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HOW MANY MUSIC HALLS OF FAME CAN ONE MAN BE IN?

From:  69th Birthday Tribute Issue, January 2004

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

Much heartfelt praise of Sam Phillips has been given in other sections of this journal.  His huge contribution to American popular music has been deeply chronicled and generously applauded.

 

All this achievement has also been recognized by four different music halls of fame.  Sam Phillips is comfortably enshrined in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Blues Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and The Country Music Hall of Fame.  It is safe to say this achievement is something few other people have any chance of equaling.

 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized Sam Phillips first.  Back in 1986, when the charter members were enshrined, Sam Phillips was one of two inductees in the Non-Performer category. As the Hall’s web-site states, “Sun Records produced more rock and roll records than any other label of its time.  They included songs that served as the foundation for rock and roll.” 

 

The other charter member in the Non-Performer category was Alan Freed, the legendary disc jockey who is credited with bringing the phrase Rock and Roll into popular use.  Over the years, this category has added more legends like Dick Clark, Phil Spector, and Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who wrote “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and eighteen other songs Elvis recorded.

 

Not only was Sam honored as a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, so were two of his famous protégés. Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were in the elite class of only ten performers selected.  The next year, two more Sun Records performers, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, joined the group.  The circle was completed in 1992 when Johnny Cash became the fifth performer who started with Sam Phillips to join him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

These five singers who joined Sam in the Rock Hall are with him as well in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  This is not surprising, because this hall has over 5000 members, all of which were inducted in 1997.  The list includes many other Sun Records performers, most notably Charlie Rich, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Feathers, and Rosco Gordon.  Even if the Rockabilly Hall of Fame had a much more exclusive membership, it is safe to say that Sam Phillips and these nine singers would all be included.

 

The Rockabilly Hall of Fame’s web-site pays special tribute to the sound that Sam Phillips’ recordings produced.  “Sun records were often imbued with a “slapback echo,” created by a small tape delay when the signal was bounced between machines.  Whether on sessions principally overseen by Phillips or others, Sun studio personnel were good at positioning instruments so that an especially crisp sound merged.  The resulting ‘Sun Sound’ was recognizable enough that many collectors automatically respect and purchase almost anything on the label.”

 

In 1998, Sam was selected for membership in the Blues Hall of Fame, again in the “Non-Performer” category.  This time, he was preceded by several of the blues greats who got their start with him at the Memphis Recording Service, the precursor of Sun Records: BB King, Walter Horton, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Milton.  A few years later, Rufus Thomas and Junior Parker, two other artists Sam successfully produced, joined him and the other performers.  It is interesting to note that two of these bluesmen also made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:  B.B. King as a performer, and Howlin’ Wolf as an early Influence.

 

The Blues Hall of Fame recognized Sam Phillips’ contributions to blues music with this praise on their web-site:  “Before Elvis Presley ever walked through the door…, Sam Phillips’ place in history was already assured, thanks to the hundreds of powerful blues recordings he produced in the early 50’s.  It is for that body of work, some of the best most classic blues recordings of all time, that he is now being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.”

 

Sam Phillips’ most recent recognition was given By The Country Music Hall of Fame.  In 2001, barely two years before his passing, Sam was enshrined.  It makes you wonder what took them so long, when you read a quote like this from their web-site, “Just as the music his artists created still inspires new generations of performers and fans in country music and other genres, Sam Phillips stands as one of American music’s most singular figures.”

 

Two of Sam’s protégés proceeded him into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Johnny Cash was in the class of 1980, and Elvis was inducted in 1998.

 

So, there it is – Sam Phillips is in four different music halls of fame.  He was the producer for seven performers who made The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, six who made the Blues Hall of Fame, two who made the Country Music Hall of Fame, and nine genuine legends in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

 

It’s very easy to agree with the assessment that Sam Phillips was one of the most influential figures in the history of American music.

 

What The Halls of Fame Web-sites Have to Say

About Sam Phillips

 

 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

 

“Phillips not only recorded the varied streams that flowed throughout the South in the Fifties – from blues to country and gospel music – but was convinced he could bring them together in on irresistible package.

 

Phillips launched Sun records on its 16-year, 226 single run.  These 45’s with the familiar Sun logo amount to a treasure of music whose greatest moments mark the spot where rock and roll originated and thrived in all its frantic, wild-eyed abandon.”

 

Rockabilly Hall of Fame: 

 

“Sam Phillips is not just one of the most important producers in rock history.  There’s a good argument to be made that he is also one of the most important figures in 20th-century American culture.”

 

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

 

“Sam Phillips was often greeted crudely by the citizens of Memphis who couldn’t understand the traffic of black musicians in and out of his recording studio.  Back in the early days… blues legends-in-the making such as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Little Milton, Rufus Thomas and dozens more were making regular trips to 706 Union Ave.”

 

Country Music Hall of Fame:

 

 “By helping to ignite the rockabilly explosion of the 1950’s, Sam Phillips dramatically shaped the history of country music.  Phillips encouraged artists not to polish their work but to rely on their own natural energy and straight-ahead, unfettered performances.”

 

© 2004  Philip R Arnold

ELVIS ALMANAC: A Flashback of Memorable Elvis International Issues

From:  26th Anniversary Issue, August 2003

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

“ELVIS”, a.k.a. The ’68 Comeback Special  

 

“Elvis International” featured The ’68 Comeback Special in our first year, and again ten years later in the Winter 1998 issue.  In the more recent coverage, Donna Deen personalized this turning point in Elvis’s career by describing some of her own feelings as she watched the show.

 

“… Elvis was in the prime of his professional and personal life, singing with an urgency and rawness that couldn’t help but reach out and grab me.  In the ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis looked a bit dangerous, maybe a little too good-looking, and he dripped with attitude – not one of arrogance, necessarily, but certainly one that shouted, ‘so don’t you mess around with me.’  There were precious moments, though, when his vulnerability, humor and sheer love of performing shined through loud and clear.”

           

Later in the article, Donna pointed out some of the special moments during the live set where Elvis wore that famous black leather outfit.  “Remember the fan with the ELVIS button on her dress who sat ringside and gave Elvis a hanky to wipe his sweat?  Or the lady who carefully placed a piece of lint from Elvis’ face in her purse after Charlie Hodge presented it to her?”

           

Two other features on the ’68 Comeback Special round out the coverage in the Winter 1998 Elvis International, one of our most popular issues ever.  Fortunately, good quantities of this back issue are available for those wishing to read more.

 

ELVIS!   “You’re In The Army Now!”

 

In the fall of 1995, “Elvis International” found a unique way to feature The Army Years.  We reprinted the entire Associated Press article describing Elvis’ first day of military processing, including all 13 accompanying photographs.  The 37 year-old flashback began:

 

“ARKANSAS, (AP) Fort Chaffee, Tuesday, March 25, 1958   Elvis Presley arrived at Fort Chaffee, Monday night wearing a gray plaid jacket and black and pink socks.  21 other recruits from Memphis accompanied the rock ‘n roll star.”

 

The article goes on to describe in minute detail all sorts of interesting tidbits, such as what Elvis ate for breakfast (eggs, toast, and cereal), and what he washed it down with (milk, not coffee).

 

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the AP writer got long-winded when describing Elvis’ Army haircut.

“The sideburns went first, next the back and then the top.  Elvis shortly had a regulation haircut, one inch long, high in the front, tapering in the back and no sideburns.  Presley smiled for photographers as the haircut progressed.  He blew locks of the hair off  the palm of his hand for the benefit of the cameras.  Before the hair could be dumped in the trash, several photographers and Chaffee soldiers scooped it off the floor.”

 

The Fall 1995 issue of “Elvis International” is full of additional Elvis Army photographs.  For those fans who would like to read more about this significant period, there are a limited number of back issues available.

 

NIGHTMARE IN MEMPHIS    August 16, 1977

 

The 20th anniversary of Elvis’ untimely death came during the tenth year of “Elvis International.”  Of course, a tribute issue was in order, but how do you present such a heart-wrenching story?

 

The answer was to share the poignant memories of a true fan who actually went to Elvis’ viewing in Graceland.  Judy Kuniba heard on the Today Show that the Presley family had decided to allow fans to view Elvis one last time, and she knew she had to go to Memphis – immediately.

 

Her fascinating story touches the emotions on several levels, as shown in the following paragraph:  “As I walked through the door into Graceland, I felt dazed and unsure of my senses.  Images of a crystal chandelier and mirror seemed to hurl themselves at me.  Everything seemed to reflect red, and I was conscious of people in adjoining rooms and children on the steps.  Then, I saw HIM and nothing else.  He was all in white with a light blue shirt, and my first thought was that he looked like a real Southern gentlemen, the master of this fine old home.  Then, he suddenly reminded me of Vernon Presley as he had never done before, something in the set of his jaw and expression.  His hair was very black, which accented the paleness of his face.  He seemed to be sleeping.  It was so unreal to me.”

 

Very heavy stuff, Judy.  Very moving for all of the readers of the Summer 1997 issue of “Elvis International.”  Limited quantities of back issues available.

 

The Las Vegas Years

 

Our very first issue in 1988 featured the Las Vegas years, and we have come back to this wonderful subject many times.  Especially in one of the best Elvis International issues ever:  Spring 1996. 

 

Although thousands of people saw Elvis perform in Las Vegas, not very many got invited to the after-show parties at his suite atop the International Hotel.  Well, two of the lucky fans who did told their remarkable stories in this same issue.

 

Luck really had nothing to do with it.  Commitment to a dream, and determination to carry it out, were far more responsible for the success of Kathie (Kitten) Spehar and Robin Rosaaen.  One year, Kathie went to both Elvis shows every night for two weeks.  Robin logged in an impressive total of 72 Elvis performances in Las Vegas and California.

 

Kathie had the thrill of being invited to Elvis’ suite a few times, and she chose to write about her experience helping a good friend get invited for the first time.  It took four days of serious effort to pull it off.  Kathie kept after Red West with three phone calls and one visit in the lobby, before success was achieved.

 

Here are Kathie’s words as Elvis walked into that party.  “All of a sudden, we heard Elvis’ voice and he came into the living room area and he looked absolutely gorgeous!  Tight black pants, a blue print shirt with the collar up in back, black boots, black and silver belt, everything about him was perfect!”

 

When Robin saw her first Elvis concert in 1970, it started what she called “a six and a half year affair of the heart with the King of Rock ‘n Roll.  With each new concert attendance, I became a little more educated in methods of obtaining closer proximity to the object of my desire.”

 

Once she became a front row regular, Robin came up with a unique idea to get Elvis’ attention.  “I worked for European Health Spa.  One of our promotions at the time included a slogan which read “I Want Your Body.”  I had numerous opportunities to offer buttons, T-shirts, etc. to Elvis with this suggestive phrase written prominently upon them.  In turn, I was rewarded with scarves and kisses, until one evening in February of 1974 …”  You’ll have to read the Spring, 1996 issue to find out what happened, and fortunately there are fair supplies of back copies available.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

ELVIS PERFORMERS UNITE FOR 25TH ANNIVERSARY

From:  68th Birthday Issue, January 2003

(When It Comes To Elvis Week concerts, Nobody Can Assemble Musical Friends of Elvis Like Publisher And Concert Promoter Darwin Lamm)

by Phil Arnold

 

The man at the head of this fine magazine is too modest to toot his own horn, so I will do it for him.  It’s hard to imagine the 25th Anniversary celebration in Memphis without the concerts presented by Darwin Lamm – and the incredible list of people from Elvis’ past Darwin gathered together at these events. Elvis International, The Magazine sponsored three major concerts on August 13, 14, and 17, 2002.

 

THE LEGENDS

 

 First up was “The Legends” concert featuring Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, and The Jordanaires.  The fans packed the grand ballroom of the downtown Peabody Hotel, and they were treated to a night of outstanding music.  You could feel the love and admiration of the crowd for these two pioneers of Rock ‘n Roll.  DJ has played drums behind dozens of notable singers in Nashville for decades, but Scotty once went for 28 years without performing on stage.  Fortunately, Darwin was able to coax him to play at this big event.  Those familiar, classic guitar licks didn’t sound one bit rusty.  Scotty was back in the groove.

 

Of course, it takes more than two musicians to make a band, so Darwin also presented a talented group of men who played on various Elvis recording sessions in the 50’s, 60’s, and the 70’s.  On bass was Bob Moore, who played on 28 of Elvis’ sessions following the departure of Bill Black in 1958.  Bob also wrote the theme song for the hit TV show “My Three Sons.”  On keyboards was David Briggs, who played  at eight of Elvis’ recording sessions and several live concerts.  Second drummer duties were handled admirably by Buddy Harman, a studio musician who performed on nine Elvis movie soundtracks.  Buddy’s career also included drum work with the Everly Brothers and the Johhny Burnrtte Trio.

 

Special guest treatment at the “Legends” concert was afforded to the only man ever to perform a saxophone solo on an Elvis hit – Boots Randolph.  Boots, a hit maker in his own right, performed on twenty-one Elvis recording sessions in Nashville.

 

Of course, all these great musicians couldn’t put on a concert without somebody singing, and here Darwin scored big.  The evening started with Lee Rocker, former bass player for the rockabilly band  “The Stray Cats.”  Lee pounded on a big old upright bass and did a great job on the vocals of almost every song Elvis recorded at Sun records.  It was a great start for a long evening of favorite old songs.

 

Next up was Billy Swan, another rockabilly singer of note.  Billy blended well with Scotty Moore, playing rhythm guitar the entire evening, but he shined when he took the mike to sing many Elvis songs from the 60’s.  Billy had a hit in 1974 called “Let Me Help,” which Elvis later recorded.  Billy also wrote the Clyde McPhatter hit “Lover Please” when he was just 16 years old.

 

During Billy Swan’s set, back-up singers of the first order were added.  The Jordinaires treated the fans to their beloved harmonies on several songs that just wouldn’t seem the same without them.  Fan favorite, Gordon Stoker, has been with the group since it first recorded with Elvis in 1956, and Ray Walker has been on-board since 1958.  Joining the Jordinaires, as she did many times in the past, was Millie Kirkham.  Millie sang back-up on Elvis recordings and in live performances for fifteen years starting in 1957.

 

Next up as lead singer was Stan Perkins, son of the legendary performer Carl Perkins, and a heck of a talent in his own right.  Carl had been a regular fixture at the Good Rockin’ Tonight concerts Darwin Lamm presented at past Elvis Weeks, and Stan should be welcome at any future shows.  His far-too-short set included three of his dad’s hits, and he really had the crowd hopping.  Of special interest was his performance of a song containing only the names of Elvis songs as lyrics.

 

Believe it or not, there was even more talent to come.  The final set gave the audience a taste of the next night’s main attraction, Eddie Miles.  Eddie is without a doubt one of the very best Elvis tribute artists, and he did a few of the King’s hits from the 70’s to end the show.

 

SALUTE TO ELVIS

 

 The fans walked away from “The Legends” happily extolling it as on of the most fun concerts they had ever attended.  Many of these same folks were back in the audience at the Peabody the next night for Darwin second spectacular concert, “Salute To Elvis.” 

 

This time, Eddie Miles headlined and proved why he has such a national following.  All tribute artists have the costumes and the hair, and they sound like Elvis. But no one looks more like the King than Eddie Miles.  More than that, he has a smile that connects with the audience.  You just want to like this guy.

 

Backed by his own band, Eddie turned in superb performances on dozens of songs, especially those from the jump-suit years.  However, Darwin gave the audience more, adding many additional faces to the normal Eddie Miles road show.

 

MC duties were handled for the second night in a row by Red Robinson, generally regarded as the first Canadian disc jockey to play Elvis recordings on the air.  Robinson’s famous interview of Elvis on August 31, 1957 in Vancouver, BC is included in his narration of his concept album “Elvis – A Canadian Tribute,” featuring songs written by Canadian composers.

 

For most of the night, Eddie Miles also had the benefit of background singers with strong Elvis connections.  Ed Enoch and The Golden Covenant, former members of JD Sumner and The Stamps, did a great job on many of the songs they helped Elvis record from 1972 to 1977    JD was missed, but Ed and the boys carried on in the Stamps tradition and added much to the feel of a live Elvis concert.

 

So too did Myrna Smith, another veteran of the 70’s touring years.  Along with two other fine ladies, she provided the familiar female backing sound so generic to the ‘Vegas’ sound of Elvis’ later music.

 

The band and singers took short breaks when Darwin brought out two old Elvis buddies.  Joe Esposito almost needed no introduction for Elvis fans, but he got one anyway:  Army buddy, road manager, best man, and dear friend.  He certainly is one of the fan’s favorites.  Joe can go on for hours with Elvis stories, but time was short.

 

The other old buddy, Charlie Hodge, talked about Elvis, and he also sang harmony with Eddie Miles on two songs.  Charlie is famous for handing Elvis his water and scarves on stage, but he did much more than that.  Charlie was a guitarist and singer who recorded two duets with Elvis and complemented his vocals on stage.  Charlie became an Elvis buddy in 1956, served with him in the Army in Germany, and lived at Graceland for seventeen years, supervising many musical and personal aspects of Elvis’ life.

 

When Eddie Miles sang the last song, the audience knew they had indeed seen a fitting 25th Anniversary Tribute concert.  Darwin Lamm had presented a second night of great Elvis music    but more was to come.

 

THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TRIBUTE

 

The fans had to wait three nights for the third and last of the Elvis International trilogy.  After a fitting pause in deference to the midnight vigil on Thursday night and the huge 25th Anniversary presentation of “Elvis – The Concert” on Friday, August 16th, Darwin blew it out the following night.  For the fans still in Memphis on Saturday night, August 17th, this was indeed the “Farewell Tribute Concert.”

 

The grand ballroom of the Peabody Hotel was crammed with wall-to-wall people, all anticipating a bang-up performance by the famous TCB band.  They certainly were not disappointed.  All four men were at the top of their game.

 

James Burton of course anchored the group as lead guitar player.  James was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, joining Scotty Moore as the second Elvis Presley guitar player to be honored in the relatively new Sideman category.  He was a member of the Louisiana Hayride house band in the mid-fifties and was requited for Ricky Nelson’s band in 1958.  For the next eight years James recorded and performed with Nelson, including appearances in all the closing musical segments of the Ozzie and Harriet TV show.  When Elvis asked James to form a new band, he professed watching the show every week to see him play.  James organized the TCB band and toured and recorded with Elvis from 1969 to 1977.

 

Playing bass was Jerry Scheff, another original member of the TCB Band.  Jerry’s association with Elvis goes back to 1966 when he played on the “Easy Come, Easy Go” soundtrack recording session.  During the concert Jerry related a number of charming Elvis stories to the fans.  We learned how he composed the song “The Fire Down Below” about Elvis’ determination to conquer his problems and get back to good health.  Jerry is convinced to this day that Elvis was going to do it, but the tragedy of August 16, 1977 came first.  Elvis had planned to record the song, but never got the chance.

 

Pounding out the ivories on the piano was Glen D. Hardin, a TCB member from 1970 on.  Prior to his time with Elvis, Glen performed with the post-Buddy Holly Crickets, and subsequently performed in Emmylou Harris’ traveling band.

 

Providing the rhythm behind these bandmates was drummer Ronnie Tutt.  Ronnie looked great, obviously recovered from the heart bypass surgery he underwent in 1999.  After his seven years in the TCB Band, Ronnie backed Neil Diamond on tour for almost 20 years and recorded or performed with dozens of rock and country acts.

 

With a group of musicians this talented, Darwin had to come up with an equally great singer, and he did.  Terry Mike Jeffrey is a renowned performer who has taken his show all over the country and numerous foreign countries during the past twenty years.  His repertoire of songs is huge, but he specializes in Elvis material.  In fact, Terry Mike has released three albums of Elvis songs.

 

Unlike Elvis tribute artists, Terry Mike performs without the jumpsuits, black hair and sideburns, and he makes no attempt to sound just like Elvis.  But he can do a bang-up job singing the songs.

 

The show opened with the Terry Mike Jeffrey Band, including his wife and son.  One notable substitution was DJ Fontana on drums for the first few songs.  When DJ left to catch a plane, he got a rousing send-off from the appreciating crowd.

 

A short time late, Red Robinson introduced the TCB Band, and things got hot.  Terry Mike handled the singing duties alone for while, but soon a cast of Elvis friends joined the action.  Charlie Hodge was back to sing a few duets and tell stories..

 

Fan favorite Joe Esposito enlivened the proceedings on stage for a while, and there were two especially poignant moments.  After being too ill to appear at the earlier shows, Sam Phillips came out this night to thunderous applause.  Sam looked great in a spiffy white suit, and he delivered inspiring, but all too short remarks. 

 

Darwin came up with something of a surprise for the audience with guest singer John Wilkinson.  Best known as the TCB rhythm guitar player, John and James Burton were the only two musicians in every one of the bands performances with Elvis.  Before that, John enjoyed a solo singing career and occasional fill-in duty with the Kingston Trio on tour.  When Elvis turned the stage spotlight over to his bandmates, he had John sing the hit “Early Morning Rain.”  In 1989 John suffered a severe stroke, ending his guitar playing days.  But he did a great job singing at the Farewell Tribute concert.

 

To end the evening Darwin called on the legendary Al Dorvin to proclaim his famous words, “Elvis has left the building.”  As the fans left the building, they knew they had witnessed an historic concert.  If they had attended all three of Darwin Lamm’s productions, they had to be impressed with the wealth of talent he had assembled.  It is doubtful that as many musical friends of Elvis will ever be together again, but if anybody can do it, Darwin will.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

THE ELVIS STAMP REVISITED

From:  68th Birthday Issue, January 2003

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

Can you believe it’s been ten years since the Elvis stamp came out?  You and I and every other Elvis fan bought 124 million of them, making it the biggest seller in US history.

 

Of course, we put most of our Elvis stamps away as collectibles.  A short time later, the Postal Service threw us a curve by reissuing the stamp as part of their Rock ‘n‘ Roll Pioneers series.  It had the same picture, but used the full name, Elvis Presley, and you had to purchase them as part of a set with eight other early rockers.

 

I bought the sets, separated out the Elvis stamps, and used Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Holly and the rest to mail envelopes.  I probably should have saved the sets, but at least I saved the second Elvis stamps.  They’re the ones that are going to be rare and valuable down the road.

 

Do you remember the Postal Service’s contest to decide which Elvis picture to use on the stamp — the ‘young Elvis’ from his early Memphis days or the ‘old Elvis’ from his Las Vegas days?  I voted for the young Elvis seven times.  A total of 1.2 million votes were cast nationally.

 

Voting was easy.  You simply went down to the post office and asked for ballots.  They were self-addressed postcards showing the two competing drawings, with boxes to check for your choice.  I got ten ballots and kept three as collectibles.

 

Yes, I admit it.  I’m an Elvis collector, but I’m not compulsive about it.  I showed my restraint when a catalog from Graceland came in the mail shortly after the stamps were issued.  It contained 28 items featuring the Elvis stamp picture, but the only things I bought were the baseball cap, the T-shirt, the refrigerator magnet, and the beach towel.  The Elvis stamp watch doesn’t count, because my wife gave it to me for Christmas later that year.

 

Back when the Elvis stamps first came out, I bought lots of other related stuff, too.  The Postal Service got surprisingly creative and offered a full-color commemorative book in the exact size and shape of an old vinyl LP album cover.  Naturally, I had to have that.

 

I also put in an order with one of those mail-order stamp collectors societies to get five special envelopes, postmarked in Memphis on the first day of issue, January 8, 1993.  In addition to the stamp, each envelope had a different full-color drawing of Elvis on it, and the postmarks were in the design of the grillwork of the iron gates at Graceland.  Someday, I hope to trade one or two of these envelopes for some equally cool Elvis goodie.

 

That special purchase put me on the permanent mailing list of the mail-order stamp company, and since then many catalogs have come in, all containing new Elvis stamps.  One had a choice of Elvis stamps from eight foreign countries.  Big stamps.  Expensive ones.  Even a nifty set of nine different poses, connected together to make a sheet.  Yes, I had to get that.

 

For years, each catalog from that mail-order company contained different, colorful Elvis stamps issued by the Republic of Chad in Africa.  I guess the Chad government figured they had a good thing going and decided to keep issuing new ones.  Someday you may look up Chad in the encyclopedia and see their main export listed as Elvis stamps.

 

The most unique offer from Chad was a double stamp.  On one side was Elvis holding a guitar; on the other was Bill Clinton holding a saxophone.  The caption above the picture of the stamp set said (I’m not making this up), “Elvis and Bubba.”  That was pretty funny, but I didn’t want Bill Clinton’s face in my Elvis collection, so I didn’t buy any of these stamps.

 

However, if the Postal Service would ever consider pairing Elvis with someone else, I have a suggestion.  How about an “Elvis and Gladys” stamp, issued as a Mothers Day commemorative.  The Postal Service would be hard pressed to find another image that better depicts a son’s love for his mom.

 

They better hurry, though, or Chad will beat them to it.

 

© 2003  Philip R Arnold

 

Phil Arnold is a free-lance writer and big Elvis fan at e-mail address:  philarnold@charter.net

DOES VH1 HATE ELVIS — OR ARE THEY JUST STUPID?

From:  24th Anniversary Issue, August, 2001 

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

In the 24 years since his passing, Elvis has been immortalized by almost every element of the media.  His continuing popularity is lauded, and his substantial lifetime achievements are extolled by almost all writers and pundits of the entertainment world . . . with the exception of those associated with cable network VH1, it would seem.

 

VH1 has cleverly devised a way to fill many hours of air time.  They have panels of so-called experts create lists of the 100 best this-or-that.  Then they take a week to reveal each complete list, filling 15 hours of TV time in the process.  Hosts like Kevin Bacon and Jeff Bridges offer commentary, and the program shows short film clips covering each entry.

 

Typically, they countdown from #100 to 81 on a Monday from 10 to 11PM.  On Tuesday they repeat these at 9PM, and at 10PM they show #80 to 61.  By Friday, the countdown starts at 6PM with #100 and finishes up at 11PM with # 1.  Of course, they repeat the whole process many more times over the ensuing weeks and months and years.

 

Here are the most notable top 100 lists VH1 has already unveiled:  “Greatest Artists of Rock ‘N Roll,” “Greatest Albums of Rock ‘N Roll,” “Greatest Songs of Rock ‘N Roll,” and “Greatest Rock ‘N Roll Moments on TV”.  Serious fans and students of Elvis have reason to beef about how VH1 treated The King on all four lists.  Let’s take a closer look.

 

The most recent of the lists was “The 100 Greatest Albums of Rock ’N Roll.”  How many Elvis albums made it?  One!  Just one, from the artist who merely had nine #1 albums in his career.  By comparison, the Beatles had five on the list, and they were all in the top eleven.  The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan had four each.  These are great talents, and probably deserve such recognition.  But only one Elvis album?  Come on VH1.  Get real.

 

Let’s give them credit for the one selection they did make.  It is The Sun Sessions, an absolute must for the music collection of any serious Elvis fan.  Although he recorded the songs in 1954 and 1955, RCA did not release them on an LP until 1976.  On January 8, 1999, the CD version was released, featuring a different cover and some of those now nearly requisite out-takes.

 

The Sun Sessions contains all ten songs released on Elvis’ original Sun singles, plus the other six songs recorded at the same sessions.  Those six went over to RCA when they bought Elvis’ contract, and five of them appeared on his first RCA album.  If any album could be called a time-capsule, The Sun Sessions is it, and we should commend VH1 for placing it number 21 on the list.

 

However, there can be no excuse for their omitting Elvis’ first album, simply titled Elvis Presley.  RCA released it in 1956, and it rode the crest of Elvis hysteria to become the company’s first million-dollar selling album.  It contained raw and gritty songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede shoes,” and “I Got A Woman.”  Elvis Presley quickly shot up the charts and became RCA’s first rock ‘n roll album to reach number one, a position it held with a strangle-hold for ten weeks.

 

But there is much more to justify the greatness of this album than just impressive statistics.  It also had a profound effect on the record buying habits of America’s young people.  Before Elvis Presley, teenagers bought 45’s, not long-play albums.  Elvis changed this and opened the way for countless rockers to reap millions of album sales to teens.  Elvis himself enjoyed three more number one albums in the next two years

 

Arguments for inclusion in the top 100 list can be made for other worthy Elvis albums, most notably Blue Hawaii.  This soundtrack from his most successful movie stayed on the national album charts for over a full year, including an extraordinary twenty weeks at number one.  There should have been a place on the VH1 list for Blue Hawaii.

 

It’s noteworthy VH1 not only ignored the ground-breaking Elvis Presley LP, but also every other album released in the late 50’s, the widely praised ‘golden age of rock ‘n roll.’  One can only guess at their panel members’ prejudices for skipping such classics as Here’s Little Richard and The Buddy Holly Story.

 

VH1 should be praised, however, for treating the 45 singles of the late fifties with much more respect in the “100 Greatest Songs Of Rock ‘n Roll.”  Oviously a different set of experts make these selections.  In addition to Elvis, the fifties were represented by Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”), Richie Valens (“La Bamba”), Carl Perkins (“Blue Suede Shoes”), Eddie Cochran (“Summertime Blues”), Little Richard (“Good Golly, Miss Molly”), Buddy Holly and The Crickets (“That’ll Be The Day”), Bill Haley (“Rock Around The Clock”), Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”), and Ray Charles (“What’d I Say”).  Great selections all, except one might quibble that “Long Tall Sally” or “Tutti-Fruitti” were even better Little Richard selections.

 

Elvis placed four songs in the top 100: “Jailhouse Rock” (#18), “Hound Dog” (#31), “All Shook Up” (#68), and “Heartbreak Hotel” (#71).  Arguments could be made ad finitum that any or all of these songs deserved a higher rank, but more important is the snub to those songs that missed the list entirely.  What about “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, number one for six weeks, or “Teddy Bear” that held the top position for seven weeks?

 

Some non-fans of Elvis might counter that there just wasn’t room for every deserving song, but how could VH1 possibly omit “Don’t Be Cruel”?  There was simply no bigger rock ‘n roll record in the fifties.  It hit number one in August, 1956, and stayed there for an incredible eleven weeks.  It even came back years later as hits for Bill Black’s Combo and Cheap Trick.  “Don’t Be Cruel” was an absolutely monster hit and deserves a spot in the all-time top twenty, not just the top 100.

 

Without question, Elvis got his worst treatment in the VH1 polls when they presented their “100 Greatest Artists of Rock ‘N Roll.”  This seems like such a no-brainer – Elvis was number one, right?  No, according to VH1 he was number eight.  Think about it. NUMBER EIGHT!  You can only shake your head and wonder how they could do this to someone universally regarded as “The King of Rock ‘N Roll.”

 

Here’s who they thought was better than Elvis.  Number seven was David Bowie, most noted for his gender-bending stage personas in the early 70’s.  Yes, he’s had some good hits and notable albums, and he does have the staying power to still be a factor in contemporary music.  But it is a joke to consider him in the same breath with Elvis.

 

Number six was James Brown.  James also made unique music for over thirty years, and his stage shows were knockouts.  However, his music appealed primarily to a niche audience and did not reach the majority of the rock fans.  James Brown is great, but his impact was far less then Elvis’.

 

Number five was Bob Dylan.  Certainly he has few equals as a writer of music and lyrics, and he has been around forever.  There has always been a core group of loyal fans for whom Dylan is the best, and some of them must have been VH1 panelists.  He would rank highest in the “Greatest Artists Of Folk Music” category, but he just can’t touch Elvis for overall rock & roll greatness.

 

The number four on the list goes to another act that got its start in the late sixties – Led Zeppelin.  It’s an amazing tribute to their greatness that they broke up over 20 years ago, and their music is still hugely poplar today.  They were the Rosetta Stone of heavy metal and the inspiration for scores of bands to follow.  They fully deserve the number one position they received in VH1’s list of the “Greatest Artist of Hard Rock.”  Elvis can’t compete in that category, but he still tops them in the wide world of all rock & roll.

 

Jimi Hendrix placed number three on the list, and it’s entirely possible he could have given Elvis a run for the title “King of Rock ‘N Roll” if his career had lasted more than four years.  He wrote songs that will last forever, and his skill as a guitar player has no equal.  He was a trailblazer with his unique musical style, much as Elvis was with his.  Sorry, Jimi, your body of work is just too small to rival Elvis.

 

If you think about it, you can probably guess the artists who occupy the top two spots on the VH1 list:  The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.  It’s hard to argue against either group because their accomplishments are so great.  The Stones came in number two and have certainly the most intriguing story in rock ‘n roll.  Considering the life style they led for so long, it’s amazing any of them are still alive, but they’re still rocking after 35 years in the limelight.  They easily deserve top awards for the their total volume of quality work and their longevity, but they never had the impact on America’s youth the way Elvis did.  While they still generate passive respect for their long career, Elvis generates enthusiastic fan support 23 years after his death.  Total it all up, and Elvis ranks higher than the Rolling Stones.

 

And finally, The Beatles.  For seven years before their break-up in 1970, they were the absolute biggest thing in rock & roll.  They had fan adoration the equal of Elvis’.  They wrote their own songs and played their own instruments.  Their music grew and bridged the gap between what is now called “Oldies Rock” and “Classic Rock.”  Their records still sell well to this day.  Without question, The Beatles were the greatest rock band in history.

 

Say it again: greatest band.  It is that one word, band, which settles the dispute of who is the greatest artist.  The Beatles were four artists, and each one had a successful solo career after the band broke up.  John Lennon and Paul McCartney both gained admission to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for their post-Beatles accomplishments.  These four men comprised the greatest band in rock ‘n roll history, but Elvis was the greatest artist.

 

VH1 treated Elvis fairly well on their list of the “100 Greatest Rock & Roll Moments” on TV: five entries, including two in the top ten.  However, it is fair to argue the Elvis Aloha From Hawaii TV special should have placed much higher than number 92.  After all, NBC beamed it by satellite to over one billion people in forty countries.  This technological feat occurred in 1973, and it was a quantum leap in the history of television broadcasting.  In the United States, 92 percent of all people watching TV that night tuned to Elvis Aloha From Hawaii.  This special was big, historically significant, and hugely successful.  It deserves to be in the top 20 on the list.

 

VH1 gave number 75 to another TV special.  It was Welcome Home Elvis, which appeared in 1960 after Elvis returned home from the Army.  Despite the title, this was really the fourth in a series of specials hosted by Frank Sinatra, and most of the airtime was filled with Frank, his friends Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and his daughter Nancy.  Elvis had barely six minutes of air time.  VH1 was probably generous to place Welcome Home Elvis number 75.

 

Elvis’ most famous television special ranked number two on the list of Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Moments on TV.  It appeared on December 3, 1968, and was simply titled Elvis, but it is now generally known as the ’68 Comeback Special.  Certainly, no other TV moment on the list had a more positive effect on the career of the headliner than this one.  The special put Elvis back on the map as an exciting, vital singer after seven years of making movies, but not one appearance in front of a live audience.  When the TV viewers saw Elvis belting out songs, dripping sweat in that black leather outfit, and driving the girls in the audience to delirium, it was obvious Elvis was back.

It should be noted the number one TV moment went to the Beatles first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.  This was a very big event, watched by 73 million viewers.  Since we argued Elvis deserved the greatest artist title over The Beatles, it seems fair to not quibble about them getting the number one TV moment title.

 

Elvis’ other two TV appearances that made the VH1 list were both from 1956.  For some reason, they gave a tie for number 50 to Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis for their unrelated appearances on the Steve Allen Show.  Jerry Lee’s lyrics on “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” caused much controversy in those simpler, purer times, as did Elvis’ wild gyrations.  This is why Steve Allen chose to make Elvis wear a tuxedo and sing “Hound Dog” to an actual hound dog.

 

Elvis’ moves were something Ed Sullivan also wanted to de-emphasize when Elvis appeared on his show, so he had him shot from the waist up.  VH1’s panel considered this significant enough to place it number nine on the list.  As pleasing as that ranking is, it shows they really don’t have a clue.  VH1 totally missed Elvis’ most significant 1956 TV appearance, the one that created such an incredible public uproar, the one that caused both Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen to take measures to clean up Elvis’ act on their shows.

 

 It was the June 5, 1956, Milton Berle Show, the night Elvis introduced “Hound Dog” to America, complete with some of his best hip and leg moves.  The resulting uproar was loud and fierce.  Preachers denounced Elvis for contributing to juvenile delinquency, and some disc jockeys made grandiose public announcements declaring they would no longer play Elvis songs.  Newspaper editorials depicted him as the downfall of the nation’s teenagers.  And Elvis’ popularity soared.  Without question, his appearance on the Milton Berle Show was a far greater TV moment than the two shows that followed.  In fact, it probably should rank as the number one on the list. 

 

Sorry, Beatles, it looks like we dropped you to number two, again.  Maybe we should also drop something on VH1 to protest their shabby treatment of the King.  Better yet, let’s use the 24th anniversary week as motivation to drop a few thousand e-mail complaints to VH1.  Their e-mail address is feedback@vh1.com.

 

Phil Arnold is a free-lance writer and big Elvis fan.  He can be reached at philarnold@charter.net

© 2001  Philip R Arnold

THE GUITAR THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

 

From:  Winter 2000 Issue

 

 

(Scotty Moore’s 1964 LP Finds New Life On CD)

by Phil Arnold

 

 

About ten years ago, I came across an interesting book in the music section of a large bookstore.  The title was something like The 100 Worst Record Albums of All Time, which spiked my curiosity as an avid record collector.  I flipped through it with mild amusement to see what albums the author had selected, but had quite a jolt when I came upon The Guitar That Changed The World by Scotty Moore.

 

“Wow,” I thought, “I didn’t know Scotty Moore recorded a solo album of Elvis songs.”  Although I was pleased to learn of its existence, it bugged me that some jerk author could write such a bad review about the work of a legendary rock guitarist held in high esteem by Elvis fans.  His argument was basically that the original songs were so outstanding nobody should have the audacity to record cover versions.

 

In an effort to hopefully disprove this slap at Scotty, I contacted a few record-collecting buddies to see if one of them had a copy of the album.  One friend in Nebraska did and gladly volunteered to make a cassette copy and mail it to me.  I couldn’t wait for it to arrive.

 

Well, the wait was worth it.  The Guitar That Changed The World may have been a bit exuberantly titled, but it contained great music.  All twelve songs were from the 1955-56 period, a wonderful tribute to the originals recorded by Elvis and the boys at Sun Records and RCA.

 

During the first listen or two, I especially liked the up-tempo songs.  Now, after repeated listening, the three slow numbers, “Loving You,” “Don’t,” and “Love Me Tender,” all are much more appreciated for their different kind of charm.  They are the most successful of the six songs where Scotty directly takes on Elvis’ vocal parts with his guitar.

 

Scotty holds his ground here well, with a sound reminiscent of Duane Eddy’s more mellow instrumental releases.   “Love Me Tender” is an interesting choice for inclusion on the song list, because Scotty did not play guitar on the original hit.  All of the songs featured in Elvis’ first movie were recorded with Hollywood studio musicians.

 

To my ears, it is the rockers where the old Scotty Moore sound really comes through.  All his familiar guitar licks from the originals are on them, but he also gets to jam on new solo breakouts.

 

Part of the credit for the total sound must go to the group of band-mates Scotty assembled for the recording sessions.  D. J. Fontana on drums was a natural choice.  Also joining them was Boots Randolph on saxophone and famed session-man Jerry Kennedy on guitar.  Bob Moore (no relation to Scotty) replicated the fine bass sounds of Bill Black, and Bill Purcell added some piano to the mix.  Finally, there was the Jordanaires to add vocal touches and complete the sound.

 

The album opens with the classic “Hound Dog.” complete with DJ’s trademark machine-gun drum lead-in and the familiar hand-clapping of the original.  The Jordanaires and Boots Randolph get to work-out on all the parts where we are used to hearing Elvis’ vocals.   Scotty is happy to provide instrumental breaks connecting their verses, and they are great   He does four guitar solos, every one is different, and every one is killer.

 

Speaking of DJ’s drumming, it’s noteworthy that two of the song selections had no drum part on the famed Elvis versions.  “That’s All Right” and “Milk Cow Boogie” were originally recorded at Sun Records with just Elvis, Scotty and Bill making all the sound.  Bill’s slapping on that stand-up base provided the rhythm back then, but the songs shine with the addition of DJ’s handiwork on drums.

 

“Milk Cow Boogie” ranks as one of my two favorites on this album.  It features a large contribution by Jerry Kennedy on guitar, with a sound completely different than Scotty’s.  The interplay between these two wizards is superb.

 

If I had any complaint about the album, it would be that we don’t get enough of Scotty’s solos.  A good example would be “My Baby Left Me,” which starts off great as an instrumental, and then, halfway through, switches to the Jordanaires on vocal lead.  However, we do get to hear extended solos by Scotty on the instrumental breaks of “Mystery Train” and “Money Honey,” and he kicks butt with his distinctive guitar style taking over the Elvis vocal part on “Don’t Be Cruel.”

 

My other choice for best song has to be “Mean Woman Blues,” the last song on the album.  Again, the combination of two very different guitars is wonderful, but Scotty takes over for a gritty solo that makes you wish they’d looped it around for two or three more repetitions.

 

The last few years have seen a huge renaissance for Scotty Moore.  In 1997, he published his biography, titled That’s Alright, Elvis.  He has recorded with Carl Perkins and teamed up with DJ Fontana and a dozen other recording artists for the acclaimed All The Kings Men CD.  Scotty and DJ also thrilled audiences on several European tour dates, including one with the Rolling Stones in Hamburg. Germany.  Keith Richards is credited with a wonderful quote about his youth: “Everybody else wanted to be Elvis.  I wanted to be Scotty.”

 

Gibson Guitars has come out with a hot, new guitar named in Scotty’s honor, and autographed by him, selling for thousands of dollars.  In 1999, Scotty had an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, the result of his well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

 

In conjunction with this great honor, Scotty’s 35 year old album was re-released on CD.  Now every fan of the old Elvis music (and the distinctive guitar sound that propelled it along) can enjoy this long-lost classic.  I strongly urge you to add The Guitar That Changed The World to your music library.  Don’t worry if you can’t find it at the local record store.  You can purchase it on the internet at CDNow.com or Amazon.com for a gentle price of about $12. 

 

If you ever come across a copy of the old vinyl LP, please let me know.  I’m still looking for one for my collection.  “The Guitar That Changed The World” is absolutely not one of the worst record albums of all time, but it sure is hard to find.

 

© 2000  Philip R Arnold

 

Phil Arnold is a free lance writer and big Elvis fan.  He can be reached at philarnold@charter.net.

ARTIST OF THE CENTURY

From:   Winter 1999 Issue

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

(They Didn’t Need To Wait 44 Years To Name Elvis Artist Of The Century.  I Knew it back in 1956)

 

Elvis is getting well-deserved acclaim as the Artist of The Century.  Many words will be written in the media about this crown bestowed on ‘The King’, and most articles will recite the long list of Elvis’ accomplishments.  You know the ones: over a hundred top 40 hits, 33 movies, record-breaking Las Vegas gigs and tour performances, and about a gazillion records sold.

 

This documentation is valuable if there are any folks out there who seriously doubt Elvis is indeed the Artist of The Century.  But I don’t need it.  I’ve known Elvis deserved the title since June 5, 1956.  All it took for me to know was a black-and-white TV with rabbit-ears on top and a tiny 12-inch screen.

 

I’ve always remembered that my personal Elvis epiphany took place sometime during his first year in the national spotlight, but the details were fuzzy.  One clear image was seeing Elvis do “Hound Dog” on television, but I didn’t know what show or when it was on.  I also thought I remembered never hearing the song on the radio prior to that night, but I wasn’t sure.

 

Fortunately, I have lots of reference books and a few videos, so I decided to do some research into my discovery of Elvis.  I wanted to see if I could narrow it down to the exact day.  Here’s what I found.

 

My initial contact with Elvis’ music was in late February 1956 when I heard his first RCA recording, “Heartbreak Hotel,” beaming from the radio in my room.  I was 13 years old and in the 7th grade, and I listened to music while doing homework.  My favorite disc jockey was Joe Niagara on WIBG, 99 AM in Philadelphia.  Rock & roll was in its infancy, and I was there right from the start.  I loved this exciting new music.

 

Joe Niagara had never played any of Elvis’ earlier Sun releases, but he played the heck out of “Heartbreak Hotel.”  I liked it, but it didn’t become a huge personal favorite.  Maybe it was the heavy blues beat.  I preferred fast, jump songs like “Tutt-Frutti” by Little Richard.  I was just learning to jitterbug, and it was the fast songs that moved me.  “Heartbreak Hotel” was not what you would call a ‘good dance song’.

 

At that time, I had no idea Elvis had already performed on TV.  He made a total of six guest appearances on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s half-hour variety series “Stage Show” in early 1956.  My mom and dad did not watch this program, so I missed all of them.  The reporters must have seen the performances, however, because Elvis was starting to get a lot of press.

 

I can only assume I had a conflict on April 3, 1956, because I also missed Elvis’ first appearance on “The Milton Berle Show.”  This was performed on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, USS Hancock, and I had no previous recollection of seeing Elvis singing on a ship when I viewed the video of the show years later.  As a brand new rock ’n roll fan in mid-1956, I would certainly have wanted to tune in and see this phenomenon in action, but I missed it.

 

Shortly after this show, Elvis’ second release, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” started getting radio airplay.  I liked it OK but didn’t get excited about it.  After all, it was just a ballad, not a rocker.

 

Elvis’ second appearance with Milton Berle was scheduled for June 5.  By this time, Elvis was getting massive coverage in the press, and the hype leading up to the show was unprecedented.  As things turned out, it was well-deserved.

 

A new look at the video of that old Milton Berle broadcast showed me why.  Elvis was incredible.  He wiggled and swayed and gyrated all over the stage.  He had legs of rubber that went nuts when Scotty Moore jammed on the instrumental guitar parts.  The whole band was hot, and Elvis was like molten lava pouring from that tiny TV screen.

 

That had to be it. This was when Elvis got me.  His performance of “Hound Dog” on the second Berle show was the defining moment in 1956 I was looking for.  Although Elvis sang the song four more times on television that year that year, this was unquestionably his most outstanding performance of it.

 

My hunch about never previously hearing the song on the radio proved to be right.  A check in the research books confirmed Elvis did not record “Hound Dog” until nearly one month later.  Apparently, Elvis heard another group perform the song in Las Vegas, and he started doing it on tour, eventually using it as his closing number.

 

The recording session for “Hound Dog” was scheduled for July 2, one day after Elvis’ only appearance on “The Steve Allen Show.”   This was the infamous program where they had Elvis wear a tux and sing “Hound Dog” to a bored-looking basset hound on a stool.  That must have been a tough pill for Elvis to swallow, but he performed like a trooper.

 

When “Hound Dog” was released, it was backed with “Don’t Be Cruel,” another killer song.  This became a giant two-sided hit record, with one song or the other occupying the #1 position on the charts for 12 straight weeks.  Elvis was now doing the kind of music that pushed my ON button.

 

About this time, I got my own record-player.  It was one of those squatty little things that played 45’s only.  It provided sound quality that would be considered lame by today’s standards — mono through a single, small, built-in speaker – but it seemed wonderful at the time.  I bought “Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel” and played it to death.  It quickly became my favorite record.

 

Thus, I was quite excited to learn Ed Sullivan had signed Elvis to appear on three shows, starting in early September.  It is interesting to note that Ed Sullivan had earlier said he would never have Elvis Presley on his TV show, but that changed after Elvis caused a huge rating jump on his Steve Allen appearance, when the show captured 55% of the evening’s viewing audience.

 

Elvis’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was on Sunday, September 9, 1956.  I was really psyched about seeing this show, and I obviously wasn’t alone.  Ed Sullivan’s ratings went from 15% of the viewing public on the night Elvis was with Steve Allen in the same time-slot to 82% when Ed had Elvis himself.

 

Another strange thing happened during Elvis’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”  Ed Sullivan missed it.  He was involved in a automobile accident that put him in the hospital for several weeks.  His choice for a substitute host certainly had nothing to do with the show’s high-powered guest.  It was an old, serious actor, Charles Laughton, who couldn’t have been farther in looks or demeanor from Elvis.

 

Elvis performed four songs that night.  “Love Me Tender” was a natural.  He had a movie of the same name coming out soon.  “Ready Teddy” was great, a real rocker, and I already had the original Little Richard release in my collection of 45’s.  A fresh look at the video shows Elvis twice doing weird things with his eyes.  It’s like he was teasing us, looking like he was about to go over the edge, and then coming back.  I love watching it now, just as I did back in 1956; but features like pause, rewind, and slo-mo on the VCR sure add a lot to today’s enjoyment.

 

The other two songs on the first Sullivan show were my two favorites, “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”  Elvis showed us all his classic moves and did that cool lip-thing several times while singing.  I remember sitting there, transfixed on the TV screen, knowing that a new, powerful force had taken over the universe.  Elvis was in orbit, in perfect harmony with the planets and stars.

 

From then on, nothing was the same for millions of teenagers, including me.  Elvis influenced everything:  music, clothes, haircuts, attitude.  I was now 14 and in the 8th grade.  I was changing from a boy to a man, a journey accompanied by Elvis’ music the whole way.  Elvis was the most.  The best.  The ‘King.’

 

Media writers of that time poured out lines like this one in a New York Times review:  “Elvis Presley is currently the entertainment world’s most astonishing figure.”  Paul Lichter later wrote:  “In the entire history of show business, no entertainer has had such a meteoric rise and such sudden, frantic, widespread adulation . . . as Elvis.”

 

For those of us who experienced this phenomenon, Elvis was already our Artist of The Century.  Everything that happened in the next 44 years just confirmed it.

© 1999  Philip R Arnold

HARRIS POLL FINDS LOTS OF ELVIS FANS OUT THERE

From:  26th Anniversary Issue, August 2003

by Phil Arnold

 

 

It seems everyone gets more interested in Elvis around August 16th each year.  This phenomenon was certainly most pronounced in 2002 as we approached the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ passing.   Even the highly respected Harris Poll felt compelled to see how the American population as a whole feel about Elvis.

 

It’s pleasing to note that 34% of the 209 million adults over eighteen consider themselves Elvis fans.  While that may be expected, the big surprise has to be Harris’ finding that 23% of young adults (18 to 23) are Elvis fans.  So, it looks like our nation’s fascination with Elvis won’t run out of steam any time soon.

 

Here’s an incredible statistic: One in ten Americans have visited Graceland.  Wow, that’s a lot of people. No wonder the lines are so long, and the prices keep going up.

 

Do you think there are an awful lot of Elvis impersonators out there?  There must be, because according to Harris nearly 72 million folks have seen one.  Think about it, 34% of the population has seen a tribute performer, compared to just 5% who saw the real deal live in concert.

 

The poll also revealed that tribute artists might want to reconsider which Elvis they impersonate.  They may prefer to go on stage in jumpsuits, but the public has a different taste.  Only 9% preferred the 70’s Elvis, compared with 48% for the 60’s Elvis, and 42% for the 50’s Elvis.

 

Elvis’ movies often get a lot of bad press, but they still have appeal.  70% of the people polled said they had watched an Elvis movie.  That obviously is heavily weighted to TV and video viewing, because an Elvis movie hasn’t been shown in theaters for almost 35 years.  Too bad Harris didn’t do a question about how many total viewings we crazies have done over the years.  How many Elvis movies did you watch last August?

© 2004  Philip R Arnold

ELVIS IS BACK

From:  Spring 2000 Issue

 

(His First Recording Sessions After Returning From The Army)

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

Elvis was rushed to a recording studio less than two weeks after he got home from Germany in 1960.  There was good reason for this; the previous nine months had gone by without a single Elvis hit.

 

Of course, there had been no releases, either.  The vaults at RCA were empty.  All those fine songs recorded in June 1958, just before Elvis’ induction, had been used up in the first year he was away.  The plan to issue a new release every three months was certainly successful, achieving four top ten hits, including ”A Big Hunk O’ Love” which reached #1.  After that, there was nothing left to release.

 

So, ex-soldier Elvis needed to record some new music.  The place where it happened was the RCA studios in Nashville, where he had done those last pre Army sessions.  Old band mates Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana were on hand, as were the Jordanaires, but one element of the old studio gang was not present.  Bill Black started his own combo in 1958, and by this point, he had a couple of his own hits and was touring heavily.

 

His position as bass player in the band was filled with popular Nashville musician, Bob Moore, no relation to Scotty.  Bob Moore’s main claim to fame, other than thousands of recording sessions, was as the composer of the theme song from “My Three Sons” TV show.

 

Also in the studio were Hank Garland, famous session guitarist, and two soon-to-be big name guests: piano player, Floyd Cramer and sax man, Boots Randolph.  Within two years, both would break through as major solo performers.

 

Except for a few extra movie songs recorded in Hollywood, the RCA Nashville Studio was to be Elvis’ recording home for the next four years after his return from the Army.  And all sessons were done at night.  In early 1960, this was scheduled as two, two-night rounds about ten days apart.  In between, Elvis and the boys took the train down to Miami to tape a TV special with Frank Sinatra.

 

During the first two-nighter in Nashville, Elvis cut six songs.  “Stuck On You” must have been deemed the most likely hit, so it was quickly rushed on the market.  This process was speeded up partly because the paper sleeves had been printed before the song was recorded.  Not knowing what songs would be used for this release, RCA simply printed a cover with two color pictures of Elvis on it, but no titles.  The sleeve had a large die-cut circle hole in the center so the record label could be seen to reveal the titles.

 

Elvis performed “Stuck On You” and the flip-side, “Fame And Fortune,” on the Sinatra special.  It soon shot to #1 on the charts.  Pretty easy to do, if you have advance orders totaling over 1.2 million copies.

 

The second two-nighter produced two more huge #1 hits.  “It’s Now Or Never” spent five weeks in that position in late summer, and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” finished the year in the top spot for six weeks.  Both releases had credible flip-sides in “A Mess Of The Blues” and “I Gotta Know,” respectively.

 

The two Nashville sessions produced more than enough songs to fill an album, so in April, the LP, Elvis Is Back, hit the market.   Guess what?  No songs listed directly on the jacket; presumably the result of another speed-up print order.  The titles were printed on a yellow sticker affixed to the front cover.  If your copy of this album has song titles printed on the front, it is a later pressing.

 

Stereo technology was just coming into the market in 1960, so Elvis Is Back was also his first LP to be issued in true stereo.  Not all copies, however, just a small percentage.  If you have this album in stereo, you have something worth five times the mono version as a collectible.

 

The selection of songs for the LP is puzzling.  Out of the 18 songs recorded at the sessions, six were used only for 45 single releases, and twelve were used only for album release.  Elvis Is Back contained absolutely no hit songs, and not one of the cuts was ever released as a single.

 

This is not to call the album bad.  In fact, it is often rated as one of his best, because of the heavy blues content.  It did reach #2 on the album charts, and sales surpasses $1 million.

 

Three of the album songs did have additional attention years later.  Elvis sang “Fever” in his 1973 TV special Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii.  And two of the bluesier numbers, “It Feels So Right” and “Dirty, Dirty Feeling” were lip-synched by Elvis in the 1965 movie “Tickle Me.”

 

In 1999, we were treated to a new CD release of Elvis Is Back.  Most compact disc versions of old albums give you some sort of new bonus tracks, and this one is no exception.  Now you can hear the entire recording sessions, including the hit singles and flip sides, at one time.  This is a terrific choice for anyone with a beginning Elvis music collection who has to pick what’s next from the large selection of newly released CD options.

 

© 2000  Philip R Arnold

ELVIS PRESLEY BLUESMAN

From:  Summer 2000 Issue 

 

by Phil Arnold

 

 

The Time-Life series of Elvis CD’s is up to 13 volumes, including one titled Rhythm and Blues.  This offering does contain some wonderful Elvis blues numbers, but it easily could have been 100% solid blues.  Elvis recorded lots of fine blues songs, certainly enough to fill a double CD.  I already have eighteen of his blues numbers compiled on a cassette tape, personally selected from thirteen different albums. 

 

The project started ten years ago when I purchased a copy of the 1960 LP, Elvis Is Back, at a record show.  I had never owned it as a youth, probably because it contained no hits. Although Elvis had big hit singles that year, like “Stuck On You” and “It’s Now Or Never”, none made it to this album for some reason.

 

To my surprise, three of the last four songs on Elvis Is Back were blues numbers.  Not blues-rockers; these were pure blues songs, and they were great.  From that moment, I was driven to make a tape titled ‘Elvis Presley – Bluesman.’

 

Naturally, I started with those three songs: “Reconsider Baby,” “It Feels So Right,” and “Like A Baby.”  “Reconsider Baby” was an earlier hit for its composer, Lowell Folson, and has gone on to become a standard, recorded by almost every blues artist sooner or later.  The other two songs were written just for Elvis.  One of them, “It Feels So Right,” also has some additional pedigree.  The 1965 movie, “Tickle Me,” had Elvis ‘singing’ the song, but what we actually heard was the recording from 1960.

 

Elvis Is Back was the first album he did after returning home from the Army. Maybe he listened to a lot of blues while in Germany and came back itching to record some himself.  If so, he was quickly given the chance.

 

Elvis was rushed into a Nashville recording studio less than two weeks after he arrived home.  His old bandmates Scotty and D.J. were teamed up with some heavy duty session men, including Floyd Cramer on piano and Boots Randolf on sax.  I never thought of either as a bluesman, but they do great work on these songs. Within two years, both would break through as major solo performers.

 

To find more good Elvis blues songs, I checked out my collection of albums, starting with the oldest.  The first one, Elvis Presley, from 1956, provided “Tryin’ To Get To You.”  This is another song with an interesting history.  Elvis recorded it during his last session at Sun Records in 1955, but Sun sold his contract before it could be released, and RCA got to use it instead.  It is also the only Sun recording by Elvis to use a piano, which was probably played by Elvis himself.  Most notably, “Tryin’ To Get To You” was one of the gritty acoustic songs performed by Elvis on the tiny in-the-round stage during the “68 Comeback Special.”

 

His second album, also released in 1956, and simply titled Elvis had two blues numbers, “Any Place Is Paradise” and “So Glad You’re Mine.”  The latter was written by an old bluesman, Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup, noted for composing Elvis’ first commercial recording, “That’s All Right Mama.”

 

Elvis’ second movie, Loving You produced his first sound track album in 1957. A good trivia fact is that not one song on Side 2 of the Loving You LP was from the movie.  However, one of these filler tunes was an excellent blues number, “I Need You So.”

 

“Mean Woman Blues” on Side 1 was featured in the movie in a big way.  Elvis’ character sang it to the accompaniment of a jukebox in a club.  Is there anyone who doesn’t remember the famous scene where Elvis fights a trouble-maker and knocks him into that juke box?  Although Elvis never had a hit single with “Mean Woman Blues,” Roy Orbison charted with it at #5 a few years later. 

 

Another 1957 movie, Jailhouse Rock, also contained a blues song, but there was no soundtrack album to showcase it.  “I Want To Be Free” had to wait two more years to appear on the LP, A Date With Elvis.

 

Elvis’ only movie from 1958, King Creole, did provide a sound track album with a blues number for my tape.  “Trouble” is different than the other songs in my collection because of its heavy use of blaring trumpets in the instrumentation.  Frankly, I wish there were some album containing an alternate version without those loud trumpets.

 

“One Night” was a big hit in 1957, but didn’t show up on an album until 1959, when it joined many other old hits on 50,000 Fans Can’t Be Wrong.  A more powerful version of “One Night” can be heard on any of the various recordings to come out of the 68 Comeback Special.  As we watched Elvis (wearing that black leather outfit) wailing to this song in the pit session, we knew he was back.  It was an electrifying performance and the version I used on my tape.

 

The 1961 album, Something For Everybody, was well named, for it did have a blues tune to satisfy this fan.  “Give Me The Right” was cut from the same mold as the three songs from Elvis Is Back a year earlier.  Boots Randolph and Floyd Cramer again lent excellent support to the recording.

 

The next song I put on my Elvis blues tape was from the1961 movie sound track, Blue Hawai.  It was “Beach Boy Blues”, a tongue-in-cheek number sung by Elvis while in jail after a fight.  It has the great(?) lyric, “I’m like a ripe pineapple. I’m in the can.”

 

It took four more years until another blues song appeared on an Elvis album, the 1965 release, Elvis For Everyone.  However, the song “When it Rains It Really Pours” had been recorded back in 1957.

 

The next year, the soundtrack from Spinout contained three bonus songs not in the movie.  One of them, “Down In The Valley,” is a blues song that had been originally recorded by the Clovers.

 

Elvis’ 68 Comeback Special spawned a number of official and bootleg albums, including Elvis – TV Special, which I own. It’s hard to believe, but there is one song Elvis performed during the show that he had never previously recorded. It was the blues standard, “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” written by Jimmy Reed.

 

Also on this album is the shortest song to make my Elvis blues tape.  “Nothingville” lasts just about one minute.  It was one of many songs, including “Trouble” and “Guitar Man”, woven into the special’s long dance number.

 

The last song on my tape is one of the best.  It is “Steamroller Blues,” which Elvis Performed on the Aloha From Hawaii television special in 1973.  However, I prefer the version used on the album, The Alternate Aloha,  This recording of the rehearsal concert was released in 1988.  The song was originally written and recorded by James Taylor, but the lyrics fit Elvis much better when he wails, “I’m a burning urn of churning funk.”

 

So that’s it, 60 minutes of solid Elvis blues music.  I play the tape all the time and love it.  Surely, plenty of other Elvis fans would as well.  Elvis music seems to be re-released in new forms nearly every-other month, so maybe the record company will someday get around to an Elvis blues compilation.  If so, you and I may be able to watch Darwin on QVC again, introducing a CD called Elvis Presley – Bluesman.  I’ll bet it really sells.

 

© 2000  Philip R Arnold