Sunday, July 19, 2009

Could Elvis have won on American Idol?

I don't think so. Gasp! Blasphemy by an Elvis fan? Remember, we’re talking about getting through the Idol process here, not talent. (While I absolutely love Adam’s tenor voice I still prefer Elvis’ baritone).

Here is my comparison between Adam and Elvis with regard to winning the title of American Idol

1. Luck - Elvis was fortunate to have made contact with Sam Phillips (by way of Marion Kiesker) who was patient enough to let him continue singing for hours that fateful day at Sun Studios. He could have listened to 2-3 songs and said thanks. But he let things roll and history was made.

Adam was also fortunate that the original Idol producers who heard him let him pass, because we know that having a good voice isn't always enough for them - and that not having a good voice is ok if you have something else that will make good tv. With the a cappella auditions, they have to have some vision of what might come of any given contestant.

2. Experience - Adam was 26 when he started the Idol journey. We'd have to compare him to the 19 year old Elvis. His experience, especially his years of professional singing, trumps Elvis' by a long shot.

3. Risk taking - Adam’s smarts when it came to song choice, song arrangements, etc. were very sophisticated. He took big risks with those arrangements. I don’t see Elvis doing that. We know that when Elvis heard a demo, when he recorded the song, he pretty much followed the arrangement he heard. While any song Elvis sang became his just because of his sheer talent, I don’t think he would have taken the risks that vaulted Adam past the others. (I was also impressed by how willing Adam was to dramatically change his look for the good of the song he was singing. Would Elvis have done that? OTOH, would it have been necessary.. :-))

4. Genres – Each week the Idols have to sing a song based on a theme chosen by AI producers. This could have worked in Elvis’ favor because, as we know, Elvis could and did sing “all kinds”. (Imagine having to choose a song from his birth year! ) Elvis has the edge here, because instead of embracing a genre (like country) Adam chose to make the music his own (good, but it probably hurt him even if he did get points for originality).

5. Voting – here’s where Adam and Elvis really have something in common. Adam should have won on talent and performance, hands down. But he didn’t. I have heard the vote for the finale wasn’t even close.

There was a huge backlash against Elvis when he first came on the scene. Some called him the devil incarnate. His sexiness was bad. The effect he had on girls and women was frightening. The way he looked - his hair, his clothes, his moves – all different, and all condemned by “middle” America. He was different, and therefore scary to many people.

Adam’s effect on the fans of American Idol is very similar. And his effect on “middle” America is comparable. He’s definitely different. His hair, his makeup – NAIL POLISH on a guy, fer cryin’ out loud. Scary. The questions about his sexuality during the Idol season undoubtedly had a huge effect on how many people voted. But as he says, “Sexy is sexy” and that’s why women are going nuts over him. Just like for Elvis. Sexy is sexy. And talent is talent.

As Adam says, Kris won because he got the most votes. True. But Adam didn't win because he was scary to too many voters. I think the same thing could have happened to Elvis.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Next Generation

I'm a relative latecomer to the Elvis fan world. Although I remember him on TV in the 50s and I know exactly where I was when he died, I only became a fan in 2000 (see my first blog post for my story). But the excitement and joy were just as real as it probably was for those who saw his genious from the beginning. I have loved discovering each new recording and/or video of Elvis's talent and charisma.

In the 60s I was a huge Beatles fan. Rubber Soul was the first album I ever owned and I listened to it until it was almost too worn to play.

The excitement I felt for the Beatles and Elvis is back in my life. It's because of Adam Lambert. Adam has the raw talent, the charisma - everything that I saw in Elvis and the Beatles. While in this day and age I'm not sure anyone can rise to the iconic heights of the Beatles and Elvis, if anyone can, it is Adam Lambert.

And it isn't just his talent. It's his character, his integrity. I've been viewing every interview I can find on youtube and elsewhere. Everything I see tells me he is as genuine and as nice as he appears to be. That's like Elvis, too. Have you seen the genuine closeness between Adam and Idol winner Kris Allen? It's so fun to watch!

I amazed myself

a) by deciding to by his music online (and will get his CD when it comes out) and

b) buying a ticket to see the American Idol show. I'm only interested in Adam's 5-10 minutes, although I like Allison's voice a lot, too. When he starts to tour to promote his CD I will buy a ticket to that, too. I can't get enough of this guy.

Go to and do a search for Adam Lambert . Add the word "Brigadoon" to hear his amazing tenor from a fairly high quality audience recording of a performance of that show. Then search for the Idol shows, especially the finally with Queen. (That's where you'll understand that the American Idol contest is not just about talent - otherwise Adam would have won, hands down).

I know this is my Elvis blog, but this is definitely Elvis-related. I'll try to blog from Tacoma where I will be seeing the Idol concert. I'll be tweeting (@seattlesusieq) during the show and I'll blog my thought about it afterwards.

Someone else create this picture - I don't have her name or I would give her credit:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New video from Elvis Week 2008

Using a new camcorder for the first time I took some video at Elvis week. The quality is only so-so. So please forgive the shaky camera, etc. It was my first time :)

Due to the limitations of the editor I was using, I had to re-edit and re-publish the footage. The result is less than sharp because of the generations of editing. I hope you can enjoy it anyway. My intentions were good. I'm getting much better at this now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

George Klein's Elvis Memorial Service

There’s a door prize this year. Looks like it’s a framed print of Ronnie McDowell’s painting of a young Elvis holding a guitar looking into a mirror where the reflection is the adult Elvis in the same pose.

Slides open up the show. The first is a baby picture of Elvis (aww). Now they’re playing Elvis music and showing more pictures of Elvis throughout the years. Some are new to me (one with the Dorsey Brothers, one with Rudy Vallee).

The head of the U of Memphis Fine Arts Dept opens the event. He talks about the Distinguished Achievement Award they give. Sam Phillips was one of the first recipients. This year it will be Sam’s son, Knox.

There are 3 scholarships in Elvis’ name given here every year. There’s a scholarship in Sam Phillips’ name for students in production. George Klein has also endowed a fund. Other scholarships are in the names of Isaac Hayes and Charlie Rich.

Invitees enter – here comes George Klein, Mark James, DJ Fontana, Dr. Nick and his son Dean, Marion Cocke, Jimmy Velvet, Knox Phillips, Ronny McDowell, Larry Geller, Sally Wilbourn, Ray Walker, Will “Bardahl” McDaniel, Mrs. Lester Hoffman.

GK opens with a reading of the inscription written by Vernon that is on Elvis’ grave marker.

Ray Walker gives the invocation.

All the memorial services over the years have started with a “Phillips” and this year it is Knox.

GK talks about how Elvis would want to visit Sam at all times of the day or night. Knox was part of this

Knox Phillips: The longer Elvis and friends would stay at our house, the better, as far as I was concerned.

Since Isaac Hayes just died this Elvis week has been a bit of a haze for me. He and Elvis were a little alike. Came from the same foundation, a great force in the music world. I was struck by the interviews with fans this year, especially when questions came up about Isaac. And I was impressed with your answers about Isaac. Isaac and Elvis put Memphis on the musical map.

And my dad made it possible for so many people to do the things they did in music.

I loved it when Elvis would arrive at the door and say “Hi Mrs. Phillips, can we come in?” I loved the way he would play pool – he would “electrify” any room he was in. Elvis was always cool and kind to my brother and me. When Elvis was around he’d pay attention to us kids, the youngest in the room.

My dad would call and say come on down to the studio because there was something you might like to see. I remember I was around 12 and had the duck tail hair cut. I thought I was pretty cool. So one time I got that call and there was Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins - and he came over and hugged me and said “Stay with me, Knox, stay with me”. It’s one of my fondest memories.

We thought we led perfectly normal lives but when we look back on it, not many people can say “I had grooming tips from Elvis when I was 12”.

When we come together to remember Elvis, I say remember the totality of his music and all he accomplished and helped others to accomplish.

GK – Elvis told me one time about all the people who would put him down and tell him he wouldn’t make it. Sam gave me the best advice I ever got – don’t ever let them change you – don’t let ‘em put you into a country “bag” or a “movie” bag.. etc. And I never forgot that. Then one time at a session, in walked Chet Atkins. He walked over to Scotty and started giving Scotty some pointers. It took all the gumption he had to go over to Mr. Atkins and told him ‘we have our own style so please don’t tell my guitar player how to play”.

Next up: Ronnie McDowell, the only one who had a hit record *about* Elvis.

Elvis is like the energizer bunny – he just keeps going on and on.

First time I heard Elvis was just after Hank Williams. Then the Dorsey Brothers. Then I saw him in “King Creole”. First time I saw Elvis on the big screen.

Jerry Reed (“Guitar Man”) told me he was out fishing and a boat came out and told him Elvis wanted him to play guitar on his recording. He got to the studio, looked at Elvis straight on, then came around to one side and looked at him, then went to the other side and looked again. Elvis said “man, you’d better stop staring at me like that”. Reed said “Man, you are the pretty man I’ve ever laid eyes on”.

Why does Elvis keep going on? I think it’s because of Elvis’ heart. He had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.

Ronnie has just recorded a new song written by Mark James “Blue Suede Heaven”. I’m proud of it, but I won’t stop singing Elvis until my toes curl up.

George wants Ronnie to sing a few lines of the new song, and now Ronnie is insisting the GK sing with him. Ronnie says “are you ready?” GK says “no”. He really meant it. When it was his turn to sing he just said the words.

So Ronnie sings a little of “Love Me Tender” and gets some audience members to sing with him.
GK – Alan Fortas and I gave DJ the name “Sticks” Fontana. Elvis found him on the Louisiana Hayride. In Hollywood, Elvis’ band was called the EP Continentals and were supposed to record an instrumental album. But Parker wouldn’t let them do it. Scotty and Bill quit then but DJ stayed with him. Next up someone said “there’s Elvis Presley and his one-man band”.

DJ Fontana - Elvis asked me how come I didn’t quit and I said “Elvis, you always done exactly what you said you would do, so I had no reason to quit”. I stayed with Elvis for 14 years. He hired Scotty and Bill back. We worked 24 hours a day with Elvis. We traveled with Elvis, Scotty, Bill, sometimes George, sometime Gene. We said Elvis, get a bus! He said no, but then he started traveling on the train and we were still stuck in the car!

Once we were in the Hollywood Knickerbocker and bought a few shirts I thought were cool so I showed them to Elvis and he said “nice, where’d you get them? “ I said ‘downstairs’. He then proceeded to rip all the buttons off the shirt. “Elvis, why’d you do that?” He said “Remember my shoes you threw out the car window? It’s payback time”.

Once they were at a hotel and Bill and DJ pushed Elvis into the pool. A woman complained about the chaos and said “who do you think you are, Elvis?”

GK introduces “Bardahl” who hung with the guys.

Will “Bardahl” McDaniel: 1957 I worked at the Rainbow Skating Rink. I was asked to work a private party one night. Didn’t tell me whose party it was. Just had to give out the skates, etc. It paid $50, which was a whole lot of money.

They let in 150 people. I’d been working there for years and didn’t know a soul there. I gave everyone a set of skates and went out skating with them. Then Elvis walked in. Then I hear a whistle and all the girls come off the ice. So it was all the guys skating free flow in the middle. I said I was going to get Elvis and they told him. So we all line up and 5 minutes later I’m in a chair and I wake up and Elvis is fanning me, apologizing. Same thing happened again. I wake up and Elvis is fanning me. Next time we do this it’s Elvis laid out cold “Sh*t, I’m gonna die”, I said. At that point Elvis told Red he liked me and to give me the phone number at Graceland saying I could come anytime.

Elvis borrowed $5.00 from me one night and when I was up at Graceland I asked for my money back. Elvis blew up and had me thrown out of the house, saying I didn’t appreciate all the good times I was participating in. The next night I was in Graceland again - and I got my $5 back but he never apologized.

(He tells several more stories but I just can’t keep up).

GK – second part of the Jerry Reed story - Jerry Reed said “Elvis I’m straight but if I weren’t I’d kiss you, you’re so pretty”.

GK introduces Dr. Nick.

Dr Nick – Elvis came to our house at 2-3:00 in the morning and scared the neighborhood because they thought the Hell’s Angels had arrived. There wasn’t anything wrong, but Elvis just wanted to talk. He tried to come into the house but there were clothes lines all over the place because our dryer had broken down. Elvis had to dodge all the sheets and clothing and finally found me. And he said “If you’re going to be my doctor, you ain’t gonna live like this”.

He was just a great guy, fun to be around.

Right after Elvis died I took one of the doctors from the hospital to a Memphis State football game. He had had too much to drink and he kept saying “they shouldn’t have called that play”… Then he said ‘someone’s been throwing tomatoes at me”. Turns out he’d been shot. Someone was trying to shoot me but he’d leaned over to say something. I was sure someone was trying to shoot me and I was looking behind me for a long, long time. I can understand why some fans would want to hurt me. But Elvis was one of my best friends and I loved him and I did everything I could to save him.

One Sunday afternoon Elvis wanted to see me, so I was driving there. On the way over, I got broadsided by another car. He offered me a big Seville to use until I could get a new car. I used it for months and finally one day he said “Are you going to give me that car back?” I said “I have to talk to my wife about it”. She discouraged me. The next night I told him “I guess I’d better not take it”. He said “Just give me a dollar and you can buy the car”. So I did. Elvis was such a giver. When he gave something, 10 others would want the same thing and I didn’t want to start anything. That’s why I didn’t want to take the car but he thought I was just a cheapskate and didn’t want to pay for it.

GK introduces the producer of this event: Bev Rook

Bev: Thanks for coming. The Elvis world lost a number of people this year. Bobby McDowell, Isaac Hayes, and Todd Morgan, our dear friend. Also JD Sumner’s brother and Hugh Jarrett (bass singer of Jordanaires), Elaine Dundy and Bill Burk.

GK introduces Dean Nichopoulos

Dean Nichopoulos – Elvis really loved his fans. We were on tour and one night he wanted to get the crowd going. I used to put the bandaid on his fingers. Since it was slow, Elvis gave one of his rings away. About 3 songs later he gives another ring away and the audience is fired up. So I’m thinking – that’s about $30,000 worth of rings just to get the audience fired up. Then the TCB ring comes flying and it fell right to me. Afterward he mentioned he gave away 2 rings but accidentally lost the TCB ring. I took it out of my pocket and gave it back to him.

I taught him how to play racquet ball. One time I’m hitting balls with Linda Thompson. He doesn’t show up for 40 minutes. He comes in and says “what are you doing with my girlfriend?”

In Palm Springs he asked me if I wanted a motorcycle. I said no thanks. He said “you can ride on the back of mine”. He gives me a pitcher of water and says “you have to hold this, wrap your hands around my waist and hold on”. Now he puts a cigar in his mouth and we take off. We’re going 75 miles and hour. And he’s turning around talking to me and I’m saying “yes, sir, yes sir” But I didn’t know what he’s saying. We keep going faster and faster and I’m getting scared, we’re going so fast! When we got back to the house I asked him “what were you telling me back there on the bike?” He said “Do you want to go faster?”

We spend a lot of quality time together, watching TV, talking together in Lisa’s room.

One time I got hurt and needed stitches. We were on tour and I got to the hospital and there seemed to be a long line of people waiting for the doctor. I went up to the doctor and asked him if his wife was an Elvis fan. He said yes. I said, “do you have tickets for tonight’s concert?” He said no. I said “If you stitch me up first you’ll have to tickets for tonight’s show”.

One night on tour he called me around 3:00 in the morning. “I want to read something to you”, he said. He had the Bible out and he wanted to read to me about earthquakes.

What do you give Elvis for his birthday? I had them make a toothpick with his initials on them. He says man, I really like that. Wow, I thought I’d done pretty well. He asked me to bring over the black box he carried his jewelry in. Opened it and there were 2 engraved toothpicks, just like mine. Thereafter he got a set of sweats for Christmas and his birthday.

He was a giver. He loved watching you get your presents.

(note: They’re going to have a book coming out in about 8 months.)

GK introduces Jimmy Velvet

Jimmy Velvet – He’d bring a stack of movies for us to see at the Memphian. If he didn’t like a movie he’d raise his hand and they’d change the movie. We were watching “Parent Trap”. Hayley Mills is in her room and there were pictures of famous people there. She’s dancing and picks up a picture of Ricky Nelson – that was it – his hand went up to change the movie.

GK introduces Mrs Hoffman (I thought I had a picture, but I guess I don't)

Dr. Lester Hoffman widow, Mrs. Hoffman – Knowing this man changed my life After Lisa was born were invited to see her. Our visit lasted 45 minutes and it was a glorious time. He never stopped staring at Lisa. On the way down the steps he lit up a cigarette. I said ‘why do you smoke?” He said “why do you care?” I said “because you’re my friend”. He told me I was going to become a yoga instructor, and that’s what happened. He helped me get my training and I’ve been a yoga instructor for 39 years.

We were in Elvis’ dressing room one night after a performance. I said “where’s Elvis?” He was showering. When he came out and hugged me and asked “was I any good? As the evening wore on, people would bring celebrities in to meet him and I said “Elvis, we shouldleave”. He put his hand on my leg and said “they are them and you are us and don’t leave”. My husband says “how long are you going to let him keep his hand on your knee?” And I said “til my leg falls off or he takes his hand away”.

GK introduces Ray Walker – he’s the guy that introduced Elvis to “How Great Thou Art”

Ray Walker – Elvis came in and introduced himself and I said I know who you are and he said “I know who you are”.

Pat Boone and I have been friends since we’re 16 years old. Elvis opened for him a couple of shows. Elvis says hello, Mr. Boone”. He says “call me Pat”, and Elvis said “but your famous” Pat says “that’s ok, call me Pat”.

Pat’s house was right behind Elvis’ and Elvis would sneak out of his house and go visit with Pat and his wife after he’d told the boys he was going to bed.

Elvis was the best listener I’ve ever seen in my life. He was the best-read reader of religions of anyone I’ve ever met. When he looked in your eyes you know you had his full attention. What a wonderful human being Elvis was. We were friends, more or less from a distance, which was probably a good thing. I still love him to this day. He called me a chameleon. I thought he was telling me I was a lizard. But I’d sing differently for each song.

On “Surrender” Elvis had already sung high note after high note. I’d told him it was great that he sang like he talked – talking with a melody. So we were rehearsing this song. He asked you teach voice. I want to hit that high note and I’m afraid I can’t make it. So I took him into another room and say ‘can you vomit?” He said “what?” Ray demonstrates the sound. He practiced with all the vowels. And then Elvis said “I’m ready, let’s do it”. Someone just sent me all the outtakes on that session.

GK introduces Mark James – Mark James is a great singer AND a great song writer, including 5 or 6 songs for Elvis.

Mark James - Memphis has always had trend-setting music. I came here in 1968. Elvis was renting movie theatres and rinks. You’d go into clubs and you’d see Isaac Hayes singing.

Elvis came into the studio with about 40 songs. I was looking for a special song for him – and Suspicious Minds was the only song I had there. Elvis seems nervous with me around (since I’d recorded the song a couple of years before). So I knew I couldn’t be there. It was the same musicians cutting the same song, so I knew I didn’t have to be there.

I saw Elvis at the Hilton and in New York. Elvis was one of a kind. A great artist. I never wrote a song for him until “Blue Suede Heaven” and this was my shot to write a song about Elvis.

(He sings it – it’s a nice tribute song).

Introduces Larry Geller

Larry Geller – tells the story about how he met Elvis. I grew up in So. Cal. The very first rock concert in So Cal was Elvis. I was still in school and my friends and I thought we were the coolest thing that ever happened. We had the look. We looked like little ‘Fonzies’. We didn’t buy tickets but we figured we’d get in to see him. The doors close and we’re not in. So we tried to get into the theatre from the side. No go. We went to the back of the building and we see Elvis! He was with some of the guys. I said “come on guys, let’s go!” They froze. I ran over to Elvis and there was – that face. He had this inner glow, this vitality. I was awestruck. He stuck his hand out and said “Hi, I’m Elvis Presley”. I couldn’t believe it. I shook Elvis Presley’s hand. Time goes by, I became a hairdresser. I did the hair of Roy Orbison, Rock Hudson, Peter Sellars.. every star came to us. One afternoon Alan Fortas calls to tell me to come up to fix Elvis’ hair. Normally I wasn’t awestruck, but this was special. I drove up to the house. I walk in and Elvis comes up to me and says “Hi, I’m Elvis Presley”. Man, I’m having this flashback, but I didn’t tell him then about the first meeting. We went into his bathroom and started to talk. He wanted to know who I was, what I was about. When I told him what I was looking for, he said “I need to know what you know”. He asked me to come to work for him.

Elvis was the greatest entertainer ever. He has more fan clubs now than any living performer.

Elvis said he knew what the Bible meant when it said It’s better to give than to receive. He tells the same story about the kid and the motorcycle he told in “200 Cadillacs”.

We were making a film and Elvis’ choreographer was Norman Winters. We were walking to the sound stage and a guy was walking on the sound stage – a jeweler. He says “Elvis, I got it for you”. Elvis looks at the ring, tries it on, it fits, it’s beautiful. Norman comes around and Elvis shows him the ring. Norman says it’s beautiful and Elvis takes the ring off his finger and gives it to Norman.

How Great Thou Art recording session: we were getting ready to go. He sent the other on and said Larry, I want to talk to you. This is not just another commercial album. This is God’s music. And you know the Bible says God works in mysterious ways and I’m not going to utter a word until I’m ready to do this right, because you never know who will hear it. We meditated. Ten years later we meet a big Elvis fan who says “Hi, Larry”. He asks her “why do you love Elvis? What’s your story?” She said, well I had a terrible accident and it destroyed my legs. I knew I would never have a boyfriend, would never get married. I was going to take an overdose of medicine to kill myself. But the radio was on and I heard Elvis sing “How Great Thou Art” and I was filled with love and good feeling and decided to live. I told Elvis this story and tears streamed down his face. “Man,” he said. “Did I need to hear that”.

I had the overwhelming task to do his hair for his funeral. But when I walked in with Charlie Hodge and walked up to Elvis’s body and I looked at that gorgeous face – I stood about him for about 20 minutes. My heart ruptured. Like Niagara Falls all the memories poured over me. All of a sudden a memory from about 10 years earlier came to me. I remember our routine was making 3 movies a year and we’d drive back to Memphis, stay for a few months, then drive back. Elvis would have me come up. I’d do his hair, we’d talk. He called me upstairs one day. Elvis is sitting at the edge of the bed, shaking his head and I knew something is up. He hands me a movie magazine and on the cover was a picture of Elvis in one of his movies, looking distraught. The headline was “Elvis still in grief over his mother’s death”. It said his group hears Elvis crying in the middle of the night, etc. Elvis said “do you believe that stuff?” “Grieve? I hope, Lawrence, you never have to grieve the way I did. In 1956 I came on the scene and all hell broke loose. I was on TV, I recorded and then I went to Hollywood to fulfill my wildest dreams. Everything was going my way. And then I got drafted. And then my mom died. The light of my life died. So my career was cut short, I was shipped overseas, and I was grieving. You know me, I want to know the reason for everything. Why me? Why did He take my mom? “ That’s what he was going through that day. He was constantly questioning why him, why Elvis that all this happened to?

GK introduces Marion Cocke

Marion – when Elvis was coming into the hospital Dr Nick asked her to come in on her day off to take care of Elvis. Elvis brought us all together and made us one family. He deserved all the honor and respect that he is getting this week.

Many of my stories have pretty much been told. But after Elvis died I was in Palm Springs. A lady who had made a movie with Elvis came up to me and said “I’m so-and-so and I made a movie with Elvis” and I said “I’m Marion Cocke and I spent the last 2 years of his life in Elvis’ bedroom”.

I wanted to do something positive to honor Elvis. The first benefit dinner I did for Elvis was at the Peabody. Next year will be the 18th year of the dinners. We didn’t think many would come this year, but we had 330 and had to turn people away. So I’ll be doing it again next year, although I’m having such trouble with my memory I may forget to come!
I do appreciate the fact that you fans also do much charity work in Elvis’ name. And then I went to the vigil last night. And I watched the people come up the walk – young, old, healthy and infirm, and I remember when Elvis asked me “Mrs. Cocke, do you think my fans will remember me?” (!)

GK introduces Sam Phillips’ companion, Sally Wilburn.

Sally Wilbourn– 1953 first album, today the remix of “Baby Let’s Play House”

Elvis invited us into his world and we all stayed. We never left. And it will all continue. Elvis would be proud. As we continue this journey, let’s don’t forget the music.
(music – the remix is played –Marion gets up to dance and Ray Walker joins her! You go, guys!)

That’s the end of the presentation. It went well over 3 hours. I heard a few stories I hadn’t heard before, heard many stories I already knew, and appreciated the fact that we still have these folks who have links to Elvis.

And MIKE FREEMAN wins the painting!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Vigil Day

I did not attend the ETA contest Thursday night, so someone else will have to report on that. Instead, I went to see Jamie Aaron Kelley perform at EP Delta. He’s such a talented artist.

I did not attend the sold out Blue Hawaii breakfast with Darlene Thomkins, so if someone was there, feel free to add a comment here.

Friday August 15th – Vigil Day

Vigil day for me started out slow and easy. I had breakfast with Joe Petruccio and then brought him over to Graceland Crossing where he had his gorgeous artwork on display. I think he sat there from 11:00am until midnight, autographing calendars, paper, t-shirts – whatever people put in front of him. Joe doesn’t just write his name when he gives an autograph. He does a drawing of Elvis on each and every item he autographs. What a special guy!

The big event of the morning was the David Garibaldi's Rhythm and Hue Performance Art Show. David created several 6-foot portraits of Elvis in under 7 minutes for each to Elvis music. He paints a little, comes forward to dance, goes back to paint some more, either with brushes, his fingers, and sometimes just throws some paint. He was fun. It was SO, SO hot at the time, but it was still interesting to watch him do this.

I decided to stay around Graceland all day. I was at Graceland Crossing where the tent had Elvis-wannabes singing to karaoke all day long. Some were pretty good, some, um, weren’t. There were a lot of people there.

And then the rains came. It rained HARD for hours! Some thunder and lightning, but mostly heavy rain. We were wondering what was going to happen with the vigil with all the bad weather.

Around 8:00 we went to the Sirius booth. They couldn’t go to the sound stage because of the weather. All the local DJs were there, including George Klein. I spoke to Argo about the time frame of my little interview. Then we went across the street to the gates to see the opening ceremonies. Guess what? IT STOPPED RAINING! Indeed, it didn’t rain for the next 2 hours (it was starting again when I was leaving).

Jack opened the ceremonies with a short statement. It was mostly about how he shouldn’t be there, it should have been Todd. He talked about how much Todd is missed, especially at times like this (note: understatement of the year). Then he introduced Kevin Kern to give the rules. I was torn between wishing they had used a little of Todd’s script (“if you’re here for the wrong reasons, you’d better hope security gets to you before these fans do…”) and knowing that trying to “be” Todd would probably not have worked either. No win situation.

One more note about Todd – many of us who talked about this felt that there was no mistaking the sense of a huge void, the deep sense of loss. He was truly a great man.

The ceremony went on with the theme “I Miss You” which was referring to both Elvis and Todd. It was the 30th year of Vigils organized by the Elvis country Fan Club.

The songs were "I Miss You" by Don H. Sumner. "I'll Hold You In My Heart", "Peace In The Valley" an d"Can't Help Falling In Love".

The sea of candlelight started to wend its way up the hill. It was a beautiful sight. Of course Elvis music was being broadcast for all to hear, no matter where they were.

I went back to the Sirius booth at that time because it was getting close to the time Argo said he thought I should be at the booth for my interview. There was a lot going on over there. GK was in the booth, all sorts of people were being interviewed and Doc Walker was limping (he dropped something heavy on his foot just before he came to work). Justin Morgan arrived and he was interviewed byArgo. He’s such a sweet person and you can just sense his sadness.

(Argo, Justin and Jenna)

Jack came by and was interviewed. Karen (KJ) was interviewed by Doc (which was funny because he asked her where she was when Elvis died – and her response – “in nappies (diapers)!)

I was finally interviewed by Argo at around 10:00pm. He’s really nice and makes you feel very comfortable and not too nervous.

At that point KJ, Marie, Tom and I got in line for the vigil. It still wasn’t raining. Each time I go to Graceland I am reminded just how large this property is and I try to imagine how Elvis must have felt to have all this land to enjoy, to play. I try to imagine what it was like to be here during Elvis’ life. Then I get a sense of sadness about what might have been.

The line moved fairly well. From the gate to the grave took just under 2 hours. There was no rain and the temperature was in the 70s. What a difference from last year. The floral arrangements this year are as spectacular as usual.

Here is the link to my vigil pictures, some good, some fuzzy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

EW day 6 - Second Day of EI Conference - Morning Session

First of all, a big question has been brought up about Elvis on Tour. ElvisSessions reported on a conversation he had with Tom Brown about this. He (Tom) hinted at EOT might coming out at some anniversary in the near future. Sillerman was on tape so was not asked about it. People shouted out to Tom several times during the day asking about it and each time he would say "I can't talk about it". That's it. So no official word came out at the conference. We must continue to speculate.

Opening the conference today was the video-taped interview with Robert Sillerman. Scott Williams flew to NY to meet with him.

What are your plans for Las Vegas? -
It will be a big, interactive (you will be able to “talk” to Elvis), maybe they can get the street names “Elvis Presley Blvd West”. Elvis deserves a bigger presence in Vegas for what he did there.

What are your plans for Graceland –
The impact of economy may affect how fast what we do. Won’t be spending all of the money up front. But major pieces will be completed soon (“soon” being a relative term). Our current economic situation is pretty dire.

Sneak peak of plans?
Tied up with what happens with Memphis and TN We need approval. Once we know what we can do, plans will come out. Perhaps in 6 months.

Sillerman: I’m an Elvis fan – put your earplugs in and I’ll do my rendition of an Elvis song. I’m a big Elvis fans. Elvis and I have a long history.

Why did you want to buy EPE? Society has changed so much over the last 10 years, principally driven by the devices we have – ipods, dvds, internet, etc. we can now deal with iconistic people. Since it’s impossible for anyone else to ever attain the heights that Elvis did, it was our desire to be associated with this kind of talent, a talent that needs no definition, explanation. I can’t say when the idea precisely came to me, but after we sold our last entertainment company, we were looking for something.

What’s your earliest memory of Elvis -
I was studying classical piano (quite good, if I must say so myself), I had no awareness of rock and roll or of Elvis. I had my little portable radio and there was no Yankee game on. So I heard an Elvis Presley song and was taken aback. I got out of bed to have my brother listen to it. He didn’t like it but I told him he was crazy. I was captivated then – by “Hound Dog”. I know it sounds funny, but it was almost a life-changing moment.

What did you think of the Celine Dion/American Idol duet with Elvis?

Every time I see that I get goosebumps. It’s the technology I was talking about. The idea emanated from CKX. Everyone I show it to says Elvis more than holds his own with Celine’s powerful voice.

Did you see Elvis in person?

Do you own the DVDs? I saw Elvis live 5 times – in college and after college. Once in Boston, 4 times in Vegas. When I watch the concert footage I am evoking the live experiences.

Elvis Radio – what’s your favorite era and song?

No one single favorite song. It changes all the time. I listen to 13 all the time. 50s era is my favorite. In the Ghetto, Lieber and Stoller songs.

Is there going to be an EP Theme Park?

No roller coasters and ferris wheels and things like that. There will be Elvis-themed features where you can come in with themes of Elvis’ life. Interactive. We can move things out of Graceland to display them elsewhere and restore the house to its original look.

Are you a member of EI.

Yes. (He pulled out his card)

Tom gives away a prize – ipod-like/radio/ preloaded to play Elvis video clips. The one you buy has 20 video clips. This prize has 80.

Chris Noelle picks the winner. Drats. Didn’t win this one either.

(note: nothing in the next interview session was new to me. Same old stories, sorry to say. I guess there is just so much they can add after all this time).

Tom introduces the new DVD Elvis in Las Vegas – we see a clip. It’s always great to see Elvis close up on the big screen.

Now we see a trailer for EinLV.

Next up – Jerry Schilling and Joe Guercio

Tom – take me back to 1969.

Joe – ’69- I wasn’t there. But when I saw he was coming, it blew me away.

Jerry – We had been there before. Elvis loved to visit Vegas and go see the shows.

Joe - First time I met Elvis was in Sammy Davis’ dressing room – right after he got out of the Army. To get to meet him was a thrill.

Tom – reminded us of what Sammy Shore said about how nervous Elvis was before he went on.

Joe – I can understand his nervousness. He’d been there before and was not successful.

Jerry– his show was very different from what was out there in Vegas. Elvis would watch the first row in the audience. One guy would never look up. Finally, when Elvis did Trilogy, the guy stood up and saluted. Elvis could do what he wanted. Gospel in Vegas? If Elvis did it, yes, he could do what others just couldn't get away with.

Joe – Hilton flew me to LA to meet Parker and Diskin. I got the whole limo treatment, and we’re going to lunch. We got to this little hut – and we had bologna sandwiches!! Parker knows everything I’ve ever done. He asked me if I could do what they want. Mind you, I was not an Elvis fan at the time.

First days of rehearsal and Lamar brings a ton of music over and says ‘this is what we’re going to do’. I said “I’m not a librarian”.

Second rehearsal Elvis walks in. He hangs around for the first hour. Joe E says would you like to meet Elvis. “I think it would be nice”. From the moment we shook hands – it was such charisma! We hit it off and were friends ever since.

Jerry – I was in LA when Elvis was picking the band. We had all these great musicians and we knew this one drummer’s name who was sure to be picked – but Elvis didn’t pick him. This heavyset guy keeps playing the drums – his family is in the van. Elvis comes over to me and says “watch this” and tells Ronnie Tutt what he wants. Elvis picked him because he had the same mindset as Elvis.

Tom – and the gospel quartets? Joe – I never saw anyone do church music before that.

Jerry – I worked on the DVD for about a year (behind the scenes) for about a year. ABC Entertainment flew me to Vegas where we did the interviews. We went down to the dressing rooms where I told some stories about the time Elvis was there. It’s great to hear the next and current generations talk about how Elvis influenced them

Tom – his ear for picking a song –

Joe – it was the lyrics, the story, that sold a song for Elvis.

Jerry – Elvis is the most underrated producer in music history.

Joe – he loved all music – he had a rock and roll band, an orchestra and church groups – all on the same stage.

Tom – when he wanted something, he wasn’t confrontational . He knew a better way to get things done the way he wanted.

Tom - talk to me about Elvis, who had no musical training.

Joe – for the first night’s performance – he was in tune with everything that was going on around him. He sang to the back row all the time. He made the person in the back row feel as close as the ones up front. It was a good time. It was more of a happening than a “show”. He’d change a song as he went along so we always had to be paying close attention. The first time he did this we were in the middle of “He Gave Me a Mountion” – he switched things around but I’d told the orchestra that when I dropped my hands go to bar 32. Elvis changed something but we were ready. Made for interesting shows every night.

Jerry – he always had a degree of nervousness, although not to the extent of the first show. He always worried about whether the fans would accept him.

Tom – how difficult to transfer the Vegas show to the road?

Joe – it wasn’t difficult – he took his charisma with him. (laughter)

Jerry- there was probably more to it for everyone else (laughter)

Joe – we all had to take karate lessons in Vegas and he brought in Ed Parker to train us. Everyone has to participate. I said I’m not going. I’m home for 2 weeks and I’m not coming in for this. I detected a vibe from Elvis. Last night everyone got their karate level belts – during the show! Closing night party – “Ronnie Tutt – black belt”… …. … “Joe Guercio” – Parker gives me a black belt- a black belt - in baton. :-)

Joe – tells the marble story – (let me know if you haven’t heard it – I’ll type it out).

Jerry talks about the practical jokes Elvis did in the down times of movie making. Says this behavior carried over to Vegas. If you’ve seen the tv show “Entourage”, that’s how it was back then.

Joe – Elvis was one of only 4 stars I’ve worked with all these years that truly respected the rest of the people- on stage. He made everyone feel important.

Tom – Vegas then and now?

Jerry – we spent almost 3 months a year in Vegas – shows - and fun. Back then I thought it was huge but you could still interact. Elvis took it to the next level. Then hotels got bigger and bigger. Now we’re in the third phase now. It’s just huge. So big. But the good news is that Elvis will be even bigger than ever next year when the Sillerman project is done.

Joe – when Elvis came to town hotels were filled to 88%. That had never happened before.

Tom introduces Charles Stone.

He took a picture of Elvis back stage in Michigan playing the piano. He’d forgotten about it and found the undeveloped film this year! I’ll have to go down to the expo to see this picture of Elvis sitting at the piano all by himself. (note: I bought a copy of this very different picture of Elvis.)

Charles says Elvis never played to an empty seat (although others have said this isn’t entirely true). There is nothing else in the history of entertainment that could compare to the electricity and excitement of Elvis walking onto a stage.

Prize is an autographed copy of this picture.

Another prize – a copy of the deluxe 68 special autographed by Steve Binder.

Marian Burns (? Didn’t get name straight) talks about Elvis from Broadway to Memphis. I’m going to take a break right now. Since I’m going to this concert on Sat. I’ll blog about it then.

EI Conference Thursday afternoon

Video of 68 special- bordello scene and outtakes –

Susan Henning- yowsa!

First face of milk commercials.

Played Hayley Mill’s twin in “Parent Trap”

Was in Live a Little, Love a Little. Played a mermaid. (showing a clip of her here). I don’t remember it, but it’s cute! She’s sitting on a diving board (as mermaid), holding out her lunch. A whale comes up and takes her food.

SH - They fitted me for the mermaid tail sitting in a wheel chair – when Elvis walked in. That’s how we met. Instant sparks. He’d take me out on his motorcycle.

Tom – how did you get into the 68 special?

SH – During LaL he took my number and called me back a few days with the offer. I was engaged at the time but I couldn’t help the feelings I had for Elvis. Broke off engagement. My character was called the “virgin hooker” in 68 special. When I came on to the set for the first time he had his back to me. I went up to him from behind and touched him and he said “my boy, my boy”

Tom – in the outtakes you seem to be having a special private moment with Elvis.

SH – when I saw the outtakes just now it really brought me back to a very, very special time in my life.

Tom – in talking about your time with Elvis, how do you draw the line with how much you want to tell vs how much people want to know more.

SH – good question. People who really love Elvis respect his privacy and I think some things should be left up to one’s imagination.

Tom – well, there go my next 3 questions… Over the years did anything change in what you thought about what could have been?

SH – a decision was made in our relationship – remember, I was a young 21 year old woman, I had lots of dreams I had not yet fulfilled. And he was there already living his dream. I wanted to live my life, not so much live Elvis’ life. So there was a path I had to choose. I chose to develop and see who “Susan” was. I honor everything he’s done. He is the king and there will never be another Elvis.

Tom – what is it about him that makes us be together 31 years after his death?

SH – He transcends gender, so he appeals to men and women. His sex appeal. His charisma. You can have that and be egocentric. But he was genuinely humble, so touchable. Add that to talent. It’s magnetic.

Tom – tell us about your life after Elvis.

SH – we have how much time? I did a few more films, and some television. I was a successful commercial model. But I wanted white fences and meadows and horses. I have 3 wonderful children and a wonderful supportive husband that has allowed and been supportive of “Susan Henning”. Dating actors was a way of life. People ask if I saved a lock of Elvis’ hair. But it was just life and we didn’t think of things like that. But I’m grateful that you all want to hear about my time with Elvis.

Susan has put together a book about her time with Elvis. She found some pictures of us that have never been seen before. Don't know when it will be released.

Hambri (SP?) from Sony/BMG to talk about the Elvis Christmas duets CD1957 and 1971 Elvis recorded 2 Xmas albums. Using new technology we’ve recreated the original tracks and then added the new artists to sing the duets with him.Some artists were asked to participate but were too intimidated. He wouldn’t name names.

Track Listing - (although I missed something)
Anne Murray- "Silver Bells"
Martina McBride- "Blue Christmas"
Gretchen Wilson- "Merry Christmas Baby"
Wynonna- "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"
Sara Evans- "Silent Night"
Leann Rimes- "Here Comes Santa Claus"
Amy Grant- "White Christmas"
Carrie Underwood- "I'll Be Home For Christmas"

We’re hearing a little piece of “Blue Christmas” Elvis with Martina McBride and “Here Comes Santa Claus” with LeAnn Rimes.

My thoughts – this is going to work for a Christmas album to introduce Elvis to new fans. But if it were anything but Christmas songs I’m not sure I’d want to hear Elvis duet with anyone (except Lisa).

New door prize – Viva Las Vegas DVD – Tanya Lamani George (belly dancer, ’68 special) picks the number. She says Elvis a very special human being. Kind, warm and generous. She does a little belly dance move.

Another video – of David Garibaldi doing his incredible “rhythm and hue” art work to Elvis music. Awesome stuff.

Thomas Kincaid has a new Christmas painting. Video of him talking. Commercial for the new painting to be out this fall “Christmas Cottage” (not Graceland). Also has done “Winter at Graceland” for sale. It’s very pretty. The pink Cadillac is in front of Graceland, with Elvis and a woman (can be anyone you want :-))

Darlene Thompkins on now. (Sorry, I don't seem to have a picture of her.

Tom: How did you get the role with Elvis?

DT - my agent sent me on an audition for a musical. I can’t sing and I can’t dance but that didn’t stop me from going to an audition for an Elvis movie. Elvis wasn’t there but I got the part. When I first saw him he took my breath away. He was the most beautiful person I’ve ever met. But when started to talk and he made me feel like we had already met. A few days later I admitted to him that I couldn’t sing. Elvis said no matter, we can dub the voice. Then I admitted I can’t dance, either. He said “Just have fun!”. In one scene Norman Taurog puts me right up with Elvis. And I know that Elvis is a “one-take” guy. In slice-and-sand scene I move of the scene. When you hear about how nice Elvis was and how kind, it doesn’t come close to describing how he was.

Another prize – Elvis #1 hits Vol 2

Video – Elvis’ screen test at Paramount. It’s still fun to watch this.

More video movie clips – from movies of the next panel.

Panel: Celeste Yarnell (CY)form LaL and Edward Faulkner( EF) and Francine York (FY) from Tickle Me

Tom – what was the set like

CF – there was a bit of a cloud over the set because MLK was assassinated. Elvis and I comforted each other over that sadness. When that wasn’t happening, he kept the energy up and made us have lots of fun.

EF – I had a very small part in GI Blues. Being 2 southern boys we had a very nice relationship. He and John Wayne had a lot in common. Both were very easy to work with and I never saw either of them on set with a script. The last time I saw him he was rehearing a later movie. When he saw me he came right off the set, the set closed down and he talked with me for 20 minutes.

FY – I first saw Elvis on screen in a movie theatre. I was modeling in San Francisco. But when I saw him in person, he was very, very special. Elvis had a very sweet smell (not cologne). It was wonderful. One day we were having trouble with something on the set, so while we were waiting Elvis was blowing into my ear. Wow! We chatted about movies I’d made with Jerry Lewis and told me I’d have a great career. Elvis was down home – but gorgeous! He was so much more handsome in person.

Tom – a lot of people put the movies down, but it seems a lot of young people are discovering Elvis through his movies. What kind of reaction are you seeing from Elvis fans about how important these movies are?

CF – The remixes – the first was of the song Elvis sang to me – and now it’s a number 1 song. But I’m not happy that there were hip-hop dancers in the video!

Tom – What did it take to get the fight scenes?

EF – they were professionally choreographed. Elvis and I staged one fight. We rehearse it a couple of times, we basically did the whole thing in one day. He made you feel extremely comfortable. Every event I do – people from around the world – it warms my heart to see people going back to these honest films as opposed to what is being shown these days. It’s amazing how many young people have found Elvis.

Tom – you worked with Jerry Lewis. Tell me how important it is for an actor to get along with the crew and the director How did Elvis stack up?

FY – Our set was very happy. The crew liked Elvis. At the time of this movie Elvis had bought a green convertible for his girlfriend. She drove it right on the set and Elvis was livid. You didn’t flash his gifts.

CY – lots of rehearsal for kissing scenes. His makeup would end up on my face and we’d have to redo it. Elvis told me to pick out a car but I told him I didn’t need it. He said what do you want? I said just your friendship. His eyes welled up and he gave me a big hug.

Tom- how does it feel to come to these events?

CY – I’ve been amazed. I am filled with gratitude. You think you’re coming out for us, I’m saying we’re coming out for YOU.

EF – It’s a delight. I’m retired after 19 years in the business.. It is very heartwarming to meet the fans and it’s my privilege to give back to you. I enjoy talking to you all.

FY – I’m still working. I told my agent I’m going to this Elvis event, clear my calendar. It’s amazing that you appreciate something we did so many years ago. And as I’ve said, there will never be anyone or anything like Elvis ever again. I travel around the world and no matter where I go, everyone knows who Elvis is.

More prizes – the new Graceland DVD, Steve Binder autographed CD box, the new Barbie doll!

That's it for today.

A few pictures

I've posted a few pictures here in a slide show. You can click on any picture to see it by itself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Terry Mike Jeffrey

We went to EP Delta to see Terry and his group tonight. I have only seen him once before when he sang just a couple of songs at Marian Cocke’s benefit last year. I was impressed then, but tonight I was blown away. As ElvisSessions mentioned about his show the night before, Terry is very professional and has a fabulous band (including his wife of 35 years and his son!). He’s NOT an ETA. He sounds like Elvis, sings his repertoire, but doesn’t try to copy Elvis. He’s also James and Glen D., instrument-wise. He’s amazing, talks to the audience with great fun, and puts on an awesome show.

BTW, I had dinner at the EP Delta restaurant. They have their annual “Elvis” menu which includes a fried banana split. Did you know Elvis was fond of eating duck quesadillas? ;-)

EW day 5 - first day of EI Conference

I'm here!

Wednesday morning.

Well, the airline gods came through, but the car rental gods didn’t. Then when I got here the person who had my ticket wasn’t to be found. So I missed the entire morning. And I’m really sorry I missed Mike Stoller and DJ Fontana talking together. I sure hope Elvissessions has that in his report.

Wednesday afternoon EI Conference

Jack Soden gives greetings, then we see some of Having fun with Elvis on the ’68 Special. I thought we'd hear more from Jack than just welcome.

Tom Brown introduces Sammy Shore (SS), the comedian who opened for Elvis in Vegas. He says nobody wanted to see the comedian. They just wanted to see Elvis.

Tom: did you find that a challenge?

SS – I was an unknown. Opening night everyone in the world was there. Movie stars – Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, etc. I knew if I bombed my career would be over. If I did well, I’d do well in the business. I hadn’t gotten there yet. So this was it for me. Elvis and the Col saw me open for Tom Jones and they liked me. Elvis and Parker came backstage to meet him and I was speechless. Parker said “I like your humor” and I said I like your chicken”.

So, opening night there was a lot of pressure. This was it for me. It was me out there by myself. House lights dimmed and there was a tympany roll. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, a legend in his own time.. , but first here’s Sammy Shore. “ And the mike was dead! My big break and the mike was dead! They shoved out a new mike and I started to adlib to make it look like the second mike didn’t work. After 5-10 minutes I had ‘em. If the mike wasn’t dead I probably would have bombed.

When I came off I saw Elvis waiting. I shook his hand – and his hand was sweaty, too. He was nervous. After all, this was the first time in 12 years he’d been on a live stage. Of course we know what happened. My dressing room was next to his and I tried to get the celebs and the young pretty girls to come in to my room. But everyone wanted to see Elvis, of course.

Two older gentleman came in. They were very high ups in the William Morris agency!! They said what I’d done that night was incredible. We want to sign you at the WMA.

After all my small club experiences I was ready to handle what happened that night.
Vegas was the place to see and be seen. Everyone had an opening act. No longer. The hotels want everyone to see the show and get back to gambling. Nowadays there are few comedians playing there.

Tom: have you talked to people here that saw you in Vegas?

SS. Oh sure. But I tell you, working last night, opening for Shawn Klush.. I got my standing ovation – and then I watched Shawn. It was like going back in time. He was amazing. It was like going out on tour with Elvis!

Tom: tell me about your book.

SS: “the Man who made Elvis laugh”. (too fast to copy, but he’s very, very funny describing what’s in his book). But the serious part of his book amounts to “it ain’t over til it’s over”. (He’s 81.) Sammy’s son is Pauly Shore. He says “Let me say 2 words about Pauly: I’m sorry”. Then jokes that it could have been CarrotTop.  (He was funny all the way through but I don’t think it translates well here on the written page.

(Note: Sammy Shore was very funny but I couldn't capture him here. Mannerisms, sound effects, etc. I hope you can hear it some day).

Sandi Pichon helps give away a prize. Tells the Elvis-gets-panty-thrown-at-him story. Talks about how great it’s been since she put out her 2 books. They help her relive her experiences. That's really special.

Tom is talking about the 25th anniversary concert. We see a clip. Then Tom introduces Joe Moscheo, Terry Blackwood, Sherman Andrus – The Imperials.

Joe: it was the best time of our lives. “He Touched Me” album – who knew what that would become?

Tom: Dixie mentioned that he seemed to be a different person when he sang gospel in church. What did you see?

Terry: Elvis would go see the gospel events, coming in late, leaving early so he wouldn’t bother everyone. My family attended the same church. Gospel influenced his life.

Tom: you can literally draw a line from that gospel to rock n roll

Sherman: when I listen to Elvis’ interpretation of songs you can feel all that passion. You knew he had something special. We called it in the church being endowed or having the spirit. This guy cut through all the cultural everything. It didn’t matter what kind of song he sang, but you always felt his passion.

Tom: if he had not been the singer he became, would he have fit into a gospel quartet?

Terry: laugh – how could you be in a group with Elvis? He’d always be standing out.
Joe: I thought he was an amazing gospel singer. Remember “If I Can Dream” he believes the lyrics, he’s selling the meaning. “I’m trying to tell you something”.

Tom: he would always sing gospel during the Vegas years.

Joe: there was a special elevator up to the suite. Even before getting to the elevator he’d already start “I, John” or something. He was relaxing us.

Terry: every time he initiated a song a capella it would be a gospel song. “Farther along” – we knew that song backwards and forwards.

Tom: when you were singing gospel, would Elvis stay on a part? Bass, tenor, etc.

Terry – Elvis could sing whatever he wanted. Laugh)

Joe: He’d sit at the piano and hit a high note – ‘see that note up here’, he’d say. ‘That’s Millie.’ Then he'd play a lower note and say 'that's Joe's...' He actually arranged the songs.

Terry: and he’d know if you missed a cue.

Joe threw a t-shirt into the audience. Nice souvenir, although I'm not sure what the t-shirt was.

Tom: what’s the number 1 thing people ask you about a memory you have?

Terry: was Elvis as nice as we’ve heard. What was he really like? Of course he was as nice as everyone has heard. He wasn't one of those stars who would do their job and leave. He wanted to hang around with us.

Tom interviews Carlee, the winner of the MySpace Karaoke contest. (She sang with the Imperials last night). She was pretty intimidated at first (last night). She has been learning a lot more about Elvis and he gained a lot more respect for him. You go, girl!

Next up: JoAnn Cash, John’s sister. (Can't believe I didn't take a picture of her. Sorry. I have one on video, but can't pull it out right now)

Tom: what was your first experience singing with John?

JC: We’d work in the cotton fields and we would sing all day long. I thought everyone sang. We sang in church, school. So it wasn’t that big a deal.

Tom: John wanted to be a gospel singer, too.

JC: yes, he did but Sam said it wouldn’t sell. But he did sing gospel later on in his career. Early on in his career he’d be in a different city every night and in order to keep going, Johnny would take the pills that would push his body. But he got passed all of that.

JoAnn Is a born again Christian. Then she met her husband in the church. They are pastors in a church they started in Nashville.

Tom plays the audio of Elvis introducing himself as Johnny Cash and starts singing “Folsom Prison” and “Walk the Line”.

JC: The kinds of songs Johnny sang were from his life experience. I write gospel songs that are truly from my experience. And Elvis could make you cry when he sang. He could also make you laugh. He was one of the funniest people, too.

Joe Petruccio comes out to give away another prize. It’s lot’s of stuff, including a small wood block he painted. Nice. Which I’d won that!

Another prize – Lowell Hayes is giving away a TCB! DRATS! Made from the original mould! I wish I’d won that, too! (sigh) Tom asks about what it was like putting these things together for Elvis. Lowell met Elvis in 1969 and then he asked me to start making his jewelry. TCB ring story – he wanted a stage ring. I made several rings – the big horseshoe ring he gave to JD. Then after that they talked about the design for a new ring. Elvis wanted him to bring it upstairs but I wanted him to see it under the light of the chandelier. He was amazed and thrilled. His comment was “Wow! Wait til Sammy Davis sees this ring!” We sing happy birthday to Mr. Hayes. He’s 69.

CMT had a contest – Viva Las Vegas contest. Winner is interviewed. I left the room for a few minutes here.

A bit of gospel video that includes Richard Sterban.
Next guest – Richard Sterban- from the Stamps and the Oak Ridge Boys. Elvis was a frustrated bass player.

Tom: what was it like to be in a group with 2 bass singers – Richard and JD. He was hired by JD when JD wanted to spend more time on his business ventures. I was there about 6 months when Elvis called JD to get the Stamps to go on tour with him. So JD wanted to sing again and Elvis wanted JD there, too.

Tom: When did you know you wanted to be a singer?

RS: I wanted to be a ball player, but that wasn’t to be. But believe it or not, when I was a kid I sang as a boy soprano. But when I was about 6 yrs old I already knew I wanted to sing for a living.

Tom: and before rock n roll, gospel WAS rock and roll.

RS: Yes. This music fascinating me, especially with JD.

Tom: how often did the offstage gospel happen?

RS: more often than not. Sometimes even *before* we went on stage, as well as afterward. It was a very big deal to be on one of the largest tours around. It was a very exciting time for me. A lot of people questioned my decision to move on to the Oak Ridge Boys, but I really liked them, too.

Tom brings out his old vinyl ORB records. Talks about RS’s fashion sense. Turns out RS once worked in the mens dept of Gimbels’ dept store. ( I just love Tom Brown. He's such a great interviewer because a) he's so knowledgeable about his guests and b) he's such a genuine fan!

Tom: what went through your mind last year when you did Elvis the Concert?

RS: the best part of the concert last year was being reunited with all the guys, the Sweet Inspirations, etc. I had a really long chat with Ronnie Tutt. But it was also unbelievable to sing with Elvis again (RS gets choked up here).

Tom: there have been tremendous changes in touring. How does it differ touring then
and now?

RS: With Elvis we played the biggest venues. It helped set me up for touring with the ORB. Then, we had a few lights here and there – today it’s techno shows and all.

RS: Elvis was a big football fan. Because of the 3 TVs he had, he could watch several games at the same time. Nowadays that’s much easier.

Tom: what do you think of the Elvis phenomenon after all these years?

RS It will never happen to any other entertainer. Last year they sold out the FedEx forum – for a dead entertainer! That will never happen again. My daughters love his music. It’s got that magic, just the music, even without the image.

I was on “Burning Love”. He walked around the studio with a handheld mike. That would never happen today. He’ was an engineer’s nightmare. Tom: talk to me about how important it was to find the right song.

RS: material is the most important thing in the music business. We’d spend hours listening to demos just to find that one right song. But Elvis had no idea what he was going to record before he went into the studio. We might listen to 4,5-10 songs and he’d decide which song to record. (He had a great ear for what would be good for him). So then someone would have to quick write an arrangement and Elvis would tell us what he wanted us to sing.

Tom: how have you guys (ORB) stayed together so long?

RS: the key is the love of what we do. We love the creative process. We’re not young anymore but I hope to continue working for a long time.

Video - Elvis sings “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”

Scott gives away several prizes, including a USB flash drive with 70 Elvis songs on it. Scott has cool prizes.

(I know I wrote about this when it came on but I just noticed it's not here...) At some point today they showed a photo/video montage of Elvis in the army with the audio of the Dick Clark interview with Elvis when he was in the army. I've never heard the whole interview before. It's really great! And some of the video was new to me, too, although probably not to many of you reading this.

That’s it for today. Going to see Terry Mike Jeffrey tonight and may run over to Club Elvis, but that depends on how I feel. I’m bushed from the red-eye flight and no sleep today.

I will post some pictures of the Expo - probably later tonight.