Tag Archives: Wanda Jackson

Concerts at the Graceland Guest House Theater – Part 2

Concert in Graceland Guest House Theater

Last week we took a look at the first big concert in the new Graceland Guest House Theater. Actually, big does not adequately describe the Joe Walsh “All Shook Up at Graceland” event.

Joe Walsh at Guest House Theater 2

It’s a package deal including two nights in the hotel, two parties, Graceland tour, a combination concert/ Q&A session/slide show by Joe Walsh, and much more. And it cost $1,795 per person.

There have been other concerts in the Guest House, and they have been on a more modest scale. For example:

Gospel Weekend at the Guest House Theater

This was a two-night package back in February, with Mark209 in concert on Friday, February, 24th, and Memphis Soul City performing on Saturday, February 25th. Anyone booked in a two-double bed room with a view of the central courtyard ($219 per night, double occupancy, plus 21% taxes and fees) could go to the concerts for free.

 

TG Sheppard and Kelly Lang

This is a straight concert, with no hotel room tie-in. You can be staying at any hotel or motel in town and come see this show for $25. T.G Sheppard had dozens of top 40 country hits, but his last was in 1988. He is 73 but maintains a busy touring schedule along with his wife Kelly Lang. I suspect that the Guest House will present more concerts of this nature than the extravaganza packages like Joe Walsh.

 

That being said, I would like to suggest three performers I think Graceland would be wise to schedule. While they are all up in age, they are still performing. And best of all, they all have a connection to Elvis, and I would love to see any of them in a concert.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson Smiling and Elvis

In 1955, Wanda Jackson was a seventeen-year-old aspiring country singer, with some minor hits to her credit and a half-hour radio show on KLPR in Oklahoma City. In July, she was booked on one of those packaged touring country music shows that were popular in the fifties. It was here that she met Elvis Presley, and they became fast friends. Wanda and Elvis performed in other touring shows in August and October, 1955, and again in early 1956.

Elvis Presley and Wanda Jackson April 15, 1956 San Antonio

April 15, 1956, San Antonio

Elvis and Wanda dated a bit, but her dad was her manager on the road, so things never got hot and heavy between the young singers. In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, she said, “Our dating amounted to what we could do on the road. If we got in town early, we might take in a matinee movie. Then, after the shows, we could go places with his band — and my dad, of course… It was very important, a girl’s reputation, in those days. There were things you could and couldn’t do, and my daddy made sure I never crossed the line.”

Wanda Jackson and Elvis

Elvis urged Wanda Jackson to branch out and try rockabilly music. He said, “It’s the next big thing, and you need to be singing it.” She took his advice and decided to try her hand in this wild new world of rockabilly. “He broke my train of thought and made me realize I could stretch myself.” Rockabilly songs are what made her mark in music history. As Rolling Stone said, “Her songs were full of vinegar. She sang them all with gravel-throated gusto.” The Smithsonian Institution would later refer to her as the sweet lady with the nasty voice. Her first national hit was “Let’s Have A Party,” which Elvis fans know he originally recorded for the movie Loving You in 1957. Jackson liked the song and recorded it in 1958 for her self-titled first album.

 

Later Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson went on to have great success in other four different genres – rockabilly, country, gospel, and rock and roll. She had huge popular success in Europe and Japan. In 2009, Wanda Jackson was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

In 2007, she recorded an album in tribute to her old friend titled I Remember Elvis. “[Elvis] has been a big part of my life. I worked with him and loved him very much for the person that he was, so it only seemed right that I should do a special tribute to him. I chose the songs he was singing when I was working with him in the fifties, and that gave it purpose. At the end of the CD, I also tell stories about my remembrances of the first time I met him, the first night I worked with him, and the last time I saw him.”

 

Wanda Jackson Concert Schedule

Although Wanda Jackson will turn 80 this year, she still does the occasional concert. I would be thrilled to see her perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater, and I’d bet she would pack the place. How about it, EPE? Please schedule Wanda Jackson while you still can.

Wanda Jackson in 2014

 

 

 

Johnny Rivers

Elvis & Johnny Rivers were friends in Hollywood in the early 60´s.

Johnny Rivers’ connection to Elvis started the same year as Wanda Jackson – 1955. At that time, he was Brooklyn-born John Ramistella, a twelve-year-old growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Young John and a buddy went to the local high school to see a country concert starring Minnie Pearl and Little Jimmy Dickens. Opening the show was an unknown singer named Elvis Presley. Minnie Pearl introduced him as “The Hillbilly Cat,” and he came out wearing a pink suit and white buck shoes. Elvis sang only two songs, “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Rivers recalled, “All that sexual energy up there on stage, people didn’t know what to make of it.” He said to his buddy, “Wow. This guy’s really cool.”

Johnny got a second look at Elvis after that high school concert. He went around behind the auditorium and saw Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black loading their gear in a trailer. Actually, Scotty and Bill were doing the loading. Elvis was talking to some of the country acts. Johnny remembers this about Elvis: “He was bouncing around, he couldn’t stand still. I’m thinking this is the coolest guy I ever seen.”

Within a year, Johnny was playing guitar in local groups, and by age fourteen, he was fronting the band “Johnny and the Spades.” In 1958 he performed at the Lousiana Hayride in Shreveport. Later that year, Johnny traveled to New York to seek work in recording studios. It was there he met legendary disc jockey Allen Freed, who convinced him to change his name to Johnny Rivers.

The next stop was Nashville, then back to New York City, and finally Los Angeles. In 1963 Rivers and his group began an extended stay as the house band at a local nightclub. This led to a lucrative offer to open the new discotheque Whiskey A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. Soon, his first album Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey A-Go-Go was released, and it quickly sold a million copies. Johnny Rivers’ career was on a roll.

With his newfound wealth, Johnny Rivers moved into a mansion in exclusive Trousdale Estates, and regularly drove his maroon Jaguar over to Elvis’ place in Bel Air for weekend football games, with other stars like Pat Boone and Jan and Dean.

 

Elvis on his 1966 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide and Johnny Rivers on a Triumph

Johnny Rivers and Elvis had one other interesting connection – the song “Memphis” written by Chuck Berry. Elvis recorded it during a two-day session in Nashville in May 1963 that produced fourteen songs. Time constraints limited “Memphis” to just two takes, and Elvis was not happy with either one. So, on January 12, 1964, Elvis went back in the studio to re-record “Memphis” and one other song. He wanted a more exciting, modern sound, because he planned to release “Memphis” as his next single. Elvis was dedicated and focused. He was in good voice, and he loaded up the studio with three guitar players and two drummers.

Elvis - Memphis Single

Elvis left the studio very pleased with the results, but “Memphis” was never released as a single – and Johnny Rivers was the reason. He and Elvis had jammed together on the song back in Bel Air. Rivers liked it so much he incorporated it into his repertoire at the Whiskey. In May 1964 a live version of the song hit the market and quickly went to #2 on the charts. That killed any chance of “Memphis” ever being an Elvis single.

Johnny Rivers- Memphis Single

 

There is one last Elvis/Johnny Rivers connection. I would strongly recommend his 1991 CD The Memphis Sun Recordings. Rivers recorded it at Sun Studios, with James Burton and Carl Perkins as special guests. It contains cover versions of four Elvis songs and three Perkins hits, plus others by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich. It’s a terrific CD, and I play it a lot.

Johnny Rivers -- The Memphis Sun Recordings

 

I find it hard to believe, but Johnny Rivers has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. How can they ignore an artist with 17 Top 40 hits, 9 Top 10 hits, and a Number 1 hit “The Poor Side of Town.” His most notable song over the years has been “Secret Agent Man,” which peaked at #3 in 1966.

 

Older Johnny Rivers

 

Johnny Rivers will turn 75 this year, but he still performs regularly.

Johnny Rivers Appearances

 

So, my second suggestion for an artist to appear at the Guest House Theater is Johnny Rivers. He could certainly wow the audience by performing the four Elvis songs on the Memphis Sun Recordings CD: “Mystery Train,” “Tryin’ To Get To You,” “That’s Alright, Mama,” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” Plus there is “Memphis.” Rivers also released an album Blue Suede Shoes, and the title song is the best version I’ve ever heard. If Graceland books Johnny Rivers, I guarantee there will be dancing in the aisles.

 

 

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley

Yes, I know this is a Photoshopped photo

Did you see this choice coming? How absolutely cool would it be to have Jerry Lee Lewis perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater?

I presume it isn’t necessary to detail the connection between Elvis and Jerry Lee. However, stories about their rivalry persist, so that’s worth mentioning. Elvis had been gone from Sun Records for over a year before Jerry Lee burst on the scene. In some ways The Killer had the better of it in this presumed competition. For one thing, Jerry Lee had much bigger hits at Sun Records than Elvis did. The sales of “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” and “Great Balls of Fire” absolutely dwarfed anything achieved by Elvis’ five Sun releases. “Breathless” and “High School Confidential” also made the Top 40, something not achieved by an Elvis song until he went to RCA. Jerry Lee’s career also shot out of the gates quicker than Elvis’. His first release “Crazy Arms” went nowhere, but the second, “Whole Lot of Shakin’,” instantly made him a national star.

 

Million Dollar Quartet

The supposed feud between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley is on pretty shaky ground. Consider what Elvis said after the famed “Million Dollar Quartet” session, his first musical interaction with Jerry Lee:

“That boy can go. I think he has a great future ahead of him. He has a different style, and the way he plays piano just gets inside me.”

Jerry Lee wasn’t afraid to put his stamp on Elvis songs. He has recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Elvis covered Jerry Lee’s’ “Whole Lot of Shakin,” and a few lesser-known Lewis songs.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis RockHall of Fame Photo

Both men are charter members of the Rock& Roll Hall of Fame, inducted together in the inaugural class of 1986. Check out the picture the RockHall uses as their stock Jerry Lee Lewis photo.

These days, Jerry Lee doesn’t climb up on the piano. He will turn 82 this year and his performance schedule is pretty skimpy.

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

He performed at his own club in Memphis this past New Year’s Eve, and then at a Country Music Festival in late February in Indio, California. His website does not list any upcoming appearances.

Jerry Lee Lewis On Stage - May 4, 2013

Hopefully, there is still enough time for EPE to book Jerry Lee Lewis for the Graceland Guest House Theater, but they better hurry.

 

Nesbit, Missippi

He lives on his ranch just south of Memphis in Nesbit, Mississippi.  They could send a stretch-limo down there and transport him to the Guest House in style. They could put him up in the Vernon and Gladys Suite.

Vernon and Gladys Suite

 

All that would probably run up the price of tickets, but I don’t think they’d have any problem filling up the place.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis is a Rock and Roll legend.

Come on EPE. Bring him to Graceland.

 

Older Jerry Lee Lewis

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©  2017    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 Tease

Did you know that Elvis had his own little private trailer village tucked away in the far reaches of his 163 acre Circle G Ranch in Mississippi?  His foray into cowboy communal living is an interesting story, especially because spring 1967 may well have been the happiest period of his life.

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I received an e-mail from a member of The Circle G Foundation who asked if I could write a story on ElvisBlog about their efforts to get the ranch purchased and save it from slow destruction.  It sounded like something I could do, and it might help, so I said sure.  Then, I realized I knew almost nothing about Elvis’ Circle G Ranch in Mississippi.

After two weeks of research, I now know enough to write a three-part ElvisBlog series.  I’ve found so much information on the web and in books I own, and Lesley Pilling of the Circle G Foundation has been very helpful.

But I need time to get it all together.  So, this week, all you get is that first paragraph tease.   Instead, we are going back in the archives again to find old stories that would improve the most with photos added.  Here is one from 2007 that really improved.

 

 

The Women Who Loved Elvis

 

That enticing title graced the cover of the August 2007 issue of the Ladies Home Journal.  As soon as I read the first line of the subtitle, “Very Private Confessions,” I knew this was prime material for an Elvisblog article.

A good many Elvisblog readers probably missed the Ladies Home Journal article by leading Elvis writer Alanna Nash.  It featured seven lovely ladies associated with Elvis in a variety of ways.

The subtitle “Very Private Confessions” turned out to be quite a stretch.  I looked specifically for them and have listed below my best guess at each woman’s “Confession.”

 

June Jaunico:   Elvis’ girlfriend for over a year in 1955/56.

June 4

“We got so wrapped up in kissing on our very first date – nothing too sloppy, it was marvelous – a little pecking here and there, a little nibble here and there, then a serious bite.”  (This one is a very sweet confession, but wouldn’t a real confession have been about what she and Elvis did on date number five or six, not on the first one?)

 

Wanda Jackson:   sang in concerts on tour with Elvis and was his girlfriend in     1955/56.

Wanda Smiling and Elvis

“In the early part of ’56, he gave me one of his rings… We stood by his car and he asked me to be his girl… I had a crush on him, and being able to know him and know his heart made me admire him a lot.  So, I said I’d be his girl.”  (Good move, Wanda)

 

Raquel Welch:     had a bit part in the 1964 movie Roustabout.

Raquel Welch

  “One of his guys came over and said, “Elvis is having a little party at the house, and if you’d like to come up…” I had a very strict upbringing, and I didn’t like the setup, so I didn’t go.”  (Big mistake.  Bet you wish you had that one to do over again, Raquel.)

 

Mary Ann Mobley:   appeared in Girl Happy and Harum Scarum

Mary Ann Mobley

“Elvis and I felt a common bond, coming from Mississippi.  He thought I understood him… This is an odd thing to say about Elvis Presley, but it was like I was working with my brother.  We never dated.”  (Sorry, but there is nothing else remotely approaching a confession in Mary Ann’s section.)

 

Jo Smith:   wife of Elvis’ very close cousin Billy Smith

Jo Smith

“He loved you to talk babytalk to him, and we had to take care of him and cater to him like a small child… He liked to be put in bed and be told good night.”  (You have to assume this took place in the time after Priscilla and before Linda Thompson.  Can’t see Jo Smith tucking Elvis in bed when either of them was around.)

 

Linda Thompson:   Elvis’ girlfriend from 1972-76.

Linda Thonpson in Jungle Roon

“But I think it’s wonderful if you can be all things to each other.  And he and I were.  He called me ‘Mommy.’  And he was like my father at times.  And we were like brother and sister at times, and we were like lovers at times.  (Looks like they played ‘cowboys and Indians’ at times, too.)

 

Kathy Westmoreland:   recorded and toured with Elvis in the 70s.

Kathy Westmoreland 2

“My last in-depth conversation with Elvis was just a few weeks before he died.  I remember he said, ‘Kathy, what’s it all about?’  And I said, “I think that is for you to find out for yourself.’”  (Kathy’s section in the article was very short and mostly about sad topics.  This is about the most upbeat thing she said.)

Here is a selection of other interesting quotes by some of the ladies.

June Jaunico didn’t hear from Elvis for a while after that first date.  “It turned out he was calling and my older brother wasn’t bothering to tell me.  Finally, he said, ‘Some guy with a hillbilly accent called.’”

Wanda Jackson and her dad were backstage on the first stop of a tour with Elvis in 1955.  “All of a sudden my dad and I started hearing screaming.  My daddy said, ‘I wonder if there’s a fire or something.  Let me go look.’  I started getting my things, and he came back and said, ‘No, relax.  But you’ve got to see this for yourself.’  He took me to the wings, and there was Elvis singing and moving and gyrating, and all these girls standing at the foot of the stage, screaming and reaching for him.”

Raquel Welch had a revelation about how sexy a guy could be when she saw Elvis in concert for the first time.  “Like many adolescents of the 50s, I had been completely gaga over Elvis.  I saw him live in San Diego in one of his early shows.  It was my first rock ‘n’ roll concert ever.”

A Linda Thompson quote seems to dispute reports that Elvis knew he would die young.  “I think it’s terrible for people to say they couldn’t imagine Elvis growing old.  Everybody has that right, even if they are a sex symbol. He wanted to live to be an old man.”

And, we sure wish he had.

 

Remember, lots of good stuff coming up the next three week on the Circle G Ranch.

 

 

©  2013    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.