Category Archives: TV SHOWS

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.

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 

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

AUGUST IS ELVIS MONTH ON TV LAND

I have never watched cable channel TV Land, but a little checking revealed that its programming consists of classic old shows like “Bonanza,” “I love Lucy,” “Gunsmoke,” “Andy Griffith” and “Mash.”    So, I’m not sure why they decided to have Elvis Month, but I am very glad they did.

 

Between August 3 and August 26, TV Land will feature twenty Elvis movies, concerts, and documentary videos.  Especially cool is the weekend line-up.  At 8PM every Saturday and Sunday night in August, we can watch Elvis concerts and other specials.  Also, on the big day, August 16, we can catch four different shows:  “Elvis, His Best Friend Remembers,” “Elvis By The Presleys,” “Ed Sullivan Rock & Roll Classics,” and “Myths and Legends – Elvis.”  And, if you can take long lunch hours from work (or are happily retired like me), there are four noon movies next week and three more the following.

 

The weekend concert videos of course include the big ones, “Aloha From Hawaii” and the “68 Comeback Special.  I’m more interested in some I haven’t seen so recently or frequently: “The Great Performances-1, 2 and 3,” and “Elvis On Tour.”  I’m also looking forward to “Elvis and Me, Parts 1 and 2.”

 

The movies are a mixed bag.  By the time this article is posted, the one evening movie, “Love Me Tender” will have already been shown at 8PM, Friday August 3.  After that the sequence is “Wild In The Country” (I like Tuesday Weld in this one, but I like he even better in the 1988 movie “Heartbreak Hotel.”), “Fun In Acapulco” (I’ll never believe the bit about Elvis climbing up that cliff.), “Roustabout” (Elvis looks great on a motorcycle), “Girl Happy” (One of my favorites.  And, I love Shelly Fabares.), “Paradise Hawaiian Style” (Perhaps the record holder for the most girls in bikinis in an Elvis movie.), “Easy Come, East Go” (Elvis singing a duet with Elsa Lanchester has to be a low-point in Elvis movie soundtrack songs.), and “Live A Little, Love A Little” (Another favorite.  See the June 3, 2005 Elvisblog article).

 

In addition to all this cable content, TV Land has a bunch of good Elvis stuff on their website at http://www.tvland.com/specials/elvis/.  A complete schedule of their August Elvis programming is available to print out and keep by your favorite TV-watching chair.

 

TV Land and the city of Honolulu unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Elvis last Thursday, July 26.  I recommend you take four minutes and watch the dedication ceremony on the website’s Video Gallery.  The statue is in front of the building where Elvis performed the “Aloha From Hawaii” concert in 1973.  Naturally, the Elvis statue is wearing the famous American Eagle jumpsuit, but bronze sequins don’t look near as good as rhinestones. For a selection of close-up photos of the Elvis statue, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqAb2bMxnvM and watch an excellent slide show posted on YouTube by regular Elvisblog reader Ryan Ozawa.

 

Another nice feature on the TV Land website is their Video Gallery, which shows the original theater trailers for all the Elvis movies they will present – almost.  The trailer for “Easy Come, Easy Go” is missing, and “Speedway,” which is not on the viewing schedule, is included.  Some movies have two different trailers, and “Speedway” has four.  Don’t worry about clicking on each one to view them.  They all run automatically in sequence.  I also liked TV Land’s Photo Gallery, which included pictures of the statue ceremony, shots from Blue Hawaii, and other random Elvis photos.

 

Another unusual feature on TV Land.com is the link to Radio Interviews.  There are two of them, both conducted by iconic Hawaiian DJ and celebrity Tom Moffatt.  In the summer of 1959, Moffatt interviewed Elvis in Germany by phone.  In the spring of 1960, Moffatt did another phone interview with Elvis and the Colonel.  Elvis was in Hollywood working on the movie GI Blues at the time.  I was struck by how natural and comfortable Elvis sounded on both interviews.  Just a regular, humble guy.  Good interviews.

 

So, explore all the Elvis stuff on the TV Land website and enjoy all the Elvis movies and videos on the channel in August.  I know I will.

 

(C)  2005   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

“ELVIS LIVES” on ETV

Have you watched “Elvis Lives” on your local educational television channel yet?  I watched it this week and enjoyed what I saw very much.  However, they left out some stuff I was looking forward to, so I’m a little bit disappointed.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know, “Elvis Lives” is the name of a new DVD release of the performance of “Elvis The Concert” in Memphis during the 25th Anniversary Elvis Week 2002. Hopefully, all Elvisblog readers know that “Elvis The Concert” is a multimedia blending of old Elvis performance video with live musical backing by the band-mates, vocal group back-ups, and the orchestra that performed with him throughout the 70s.  Because I had attended the real event five years ago, I was interested to see how that unique concept translated to DVD.  I must say, it worked very well indeed.

 

Even though my tickets for the original concert cost $65 each, I was still a long way from the stage.  I primarily watched the three giant screens above the musicians.  The largest one in the center had the old Elvis footage, and the two side screens had live shots of the guys in the TCB Band, the Imperials, JD Sumner and The Stamps, and the Sweet Inspirations.  From my distance, all these folks looked to be about a half inch tall.

 

However, the DVD showed close-ups of all the live musicians and singers, and this added so much to the experience.  Now, I could see James Burton’s fingers working when the camera zoomed in on his guitar.  I liked the frequent shots of Ronnie Tutt beating on that monster drum set and Glen D. Hardin pounding on the ivories.  One particularly interesting feature was when the DVD showed side-by-side split-screen images of 1973 and 2002 James Burton doing guitar solos on the same song.

 

Speaking of instrumental breaks, there was a little segment where Ronnie Tutt explained how the TCB guys could do longer solos in 2002 than on the original footage of “Johnny B. Goode.”  The film technicians would repeat a loop of the Elvis stuff on the main screen while each of the band-mates had their turn to solo.  James was great, and Jerry Scheff did some fine work on the bass, which is not an easy thing to pull off.  Glen D. Hardin did his solo, and then it was up to Ronnie to end it all at the right time and match up with the return of Elvis singing.  He pulled it off and the whole segment was a blast.

 

Much of the vintage footage used in the production was from the “Aloha From Hawaii” TV special.  However, Elvis did appear in two other jumpsuits, but these costume switches didn’t mess up the continuity.  Which brings me to the part that was missing from the TV special and the DVD.

 

“Elvis The Concert” was created in the mid-90s and was built around video from the 70s when the TCB Band backed Elvis in Las Vegas and on tour around the country.  However, to make the 25th Anniversary celebration in Memphis really special, a new opening feature was added.  It was film from Elvis’ career on TV shows in 1956 and from his earliest movies.  Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, Bill Black, and The Jordanaires backed Elvis in those days.  Bill Black had passed away in 1963, and Scotty and Graceland had not yet patched up their differences, so DJ was the only original musician on the stage.  Fill-in players, whose names were not familiar to me, capably handled the guitar and bass parts.

 

I can’t remember all the songs in this early Elvis segment, but I’m pretty sure one was “Ready Teddy” from The Ed Sullivan show where Elvis really got to shake his hips and drive the girls in the TV audience crazy.  One other song I was so happy to see in the 2002 concert was “Baby I Don’t Care.”  This has long been one of my favorite Elvis songs, and I consider it his best recording never released as a single.  The footage of Elvis doing the song came from the poolside scene in the movie Jailhouse Rock.

 

For some reason, this wonderful early Elvis segment was not included in the ETV special. Nor were ten additional songs from the 70s that are on the DVD.  The 1-1/2 hour telecast had several long breaks asking for donations to public television, so the actual concert time totaled only an hour or so.  The DVD is much longer with the extra songs and a half-hour of interviews as a bonus.  Priscilla and Lisa Marie both came on stage during the 2002 presentation of “Elvis The Concert,” but it is unclear whether this is shown in the DVD. 

 

One of the best songs on “Elvis Lives” is “Steamroller Blues.”  I get tickled when Elvis sings, “I’m a churning urn of burning funk.”  Other good songs on the TV specials were: “That’s All Right,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Suspicious Minds,” “A Big Hunk Of Love,” “ My Way,” “American Trilogy,” and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

 

Some folks criticize EPE for just about anything they do.  Not this time.  Graceland has created a most unique Elvis video, a true technical marvel.  First, they created a superb concert experience blending the music of a live band with Elvis voice from 29 years earlier.  Now they have made real magic with the video of it all.  It is done so well, you might scratch your head and ask, “When did Elvis play with all those old dudes?”  Don’t worry about it.  These old dudes kick butt.

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

ELVIS — THE ED SULLIVAN SHOWS

It’s a fact that Elvis fans buy lots of Elvis stuff, and that keeps the smart marketers coming up with new goodies for us.  Well, they’ve done it again, and, if you’re looking for a way to get the most bang for your buck, let me recommend Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Shows.  You have probably read that this recently released triple DVD set contains all three shows where Ed Sullivan hosted Elvis in 1956 and 1957.  It is that and so much more, and I am truly surprised it costs only $30, not $50. 

 

Because I had seen these performances on a twelve-inch TV as a young fan of fourteen, there was a huge déjà vu factor for me when Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Shows arrived in the mail.  I was even more pleased when I saw the packaging.  Although the set covers events a half-century old, the graphic design is as cool and modern as you can get.  Mini-holograms front and back.  When you slide the set out of the heavy cardboard sleeve and fold it open, it measures almost three feet wide.  First class liner notes await you, done by famous rock & roll writer Greil Marcus, author of “Mystery Train.”

 

Some of the inner pages list the special features on each disk.  I love all the special features that come on DVDs these days, and Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Shows has plenty.  My favorite is a color film (no sound) of Elvis performing in 1955.  It is the earliest known video of Elvis performing and shows a step in his evolution as a performer.  Here he is wearing some sort of denim overalls, singing on a tiny stage (with young girls sitting on the edge).  He looks so young, and he sure is having fun.

 

One of the special features on each disc is the option to watch just the Elvis segments.  That’s exactly what I did first.  When you see all the songs back-to-back (four songs from Sept. 9, 1956, four songs from Oct. 28,1956, and seven songs from Jan. 6,1957, you start to notice interesting things.  For example, Elvis did three of his hits on all the shows: ”Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Love Me Tender.”  That’s not surprising with the first two being a two-sided smash that together stayed at # 1 for twelve weeks.  “Love Me Tender” was the title song from Elvis’ first movie, which got lots of mention on the shows.

 

Watching Elvis’ performances in sequence cleared up the confusion in my mind about whether Ed Sullivan filmed Elvis from the waist up on all three shows or just the last one.  Actually, Sullivan allowed full viewing of Elvis on just one song each on the first two shows.

 

Another thing I noticed was how Elvis toyed with the young girls in the audience by doing hand motions, mouth movements and exotic looks with his eyes. All followed by shrieks, of course.  The Jordanaires backed Elvis on every song and were constantly visible behind or beside him except for the tight shots of Elvis’ head.  That’s fine, but the band was not seen except on two songs.  You could tell Scotty, DJ, and Bill were close by, so why the camera didn’t pan to them mystifies me.  Well, maybe Col. Parker had already started his campaign that ultimately squeezed Scotty and Bill out.

 

The song on Disc 1 with the band on screen is “Ready Teddy,” and it is my favorite of the whole set.  Scotty rocks out on the instrumental bridge, and we get a full-shot view of Elvis doing some hot footwork.  This is the Elvis I tuned in to see back in 1956, and my preference is no different today.  I must admit that one move looks like classic James Brown, but I don’t care.  Elvis’ dancing was great and I wished it had lasted much longer.

 

The second time I watched the song, I couldn’t resist the temptation to play with the slow-mo and freeze-frame features on the remote.  Seeing Elvis in action in slow motion is such a kick for me.  Every time I freeze a good shot, I wish there was a machine connected to my TV that would print out a poster of what’s on the screen.  Boy, would I have a collection of cool posters.  Come to think of it, maybe that’s another good idea for those smart marketers.

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

VIRTUOSO of HOOTCHY KOOTCHY

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 broadcast that freaked out the entire country.  The next day, Jack Gould’s pen dripped with condemnation of Elvis, and his comments set the tone for the huge national backlash that followed.  It’s fun to look at some of his statements, line-by-line, now that we have the historical perspective to make judgments on them.

 

“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.)

 

“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.)

 

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

(Oh come on.  Elvis’ whine is very distinguished.)

 

“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 lowly blog writer might say “like a kid singing in the 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.)

 

“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.”  (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 say that, but, you will note, he didn’t say he disliked it.)

 

“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.)

 

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 it 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.

 

©   2006    Philip R Arnold    All Right Reserved    www.elvisblog.net 

ELVIS and JOHNNY BAGO

It would be a real long shot if any of you have heard of Johnny Bago.  He was the title character in a TV show that ran for just eight episodes back in 1993.  It was a comedy about a goof-ball named Johnny who was on the run from the mob and his ex-wife.  His get-away vehicle on the first episode was a Winnebago, and he traveled with it to each subsequent adventure.  Episode #4 was “Spotting Elvis,” and for some reason, I pushed in a VCR tape and recorded it.  Sometimes, you just get lucky.  I feel confident there are not many copies of this show preserved on tape, but I’ve got one.

 

The first episode of Johnny Bago was directed by Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis (“Back To The Future,” “Forest Gump,” “The Polar Express”), so there must have been some hope initially for a quality product.  However, things obviously spiraled down quickly.  The “Spotting Elvis” episode was directed by Oz Scott.  Ever heard of him?

 

The plot line of the Johnny Bago and Elvis saga is so stupid it’s funny.  Let us just say an older and fatter Elvis lives in a mobile home in Mystery Trees RV Park, deep in the woods next to a national forest.  Johnny Bago parks next to him, and the action starts.  Johnny tries to impress Erica, an eco-warrior leading protests to stop local logging.  One of the tactics taken by her group is to chain themselves to large trees.  Johnny pretends to be a photographer.  He poses a stuffed owl in various natural surroundings and snaps photos.  The resulting pictures are supposed to show that no trees can be cut because they are in an endangered species habitat.  Johnny thinks this is just what he needs to score with Erica.

 

Johnny gets in trouble when the strings he used to simulate the owl in flight are plainly visible in the photos, and Elvis has to bail him out.  Elvis, the hero.  I like that.  We are also treated to a rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” by the past-middle-age Elvis, and he actually does a credible job.  He gets the eco-freaks and the loggers dancing together, and soon good karma comes over everyone.  Elvis the peacemaker.  At the times when Elvis isn’t being a peacemaker or hero, he’s portrayed as a decent, down-to-earth, next-door neighbor type.  I like this Elvis a lot.

 

There’s an interesting sub-plot that sort of rings true.  Erica’s ex-boyfriend calls a tabloid, The National Tattletale, and tries to make a quick $100,000 for revealing Elvis’ location.

 

I have mixed feelings about one thing in the show.  When we cut to a scene of Elvis asleep in front of the TV, we see a beer can sitting unattended on his substantial belly, rising and lowering as he snores.  When I first watched that scene, I hated to see Elvis depicted like that, but it was so funny.

 

Now, thirteen years later, I can do the beer can trick on my own belly, and it isn’t nearly so funny.

 

©   2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

TEN DAYS THAT CHANGED AMERICA

Did you watch the documentary about Elvis on the History Channel last Wednesday, April 11?  It was titled “When America Was Rocked,” and it was part of the series Ten Days That Unexpectedly Changed America.  Not the ten most important days, however, or the list would have included Pearl Harbor and 9/11.  Instead, the producers selected days that weren’t obvious but still caused significant change.

 

The focus on ten specific dates worked well with subjects like the Battle of Antietam on Sept 10, 1852, or the discovery of gold in California on January 23, 1842.  However, to fit that format, they had to pick a date for Elvis, and they chose September 6, 1956, Elvis’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I’m glad the History Channel presented something about Elvis, but I had problems with the show.

 

For one thing, it contained far too many talking heads and not enough Elvis.  I guess all the bloviating was directed to the curious viewers with little knowledge of Elvis.  Fair enough, we Elvis fans can be understanding while the rest of the folks are brought up to speed.  The show certainly reinforced the fact that Elvis changed everything – music, clothes, hairstyles, and attitude.  But instead of all the talking, they should have shown much more of Elvis performing on the Sullivan show.  I was very disappointed that we got to see Elvis sing just one complete song, “Don’t Be Cruel,” plus about half of “Ready Teddy”.

 

Any student of Elvis knows the changes he caused in American culture can be traced to the entire year of 1956 and beyond, not just to one appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  One talking head even called the September 6 show “The moment where the pop explosion of the 50’s crystallized.”  I’m sure he is proud of his well-crafted quote, but it’s just not accurate.

 

Elvis’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was actually his tenth TV show, following six on the Dorsey Brothers Show, two on the Milton Berle Show, and one on the Steve Allen Show.  By September 6, 1956, Elvis already had three top-forty hits:  “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”  His concerts during the spring and summer of 1956 were regularly accompanied by mass hysteria and even rioting by his mostly-female teenage fans.  So, Elvis caused changes in American popular culture through this entire period leading up to the Sullivan show.

 

If there were one date that truly could be singled out as one where Elvis made his biggest impression on America, it would be June 5, 1956, the day Elvis made his second appearance on the Milton Berle Show.  This is when Elvis unveiled “Hound Dog” with so much pelvis-shaking intensity that it immediately set off huge repercussions.  TV critics across the country slammed his performance for its vulgarity and animalism.  Preachers and civic leaders complained bitterly that Elvis and his music would turn America’s teenagers into a bunch of wild juvenile delinquents.  Some disc jockeys even staged break-Elvis-records events.  The History Channel did give brief mention about the fireworks Elvis set off with his second Milton Berle appearance.  In my mind, this is the date they should have featured.

 

All in all, the History Channel deserves our thanks and congratulations for including Elvis in a series about events that changed America.  However, rocket ship “Elvis” had already blasted off and was moving at warp speed when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold    www.elvisblog.net 

CBS SCORES BIG WITH IT'S WEEK OF ELVIS SHOWS

The folks at Graceland and the suits at CBS have to be pleased with the way things went last week.  Their six hours of Elvis TV programming from Sunday to Friday paid off big time.  Even better, we fans got to watch some pretty good new Elvis shows.

 

On Sunday night, May 8, Part 1 of the “Elvis” miniseries went head-to-head with “Desperate Housewives.”   According to tv.yahoo.com, this notable powerhouse took third best for the whole week with 27 million viewers, but “Elvis” hung in there at nearly 15 million, second best for the night, and # 17 for the week (5/2 –5/8).

 

Part 2 of “Elvis” started against ABC’s “Lost” at 8PM Wednesday, May 11, and came in with about 10 million viewers.  At 9PM, the competition got tougher, as huge hit “American Idol” grabbed 26 million viewers, enough to rank third for the week (5/9 – 5/16).  The funny thing is that, in spite of this, the “Elvis” audience increased to over 11 million for the last hour, pushing the show into second place for the night and #27 for the week.

 

Did anyone notice that “Elvis By The Presleys” aired on Friday the 13th?  Fortunately, there was good luck, not bad, for the King’s home movies, as the competition was rather weak:  America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Dateline.”  “Elvis By The Presleys” pulled in 12 million viewers to rank top show for the night.  Chalk all this up as more proof that Elvis is the most enduring celebrity in American history.  Dead for 28 years, he can go up against some of the strongest shows on television and still pull in 12-15 million viewers.

 

All in all, I’m glad I invested 6 hours in watching Elvis last week.  I will mention the DVD of “Elvis By The Presleys” to my brother-in –law, and I will be glad when he gives it to me at Christmas.  If “Elvis” the miniseries comes back on cable in a year or so, I will watch the first half again, but probably not the second.  I like my Elvis happy.

© 2005  Philip R Arnold

Elvis Presley Goosebumps

 

It can take me four hours to go through a 60 minute Elvis DVD, and even longer for an Elvis movie.  That’s because I like to play with Pause, Slo-Mo and Single-Frame-Advance while I’m watching.  I do this on the TV just for fun, or on my laptop, so I can capture screen shots you would otherwise miss as the film advances at 24 frames per second.

Elvis was getting considerable heat in the press as the year 1956 ended.  His gyrations on TV had many pundits claiming he was a bad influence on the country’s teenagers.  Bowing to this pressure, Ed Sullivan filmed Elvis from the waist up on his third and last appearance, January 6, 1957.
 
Elvis knew this was happening, but he improvised a wonderful move to connect with his young audience.  At the big finale of “Don’t Be Cruel,” he bent his head forward and raised his right hand above his head, his fingers spread, his palm facing back. 

 

 

As Elvis sang the last notes, he looked out of the top of his eyes and he curled his hand down slowly while it vibrated like an alarm going off.

 

 
Words cannot do justice to the impact of this gesture.  If you have either video “Elvis ’56,” or “The Great Performances,” or “ELVIS: The Ed Sullivan Shows,” you can see for yourself.  Go to the end of “Don’t Be Cruel” where he raises his hand and hit the pause button.  Then do single-frame advance.  You will be amazed at the still pictures of Elvis, especially his hand and his eyes. 

 

He looks like a mad wizard about to shoot lightning bolts from the ends of his fingers.  I promise, it will give you goosebumps.

 

©  2005    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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