownership where it has remained for the last 20 years.

 

Elvis Presley's Knabe Grand Piano

 

During Elvis Week in 2010, the Knabe piano was offered at Ultimate Elvis Auction held by Heritage Auctions in Memphis. The minimum bid was set at $500,000, and the pre-auction estimate was $1 million plus. The price tag was too high, and nobody met the minimum.

Presumably, EPE negotiated more favorable terms to bring this special piano back to Graceland.

 

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

 

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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

An Elvis Movie You’ll Want to Skip

Elvis Lives Poster

When the movie Elvis & Nixon was released last year, I grumbled in an ElvisBlog post about how it featured an ugly-looking Elvis.

Michael Shannon as Elvis in Elvis & Nixon

Michael Shannon as Elvis.

In the blog article I questioned the why producers would portray an ugly Elvis when he was one of the best-looking men that ever lived. Well, they’ve done it again.

Elvis Lives Actor as Elvis Close-up

If this guy was an Elvis Tribute Artist would you pay money to see him? No, and you don’t want to watch him in a movie either. At 10pm on Wednesday, August 16, that movie, Elvis Lives, will appear on cable channel AXS TV. This network offered two good Elvis documentary movies in the preceding weeks: ELVIS That’s The Way It Is (Aug. 1), and This Is Elvis (Aug. 8), and the following week: Elvis On Tour (August 22).

But on the big day, the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death, they will show a movie the New York Times website review slammed. Elvis is portrayed as “paranoid, delusional and rabidly opposed to illegal drugs, though he shovels in the prescription variety like candy.”

Actor as Elvis Popping Pills in Elvis Lives

This is one scene of Elvis popping pills, and there are many others throughout the movie. In fact, Elvis’ first line of dialog is “I want my pills.”

The film degrades Elvis’ memory even more with scenes of him screwing up song lyrics, and drinking hard liquor (which shows how little the script writers actually know about Elvis).

Actor as Elvis Drinking hard Liquor

 

So who is this guy they chose to be Elvis in the movie? His name is Johnathan Nation, and when I searched for publicity photos of him, they all seemed to be from several years ago.

Jonathan Nation

I never heard of him, so I checked out his film credits on IMDb (a great website you should check out if you want to know more about a movie or TV show). Here are some of the highlights of Johnathan Nation’s career.

Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus

Johnathan Nation had fourth billing in this 2009 movie. Do you think he got better rolls in better movies in later years?

Erotic Vampires of Beverly Hills

In 2015 he had eighth billing in Erotic Vampires of Beverly Hills. Uh, oh. Going the wrong way. So, AXS TV hardly got themselves a hot actor to portray Elvis.

Part of the movie takes place six months after his supposedly faked death. Picking up on one of those fantasies that permeated Elvis world for a few years, Elvis is in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. And guess what name they give him for his new life — Jesse Garon. Give me a break. Of course nobody would suspect he was Elvis using that name. Well, actually they might not, because the guy looks like this.

Actor as Elvis without Hair Dye

 

Here is why Elvis supposedly needed to disappear and start a new life:

FBI Catches Mobster with Help from Elvis

Now the whole mob, called the Fraternity, is out to get Elvis.

Actor in Elvis Lives Holding Gun

 

So, unless you have a morbid curiosity or are a glutton for punishment, be sure to skip Elvis Lives on August 16. There are so many better ways to honor the memory of Elvis Presley.

 

There are a couple of interesting things associated with this movie.

Billionaire Mark Cuban is the founder and CEO of AXS TV, the cable channel showing it. The press release says, he commissioned the film after working with The Asylum [the production company] on Sharknado 3 (2015), in which he played Marcus Robbins, the President of the United States.

Sharknado 3

The Sharknado movies have been branded as “proudly, shamelessly, and gloriously brainless” by movie website Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of this, a press release from Asylum’s president says, “we intend to do for the life of Elvis Presley what Sharknado did for flying sharks.”

That’s just what Elvis fans want, right?

And there’s more stupid stuff. Before he decided to actually run for president, Donald Trump tried to get the part as the president in Sharknado 3 that eventually went to Mark Cuban.

Donald Trump Wanted to Play the President in Sharknado 3

And last, (and definitely least) Sharknado 3 features a cameo by Anthony Weiner.

 

Here’s one more thing that emphasizes my opinion about the movie that’s the topic of this post. Neil Genzlinger, the NY Times website movie reviewer suggested they make a sequel to Elvis Lives and call it

Elvis vs. Mega Squid in the Bermuda Triangle

 

It might be an improvement.

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

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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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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Postscripts to Earlier ElvisBlogs

A Touch of Gold Vol 3 - Scarce Maroon label disc

I haven’t done one of these Postscripts in years, but some stuff has come up that will work. Like this interesting six-song EP.  It played at 45rpm but functioned as a small album.  The record has a maroon label,  making it even more rare and valuable to collectors. The cover is a variation of the classic album, with Elvis reduced to just three images.  I wish I had run across this a week earlier, because I could have put it into last weekend’s post on the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Peppers, which veered off to remade covers of 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Mad Magazine Cover

Here’s a variation on Sgt. Peppers that’s not an album, but a magazine.  Good luck figuring out who all the faces are.

elvis presley parody album cover

50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong is not the only Elvis album to get copied. Recognize the album cover they’re copying here?

 

A month ago, we said Goodbye to Graceland Plaza. A newer shot makes a great comparison before and after.

Graceland Plaza

Graceland Plaza - All gone

Heavy machines sit where Graceland Plaza used to be.

 

Thanks to my friend Bob Strother, I have found something that would have been great in the Chuck Berry Tribute back in March. Here’s the story.

On August 20th, 1977, NASA sent up a two-hour recording of The Sounds of Earth on the Voyager I spacecraft. It included natural sounds of animals, a French poem by Gaugliere, a passage from the Koran in Arabic, and messages from President Carter.  Plus lots of music — everything from classical to Johnnie Be Goode by Chuck Berry.

The Sounds of Earth - Voyager 1

Soon, Steve Martin teamed up with the Saturday Night Live crew to do a skit about it.  Supposedly, scientists had received a response from space, and Time magazine had promised to print the message on the cover of the next issue.  Dan Aykroyd’s character says, “Yes. They’ve sent us a message. It may be just four simple words, but it is the FIRST positive proof that other intelligent beings inhabit the universe.”

The panel moderator asks, “What are the four words?

Steve Martin’s character replies, “The four words that came to us from outer space — the FOUR words that will appear on the cover of Time magazine next week – are… He holds up the magazine.  ‘Send More Chuck Berry’.”

 

Send More Chuck Berry

Clever, very clever.

 

Rocking New Upgrades

This goes along with the article three weeks ago about Soundstage A at Elvis Presley’s Memphis.  Judging by the prices, expensive might be substituted for rocking.

View from Soundstage A

I found this photo taken by someone in front of Soundstage A. The big building at the end is the Elvis the Entertainer Museum

View of Storefronts near Soundstage A

This shot is framed farther right, with the entrance to the Soundstage on the far right.

 

Diana Henry Cast Signed by Elvis Twice

This picture and commentary were posted nearly four years ago in a feature called According to Wikipedia — The 10 Weirdest Elvis Presley Memorabilia. To my surprise, I heard from Diana Henry, the girl wearing the cast when Elvis signed it twice.  Here is what she had to say:

“I was the owner of the cast. Elvis didn’t come into the audience. He was kneeling by the stage talking to me. I didn’t beg him to sign it again. He didn’t realize he dropped sweat on the first signature and I told him so he signed it again. I wrote the story and sold it with the cast and the turquoise scarf he gave me.”

This is one of the best fan stories about Elvis memorabilia I have ever seen.  Thank you, Diana, for telling us about it.

 

Elvis as Batman

Adam West, who played Batman on TV from 1966 to 1968, died yesterday at age 88.  This is not a picture of Adam West.  It is Photoshopped Elvis.  You have to look closely to see all the Elvis references.  Lip snarl, large jumpsuit collar, scarf, bat costume open at the neck, and wide jumpsuit belt.

 

We’ll miss you, Adam West.  Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

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

 

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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

 

Say Goodbye to Graceland Plaza

Drawing of Graceland Plaza

If you’ve made the pilgrimage to Graceland you have certainly sent time in Graceland Plaza across the street. You probably have memories of eating at the Chrome Grill, shopping in the Elvis After Dark shop, or enjoying At the Movies with Elvis. Well, that’s all gone now.

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

In the bottom left of this aerial photo you can see Graceland Plaza. But look at the much larger complex of buildings under construction behind it. This is Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and all the good stuff has been moved here. It opened in March, and since then, the empty Graceland Plaza has been surrounded by a chain link fence.

More Buildings to the Left

Now demolition has begun and will be completed soon, if it hasn’t already. Graceland Plaza will be replaced by a park setting with lawn, bushes, and trees. It will provide a nice buffer between Elvis Presley’s Memphis and the busy street.

Current Graceland Plaza in Memphis

This is the ‘before’ shot showing what the above section used to look like.

 

Elvis Car Museum at Graceland

This is the car museum at the far left end of the plaza.

Old Car Museum with No car out Front

And this is it prior to demolition. Note that the shrubbery is gone and the Caddy has been moved from the stage.

 

Still More to the Left

This photo is taken from farther down to the right.

Graceland Plaza 3

The hedge and trees are gone.

 

Farther to the left

The demolition equipment is in place.

 

Graceland Plaza 2

The following are several shots of this section under demolition.

Graceland Plaza Demolition 5

Graceland Plaza Demolition 3

Graceland Plaza Demolition 2

Demolition of Graceland Plaza to the Left Of Airplanes

All gone.

 

Graceland Plaza Demolition 1

This picture is of the area just to the left of the airplanes.

Graceland Plaza 4

We’ll finish with a last look at what Graceland Plaza used to be. From the car museum in the upper left to the airplanes at the bottom right, Graceland Plaza had much to offer. It is part of our memories made during visits to pay tribute to Elvis. Now we have to go to Memphis again and see all the new stuff they’ve built. (Bring lots of money. It isn’t cheap.)

 

Many thanks to Scooby on Phoenix – The Elvis Forum for discovering a few of these photos on Facebook. His forum post on May 9 alerted me to the current demolition. I also checked on YouTube and found a walking tour filmed on May 9. Click here to view the footage.

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© 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 1

Joe Walsh at Guest House Theater

Did you see this announcement on Graceland.com the other day? When I saw it, my initial reaction was positive, because I’ve been a Joe Walsh fan for over forty years. I have three of his solo albums in my record collection, plus the Eagles albums from his time with the band.

I also saw him in concert back in the early 80s. It was at a big nightclub and there was a cover charge of something like $20 or $25. He had a tight back-up band and did a great show. My best memory is Joe coming out on stage wearing fake rabbit ears and fluffy slippers, and banging on a bass drum strapped in front of him, like the Energizer Bunny. I think the idea was that in spite of the Eagles break-up, Joe Walsh was still plugging along.

Well, obviously, he is still plugging along thirty something years later, because he is going to appear at the theater in the Graceland Guest House. I thought to myself, Man, if I was in Memphis the first weekend in May, I would definitely take in the show. Then I saw this:

Price for Joe Walsh at Graceland Guest House Theater

WHAT???

 

$3.600 for you and your sweetie to take in this event. My wife and I took a five day vacation to Key West that cost less than that. But the promo picture said it was a three day deal, so I dug deeper to see what could be worth that much money.

Joe Walsh Graceland Package Includes

 

The two nights at the Graceland Guest House are in rooms with two queen beds and a view of the pool and central courtyard. Looks like a pretty nice room.

Graceland Guest House Two Bed Basic Room

The rate for these rooms on May 6 is $299/night plus 21% taxes and fees. So that accounts for $723 dollars’ worth of the package cost.

 

Then, there are two parties with a disc jockey playing the tunes, plus food and drinks. That sounds like fun, especially if there is a dance floor. The free food takes care of a couple of meals during your stay. If you want an alcoholic beverage, that probably costs extra.

 

Elvis Entourage VIP Tour

The package includes a tour of Graceland. It is hard to imagine this would be anything less than the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour. You can see all the stuff the regular price of $99 covers. Every one of them are things on my must-see list.

 

I don’t see any real value in the custom lanyard or the trip lamination, and what hotel room doesn’t have free internet access these days?

So that leaves the three items connected with Joe Walsh on the list. It doesn’t go into details on the autographed photo, but it better be where he does them on site and inscribes them as the guests request. It would be lame if they just pass out pre-signed pictures.

 

How ya Doin' Steve

 

The photo-op with Joe Walsh is another chance to get up close and personal with him.

 

So, that brings us to the performance. I could find nothing on Graceland.com that said whether it was on Saturday night, May 6, or Sunday night, May 7. So I went Joe Walsh’s website and found this.

Joe Walsh Concerts

Hey, there’s something wrong here. Joe Walsh can’t be in both Tampa and Memphis for evening performances on May 6. We can assume that the All Shook Up at Graceland show is actually on Sunday May 7, the second night of the package.

This is just a portion of a schedule showing a long series of concerts with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers joining Joe Walsh. Note that the next night after Joe’s gig at Graceland, they will be playing a Memphis show at the FedEx Forum. Just for kicks, I looked up the prices for this, and they go from $33 for nosebleeds to $645 for right up in front of the stage.

 

There are no nosebleed seats at the Graceland Guest House Theater. With a capacity of just 464, it is an intimate venue, and there are no bad seats

Guesthouse at Graceland Theater

This seems the perfect size setting for the advertised “private acoustic storytellers performance.” It sounds like Joe will perform without a backing band, but his acoustic versions of his old hits and the ones he sung with the Eagles could be quite enjoyable. It is all the other stuff he says he will do that will make the evening special.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do: Take an evening, invite an audience and just be me.

Answering almost all questions anyone would ask (except the ones that may incriminate me).

A big screen power point presentation put together and narrated by me.

Guitar shop talk, slide guitar 101.

I’m particularly excited to talk about my Elvis experiences—what he meant to me and what I meant to him.

True stories of road craziness and of course playing more music.

We’ll conclude with a Town Hall Meeting, including a strategy and platform discussion for my candidacy to run for President of the United States in 2020 and sing ‘God Bless America’ or something else (Elvis would want that).”

The show is going to have to be a long one to get in all that. And you have to admit that it is totally unique in the world of entertainment.

BUT… is it worth $3,600?

 

Unmatched Luxury at Graceland Guest House

If you’ve seen the photos of the lobby, restaurants, and bars at the Graceland Guest House, you know they’ve built a hotel that projects a sense of opulence. Look at the following shots and it’s hard to argue with their claim of unmatched luxury.

Graceland Guest House Founders Room

Graceland Guest House Lobby-3

Graceland Guest House Ballroom

 

The Graceland Guest House is certainly designed to attract a well-healed clientele, so I guess they will have no trouble getting two hundred or so couples to pony up $3,600 and take in this unique Joe Walsh experience.

But, it is way out of reach for fans of modest means like me and probably most of you, too. When I first visited Graceland in 1993, I stayed at the Days Inn across the street and down a block. It didn’t detract from my Elvis pilgrimage one bit. In fact, the area around the little pool was a great gathering place at night for us fans, and we had a wonderful time together swapping stories. I’ve been to Elvis Week four times, and never once was Unmatched Luxury something I looked forward to.

I hope EPE will remember the little people and find more reasonably priced ways for us to enjoy our visit to Graceland.

Graceland RV Park & Campground

That last thought caused me to check and see if this was still open, and it is. Did you know there was a RV park and campground behind Heartbreak Hotel? Now that the Guest House and Elvis Presley’s Memphis have been built, I hope EPE doesn’t have plans for any more big construction projects. If they do, the nice piece of land above may get snapped up to build something else with Unmatched Luxury.

 

Computers are from Hell

I have been in computer hell since March 7. I’ve taken my laptop to Geek Squad three times, utilized their Remote Service via the internet twice, and had one of their field tech guys come to the house twice. I bought a new hard drive, modem, and router, and it took until April 13 to get everything back running right.

Because of these problems, I have missed new posts three times in the past six weeks. This is totally unacceptable, and I apologize for it.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Concerts at the Graceland Guest House Theater.”

 

 

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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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Muhammad Ali and Elvis

Ali wearing the robe that Elvis gave him. March 31 1974

Muhammad Ali, the three-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world, died June 3 at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. at age 74.

The above photo was taken in a boxing ring on March 31, 1974. Notice anything familiar about the rhinestone and jewel design? Looks like what Elvis had on several of his jumpsuits, doesn’t it? Well, it should. Elvis gave it to him the year before.

 

Elvis with Ali in his Suite at the Las Vegas Hilton 1973

Here they are in Ali’s suite in the Las Vegas Hilton in 1973. It is reported that Elvis gave the robe to him on February 14, 1973 shortly before Ali’s fight with Joe Bugner. Ali did not wear it at the Las Vegas Convention Center that night, but he won the fight.

 

People's Choice Robe Elvis Gave to Mohammed Ali

Here is the back view of the robe. According to some sources, Elvis had directed it to say People’s Champion, but somebody screwed up and did People’s Choice. Naturally, Elvis was very upset about the mistake, but it was too late to do anything about it. The robe cost a reported $3,000, and Ali was thrilled to receive it.

He did wear it to the ring for his next fight on March 31, 1973 against Ken Norton. Ali lost the fight, which made him decide the robe was bad luck, and he never wore it again. The 1974 photo above was a staged shot.

 

Mohammod Ali wearing and holding picture of robe Elvis gave him

So was this one taken at the Hard Rock Café in 1988.

 

Glove Muhammad Ali gave to Elvis

Here is another example of the Elvis Presley/Muhammad friendship: Elvis. You are the Greatest Fan. Muhammad Ali. Peace 1973.

 

Muhammad Ali and Elvis

 

“Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you’d want to meet.”

 

Muhammad Ali BackStage Pass to an Elvis Concert

Although I cannot find anything to corroborate it, it seems likely Ali used this backstage pass at an Elvis concert in Las Vegas.

 

Ali, Parker, and Vernon

It looks like Vernon and Col. Parker got to spend some time with Muhammad Ali as well.

 

Muhammad Ali and Jack Snoden in the Memorial Garden 1984

Muhammad Ali came to Graceland in 1984 and paid his respect Elvis at the Meditation Garden.

 

“People don’t realize what they had till it’s gone. Like President Kennedy, there was no one like him, the Beatles, and my man Elvis Presley.”

 

Robe Elvis gave to Ali on display at the Ali Center, Louisville KY

The robe Elvis gave Muhammad Ali is now on display in the Ali Center in Louisville, KY.

 

Elvis and Ali in boxing pose

At one point, Elvis and Ali were the two most recognizable human beings on the planet. Even in death, they may still be.

 “I was the Elvis of boxing.”

 

We’ll miss you Muhammad Ali.  Say hi to Elvis for us.

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

 

 

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The Night Bruce Springsteen Climbed the Graceland Wall

Bruce Springsteen Getting Readto Jump Elvis Presley's Graceland Wall

Today is the 40th anniversary of the night Bruce Springsteen tried to climb over the Graceland wall and see Elvis. It is an interesting story.

It has been often written that seven-year-old Springsteen watched Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show and was moved to pursue a career in music. In fact, he has been quoted saying:

“…it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.”

Elvis and Young Bruce Springsteen

Photoshopped Picture of Elvis and Bruce Springsteen Early in Their Careers


On April 29, 1976, Bruce Springsteen performed in concert in Memphis. It was called his “Born To Run Tour,” named after his first Top 40 hit and his first hit album that had reached # 3. After the four-hour concert ended, Springsteen was still wired, so he and E Street Band guitar player Steve Van Zandt decided to visit to Graceland. They took a cab, and at 3am on April 30 they arrived at the gate which was locked.

But Springsteen saw lights blazing inside the mansion, so he climbed the wall and ran to Graceland’s front door. Just as he was about to ring the doorbell, he was intercepted by security. Explaining his newfound rock fame and about recently being on the covers of both Time and Newsweek, Springsteen cajoled and begged to be let inside. Instead, the unimpressed guards told him that Elvis was out of town (true – on tour in Lake Tahoe) and escorted him promptly off the premises.

“Later on, I used to wonder what I would have said if I had knocked on the door and if Elvis had come to the door.”

 

Photoshopped picture of Elvis and Bruce Springsteen early in Their Careers

This is the cover of Springsteen’s Born To Run album. I have drawn a line to point out something on his guitar strap. It is a fan club button from the King’s Court Fan Club of NYC.

 

Elvis Button Bruce Springsteen wore on Born to Run Cover

Visual proof that Springsteen was still a big Elvis fan twenty years after that first Elvis epiphany.

 

Alt Photo During Born to Run Photo Session

Another picture taken at the album cover photo shoot

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“Elvis is my religion. But for him, I’d be selling encyclopedias right now.”

Springsteen performed a number of Elvis songs in concerts over the years. You may want to click on these:

Jailhouse Rock – 2009 Giants Stadium – Live sound but not video. Stock photos

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All Shook Up – 2009 The Spectrum, Philadelphia — Full song video in color, guy gets up on stage in white jumpsuit and sings.

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Viva Las Vegas — 2002 – Live video, poor sound

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Here are two more Bruce Springsteen quotes talking about Elvis:

“That Elvis, man, he is all there is. There ain’t no more. Everything starts and ends with him. He wrote the book.”

“I remember later when a friend of mine called to tell me that he’d died. It was so hard to understand how somebody whose music came in and took away so many people’s loneliness and gave so many people a reason and a sense of all the possibilities of living could have in the end died so tragically.”

 

Pensive Bruce Springsteen wearing Elvis Button

 

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

 

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An Elvis Fan’s Farewell to Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard's Farewell to Elvis Album

By now you all know that country music superstar Merle Haggard died yesterday on his 79th birthday. But did you know the he was so moved by Elvis’ death in 1977 that he paid tribute to the King by recording an album titled My Farewell to Elvis?

Here is the list of songs:

From Graceland To the Promised Land
In the Ghetto
Don’t Be Cruel
Jailhouse Rock
Love Me Tender
That’s All Right (Mama)
Heartbreak Hotel
Blue Christmas
Blue Suede Shoes
Are You Lonesome Tonight
Merle’s Farewell To Elvis

 

Merle Haggard's Farewell to Elvis CD

In 1995, My Farewell to Elvis was released on CD with a different cover. Both vinyl and CD versions are available on Amazon.

 

Goodbye Merle Haggard. You will be missed. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

 

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

 

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