Category Archives: TV SHOWS

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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Virtuoso of Hootchy-Kootchy

Elvis Shaking Those Hips on Milton Berle Show

Last week the Graceland Blog celebrated the 60th anniversary of Elvis’ earth-shaking second performance on the Milton Berle Show. It was a good article with lots of photos, but there is much of the story they barely touched on.

Graceland Blog - Elvis on the Milton Berle Show
As the Graceland Blog explains, by 1956 standards, Elvis’ performance of “Hound Dog” on the show was scandalous. Actually, Elvis’ leg shaking and hip thrusts freaked out the entire country. The next day, a huge national backlash started, and Elvis rocketed into the entertainment stratosphere. Some day it might be fun to chronicle the worst of the press attacks on Elvis, but for now let’s start with what the New York Times had to say.

New York Times Review of Elvis on Milton Berle Show
Jack Gould was the king of TV critics during his 35-year career with the New York Times. He was there when the new medium was born, and he was its most notable commentator for the next two decades. Like the rest of America, he saw Elvis’ second appearance on the Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956. The next day, Jack Gould’s pen dripped with disdain for Elvis. It’s fun to look at some of his statements, line-by-line. And now that we have the historical perspective, I will add my thoughts on them. And also mix in some photos not shown on the Graceland Blog.

 

Elvis in Colorized Pink Coat on Milton Berle Show

Pink Coat Colored Version of Elvis Doing “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle Show

 

“Elvis Presley is currently the entertainment world’s most astonishing figure.”

So far, so good, but Mr. Gould gets no special credit for this statement. Whether people liked or disliked Elvis in early June, 1956, nobody disputed he was the most astonishing figure in show biz.

Milton Berle and Elvis

Milton Berle and Elvis

 

“Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability.”

This is the first indication that Mr. Gould just didn’t ‘get’ Elvis. And, we can safely assume Mr. Gould never went out and bought any Elvis records.

Elvis Combing Hair Backstage at the Milton Berle Show

Elvis Combing Hair Backstage at the Milton Berle Show

 

“His specialty is rhythm songs, which he renders in an undistinguished whine.”

Oh, come on. Elvis’ whine is very distinguished.

 

Elvis during Rehearsal for a Skit on the Milton Berle Show

Elvis during Rehearsal for a Skit on the Milton Berle Show

 

“His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub.”

Say what??? Certainly not the simplest and clearest metaphor Mr. Gould ever wrote. A less erudite blog writer might say “like a kid singing in the shower.

Elvis Singing in a Shower

 

“For the ear, he is an unutterable bore…”

You want boring? How about “stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub”? Maybe Elvis was a bore to Jack Gould, but he could make the girls cry at his concerts. Elvis was anything but boring to them.

 

Elvis and Milton Berle walking on his Ankles

Milton Berle Doing His Ankle Walk Routine

 

“From watching Mr. Presley, it is wholly evident that his skill lies in another direction. He is a rock-and-roll variation on one of the most standard acts in show business: the virtuoso of the hootchy-kootchy. His specialty is an accented movement of the body… identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway.”

Berlesque Queen

At the end of “Hound Dog” on the Berle Show, Elvis sure did do some classic bump-and-grind. Mr. Gould’s loquacious pontification took a long while to get to Elvis’ moves, but, you will note, he didn’t say he disliked them.

 

Blue Coat Colorized Version of Elvis Doing “Hound Dog” on Milton Berle Show

Blue Coat Colorized Version of Elvis Doing “Hound Dog” on Milton Berle Show

 

“The gyration never had anything to do with the world of popular music and still doesn’t.”

Boy, did Mr. Gould get that one wrong. It’s a good thing he passed away before music videos showed up on MTV. He’d probably roll over in his grave if he saw one now. Today’s popular music is synonymous with sensual gyrations.

 

Elvis and the Band on Milton Berle Show

Elvis and the Band on Milton Berle Show

 

Jack Gould was a middle-aged man when he watched Elvis perform on TV on June 5, 1956, so he can be excused for ‘not getting it.’ But millions of American teenagers saw the show and got it. Got it big time. Elvis’ career shot into overdrive, and all of the bad press from TV critics and others could not stop it.

 

Shots of Elvis on Milton Berle Show

 

In fairness, Jack Gould did not accuse Elvis of poisoning the minds of America’s teenagers as did many other entertainment critics, clergymen, disk jockeys, and high school administrators. He didn’t rant that Elvis would create a nation of juvenile delinquents. If you read the paragraph where he called Elvis a virtuoso of hootchy kootchy, it almost sounds like he enjoyed watching those Elvis moves that enraged so many others.

Elvis’ performance of “Hound Dog” on the June 5, 1956 Milton Berle Show has become one of the most iconic events in Elvis’ career.

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
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History Repeats — Geraldo Trashes Elvis Again

Geraldo Rivera Reports Elvis at 80

The night after Thanksgiving, I had the misfortune to watch this TV show. I had only modest expectations, thinking it would probably cover all the stuff we fans know so well already. However, after ten minutes, I realized this was a piece of trash journalism of the first order. After some research, I now know that Geraldo Rivera has a history of slamming Elvis going back to 1979.

The Elvis Cover up 1979

This was a September 13, 1979 episode of the ABC network show 20/20. The supposed cover-up was about Elvis’ abuse of prescription drugs.

The Elvis Cover-Up 20-20 Sept 1979

This is footage of Geraldo doing the Elvis Cover-Up. He seems pretty happy dragging Elvis through the muck, doesn’t he? Because that show scored huge ratings, Geraldo apparently couldn’t resist reusing significant portions of it in his new Elvis at 80.

Geraldo Announcing Elvis' Death 1977

He didn’t waste any time getting into old footage. He opened the show with a clip of himself announcing Elvis’ death in 1977.

In Elvis at 80, Geraldo’s first reference to Elvis and drugs came just two minutes into the program. At the thirty minute mark, Geraldo was still talking about Elvis and drugs. By this point, I was screaming at the TV, “Geraldo, you worthless piece of s**t. That’s enough. This show sucks!”

Another evidence of his lack of taste in Elvis at 80 was the eight minutes he spent on tribute artists rather than on Elvis himself.

17 year old ETA

Believe it or not, two minutes of the show were wasted interviewing this guy and having him sing a few lines of “Hurt.” No wonder some folks have a negative image of Elvis impersonators

If Geraldo hadn’t given so much time to the prescriptions and ETAs, he would have had plenty of time to cover all the things he never mentioned or gave only passing mention to, like:

Tupelo birthplace (didn’t even show the house)
Gladys and Vernon
Humes High School
Girlfriends June Jaunico and Anita Wood (but we did get an interview with Tori Petty. Ever heard of her?)
Sun Records (no inside of outside shots, no archival Sam Phillips footage)
Scotty, Bill and D.J. (totally unforgivable)
Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen TV shows.
Significant movies (Jailhouse Rock, King Creole, Viva Las Vegas, Blue Hawaii, etc)
Circle G Ranch
Jaycees’ Outstanding Young American Award
’68 Comeback Special (far too little, considering the impact on Elvis career)
Elvis’ love for Gospel music
Aloha From Hawaii
Linda Thompson
Elvis’ charitable giving (no specifics, just a quick reference to his legendary generosity)

This is probably an incomplete list because just wrote down what came to me. If you spot a big omission, mention it on Comments and I’ll add it.

So what did we get on the show if they left out all these significant parts of his life and career? In addition to Geraldo’s favorite topics, drugs and tribute artists, we got a lot of face time of Geraldo himself.

Geraldo in Jumpsuit on Elvis Mania

He couldn’t resist showing himself in an Elvis jumpsuit. This old clip came from an August 14, 1992 show called Elvismania.”

We also got tiresome sound bites from a strange assortment of people: Gene Simmons (from KISS), Ray Stevens, Chubby Checker, Larry Gatlin, Neil Sedaca, and Tommy Roe. There was a little recycled footage of Priscilla (looked like something from an old Elvis Week interview.

On the other hand, Brenda Lee was good, because she had actual connections to Elvis to talk about. Best of all were Jerry Schilling and George Klein, both of whom I consider to be good guys among Elvis circle of friends.

Geraldo and Jerry Schilling

George Klein

Yes, there were short segments on Col. Parker, Graceland, Army life (including mention of Elvis’ introduction to GI Speed), Priscilla, and Lisa Marie. Near the end of the show, Geraldo stated that he would have loved to interview Priscilla and Lisa Marie, but they were unavailable. Yeah, right. They probably wouldn’t be caught dead appearing on a hatchet job like this show.

 

Geraldo had plenty of negative slams about Elvis in his narrative, but he did mix in some praise as well.

Slams

Fading King of Rock and Roll
Fat at forty, strained and swollen
The decline and fall of the king
Almost became a joke in the 60s
Enough dope from enough doctors to kill a horse
Worth more dead than alive

Praises

An idol to millions of us growing up in the 50s and 60s
He revolutionized the music business
In one way of another he touched most of us
His music will live forever
Enriched America’s cultural heritage

Geraldo Rivera’s website has its own Elvis Page, on which it says, “over the years, Geraldo has had some great insights on his (Elvis’) character, culture and place in the American sphere.

Did Elvis Committ Suicide

Give me a break. Do you call it insights or trash journalism when you do shows like The King’s Deep Dark Secret (1982) or Did Elvis Commit Suicide? (1990)?

Geraldo ended Elvis at 80 with this: “Elvis, thanks for the memories.”

I say, “Geraldo, this show is a memory I want to forget.”

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

 

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Actors Playing Elvis

Buz Luhrmann To Direct Elvis Movie

Two weeks ago, the website The Wrap reported that Australian director Baz Luhrmann is negotiating to do an Elvis movie biography for Warner Brothers. If you are not familiar with his name, Luhrmann’s credits include The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge. Supposedly, the script has already been written by Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter of Saving Mr. Banks.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Two days later, the website DNA reported that Leonardo DiCaprio was the director’s first choice to portray Elvis. Oh, boy. I hope this never happens. DiCaprio is a great actor, but I just can’t see him as Elvis. Please, find somebody else.

Eric Bana

A few years ago, Eric Bana was touted as the next actor to play Elvis in the movies. As stated in a November 5, 2011 ElvisBlog article, I was much more positive about this choice.

 

The topic of actors portraying Elvis has been covered by Wikipedia, and believe it or not, they have a list of 37. Here are some of the most significant.

 

Kurt Russell – Elvis, The Movie (TV movie) – 1979:

Kurt Russel in Elvis the Movie

My vote goes to Kurt Russell for the best portrayal of Elvis. Shelly Winters does a great job as Gladys. Susan Hubley played Priscilla. I guess the role didn’t do much for her career.

Kurt Russel in Elvis the Movie-DVD

If you ever get a chance to see Elvis, the Movie, be sure to watch it.

 

Don Johnson – Elvis and the Beauty Queen (TV Movie) – 1981:

Don Johnson in Elvis and the Beauty Queen

Kurt Russell had the most successful acting career of anyone who played Elvis, but Don Johnson didn’t do too bad either, later starring in the hit TV show Miami Vice.

Elvis And The Beauty Queen DVD Cover

I’m not too crazy about the image they chose for the DVD cover. Stephanie Zimbalist did well after playing Linda Thompson, starring in the TV series Remington Steele for six seasons.

When Don Johnson Was Elvis

While Don Johnson didn’t look just like Elvis, he had the facial features that made him believable as The King.

 

Johnny Harra – This Is Elvis – 1981:

Johnny Harra as Older Elvis

In this movie, four different actors played Elvis at various stages in his life, but Johnny Harra got the role of the older, fatter Elvis.

This is Elvis DVD

Johnny Harra seems to be the only actor who portrayed Elvis in a significant movie that also made a living as an Elvis Tribute Artist.

Johnny Harra in Car

 

Dale Midkiff – Elvis and Me (Four-Hour TV Miniseries) – 1988:

Dale Midkiff as Elvis

Dale Midkiff had a few other acting rolls during his career, but Elvis and Me seems to be the highlight of his career.

Elvis and Me Book

This movie was based on Priscilla’s 1985 book of the same title. Susan Walters portrayed Priscilla in her first major roll. It didn’t seem to do much for her career.

elvis-and-me-1988-tv-miniseries

The love scene in this movie (where they don’t actually make love) is rather interesting. Check it out.

 

David Keith – Heartbreak Hotel – 1988:

David Keith in Heartbreak Hotel

All movies mentioned so far are biographies. However, Heartbreak Hotel is a fictional story about Elvis being kidnapped by a teenager for a present to his mom.

DVD Cover Heartbreak Hotel

I love this movie. David Keith does a great job as Elvis, and Tuesday Weld is superb as the mom with a crush on Elvis.

Tuesday Weld in Heartbreak Hotel

If you haven’t seen Heartbreak Hotel, you’re missing a good one. I highly recommend it.

 David Keith in Heartbreak Hotel

 

Michael St. Gerard – Elvis (Ten-Episode TV Mini-series) – 1990:

Michael St. Gerard as Elvis

Michael St Girard actually had experience portraying Elvis prior to getting this role. He appeared in the Jerry Lee Lewis bio-pic Great Balls of Fire the year before.

Elvis the Series 1990

Thirteen half-hour episodes were filmed, but the series was cancelled after just ten due to declining ratings. I stayed with it until the end, and thought it was pretty good. It covered just 1954 and 1955, so there was no Col. Parker or Priscilla, but a lot of Scotty, Bill and DJ. It deserved a better fate.

Michael St. Gerard  and Elvis

Michael St. Girard had a few more acting rolls, then gave it up and became a preacher.

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Rick Peters – Elvis Meets Nixon (Made-for-Cable Movie) – 1997:

 Elvis Pulling Gun in Doughnut Shop  - Elvis Meets Nixon

This movie played for laughs, and it certainly succeeded. Rick Peters’ twist on Elvis was such a gas. This is another movie about Elvis I would recommend.

Elvis Meets Nixon DVD Cover

The whole story about Elvis’ trip to see President Nixon is so bizarre anyway, it didn’t take much exaggerating in parts for comedic effect.

Elvis Meets Nixon - Smoozing the Srewardesses

I don’t think any other movie showed Elvis smoozing the ladies like this one does, and Rick Peters nailed it. Too bad his acting career didn’t take off after this role.

 

Bruce Greenwood – Bubba Ho-Tep – 2002:

Bruce Campbell as Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep

Bruce Campbell is a delight as a cranky old-geezer Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep.

Bubba Ho-Tep DVD Cover

This is another fictional movie about Elvis, and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Yes, it is kind of strange, and there is a bit of horror in it, but Elvis is portrayed as a hero. When you finish the movie, you will be very proud of Elvis.

Young Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep

This is how Bruce Campbell looks in a flashback about Elvis in his younger days.

 

Jonathan Rhys Meyers — Elvis – The Mini-Series (CBS) – 2005:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Elvis

I guess two two-hour segments are enough to call it a mini-series, but this was more like a two-part movie. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is an English actor, which seems a strange choice to portray Elvis, but he pulled it off fairly well. He has had an active career since.

Elvis, the Mini Series DVD cover

I’ve had the opportunity to watch this a second and third time, but I limited it to part 1 only. I know conflict is essential to great movies, but I just don’t care to dwell of Elvis and Priscilla’s troubles, or his decent into prescription drug problems.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Elvis with Ann-Margret

No other Elvis movie delves into Elvis’ relationship with Ann-Margret like this film does. A highlight of the film.

 

Robert Patrick – Lonely Street – 2009:

Lonely Street - Robert Patrick as Elvis

This is another fictional movie about Elvis as a senior citizen. Thanks to hours in the make-up chair, Robert Patrick looks very believable as 75 year-old Elvis.

Lonely Street  DVD Cover

Lonely Street was a minor movie at the time, but it’s another one I recommend. It has comedy, mystery, and Elvis is a hero again.

Robert Patrick as T-1000 from Terminator 2

Robert Patrick has had a substantial acting career, but none of his rolls are more memorable that playing T-1000 in Terminator 2.

Lonely Street - Elvis Holding Young Hottie

One of my favorite scenes in Lonely Street is when Elvis totally charms a hottie one-third his age.

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So, that’s the Elvisblog Top Ten list of actors playing Elvis. I never thought about it before, but I seem to prefer the fictional movies about Elvis more than the bio-pics. Maybe that’s because Elvis’ history is a familiar story that has been told many times. And it looks like it will be done again soon. Hopefully, without Leonardo DiCaprio as Elvis.

 

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

 

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Conan O.Brien — A Genuine Elvis Fan

On May 31, Elvis.Com had a news item and link to Conan O’Brien interviewing Peter Guralnick.  Well, I’ve got three of Guralnick’s Elvis books, and he knows more about Elvis than anybody, so this was something I wanted to watch.

 Conan and Peter Guralnick

 

However, once it got going, I was very impressed with the knowledge Conan exhibited and the quality of his statements and questions. For example, I was curious how Conan became an Elvis fan.

“When I was in college, and it’s the 80s, and I had sort-of come of age with 60s and 70s music.  Elvis wasn’t a big interest of mine.  And, then, I want to say, 1983, I listened for the first time to The Sun Sessions, Elvis’ earliest work that he did with Sam Phillips.”

The Sun Sessions CD

“It blew my mind.  It was like a drug.  I couldn’t get enough.  It made me go out and buy a guitar.  It made me try and play that music.  And, in a sense, I’ve never gotten past that music.  I can’t get past early Elvis.  I can’t get past Jerry Lee Lewis.  I can’t get past Carl Perkins.  I appreciate other music, but I’m always drawn back.  It’s just this energy.”

 Conan Energy

 

Even better was Conan’s concern about Elvis putting up with all the crummy songs in the later movies:

“What I’ve always noticed about Elvis that bothers me to this day is there’s nobody more talented.  There’s nobody who’s better looking.  He’s a rare example of the complete package and he is at the right time.  He’s got it all — and he’s passive.  He doesn’t like the songs they give him in the movies, but he sings them.  He doesn’t like the movies, but he does them.  Why was he so passive?  Why did he sing the song “Clambake?”… These songs are dreadful.  And you think, he was Elvis Presley.  Why couldn’t he stand up and say, ‘I’m not doing this!  Get me Leiber/Stoller.  Get me real songwriters.  Let’s make a real soundtrack”

Clambake Poster

Conan makes a good point.  With his stature, why didn’t Elvis insist on better movie songs?  The answer to the question takes Guralnick some time to explain, and as you might imagine, it partly involves Col. Parker.

 

The most profound thing Conan said was about the unfair treatment Elvis and his fans sometime get these days:

”I listen to Elvis nearly every night on Sirrius.  I love it.  But, every once in a while, they’ll say, ‘Now we’re going to the Movie Soundtrack Show… I switch the channel.  I can’t take it, because it’s Elvis digging a ditch. It’s not something he wants to be doing.  He’s doing his best.”

“But, the artists like Elvis who survived into the 80s and 90s got a chance to work with real [bands]… They’re redeemed.  They get to work with great producers.  Johhny Cash had this whole resurgence.  Roy Orbison gets a resurgence.  They’re taken seriously.  They are treated appropriately – as icons and heroes.  And their work is refurbished… There’s always part of me that’s very sad that Elvis couldn’t have lived to see how great his work was.  He was someone who was revered.  To see that whole generation come out and play with him and support…. And let him know that his work meant something in the American tapestry, but he never got that chance.”

 Peter and Conan

Conan got a little wobbly at the end of that quote, so some was edited out for clarity.  However, Peter Guralnick agreed with Conan one this point, and so do I.

 

Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night (1988) – Think five guitars is enough?  Who’s that guy on the left?

Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night (1988) – Think five guitars is enough? Who’s that guy on the left?

 

If Elvis had lived into his fifties, he may well have had an event like Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night, playing with a bunch of contemporary musicians.  It would have changed the perspective of those Elvis detractors out there, and proved that you and I are right.

I highly recommend you watch the entire Conan O’Brien and Peter Guralnick interview by clicking here.  It is seventy-two minutes of excellent Elvis information by two genuine, knowledgeable Elvis fans.

 Jailhouse Conan

  Next Week – Conan Sings Elvis

 

 

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Who Is This Guy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

And this is from Wikipedia:

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

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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The Dick Clark / Elvis Phone Calls

When Dick Clark died two weeks ago, one fact revealed was that he never had Elvis on American Bandstand.  This actually is not too surprising.  Until August 1957, Bandstand had been just a local show on a Philadelphia TV station.  When ABC picked it up and broadcast it nationally as American Bandstand, Elvis was already in a situation where Col. Parker refused to let Elvis appear on TV.  Parker’s reasoning was that the fans should not get free looks at Elvis on television.  If they wanted to see him, they had to go to his concerts or watch his movies.

However, Elvis was soon drafted into the Army.  Once he got shipped off to Germany, Dick Clark used his well documented business savvy and set up phone calls to Elvis.  The audio from these calls were rebroadcast on American Bandstand, and they were a good PR move for both the show and Elvis.  Here are the transcripts, with a few minor sentences deleted.

Phone Call # 1 — from Dick Clark to Elvis in Germany – February 1959

Clark: Hello, Elvis.
Elvis: Hello, Dick, How are you?

Clark: Fine, thank you.  Where on earth are you at this minute?
Elvis: The town I’m in is Freidberg, Germany; however, I live in a place called Bad Nauheim, just north of Freidberg.

Clark: Tell me a little bit about your activities.  What did you do, say, today?
Elvis: Mostly classroom work.

Clark: What are you studying?
Elvis: Map reading and then how to grease my Jeep.  Just the regular things.

Clark; Do you have time for music anymore?
Elvis: Only at night.  You see, I get off work at five o’clock in the afternoon, and I have a guitar up here in the room… I don’t want to get out of practice, if I can help it.

Clark: I should hope not.  Let me tell you some good news.  In the annual American Bandstand Popularity Poll you walked away with a couple of honors this year.  The Favorite Male Vocalist Award and the Favorite Record of 1958 Award.  The kids voted you top man all around.
Elvis: Well that’s sure tremendous, Dick.  It’s really great, boy.

Clark: Do you have any idea when you’ll be travelling back home?
Elvis: No, I don’t, Dick.  I wish I really did know.

Clark: How about it, do you miss home?
Elvis: Oh, boy, I can’t hardly talk… I mean, I’m glad that I could come in the Army and do my part, but you’ll never know how happy I’ll be, boy, when I can return to the entertainment world, because once you get a taste of show business, there’s nothing like it.

Clark: You know it.  Elvis, thank you ever so much for talking to us.  We look forward to your return.
Elvis: Well thank you very much.  I’d just like to tell all those wonderful kids that they’ll never know how happy they made me, and I’m longing for the time I can come back out and entertain them again, travel around and make movies, records, and things like that.

Phone Call # 2 — from Elvis in Germany to Dick Clark – August 1959 (2nd Anniversary of American Bandstand)

 

One of Dick Clark’s questions below makes it sound like Elvis called him, but that seems improbable.  Surely, Elvis didn’t just happen to call on the 2nd anniversary of American Bandstand, so Clark’s staff probably set it up.  Plus, why would Elvis’ gold record for “A Big Hunk of Love” be in Clark’s hands before Col. Parker’s?

Clark: Hello, Elvis.
Elvis: Hello Dick, how are you.

Clark: I would imagine they’ve got you kind of busy these days, don’t they?
Elvis: Oh yeah, well we’re getting’ ready for a big inspection.  A new inspection, so we’ve been workin’ pretty hard for that.

Clark: Elvis, so many of us here are interested in your activities and I think probably the big question on most people’s minds these days are when and if everything goes right, you’re out in February, what will be your plans?
Elvis: Well, as you know, I have a contract with ABC… for some television.  I don’t know what Colonel Parker has arranged… And then I have the three pictures to make; one for Mr (Hal) Wallis, and then the other two for Twentieth Century-Fox

Clark: Elvis, I’ve got some good news.  I imagine by now they’ve passed the word along to you.  With the latest RCA Victor recording out, “A Big Hunk of Love” and “My Wish Came True,” you got yourself another Gold Record to add to the collection.
Elvis: That’s great, Dick.  That sure is nice.  I was surprised to hear it, really.

Clark: I’ll tell you what.  We’re gonna show it to the folks here on American Bandstand, and then I’ll forward it down to Colonel Parker, and he can save it for you when you come back.
Elvis: Okay, that’ll be fine.

Clark: Elvis, do you have any idea of how many Gold Records you have now in your collection?
Elvis: To my knowledge, Dick…this one will make thirty-one, I think.

Clark; Boy, that is a fantastic record.  There’s no getting away from it.
Elvis: I’ll ask my daddy to go down and (laughs) and count them.

Clark: Elvis, one more quick question that might interest the gals in this country.  I know probably you don’t have much time to yourself but when you go out amongst the German people, what is the thing that strikes you as most interesting?  Are they very different than the people back home?
Elvis: The main difference is naturally the language barrier.  It’s kinda hard to talk to most of ‘em, especially older ones because a lot of ‘em don’t speak English at all and I don’t speak any German.

Clark: How do you find the reaction of young people toward you, mainly the girls,,, [Do] they go crazy for you?  Do you get along well with them?
Elvis: Yeah, I get along real well. Every day when I finish work and come in, well there’s always a crowd at the gate from all over Germany… And they bring their families.  Especially on weekends, I have a lot of visitors here from all over Germany, all over Europe in fact.  They come here and bring pictures and take pictures and everything.

Clark: You’re kind of a man torn between two careers, both of which are very, very important.  Elvis, I did want to thank you very much for calling this day.  As you probably know, this is our special anniversary day.
Elvis: Oh, well, congratulations.

Clark: And many, many thanks and we all look forward to your return.
Elvis: Thank you very much… Bye-bye, Dick

Call # 3 – From Dick Clark to Elvis in Germany, January 8, 1960 (Elvis’ 25th birthday)

As the year 1960 began, there was much speculation in the press that Elvis would soon return to the United States.  Dick Clark certainly realized that if he wanted one more phone conversation with Elvis, he’d better hurry up.  What better time than on Elvis’ birthday?

Clark: Hello, Elvis.
Elvis: Hello.

Clark: Hi.  We had no idea we could catch a-hold of you today.
Elvis: Oh, yeah, well I just came in the door, Dick.

Clark: What were you doing?
Elvis: Well, I just came in from the day’s work.  It’s about five-thirty here.

Clark: You know, Elvis, I called Colonel Tom and had words with his assistant and say, gee, do you suppose there’s any chance we could talk to Elvis on his birthday, and they seemed to think you ought to be off on maneuvers.  Have you been pretty busy?
Elvis: Yeah, we’ve been pretty busy.  I don’t go on maneuvers until the twenty-second.

Clark: Oh, I see.  What is the situation regarding your release from the army?  Do you have any word on it?
Elvis: The only thing definite, Dick, as far as the way it stands now, I leave Germany somewhere between the twentieth of February and the second of March.

Clark: When you come back, I understand you’ve got a television show with Frank Sinatra and a few movies to make.  How are you gonna squeeze ‘em all in?
Elvis: Well (laughs), I’m told Colonel Parker will have everything arranged.  I know the first picture is for Mr. Wallis.  It’s called G.I. Blues, I think.  The other two’s at Twentieth Century-Fox, and I don’t know exactly when the television show will be.  In fact, I don’t even know what’s gonna happen, really.

Clark: Elvis, what is your general feeling about doing your first television show upon your return with Frank Sinatra?  You two fellows have sort of different musical stylings.  Do you have any thoughts on that?
Elvis: Well, I really do.  I consider it an honor, really, Dick, because this man…he’s really proven himself.

Clark: He’s somewhat of a legend, I guess.
Elvis: He is, and I admire him very much, and I really am honored.

Clark: Let me ask you about your Christmas and New Year’s.  How did you celebrate the holidays?
Elvis: We had a Christmas party here.  I had a lot guys from all over the post.  I had as many of the boys here as possible at my house…try to make ‘em feel at home around Christmastime.  Then on New year’s night we had another little party.  This one was pretty nice, but it was better last year.

Clark: Elvis, I want to thank you very, very much for taking the time out from your busy schedule, to reassure you once again that we’re all awaiting your arrival back home, and on this day to wish you a happy birthday.
Elvis: Thank you very much, Dick, and I’m kinda lookin’ forward to it.  Yeah, there’s still a lot of stuff in print about my getting out early and all that stuff.

Clark: It’s not true, as far as you know, uh?
Elvis: Well it’s been in print and I had a lot of people ask me about it.  The only time I heard about it is when I read it.

Clark: Elvis, all the best.  We’ll see you on your return.
Elvis: Okay, thanks a lot, Dick, and tell everybody hello from me.

 

 

Elvis’ service in Germany officially ended on March 2, 1960.  He resumed his recording and movie careers, and never did appear on American Bandstand.  The photos above are stock images, not the actual shots taken during the Elvis/Dick Clark phone interviews for American Bandstand.

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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

 

You Ain’t Nothin’ But A … Golden Retiever?

All good Elvis fans are familiar with him singing “Hound Dog” on the Steve Allen Show in 1956.  After all the fuss Elvis caused performing the song on the Milton Berle Show, Allen made Elvis dress up in a tux and sing to a hound dog wearing a little top hat and sitting on a platform.

          

Now, check out this picture. 

Elvis and Molly

My talented friend Carol Stephens does all the graphic design for Elvis International magazine.  I am always impressed by how much her work enhances my articles published there.  Carol recently got a new dog and had the inspiration to play around with one of the photos from the TV show.  She replaced the hound dog with her doggie and sent me a copy to see how I liked it.

I loved it and immediately wrote back and asked her if she could do the same thing with my golden retriever, Molly – please, please, please.   Carol is such a sweetie.  She said yes.  My wife helped me get Molly in the right pose for a photograph, and I e-mailed it to Carol.  The picture above is the result.  It is so cool, and I now have a large blow-up of it on the wall above my desk.

Carol did one other clever thing.  The deposed hound dog is now off to the side, looking back as if to say, “Hey, what happened here?”

I know there are lots of Elvis fans who also have beloved dogs in their household.  Maybe they would also like to see their dog in this shot with Elvis.  Carol did mine for free, but she does get paid for her artistic work.  So, my gift to her will be to let anyone with any interest know they can contact Carol at Stephens@2D-CreativeDesigns.com.

If you have any other graphic design needs, you might also want to check out her website www.2D-CreativeDesigns.com.   Carol has done a lot of great work, including the ElvisBlog logo.

 

 ©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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

 

The Most Significant Month In Elvis' History

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Elvis had seventh billing on May 10, 1955

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

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

 

SHAMELESS, OLDFANGLED SHOWMANSHIP

Some of the best titles for ElvisBlog columns have come from the texts of Elvis reviews in the New York Times.  One was “Virtuoso of Hootchie Cootchie,” taken from the Times review of Elvis’ June 5, 1956 appearance on The Milton Berle Show, and there was “Turgid, Juicy, and Flamboyant,” which came from the Times review of the first Elvis movie “Love Me Tender.”  You might remember that the Times columnists slammed Elvis pretty hard in both cases.

Well, there is also the Times review of Elvis’ 1973 worldwide TV special “Elvis – Aloha from Hawaii.”  That’s the source of the above title for this article.  So, what do you think?  Did they slam Elvis once again?  Let’s take a look.

Favorable opinions about Elvis in the New York Times were rare in his early days, but this column by John J. O’Conner stayed fairly balanced.  Perhaps neutral would be a better characterization, as he barely said anything good about Elvis.  The most positive line about “Aloha” was this:  “Smartly produced and directed by Marty Pasetta, the program maintained an effective and attractive fluidity, not easy with ‘live’ concerts on TV.”  That’s not Elvis’ fluidity he’s complementing, it’s the show’s.  Not a word about Elvis’ voice or how he mesmerized the live audience of 6000 folks at the Honolulu International Center.  At least there was mention that the show was broadcast live by satellite to 1.5 billion people in 40 countries.  This was a monumental technological feat back in 1973.

“Shameless, Oldfangled Showmanship” came from the last line of the New York Times review of “Aloha.”  Columnist O’Conner was convinced that under the careful orchestration of Col. Parker, 38-year-old Elvis had evolved into a calculated and calculating showman.  However, Mr. O’Conner was not saying that this was a bad thing. 

He was not at all negative as he presented his ideas why Elvis was pure schmaltz:  “His white jumpsuit costume is adorned, in studded jewels, with American eagles.  His repertory includes a medley of 'Dixie,' 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,”'and 'Hush Little Baby.”'His fingers are clogged with flashy rings.  His act includes tossing scarves, dabbed in sweat from his chest, to aging teeny boppers.”

I love the way Mr. O’Conner summarized what all that meant:  “It is pure showbiz in the style of Radio City Music Hall, reeking of apple pie, or more precisely, peanut butter and jelly, distinctly grape.”  I’ll bet he was really proud of that line.  Reeking of peanut butter and jelly is a good thing, right?

Mr. O’Conner’s most negative statement came in an author aside, when he started a paragraph with the words “Mr. Presley,” but then decided Elvis didn’t deserve the title Mr.  He concluded “… no, that sounds downright silly.”  Well, excuse me, but your attitude sounds downright elitist.  However, Mr. O’Conner tried to recover by saying, “Elvis is a proven entertainment commodity.”  Wow, that was really going out on a limb.

Here is what the article says about Elvis’ career: “Bursting out of country music’s relatively youthful strain of ‘rock-a-billie’ around 1960, he bumped his way to national notoriety with such hits as ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes.'”  I have to quibble about a few points, here.  Mr. O’Conner shows some ignorance about basic Elvis history.  Both songs he referenced came out in 1956, the year Elvis burst on the national scene, not 1960.

The Times review continues: “Appearing on Ed Sullivan’s TV variety show, he was generally restricted to camera shots not going below the belt.  Those were the television days of innocence and absurdity.”  If Mr. O’Conner wanted to point out the best example of the TV days of innocence, he should have referenced the nation’s mood when Elvis’ performed on the June 5, 1956 Milton Berle Show (camera shots were definitely not restricted to above the belt).  And the absurdity was better illustrated in the tidal wave of protest against Elvis in the press and the pulpits around the country after that wild appearance on the Berle show.

Fortunately, Mr. O’Conner followed that with begrudging acknowledgement of Elvis’ continued success: “But Elvis has survived.  He is still churning out hit records, and his relentlessly unmemorable movies have made millions of dollars.”

Of course Elvis survived.  As he got older he moved away from the wild rebel image and settled nicely into an era of shameless, oldfangled showmanship.  In fact, according to polls, this is the favorite Elvis period for the majority of today’s fans.  That’s fine for them, but I still favor 50’s Elvis, back when he was turgid, juicy and flamboyant.

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©  2008   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All rights Reserved   www.ElvisBlog.net