Tag Archives: Elvis Week

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.

 

Beach Boy – (Uncredited)

Special Guests Added to Elvis WeekSpecial Guests At Elvis Weekk 2016

(Editor’s note:  Seven months after this post apeared, Christopher Riodan, the title subject, posted a long comment detailing his connections wih Elvis.  It is worth your time to click on Comments and read it.)

Did you get this email from Elvis Insiders like I did? The heading caught my eye. “Special Guests Added to Elvis Week.” So, I eagerly read on to find out who these special people might be.

As you can see, the first name is Christopher Riordan, identified as Elvis’ co-star. Now, I’m a big fan of Elvis movies and have books listing the entire cast and crew for each one. I have read them all several times, but I just couldn’t remember Christopher Riordan in any of them.

 

Christopher Riordan Bio

So, I clicked on Read More which brought up this bio. It does say he had roles in several Elvis movies, but there is no longer any mention of co-star status. Still, roles in six Elvis movies, plus the ’68 Special, is something to be proud of. You and I would be thrilled if we had been in six Elvis movies, no matter how small the parts.

(One side note: It seems EPE wants to phase out reference to the ’68 Comeback Special. The official preferred name is now Elvis ’68 Special.  Sort of like how they prefer Elvis Tribute Artist over Elvis Impersonator.)

Anyway, I was curious about Christopher Riordan’s participation in Elvis movies. So I decided to go to the best source for any and all information about movies – The International Movie Database. IMDb is a subsidiary of Amazon, and has 3.7 million movies and TV episodes in its database. Plus 7 million actors and other personalities.

IMDb Selections

I love this website. Look at the list of links available under the Movies, TV & Showtimes tab. There are two more tabs with tons more stuff. Check it out.
I typed Christopher Riordan into the Search box and confirmed his presence in those six Elvis movies and the ‘68 Special. Here is the summary of his roles:

1964 – Viva Las Vegas                    Dancer (Uncredited)
1964 – Roustabout                          Carnival Worker (Uncredited)
1965 – Tickle Me                             Dancing bit (Uncredited)
1965 – Spinout                                Party Guest (Uncredited
1967 – Double Trouble                    Young Englishmen (Uncredited)
1967 – Clambake                            Beach Boy (Uncredited)
1968 – Elvis (TV movie)                  Dancer.

Christopher Riordan and Elvis in Spinout

Christopher Riordan as Party Guest with Elvis in Spinout

I started to feel a little let down. Christopher Riordan seemed a little over-hyped – not a co-star, not in roles with character names and lines of dialogue. But, I checked out what else Riordan had appeared in, and found he has scored 101 credits in both TV and movies. The bulk of these were uncredited bit parts in dozens of movies each year 1964 through 1967. During this busy period, he also had recurring credited rolls in two TV shows – Ozzie and Harriet in 1964 and Many Happy Returns in 1965. Ironically, his character’s name in both series was Ronnie.

Christopher Riordan in 1977 Publicity Photo.

Christopher Riordan in 1977 Publicity Photo.

For some reason, Riordan’s appearances dropped off drastically in 1968 through 1971, and he had no credits at all in 1972-1974, and none in the decade from 1978 to 1988. Maybe nobody was looking for a guy with immense hair for their movie or TV projects. Obviously, Riordan was supporting himself with some other line of work during that time.

During the 90s, he resurfaced with bit parts in one movie, one short, and three TV show episodes. In the 2000s he appeared in seven TV episodes of House of Carters and Ugly Betty.

AjayMehta and Christopher Riordan in Outsourced - 2010

Christopher Riordan (right) on set of Outsourced – 2010

Then suddenly he showed up in 2010 in 21 episodes of the TV show Outsourced acting as the Call Center Supervisor. Wow, where did all the hair go? He’s had a few credits in the years since, and so far in 2016, he has appeared in five episodes of the NBC TV series Superstore.

 

Conversations on Elvis

So, the questions are why did Christopher Riordan get selected for the Conversations on Elvis panel, and will he have anything to add to the conversation. The sad truth is that many people close to Elvis have died, and it is obviously getting harder to fill the stage with suitable panelists.

I would prefer to think that Riordan was a young good-looking party guy and probably did have some chances to hang out with Elvis. He very well could have been around for some crazy antics, and if he shares these during Elvis Week, I think the fans will love it. My bet is that Christopher Riordan will be one of the most interesting people on the stage.

 

 

© 2016 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.

 

The Movie Theater: One Building Elvis Will Never Leave — Part 6

 Beifuss on Movies

There are several things I look forward to every Elvis Week – watching lots of Elvis movies, having the number of visitors to ElvisBlog spike, and reading a special column written by John Beifuss, Memphis Commercial Appeal Movie Critic.  It is his annual survey of Elvis references in movies.

Here is how Beifuss explains it:

“Every year, as I watch movies in my capacity as film reviewer for the Commercial Appeal, I take note of each reference I see or hear to Memphis’ favorite son, Elvis Presley.  In most cases, the Elvis allusion was brief: a photo of the famous face, a snippet of a song. But in some cases, the King made an impact — especially in “The Identical,” a film entirely inspired by the Elvis story.”

Let’s take a look at what Beifuss discovered.

The Identical:

The Identical Movie Poster

The inspiration for this movie’s plot was actually Elvis’ stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon.  However, in the movie, both twins live but are separated.  One grows up to be a superstar singer known as “Drexel the Dream.” The other brother succumbs to his adopted father’s pressure to enter the ministry.  As the years pass, he is pulled by the urge entertain, and he begins to tour as a professional impersonator of “The Dream” (who he doesn’t know is his brother).  So, in the movie we have “The Dream” and “The Identical,” certainly an allusion to ”The King” and the Elvis Tribute Artists.

 

Big Eyes:

Big Eyes Movie Poster

The central characters of this film are Margaret Keane, the artist who created the popular portraits of strange big-eyed waifs, and her husband Walter, who took credit for them.  When Margaret walks into a Honolulu radio station, we see a copy of Elvis album “Blue Hawaii.”

 

Good Ol’ Freda:

Good Ol Freda Movie Poster

This is a biographical documentary that made the rounds of the independent movie festivals.  The title character is Freda Kelly, a teenager who in 1963became the Beatles’ first fan-club secretary in in Liverpool.  The office where she worked had pictures of Elvis on the walls, but she stressed that she “didn’t like” Elvis. Only the Beatles for her.

 

Wild:

Wild Movie Poster

If you’ve seen this Reese Witherspoon movie, perhaps you noticed the soundtrack included “Don’t Be Cruel.”  Did you notice that the vocal wasn’t Elvis’?  In fact, it was Billy Swan’s cover version from his album Like Elvis Used to Do.  I have the CD, and Billy does a great job on all 14 Elvis songs.

 

Selma:

Selma Movie Poster

In this film about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s voting rights campaign in Alabama, the Elvis reference is a strange one.  Army troops had been sent in to keep order, and one officer commented on the extremely mean local sheriff:  “If the Lord Jesus himself and Elvis Presley both came to him together and told him to go easy on the Negroes, he would beat the (crap) out of the two of them and throw them in jail.”

 

The Book of Life:

The Book Of Life Movie Poster

You can see the Elvis-inspired character right next to the big guitar in the poster above.  It is a Mexican matador-turned-mariachi named Manolo with Elvis hair and sideburns.  His love interest is there, too, holding a pig.  He serenades her with a version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”

 

Horrible Bosses 2:Horrible Bosses 2 Movie Poster

Christoph Waltz plays a crooked, double-dealing entrepreneur who offers to bankroll production of the invention by the three guys in the photo.  Of course, he tries to squeeze them out.  We get a glimpse of his trophy room full of souvenirs, probably obtained illegally.  In addition to a Jimi Hendricks guitar, a Picasso painting, and a dinosaur skull, he was an Elvis jumpsuit.

 

Gone Girl:

Gone Girl Movie Poster 

In spite of its serious theme, this movie injects some perverse comedy, including a couple of flippant Elvis references in the dialogue. A good example is when the high-powered lawyer departs on an out-of-state mission, and Ben Affleck’s sister cracks, “Elvis has left Missouri.”

 

Strange Magic:

Strange Magic Movie Poster

A mysterious potion prompts a group of elves, goblins, imps, and fairies on an incredible adventure in this fantasy.  Believe it or not, the story was inspired by William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  From the picture above, it’s hard to believe the movie is filled with several renditions of love-themed pop songs, including a duet on “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”  The Elvis ballad was a popular choice for movies in the past year.

 

Love and Mercy:

Love and Mercy Movie Poster 

This story about the Beachboys’ Brian Wilson has a brief mention about Elvis.  Hal Blaine, a famous Southern California session drummer, is outside the studio in one scene talking to Wilson.  He says, “We’ve played with everyone, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, Phil Spector … Sam Cooke … everyone.  But you — you gotta know that you’re touched, kid, and it’s blowing our minds.”

 

I look forward to Elvis Week 2016 when John Beifuss will again report on all the Elvis allusions he found in the year’s movies.

 

To read all of the articles in this series, click here.

 

 

©  2015    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.

 

Too Pricey to Sell at the Auction at Graceland

Auction At Graceland

August 16 is the apex of Elvis Week, so a blog article posted on this date usually celebrates Elvis’ legacy and marvels at how the fans come back to honor him each year. Unfortunately, this theme has been covered by ElvisBlog several times already, and it’s hard to find new ways to say it. So, this year we’ll do a report on the marvelous auction of Elvis memorabilia that unfolded on Thursday night and early yesterday morning.

Everybody who follows ElvisBlog knows I cover several Elvis auctions every year. But the Auction at Graceland was different. We were able to watch all three-and-one-half hours of it on streaming video via LiveStream. I found it fascinating viewing.

 Terri Walker at Auction at Graceland

This is Terri Walker of Walker Auctioneers, a local Memphis company. This woman should have been hoarse after the first hour, because she talks non-stop. She’s pretty, funny, and excellent at pulling higher bids out of people. Once in a while you’d think the bidding stalled out at say $2,000, but she’d spike it up and the item would end up going for $6,000.

 Auction at Graceland View Screen

She had a staff of about ten people helping her, things like describing each item, spotting bidders, taking phone and internet bids, and recording all the pertinent stuff. Behind her is the screen showing the item under bid, often including alternative views.

 Chatroom at Auction at Graceland

The unexpected bonus to this online streaming of the auction was the chat room on the right of the screen. There were a hard-core group of folks doing most of the texting, and I found reading it strangely addicting. Here are three to give you an idea how it went.

Wendy Auliff: His body was in that…. I want it to use as my PJs. (describing the White Puffy Shirt)

Deborah: The same thing happened to me. I woke up and remember seeing the stage covered with flowers. I truly felt like I had stepped out of a dream and I don`t remember it to this day. (Response to someone talking about her first Elvis concert experience)

Kyle Vanover: This would be even cooler than having Fonzie’s little black book! (Comparison to Elvis’ Personal Address Book).

 

It will take more than one post to cover all the interesting items at this auction. So, let’s start with the ten who didn’t reach the minimum starting price or failed to meet the reserve (whatever that is).

 

1975 Martin D-28 Guitar:

Elvis' Martin D-28 Guitar

This Martin D-28 Guitar was gifted by Elvis to his friend and bodyguard Sam Thompson in January of 1977 and has an interesting history. It was later sold to the National Enquirer for use as a contest prize, which helped Thompson fund his college education. What it lacks is pedigree. It’s not one of Elvis’ early Martin guitars from the 50s. As they stated on the auction floor, Elvis used Gibson and Fender guitars before coming back to Martin in the late 70s.

This Martin D-28 guitar was one of six items featured in the pre-auction promotions, so they obviously had high hopes for it. Quite a few Elvis-owned guitars have brought in big bucks, but this one failed to generate the $30,000 minimum bid. The pre-auction estimate of $70-90,000 was wildly over-optimistic.

 

Address Books:

Elvis Address Book 1

Considering that there are four address books in this lot, I was very surprised no one offered the minimum bid of $7,000.

Elvis Address Book 3

The description on the auction website tried to beef up interest.

The books contain names, numbers and addresses for almost everyone in Elvis’ life including Priscilla, Colonel Parker, J.D. Sumner, Jerry Schilling, all his entourage members, old girlfriends both pre-and-post Priscilla, and countless others. Transport yourself back in time and live the life of Elvis through his personal contacts and business associates. The address books offer a peek into the life of the King.

 Elvis Address Book 2

Penguin Suit:

Elvis' Black and White “Penguin” Suit

Elvis jumpsuits are among the most desirable memorabilia items and sell for lots of money. This must have been the consideration when the targeting the estimate for this outfit at $70-90,000. However, although Elvis wore it one time on stage, it is not a jumpsuit and collectors bid accordingly (or didn’t bid, as it turned out).

This black and white suit, is referred to as the “penguin suit,” and was made in the mid-1970s for Elvis by the IC Costume Company. Elvis wore it as part of his off-stage wardrobe. On September 19th, 1975, in Las Vegas, Elvis was dressed in this suit, and because he was running behind schedule without time to change into a jumpsuit for the show, Elvis wore this suit on stage for that particular performance.

The Penguin Suit is still a valuable piece of Elvis clothing, so we will see it up again at auction. However, it needs to have a lower minimum bid than $40,000 it had this time.

 

Bean Bag Chair:

Elvis' Faux Fur Bean Bag Chair and Two Pillows

This faux leopard fur bean bag chair with small and large matching pillows was used in Elvis’ Chino Canyon, Palm Springs home. I saw it back in 1999 in Las Vegas when Graceland held a huge auction at the MGM Grand Hotel. I’ve often wondered why EPE dumped a lot of good stuff then. I’ll bet they wish they had most of it back now that they have opened the new Graceland Archives Experience.

Elvis Auction in Las Vegas, 1999

Anyway, the beanbag and pillows failed to generate the minimum bid of $2,000. It probably would have soared past that if a photo of Elvis sitting on it had been provided.

 

Molds for Elvis Sunglasses:

Molds Used to Create the Emblems for Elvis' TCB Sunglasses

When I saw the projected sell price of this item at $10-15.000, I said no way. You can buy the actual sunglasses for less than that, and they are much cooler. Here’s what the auction website description had to say about them.

An iconic part of Elvis history, Elvis’ sunglasses, whether aviator or neo-nautic style, are recognizable anywhere and all Elvis tribute artists and fans alike want “the look.” These iconic shades were customized by Dennis Roberts of the Optique Boutique in Los Angeles. The offered three molds are the original molds used by Dennis to create the gold and silver emblems that adorned Elvis’ glasses. The “EP” was typically placed on the bridge of Elvis’ aviator glasses, and the TCB logo with the lightning bolt adorned the temple arms.

Sounds good, but not worth the minimum bid of $4,000.

 

The Impersonal Life:

Elvis' The Impersonal Life” Book

There were a number of items at this auction that originally came from Ginger Alden. The folks in the chat room didn’t much like her. Maybe the bidders didn’t either, because not one would cover the $4,000 minimum on this book.

This surprised me, because it has a lot going for it. This copy of The Impersonal Life is signed on the interior “To Ginger, with love, E.P.” Ginger Alden states in an accompanying letter that the book was one which she and Elvis read together in bed. It also shows many passages and phrases underlined by Elvis, highlighting meaningful parts of the book or placing emphasis on certain words. Perhaps the fact that Ginger also made similar marks soured the bidders.

 

Numerology Pages:

Two Pages of Notes by Elvis on Numerology

This thing is really strange, and it’s no surprise that bidders didn’t think it worth the minimum of $5,000, let alone the projected $12-15,000. There is no way I can describe it better than this from the auction website.

Two pages of handwritten notes by Elvis written ten days prior to his death. These note pages were obtained directly from Ginger Alden, Elvis’ fiancée. Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Ginger Alden stating that Elvis had written these notes during his visit to her Memphis home. She discusses in detail his interest in numerology and words and the ways in which each can be broken down into smaller parts, such as “his-story” or how the word woman is so appropriate because when you break it down into its two syllables it can be pronounced as “wo-man.

What???

 

Wrought Iron Chair:

Elvis' Yellow Wrought Iron Guitar

Like the beanbag chair, this yellow wrought iron chair came from Elvis’ Palm Springs home on Chino Canyon Drive. And it suffered the same fate. Bidders did not find it worth the $2,500 minimum. Again, a picture of Elvis sitting on it would have made a world of difference.

 

Personal Checkbook:

Elvis' Personal Checkbook

I thought this personal checkbook would make the minimum of $6,000, if not the estimate of $12-15,000. It got neither. It has 43 entries for checks Elvis wrote, so it certainly has his handwriting if not his autograph. He used it from May 21, 1975 to January 22, 1976. The checks totaled $89,000, showing Elvis’ incredible generous to his friends, family and even to strangers. This checkbook also contained a handwritten note giving his foreman an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii and a new car. The auction says, “This checkbook is a treasure trove of examples of Elvis’ generosity.” I can’t believe the stupid high prices some bidders paid for certain items at this auction, but passed on this checkbook register.

 

Marriage Certificate:

Elvis and Priscilla's Marriage Certificate

So, what do you think Elvis and Priscilla’s original marriage certificate would sell for? The pre-auction estimate was $40-60,000. Sorry, it didn’t even bring the minimum of $15,000. Again, I’m mystified by this, compared to what some other much less significant items went for.

This original Las Vegas, Nevada marriage certificate, dated May 5, 1967, is signed by Justice David Zenoff and best men, Marty Lacker and Joe Esposito, but not Elvis or Priscilla. The Clark County Nevada clerk claimed that the marriage certificate was mailed to Elvis and Priscilla, but came back to the county office marked “return to sender.” The clerk retained it in a file until selling it to Chris Davidson in 1995.

Can’t you just imagine her thinking: “That Elvis marriage certificate has been in the file for 28 years, and I’m the only one that knows it’s there. Screw it, I’m selling the thing and making some money.”

 

So, that’s Part 1 of our look at the Auction at Graceland results. Stay tuned for the big winners next week.

 

© 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.

 

Elvis Week’s Best Kept Secret

Elvis-Presley-Memorial-Trauma-Center-Sign

Have you ever heard of the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis? If you a member of an Elvis fan club, you probably have. If you are just an Elvis fan with no club affiliation, perhaps not. I’ve been to Elvis Week four times, but I never knew about this trauma center until a few weeks ago.

 Outside View of Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

 

So, I also didn’t know they had an annual fan reception during Elvis Week. This year, it is one of the 45 events listed in the official schedule of events on Graceland.com.

Announcement of Trauma Center  Fan Donor Reception

Maybe the receptions were not listed in the schedule of events for those four years when I was there, or if they were, I just skimmed past looking for something more interested to do. That was very short sighted of me.

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First a little background. The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center is part of a huge hospital system called Regional One Health.

Regional One Health

Regional One Health Entrance

A scene from the 1997 movie The Rainmaker was filmed here with Matt Damon and Danny DeVito going up the steps and into the hospital

Established in 1983, the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center was named in honor of Elvis by then Memphis Mayor Bill Morris, a personal friend of his. When it was dedicated, many loyal Elvis fans conducted a fundraising campaign and donated $50,000 to the hospital. The Trauma Center is the only free-standing building that bears Elvis’ name and the only healthcare institution named in his honor.

Elvis fans and fan clubs have continued to contribute to the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center for the past thirty years. To express its appreciation for this generosity, the center holds a fan reception each year during Elvis Week. If you are heading to Memphis in the next four days, you should definitely take in this event.

 

Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Fan Reception

As you can see, the guest speaker this year is George Klein, one of Elvis’ closest friends, and someone who knows a treasure trove of great stories about Elvis. Klein’s book Elvis: My Best Man is full of them. Klein does several events during Elvis Week each year, but the Trauma Center fan reception has one difference. It is free.

Plus they are serving “Elvis-style” refreshments.  I have it on good authority that this includes fried peanut butter and ‘nanner sandwiches done the way Elvis liked them.

The notice in the official Elvis Week schedule of events says that tours of the facility will be conducted. This includes the lobby and the Elvis family waiting room, full of large photographs of Elvis engaging with various charitable organizations he supported during his life.

Waiting Room at Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

Next up would be the shock trauma rooms (if they aren’t in use) and the ambulance bay.

Inside Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

Two interesting walls complete the tour. The Mural Wall is covered with huge reproductions of Elvis photos showing him in various stages of his life and arranged in chronological order.

Mural Wall 1

Photo credit — Andrea Zucker Photography

Mural Wall 2

Mural Wall 3

Photo Credit — Andrea Zucker Photography

The last part of the tour is officially called the Donor Recognition Wall, but fans know it as the Wall of Honor. It is covered by more than 300 brass plaques honoring those who have made a donation of $1,000 or more to the Regional One Health Foundation for the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center.

 

Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Wall of Honor

Pamela Castleman, Regional One Health’s Nursing Director, in front of fan plaques in this 2009 photo

Some of the $1,000 donors are individuals, a few are corporations, but most are fan clubs. And many of these fan clubs are based in other countries.

Fan Plaques at Wall of Honor

The Wall of Honor is anchored by a bust relief of Elvis in the middle. Note the size of this in the photo above.

Brass Plaque of Elvis at Trauma Center Wall of Honor

 

The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center maintains an email list of all donors, not just those who gave over $1,000, but also those who have contributed any amount. These folks get updates each year about the date of the Fan Donor Reception and who will be the featured speaker. However, the event is open to all fans, so if you are at Elvis Week this year, consider attending.

We all know how generous Elvis was giving to charities. Now you can see how his fans are following in his footsteps. Elvis has reached people all over the world, and they still love him and do generous things in his name. Don’t be surprised if you come away motivated to join that list of donors.

 

© 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.

 

Check out the Facebook page for the Regional One Health Foundation. If you “Like” them, you can keep up on any news regarding the Trauma Center.

In case you don’t know what trauma center means, it is a multidisciplinary team of highly trained specialists: surgeons, anesthesiologists, trauma nurse practitioners, certified registered nurses, anesthetists, nurses, respiratory therapists, orderlies, x-ray techs, and lab techs. They care for injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions, falls, poisonings, burns, suffocation, and drowning. Injured patients treated at trauma centers have a 25% greater chance of surviving 30 days than patients treated at non-trauma centers. The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center serves over 6,000 patients a year.

Many thanks to Joe Brandenburg, Director of Development, Regional One Health Foundation for much of the information and some of the photos used in this article.  The two professional photographs of the Mural Wall are provided by Audrea Zucker Photography.

 

We Miss You, Elvis

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Candlelight Vigil 3

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Candle Light Vigil

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Vigil 2012

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Vigil 1

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Candlelight Vigil 4

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Candlelight Vigil 10

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Vigil 6

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Candlelight Vigil 6

We Miss You, Elvis

 

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

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More Gordon Stoker Stories

In the ElvisBlog tribute to Gordon Stoker last week, not much biographical material was given for this legendary musician.  So, here’s a little history.  Gordon was not a charter member of the Jordanaires vocal group when it formed in 1948, but he joined soon after and became the leader for the next six decades.  Gordon backed Elvis on his first RCA recording, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and the Jordanaires sang on almost every song Elvis recorded for the next thirteen years.

 

On Stage in Jailhouse Rock

Here is Gordon (right) doing a little dance move in Jailhouse Rock.  The Jordanaires also appeared in King Creole and G.I. Blues.

 

Gold Jacket - Gordon and Jarret

In addition to recording with Elvis and appearing in movies with him, the Jordanaires also backed him in concert.  Here are Gordon Stoker and Hugh Jarrett behind Elvis in his famous gold lamé jacket.

The Jordanaires did backing vocals for many other singers, including Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, K. D. Lang, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ricky Nelson, Ringo Starr, Chicago, Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett, Connie Francis, the Judds, and Vince Gill.  It has been estimated that songs with their backing vocals have sold over 2.6 billion records.

 

During my meatloaf meal with Gordon Stoker, he took my phone number and e-mail address, but I never thought I would actually hear from him.  Well, a few years later he called me to correct a mistake I had made.  The story is a little involved but here it is.

For years, I liked to make CD music compilations and send them to friends at Christmas.  One was called “Elvis Songs by Other Artists,” and it contained two covers each by Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Blacks Combo, Scotty Moore, the Jordanaires, and others.  However, four of the songs came from Scotty Moore’s 1968 album, The Guitar That Changed the World.

The Guitar that Changed the World

Scotty had called upon old buddies like DJ Fontana and the Jordanaires to help him out with the album.  You would consider most of the songs instrumentals, even though the Jordanaires repeated their original vocal backing parts.  However, on two songs, Gordon and the boys replaced Elvis doing the vocal lead.  These sounded more like Jordanaires’ songs, so I labelled them on my CD that way.

I thought Gordon Stoker would enjoy hearing the compillation and I sent him a copy.  A few weeks later, he called me and said I had it wrong.  He insisted those two songs were not sung by the Jordanaires; it had to be someone else.  So, I explained about them coming from Scotty’s album, and he thought about it and finally said, “Yeah, you’re right.”  After that forty-year-old memory came back to him, he was happy and we had a nice conversation.

 

Over His Shoulder

The last Gordon Stoker story is a little tricky, but I’ll try to write it so it doesn’t offend anyone.  See this picture of Elvis at the piano with the Jordanaires around him.  Knowledgeable fans know Elvis liked to wind down after concerts by singing Gospel music for hours.  Gordon told me a story about one of these sessions.

Bill Black was hanging out with everybody one night while the Gospel singing went on.  He was something of a prankster, and he noticed Gordon was leaning against the side of the piano with his hands behind his back.  One hand held the other, and the upper hand was in a cupped position.  Bill Black moved behind Gordon, who was really focused on the singing.  Black quietly opened his fly and gently placed his penis on Gordon’s cupped hand.  Gordon was so into the singing that he didn’t notice.  Of course, the giggles from everyone else finally gave him a clue and he saw what was going on.  Gordon said everybody broke into raucous laughter.

 

Inducted into Country Music HOF 2001

All of the photos so far have been of Gordon Stoker as a young man.  Let’s look at some more recent shots, starting with the one above from 2001 when the Jordanaires were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The fellow in the center next to Gordon is Ray Walker, who replaced Hugh Jarrett as the bass singer in 1958.

 

Phil and the Jordanaires  2007

This photo was shot before the Elvis Week 2007 concert, “The Last Man Standing.”  It was a tribute to Scotty Moore, the last man remaining from the Sun Records recording session on July 5, 1954, that started Elvis on his way.  The concert was also the last time Scotty ever performed on stage.  That’s me wearing my all-access pass and standing behind Gordon.  In 2004, I got autographs from all the performers, but in 2007, I was smarter and got photos with everybody.

That was the last time I ever saw Gordon Stoker.  I was unable to attend Elvis Week 2012, but once again he was part of another concert promoted by Darwin Lamm.  Declining health made it necessary for Gordon to be brought on stage in a wheelchair, and I am told the audience reception was emotional and huge.   Boy, I wish I could have been there.

The last photo comes from 2008 and features Ray Walker and Millie Kirkham along with Gordon Stoker.  Millie was the high soprano voice behind Elvis for fifteen years, starting with the 1957 Christmas album.

 

Gordon, Millie and Ray 2008

I have some concert stories about Ray and Millie, too.  They are not as old as Gordon, but in the back of my mind, I know I will be writing tributes to them as well someday.  It saddens me how we keep losing folks from Elvis’ world.

 

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

 

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Remembering Gordon Stoker

I’m usually thankful when something shows up in the news that inspires an ElvisBlog article.  The exception is when the news is about the death of another Elvis buddy or bandmate or anyone else from Elvis’ world.  In the past few years, this blog has remembered John Wilkinson, Jerry Leiber, Lamar Fike, Boots Randolph, and Charlie Hodge.  There were other losses as well, like Myrna Smith of the Sweet Inspirations

But none of these deaths saddened me the way it did this week when I learned Gordon Stoker had passed away at age 88.  I had personal contact with this wonderful stalwart of the Jordanaires, and he gave me some memories I will never forget.  So, my salute to Gordon Stoker will be to tell some of them here.

 

Milton Berle Show   June 1956

Elvis performing on the Milton Berle Show on June 3, 1956. Gordon Stoker is the second closest Jordanaire to Elvis.

 

Making Moves With Jordanaires

Another shot from that show, and Elvis is doing his moves. Gordon Stoker is second from the left. Did you recognize Elvis’ outfit in both pictures as the one he wore in the film clip of him doing “Hound Dog” on Milton Berle… the performance that created so much commotion.

 

Gordon Stoker between Ed Sullivan and Elvis

Gordon Stoker between Ed Sullivan and Elvis

 

Okay, the stories.  I spent a lot of time around Gordon Stoker during Elvis Week 2004, at the 50th Anniversary Legends Concert.  EPE had deemed it the 50th anniversary of rock & roll, dating back to July 5, 1954, when Elvis recorded his first song.

At that time, I was a contributing editor for Elvis International magazine, published by Darwin Lamm.  Darwin has promoted some great Elvis Week concerts, and he did it again for the 50th anniversary show.  This Legends Concert featured Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, the Jordanaires, Boots Randolph, Ronnie McDowell, and lots more.  They were followed by the TCB Band Concert.  Great double-bill.

I had backstage-access passes for both concerts.  I functioned mostly as a go-fer, but if somebody wanted a cold bottle of water, I was happy to get it for them.  Plus I was scoring autographs like crazy from everybody backstage.

I was around Gordon at the afternoon practice session, and all the hanging-out beforehand.  My contact with him was minimal, but I became a familiar face.  It was the same thing with the concert, but when it ended, I got a new job.  All the performers signed autographs after the show.  I was part of a four man group that escorted the performers to the autograph tables out in the lobby.  Then we positioned ourselves strategically behind the signers to make sure nobody got pushy in the lines or tried to come behind the tables.  At that point, I had gone from go-fer to bodyguard.

I was stationed near Gordon Stoker.  After a half-hour or so, I was told Gordon needed to leave.  After an active day, this eighty-year-old diabetic was having a little trouble.  All the Jordanaires decided to leave together, so we escorted them out of the lobby and to the service elevator.  I ended up with Gordon, and some stupid fool came up and wanted Gordon to stop and pose for a photo with him.  I had to tell the guy, “Hey, get back and let us pass.  Gordon needs to get some food.”

When the Jordanaires got to the elevator, they took off for the nearest restaurant.  So, after saying hardly anything to Gordon all day, I was now a favorably familiar face.

All this occurred on August 13, so there was lots more of Elvis Week to go.  Gordon and the Jordanaires were there for a few more days, and so was I. The next night I walked past the open restaurant area out in the hotel lobby and saw Gordon Stoker eating at a table alone.  I entered the restaurant, went up to him, and asked how he was doing.  He was fine, and we had a nice little conversation.  To my surprise, he asked me to join him.  You bet I did.

When the waitress came by, Gordon ordered for me.  He was eating meatloaf and raving about it, so he wanted me to have it, too.  He was right.  It was great meatloaf.  We chatted through the whole meal, and he was charming.   He gave me his business card, and wrote my e-mail and phone number on the back of another.  Said he would put it in his book.  I didn’t think we’d actually do any messaging, but he sure made me feel good.

Then, Gordon picked up the whole tab.  I had gone from go-fer to bodyguard to friend.  It was just a perfect night.

 

Sadly, we now say goodbye to Gordon Stoker.  Another member of Elvis’ world has left us.  We’ll miss you, Gordon.  Say hi to Elvis for us.

And, thanks for the meatloaf.

 

Cool shot of Gordon Stoker and Elvis

Cool shot of Gordon Stoker and Elvis

 

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

 

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Scotty Moore Returns to Live Performances After 24 Year Absence

When Scotty Moore returned to Nashville after appearing in the ‘68 Comeback Special, he never dreamed it was the last time he would perform on stage for 24 years.

Elvis and Scotty Moore in the famous “Pit Session” of the the ’68 Comeback Special

 

In fact, Elvis had talked about wanting to do a tour in Europe.  Now that he was essentially finished with movies, Elvis was energized to perform live again, and Scotty was excited about getting back on stage with him.  Scotty went home to Nashville and waited for a call from Elvis to say the European tour was on.

Of course, Col. Parker put a quick end to such an idea.  He was an illegal alien from Holland and knew he couldn’t get a US passport, so he could never accompany Elvis to Europe.  And, Parker was not about to allow Elvis to tour over there without the constant presence of his manager.  So the tour idea died.

Scotty went on with his life as a studio sound engineer, work that kept him associated with the music business, without ever performing.  Years later he owned a cassette duplicating company, and followed that by opening a printing shop that made the label inserts for the tapes.

Scotty’s guitars sat essentially untouched for years.  He actually thought of himself as a ‘former guitar player,’ and was comfortable with it.  He did, however, maintain contact with many dozens of folks in the music business – including Carl Perkins.

Perkins underwent cancer surgery in 1991, but in early 1992 it was in remission.  He felt strong enough to record a new album, and wanted to do it in the old Sun Studios in Memphis.  So, Perkins called Scotty and asked him to join the project.  Scotty resisted, repeatedly saying, “I can’t do this.”  However, Perkins persisted, and soon he, Scotty, DJ Fontana and a group of their studio musician friends completed the recording session that resulted in 706 ReUnion.

Cover of CD Re-release, Not Original Album

 

Two years earlier, Carl Perkins had been the headliner at the first “Good Rockin’ Tonight” concert, presented during Elvis Week by Darwin Lamm, editor and publisher of Elvis International magazine.  Perkins was unable to sing at the second annual concert in 1991 because of his cancer surgery, but he was back as headliner again for “Good Rockin’ Tonight 3” in 1992.

Again, Carl Perkins worked on Scotty to join him – this time, on stage playing the guitar. Scotty agreed, and became part of the most exciting line-up in the history of Elvis Week concerts.  Not only did the fans get to see Elvis’ first guitar player, they also got to see his last one, James Burton.

James Burton and Scotty Moore Rehearsing

 

The Sun Rhythm Section, featuring Sunny Burgess and DJ Fontana opened the show and wowed the audience with an excellent Rockabilly set.  Also on the bill were the Jordanaires who backed Elvis on too many records to count and Ronnie McDowell who sang the songs on several Elvis movies and TV biographies.

From left – James Burton, DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore. Behind Carl perkins on stool — Jardanaires, Ronnie McDowell (in black, white belt), and others.

 

Scotty’s long-time friend, Gail Pollock, summarized the show, “It was electric.”  Especially, when Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore were on stage together.

 

After that, Scotty was hooked.  A week after the concert in Memphis, he went to England to perform with the Jordanaires.  He had been away from performing for 24 years, but at age 61, Scotty Moore was back.  Thousands of fans have seen him at concerts in the years since, and Scotty Moore has brought tears of happiness to more than a few of them.

 

Many thanks to James Roy, webmaster for www.scottymoore.net, and to Gail Pollock for their help in supplying the photographs and historical reference material for this article.

 

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

 

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