If you were willing to allocate a bunch of time and money for Elvis Week, you came back from Memphis with one terrific experience. Over the course of ten days, there was a wonderful array of Elvis stuff for you to do and see, and most people tried to cram in several every day.
Good for them. I didn’t get to do many, but what I did was a super intense Elvis experience, so I’m happy. And, I did pick up a few stories that will be fun to pass on.
While talking with Millie Kirkham backstage, I asked her about once wearing a mini-skirt on stage with Elvis, and she brightened up and got very talkative. Here’s the story. Back in 1970, Elvis, along with the TCB Band, The Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations and Millie traveled to Las Vegas for the filming of Elvis, That’s The Way It Is. Millie went to one of the better clothing stores on the strip and bought an evening gown to wear during the concert filming. When everybody showed up, Millie saw the Sweet Inspirations were all wearing mini-skirts. Millie thought she would look out of sync with them, so she hurried out and bought a mini-skirt.
In the film, they show Elvis and everybody walking briskly from backstage toward the International Hotel concert stage. The clip lasts a few seconds, and you can clearly see Millie moving along on the outside of the group. The mini-shirt is plainly visible.
Millie says she didn’t have mini-skirt legs, and she cringes every time she sees that footage. What really bugs her is that so many new Elvis DVDs have come out in the past twenty years, and they all seem to include that clip.
Another story is about a rumor that floated around the mezzanine level of the Peabody Hotel. Two days before the finals of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, the word was that Shawn Klush already had it wrapped up. One reason offered was that he was already signed up to perform on The Elvis Cruise in September. But the big reason was supposed to be that Shawn had done the Elvis part in the filmed helicopter trip that would be the lead-in for Elvis, The 30th Anniversary Concert.
Well, it turned out that Shawn Klush was crowned the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist. I don’t have a clue if there is anything to the rumor, and I don’t care. I were a judge, he’d get my vote. Shawn Klush is a terrific talent and the ideal package of Elvis looks, voice and moves. I don’t know what Darwin Lamm paid him this year to perform in his Spirit of The King concerts, but he’ll never get Shawn for that price again.
If you went to Scotty Moore’s tribute concert, The Last Man Standing, you were treated to a fine vocal performance by Billy Swan. Billy is good. He was very approachable, and autographed my mint-condition 45 record of his hit “I Can Help.” He also gave me a copy of his 1990 CD, Billy Swan’s Best. It is excellent, and I just love his cover of “Don’t Be Cruel.” Billy does it real slow, and it’s like a different song.
Billy has done this sort of thing before — his 2000 CD of Elvis covers called Like Elvis Used To Do. That’s a strange title, considering that Billy doesn’t do any of them the way Elvis did. “Mystery Train” gets speeded up and gets some heavy guitar work, “Viva Las Vegas” is done as a gospel number, “Too Much” become a blues song, “That’s All Right” is done as reggae, and “Jailhouse Rock” and “King Creole” are combined into a speeded-up medley. It is a very clever and most refreshing change from the usual. If you can’t top Elvis, you might as well put a new spin on his songs. The CD is available on Amazon, and I recommend it highly.
When Joe Esposito came to our sales tables to sign books and photos, he quickly drew a crowd. Part of the security staff was unavailable then, so I was asked to put on a security shirt and fill in. The photo above shows me ‘guarding’ Joe and DJ. When I showed it to a real security man, he said one thing was wrong: “Security guys never smile.” Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
The last Elvis Week story is about Scotty Moore. There was also a rumor about him. His traveling group showed up at the sales tables with 1000 CDs autographed by everybody in The Mighty Handful band. Everybody, including Scotty Moore. Well, we wondered how Scotty could have signed all of them, considering his arthritis problem. The rumor was that he was OK with the repetitive motion of signing his name. It was the salutations, like “To Rosemary,” or “To Katherine” that were the problem. The 1000 CDs had just his name, so it sounded pretty logical.
My wife’s name is Bev, and she admonished me to bring back some autographed pictures of Scotty and DJ addressed to her. I probably broke protocol when I asked Scotty to sign for Bev. I provided an article I wrote in the Birthday Tribute ’07 issue of Elvis…The Magazine. It contained a sharp color photo of Scotty, in his mid-forties, holding his beloved Gibson Super 400 guitar. Scotty had absolutely no trouble signing “To Bev, Scotty Moore.” I have to admit, I kind of wish that one said “To Phil.”
© 2007 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.elvisblog.net