Tag Archives: Elvis in Concert

Graceland Introduces Elvis Unplugged

It’s hard to believe that Elvis Week starts next Friday. Festivities kick off on August 9 and continue until Sunday, August 18. That’s a long 10-day week, and I’m always interested to see what EPE comes up with to lure fans to come to that early first weekend.

 

The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest semis and finals in the Graceland Soundstage now seem to be a permanent early fixture of Elvis Week. And last year, Graceland made them even better with the addition of After-Parties on the streets of Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

So, this year, the challenge apparently was to schedule something new and appealing during those afternoons. I think they have come up with a winner… ELVIS UNPLUGGED. I saw a long-haired hippy-looking guy named Julio at Elvis Week 2002 do this, and it was a nice change from the full band treatment.

 

2002 was the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death, so Graceland planned some big-time stuff for the celebration. Including an incredible concert experience in the Pyramid.

 

The first Elvis in Concert was amazing and a fitting end to the week. I have no idea what they had at the beginning because I came for all the late stuff.

But now EPE has made it worthwhile for the fans to come earlier, which brings us back to:

ELVIS UNPLUGGED

 

In 2002, Graceland had little use for Elvis Impersonators. This year, there is hardly a day that doesn’t have one or two events starring ETA’s. And Graceland presents only the best of them during Elvis Week.

Here is the list of winners of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest.

2007 Shaun Klush
2008 Brandon Bennett
2009 Bill Cherry
2010 Justin Shandor
2011 Cody Ray Slaughter
2012 Ben Portsmouth
2013 Dean Z
2014 Jay Dupuis
2015 David Lee
2016 Dwight Icenhower
2017 Gordon Hendricks
2018 Ben Thompson

The names in bold are the six champions who will participate in the Elvis Unplugged shows this year. Both nights will be hosted by Dean Z, who has been called “the best entertainer in our business,” by Jeff Lewis, originator of the After-Parties and a man who has seen them all.

Dean Z in Jailhouse Rock Prison Uniform

 

Dean Z working out on stage

 

Dean Z will be joined on Saturday night by Jay Dupuis and Shawn Klush.

Four shots of Jay Dupuis as Elvis

 

Shawn Klush off stage

I have written about Shawn Klush a few times in ElvisBlog. I saw his act at Elvis Week 2002 in the funky New Daisy Theater. It was the last event of a long day and it was called the Elvis Midnight Blues Jam. It is where I saw that fellow Julio do the Elvis unplugged act I mentioned earlier. I don’t know where his career went, but Shawn Klush certainly moved on to better things. Five years later he was crowned the first Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist winner, and his career has been on a roll ever since.

For the Sunday night Elvis Unplugged concert there will be four Ultimate ETAs on stage. Dean Z will be joined by Ben Thompson, Cody Ray Slaughter and Dwight Icenhower.

Dwight Icenhower

 

Cody ray Slaughter also has his own show on the first night, Friday August 9. He will be backed by the David Fontana Band.

 

David Fontana is DJ’s son, and of course, that’s him on the drums.

 

Ben Thompson

 

Here is Ben Thompson on stage with Jeff Lewis (right), the MC of the After-Parties. Jeff expressed this sentiment about the After-Parties being moved to the Graceland Exhibition Center this year, “Thank God we’ll have air conditioning!” Other benefits may be a lot more table seating for the party-goers, and a better dance floor surface. It sounds like it will be a wonderful night-club set-up to me.

The Elvis Unplugged shows will also have air conditioned comfort inside the Guest House Theater. This seems the perfect small venue for a show billed as:

Live Elvis music and personal stories. An intimate acoustic experience among friends sharing music, laughter and fun.

 

The price of these unplugged concerts is just $25, which seems a bargain for Elvis Tribute Artists of this caliber. The Saturday, August 10 show sold out early, and the Sunday, August 11 will probably be by the time you read this.

If I could pull it off, I would love to be in Memphis on that Saturday night, and go to the Elvis Unplugged concert at 2:00 at the Guest House Theater, The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist finals at 7:00 at the Graceland Soundstage, and the After-Party at 9:00 in the Exhibition Center. What a nice dream, but for some lucky Elvis fans, it will be a reality.

 

 

 

© 2019 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.

 

A Summer of 40th Anniversaries

Elvis 40

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

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

Elvis' last Concert - Indianapolis 1977

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

 

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

TV ad for Elvis in Concert Special

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

CBS advertisement for Elvis In Concert in 1977

 

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

 

Start of CBS Special Elvis in Concert.

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

Omaha Civic Auditorium

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

 

Rushmore Civic Auditorium

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

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

Elvis Singing Unchained Melody

 

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

Elvis Singing Unchained Melody - Close Up

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

 

Are You Lonesome Tonight Laughing Version

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

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

 

1977 Elvis in Concert double record set

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

 

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

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

ELVIS PRESLEY IN CONCERT 1977 DVD

 

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

 

 

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

 

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