Monthly Archives: December 2006

James Brown and Elvis

Elvisblog has taken a look at the connections between Elvis and other singers, including Pat BooneJohnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.  When the news of James Brown’s death on Christmas morning hit the media, I wondered if there had been much of a link between him and Elvis.  It turns out there was.


For one thing, they were both members of the first class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.  Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, and Ray Charles have also left us, so now five of the original ten have passed away.  The Hall of Fame website says this:  “What Elvis was to rock and roll, James Brown became to R&B – a prolific and dominant phenom.”


Elvis and James Brown both received Grammy Awards for lifetime achievement, as well as several individual Grammys.  Both performers made their mark with dynamic, but completely different, stage showmanship.  Elvis created excitement with his hip and leg movements, while Brown showcased fancy footwork, complete with spins, slides, splits, and drops.


However, there was also a personal connection between Elvis and James Brown.  According to Elvis Presley from A to Z, they first met at a party at the Continental Hyatt in Hollywood, and they became lifelong friends.  Brown visited Elvis at Graceland, and during one visit they sang several gospel tunes together at the piano, including “Old Jonah” and “Blind Barnabas.”  What a shame no tape recorder was running to capture this session.


James Brown authored two books, and one contains this quote about Elvis: “I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother.  He said I was good and I said he was good; we never argued about that.  Elvis was a hard worker, dedicated, and God loved him… I love him and hope to see him in heaven.  There’ll never be another like that soul brother.”  That’s a pretty nice compliment coming from the man known as Soul Brother Number One.





James Brown and Elvis in Ad for Lipton Brisk Iced Tea



If I may, I’d like to mention my three favorite James Brown songs, in no particular order.  From the movie Rocky IV in 1986, I’m sure you remember “Living in America.”  This turned out to be Brown’s biggest hit in more than twenty years, and it managed to swell our patriotic psyche and to make us want to boogie at the same time.  Perhaps his greatest recorded achievement.


From the album Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag, I just love “Christmas In Heaven.”  Brown moves completely away from his trademark funk and soul to do a tender ballad surrounded by lush strings.  A most unusual James Brown song.


And, if you’ve ever seen footage of Brown’s stage act in the 60s, you know why I pick “Please, Please, Please.”  This was his first R&B hit back in 1956, and the live version of it evolved into one of the grandest pieces of concert showmanship ever.  The song’s lyrics are not much more than a painful lament begging a loved one not to leave: “Please, please, don’t go. I love you so.  Please, please, don’t go.”  As Brown repeated this, he got more and more sorrowful and started to sob.  Overcome with heartbreak, he stopped singing and dropped to his knees, hung his head, and shuddered in despair.  The music then stopped, and two men rushed in from off-stage.  They draped a cape over Brown’s shoulders and helped him to stand and move slowly toward the side of the stage.  The audience couldn’t help but applaud in encouragement.  The music began again, softly at first, then building in intensity.  Brown heard the cheers and the music, and it was like it recharged his battery.  His slumped body straightened and his facial expression changed.  Soon he threw off the cape and grabbed the mic and gave a fevered finish to the song.  It was a remarkable routine that certainly had to be admired by Elvis and any other performer who saw it.


James Brown was one of the celebrities who attended Elvis’ funeral on August 18, 1977.  In his autobiography, Brown wrote, “His death hit me very hard.  When he died, I said, ‘That’s my friend, I have to go.’”



©  2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved



With Christmas almost here, it’s time once again to wish the regular readers of Elvisblog a happy holiday season.  It’s also a good occasion to thank you for your continued support.  Last week, over 1300 folks checked in to the first and only real blog devoted to Elvis.


Last year, Elvisblog did something special for Christmas.  Instead of posting regular articles, I took a two-week break and posted a short Christmas story about Elvis.  It was titled, “ELVIS CLAUS – Santa’s Favorite Brother Gets A Present.”


This year, the follow up to this fictional tale will be presented in lieu of regular articles on December 17 and 24.  I hope you will enjoy “Another Present For Elvis Claus.”


Two notes.  To really understand and enjoy this year’s story, you should read last year’s story first.  Also, because they take place in 1983 and 1984, some willing suspension of disbelief is needed.  We all know Elvis has been gone for almost 30 years, but at a magical time like Christmas, it’s fun to believe in the fantasy that Elvis didn’t really leave us back in 1977.


To read last year’s story, click on Elvis Fiction in the column to the left.  The new story, “Another Present for Elvis Claus,” follows directly after this message.


The next regular Elvisblog article will be posted on Sunday, December 31.  I hope everyone has a great Christmas and get lots of Elvis goodies under the tree.


Merry Christmas and a hunk-a hunk-a burning love to everyone.


                                    Phil Arnold,   host and creator of Elvisblog


While attending Elvis Week 2002, I purchased a cup of peanut-butter and banana flavored coffee from the Starbucks at Peabody Place.  It was OK, but not good enough to entice me to come back again and pay $5 for another cup.  Now, for Elvis Week 2007, I can look forward to trying a limited edition Reese’s Cup inspired by Elvis — “Peanut-Butter-and-Banana-Creme.”  If they don’t cost $5 each, I probably will eat several while in Memphis.


Naturally, the candy will have a picture of Elvis on the wrapper – the young and thin Elvis.  That’s a good pre-emptive move to minimize the fat jokes that could be inspired by the calories and saturated fat in their new product.  No, this tasty delight provides an energy boost for active young adults, epitomized by the Elvis of the 50’s.


The Hersey Co., manufacturers of Reese’s Cups, says they plan a “major public-relations outreach during August and September, especially during Elvis Week 2007.”  I guess we’ll see computer-enhanced old Elvis photos with him now holding a Reese’s “Peanut-Butter-and-Banana-Creme” cup in one hand.  Maybe they’ll even retrofit the old cardboard cut-out of Elvis in the gold lame suit.  If so, they better post guards near them.  Some of the crazies visiting Memphis might be tempted to take one home.


Throughout the year, these special Reese’s Cups will include an under-label instant-win game offering Elvis memorabilia and a trip for two to Graceland.  However, the big tie-in will be with Nascar.  Reese’s will have a limited edition Nascar car as a special prize.


The Nascar connection is interesting.  According to an article in Advertising Age, Hershey will place Elvis on the side of its Reese’s Nascar car in 2007.  Reese’s has been involved as a Nascar sponsor for the last four years.  The No. 21 Reese’s Chevrolet was in the Busch Series for three seasons before they moved up to the Nextel Cup Series in 2006.  The products they featured on their 2006 Nextel racecar were Reese’s Caramel Cups and Icebreakers Ice Cubes.  


If the connection remains the same for 2007, the Reese’s Cup logo and Elvis picture will be on the No. 29 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS driven by Kevin Harvick.  For those of you not familiar with Nascar, Harvick came in # 4 in the Chase for the Cup.  He won five races in 2006, and his winnings for the year were over $6 million.  So, Elvis’ image is probably going to be paired with one of the best Nascar drivers in the business.


If you’ve never watched a Nascar race on TV, next year you can tune in and root for the Elvis Car.  While you are doing it, you can enjoy a delicious Elvis Candy.  I’ll give it a try, but you know what would go even better?  Elvis Beer.  Nascar and Elvis Beer.  Now that sounds like a winning combination.


©  2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved


The New York Times published its review of Elvis’ first movie “Love Me Tender” on November 16, 1956.  Fortunately, it is back in print as part of the Times special commemorative THE KING, containing 80 articles about Elvis.  Just the title was enough to tell me there was no way the review would be positive:  “Culture Takes A Holiday.”  When I read that, I knew Elvis was going to get clobbered.


His acting début was at the mercy of Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, generally considered America’s foremost movie critic from the early 1940s to the late 1960s.  How do you like that name? — Bosley Crowther.  Sure sounds like a stuffed shirt who couldn’t stand Rock & Roll, doesn’t it?


Well, old Bosley held back from being nasty for one paragraph, and then he started slamming Elvis:  The picture itself is a slight case of horse opera with the heaves.”  A well crafted line, to be sure, but oh so nasty.  Then it got nastier: “Mr. Presley’s dramatic contribution is not a great deal more impressive than that of one of the slavering nags.”


Oh, that’s pretty mean.  Bosley Crowther rated Elvis’ acting ability just slightly higher than a horse.  So, what do you think he said about Elvis’ singing ability?  How about:  “Mr. Presley’s farm-boy does some grotesque singing before he is done – and it isn’t good.”


OK, to summarize:  Bosley said the movie made him barf, Elvis acted like a horse, and his singing was grotesque.  What else could Bosley find to knock?  How about Elvis voice?  “A lot of  noise… It is a sort of frenzied puffing of throaty and none too melodic tones that heave out of Mr. Presley’s system.”  Wow. “Frenzied puffing.”  And the heaves again.  Bosley gets minus points here.  Can’t use a nifty word twice in the same story.


Then came something that might be taken as complimentary. Describing Elvis’ performance in his singing scenes, Bosley wrote, “It is frantic and vaguely orgiastic.”  Bosley would flip if he could see today’s music videos.  Nothing vague about them.


Next Bosley described Elvis’ acting as follows:  “As for the characterization of a jealous farm-boy that Mr. Presley gives, it is turgid, juicy and flamboyant.”  Now, that was real praise.  How did that square with the comparison of Elvis’ acting like a horse.  Confusing, but I liked the change in direction.  Bosley went on to say:  “With his childish face, puffy lips and wild hair, he might be convincing as a kid with a load of resentment in his system.”


My spirits were up after reading these words of modest praise.  Then Bosley turned black-hearted again and said:  “But, he’s not much more than a singing ‘heavy’ in this film.”  And finally, Bosley praised Elvis a little while hammering his co-stars, Richard Egan and Debra Paget:  “He certainly goes at this job with a great deal more zeal and assurance than the rest of the actors show.”


Of course, it didn’t really matter what Bosley Crowther thought or wrote.  With Elvis’ legions of young fans, there was a built-in audience for the film “Love Me Tender.”  I have always thought Elvis did a credible job in the role. 


Bosley Crowther’s movie review was such a hoot to read fifty years later.  It wasn’t all negative, and it gave origin to the strangest title to ever appear in Elvisblog:  “Turgid, Juicy and Flamboyant.”  As Dave Barry would say, that would make a good name for a rock band.  Come to think of it, so would “Vaguely Orgiastic,” “ Frenzied Puffing,” and “Slavering Nags.”


©   2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved