Monday, September 24, 2018

The Elvis and Aretha Franklin Connections.

      When the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16th this year. It was exactly forty one years since the King of Rock'n'Roll died. My thoughts began racing, searching for other connections and many appeared over the next few days. Firstly, Memphis was one that automatically came to my mind. Elvis and his family moved to Memphis in 1948 and it was here he made his home, buying Graceland in 1957. Aretha's father Reverand C.L.Franklin who was born on January 22nd 1915 in Sunflower County, Mississippi moved his family to Memphis and became a minister of the Baptist Church. It was two years after Aretha's birth on March 25th 1942 he would then move the family, to Detroit . Later he would join the Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King. The days following Aretha's death I started listening to some of the Queens music and researching her life. The next discovery was made seeing the Sweet Inspirations backing her on many of her sixties songs and touring with her. I have read that Elvis was over the moon to find that the Sweets were to join him on his re-entrance into the live performance arena in 1969. I have always loved the Sweets because of their fun,happy, loving attitude to life and music. They always had kind loving words to say about the King before and after his passing. Whitney Houston's mum Cissy was a member of the group but only performed the first season with the Elvis tour in 69 because she was keen to pursue a solo career. A light would shine on other connections, over the next few days, leading up to the funeral with TCB lyrics in her cover of Respect and the Pink Cadillac parade at the funeral.  Bass guitar session musician Tommy Cogbill recording with both Aretha and Elvis. 

Power of Love with Tommy Cogbill on Bass

  •  TCB --  In her cover of Otis Reddings song RESPECT, Aretha Franklin would change lyrics of the original and add the line “Take care, TCB . When Aretha sings this line my thoughts are sparked as any Elvis person knows the TCB in a flash symbol was Elvis logo he designed with Priscilla in the early seventies. Franklin's cover was a landmark for the feminist movement, and is often considered as one of the best songs of the R&B era, earning her two Grammy Awards in 1968. After some research i found the acronym was widely used in African-American culture during the late sixties,early seventies. Charlie Hodge and Kathy Westmoreland have told how the Elvis TCB logo came about. "Elvis liked to sketch his ideas for his concert jumpsuits and was always drawing lightning bolts. Since childhood, he favored comic books featuring Captain Marvel, the superhero who had a large gold lightning bolt across his chest. During this particular flight the sketch he drew was a cloud with a lightning bolt coming out of it.” " Elvis was at this time, fond of the Bachman/Turner Overdrive song, ‘Taking Care of Business.Charlie  Hodge says "this was Elvis way of saying and telling us we are going to take care of his business in a flash." Elvis had TCB necklaces made for the guys and TLC which is Tender Loving Care made for the ladies in his entourage. It was soon after this that the TCB Band was given their name. They included Glen D. Hardin on piano, James Burton on guitar, Ronnie Tutt on drums, and Jerry Scheff on bass. They had been with Presley since his triumphant return to the stage in Las Vegas and they remained, until his death, at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977.  Felton Jarvis who produced Elvis recording sessions from 1966 until his death has the TCB logo with lightning bolt on his grave marker.
  • Pink Cadillac and Rock'n'Roll--  The days leading up to Aretha's funeral which was on August 31st the anniversary of Lady Diana's death. The programming of it started to be revealed and when the Pink Cadillacs parade came to light, my mind went off again. This was no doubt connected to Aretha's song We're riding on a Freeway of Love in my Pink Cadillac. It was early 1955 when Elvis bought his first Cadillac, a 1954 Fleetwood Series 60, which was the color pink. The car provided transport for Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys. It caught fire between Hope and Texarkana, Arkansas, on June 5, 1955 and was a right off. It was around this time Elvis had his first national hit with "Baby, Let's Play House" and in this song is a reference to the iconic Pink Cadillac. Since then it has been sung about in popular culture many times . On July 5 1955, after the fire, Elvis purchased a new Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60 in blue with a black roof. Elvis had the car repainted by Art, a neighbour on Lamar Street a customised pink color which Elvis named "Elvis Rose," but the car kept its black roof. Once the car was finished Elvis gave it to his mother Gladys as a gift. Gladys Presley never had a driver's license, and Elvis drove the car with the members of his band for most of 1955/1956. In March 1956 Elvis had the upholstery replaced, the body retouched and roof painted white.The car is now preserved in the Graceland museum, in Memphis, Tennessee.

  • Sweet Inspirations -- The original backup group began in the early 1960s and they included Doris Troy and the two Warwick sisters,Dee Dee and Dionne. Doris and Dionne were enjoying solo careers at that time and the Sweets backed them on "Just One Look" and "Don’t Make Me Over". In 1963, Sylvia Shemwell replaced Doris while Cissy Houston took over from Dionne and with Dee Dee Warwick became the leader of the group. In 1965 Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown would join the group and Dee Dee would go her own way.  If you needed female backup vocals in the sixties,the Sweet Inspirations were the go to group. They found their way onto numerous recordings, including hits by the Drifters, Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin with whom they often toured . In 1969 they were offered the gig of backup vocals for Elvis. They accepted and there they stayed until his death in 1977 with one exception Cissy Houston who would leave the group, after the first Vegas season with Elvis, to continue a solo career. The girls always had good things to say about the king and my favorite of the group was Myrna Smith who i do believe may have had a closer relationship with Elvis than the others. Her smile and attitude would always light the show up and i can see why Elvis was attracted to her.
Here is the last of the Sweets, Estelle Brown introducing Cissy and dedicating Sweet Inspiration for the recently departed Sylvia and Myrna at Elvis in Concert Show 2011 with the TCB Band. . 

  • Memphis and the Music-- During the 1960s the civil rights movement greatly affected the city. On April 4 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr was killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel by a sniper’s bullet. The music district of Memphis is Beale Street also known as home of the blues and many blues artists who lived in Memphis performed here including Howlin Wolf, Ike Turner and B.B.King . It was made popular by the Father of the Blues W.C.Handy .  Memphis has also been called the birthplace of rock and roll. Elvis Presley was one of many musicians who launched careers from Memphis’s Sun Studio. Memphis made a huge contribution to the development of soul music as well, with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, and Al Green being just a few of the significant soul artists who recorded in Memphis or called it home. Aretha was born here in 1942 before her and the family moved Detroit a few years later. 
Marc Cohn Walking in Memphis
  • Memphis History --Fort Adams was built on land where Memphis is situated today by the United States in 1797 . Then in 1819, John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson purchased land that was previously inhabited by Chickasaw Indians and Memphis was founded. They named it for the ancient Egyptian city on the Nile. Memphis at the entrance of the Nile was one of the oldest and most important cities in ancient Egypt, located nearby was the Nile River Valley and the Giza plateau which housed the pyramids and was the resting place of many Egyptian Gods. It served as the capital of ancient Egypt and an important religious cult center. The rich lands of Egypt became the property of Rome after the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC. At this time it began to decline and by the 4th century CE with the rise of Christianity people stopped visiting the old temples and shrines of the Egyptian gods. By the 7th century CE, following the Arab Invasion, Memphis was a ruin whose buildings were harvested for stone to lay the foundations for Cairo.
 Egyptian Gods of Memphis
Elvis Aretha and the Sweet Inspirations 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Elvis, The Horse and Rising Sun

         I am unable to establish the first time Elvis was on a horse but in 1956 with the commencement of the movie Love Me Tender he was required to ride. At this time, Elvis was only a novice rider he had proclaimed to the production crew, I can ride fine. His friend and photographer Jim Curtain remembers that Elvis was then left red faced with embarrassment as he had a tumble from his mount, while filming. It was also during this year that his two girlfriends of the time June Juanico and Judy Spreckles had the pleasure of Elvis company, riding at different ranches. June and Elvis rode at the Ocean Springs Gulf Hills Dude Ranch in Mississippi and there are photos shared by June of their time together. While with Judy Spreckles it was at her families ranch outside Vegas. It was from this period on, horses would hold a special place in Elvis heart. He would purchase many and give many away over the years. He loved his horses so much that his friends tell stories of how he used to spend ages in the barn brushing their coats while singing them songs. He enjoyed looking after his own riding equipment. His famous Horseshoe ring was inspired by his love for horses it had a total of 14 diamonds in the 1950's but there are different versions like the Aloha one and others that he gave away. 
  • Flaming Star -- I have seen photos of Elvis with horses in Germany but not sure to what extent they were involved in his service time over there. The next time i can trace him being on a horse is August 1st 1960 when Elvis began two weeks riding lessons for his part as Pacer Burton in Flaming Star. I do believe there was also an incident in this movie where a horse had taken off with Elvis in the saddle but he was unhurt. The filming of the scenes started on August 16th 1960 and would have many title changes during production . Flaming Lance to Flaming Heart then Black Heart, Black Star and finally, Flaming Star. Elvis even recorded the original title song Black Star. By the time the filming of Blue Hawaii came around he had become quite a good rider and him and the female co stars including Jenny Maxwell from the movie would often go riding on the Island.
Black Star and Trailer
  •  Elvis and Rising Sun -- It was'nt until 1966 that he decided to buy Priscilla a horse. It was a four year old black Quarter Horse called Domino that he purchased for her and a light cream colored horse, named Sheba, for Priscilla's friend,Sandy . Soon Elvis was on a quest for a horse of his own, but finding just the right horse wasn't easy. Priscilla Presley recalls how he specifically wanted a Golden Palomino and when a beautiful, palomino Quarter Horse, came up for sale Elvis bought the horse on the spot. Renamed him Rising Sun and the horse became Elvis's personal mount, and the horse barn soon bore the name House of  Rising Sun. This led in February of 1967 to Elvis purchasing a 163 acre cattle ranch just across the state line in Mississippi . The ranch was named the CircleG, in honor of Graceland. Many other horses were bought for the entourage at this time including Colonel Midnight for Vernon and Mare Ingram named after the then Mayor of Tennessee. Lisa Marie''s pony, Moriah and Bear, a Tennessee Walking horse and a favorite of everyone's. Elvis would often ride down to the gates of Graceland and show off for his fans, sit and chat from the saddle, and sign autographs. Then to their gasping admiration, he'd take off on Rising Sun at a dead gallop back towards the barn. 
Rising Sun Everett Brown
  •  Stay Away Joe and Charro --  Stay Away Joe is a movie where Elvis plays the part of Joe Lightcloud a native American rodeo rider. It was filmed at the Bradshaw Ranch in Cottonwood Arizona from October 9, 1967 to Nov 22nd. The ranch is now owned by the U.S government due to the prolific amount of UFO sightings in the area. Joe rides a white horse but I am unable to track down its name but Joe sells his horse for a red convertible. The next picture was from National General called Charro it was one of Elvis last movies and the script had been offered to Clint Eastwood who turned it down. Filming was done at Apacheland Junction Arizona. Elvis's horse in the movie was the same horse John Wayne used in his sixties movies, called Reno. Elvis had liked the script and was looking forward to playing the part of  Jess Wade. When Elvis arrived on set July 22nd 1968 expecting that quality script to work with as with all his movie ventures nothing stayed the same and with the violence and sex scenes being cut in the film, it left him dejected. At the recording sessions for Charro he would record three songs. The title song Charro written by Mac Davis and another Davis composition he had recently performed on the 68 special, Memories. Let's Forget About the Stars was also recorded here for the movie but cut.   
Scenes from Charro and Title Song

  • Elvis and Bear -- Elvis became so attached to Bear that when the horse died while Elvis was on tour, no one would tell him until he got home, fearing how the news would devastate him. When Elvis died the heart of Graceland died and when Alene Alexander who was hired as tour guide in 1982 looked in the pasture she saw five horses, in very poor shape. She bought it to the attention of  Graceland management. The staff had thought that the horses were just old. Alene was given the task of getting them back into top condition and she has been there ever since. One of those horses was Rising Sun who would finally pass away in 1986 and was buried facing east into the rising sun. The last horse Elvis purchased was Ebony Double in 1975 he lived to the ripe old age of 32, passing in 2005 . Priscilla says "Elvis used to look out his office window or bedroom window and watch the horses play. She then stated, "horses will forever remain at Graceland' . 
 Cut scenes and cut song Lets Forget About the Stars

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Elvis,Olivia and the Ferris Wheel

      Olivia's first hit was the Bob Dylan song, If Not For You in 1971. This was followed by Let Me Be There in 1973 and  If You Love Me in 74. Elvis and Olivia Newton John will always be connected through these two songs. Elvis himself stated how much he enjoyed both these John Rostill songs. Neither of them were recorded in the studio only in concert and were specificly for entertainment and fun purposes so he could interact with band members and fans.  Let Me Be There was added to his setlist in January of 1974. While, If You Love Me was included from the end of 1976. Elvis and the band had alot of fun with both these numbers. 
Let Me Be There in Your Mourning 
Charlotte 20/03/1976

  • Olivia and Grease -- The iconic movie Grease was Olivia's big break in the world of entertainment. The Australian superstar was well regarded in country music circles but worldwide fame had'nt quite struck until the Grease production which began in June of 1977. Almost to the day of Elvis's last live concert performance in Indianpolis on June 26th. Coincidently, the scene where the song ,"Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee" is featured and which references Elvis himself, was filmed on August 16th, the day of his death. 
 Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee
  •      She was cast alongside John Travolta who had just finished making Saturday Night Fever a few months before and was riding the wave of disco mania.The soundtrack for Fever was written by fellow Australians ,The Bee Gees as was the title song to Grease which was penned by Barry Gibb, himself . Grease had many Elvis connections due to it being set in the fifties but there is one, which leads us down memory lane and all the way, to the land of Oz.  In one of the final scenes at the school fare where Rizzo is riding the Ferris Wheel.  It takes us back to Roustabout in 1964 and Elvis singing,"Its a Wonderful World". 
  • The same wheel was used for both films.It was sold to Hawaii, following Grease and then brought to Australia in 1999 where it spent the next 19 years at the Glenelg, Semaphore Waterslide Park. It was only shut down at the start of June 2018. The symbolism of the Ferris Wheel is that of the wheel, the cycles of life and evolution. The Ferris Wheel also appears in the Elvis movie G.I.Blues where Tulsa sings Pocketful of Rainbows to Juliet Prowse and It Happened at the World's Fair.
  • The Ferris Wheel -- George Washington Ferris Jr. was a civil engineer specializing in bridges and other structural steel designs.  Paris had marked its 1889 world's fair with the Eiffel Tower, and Chicago was wanting something spectacular to be the centerpiece for its 1893 World's Columbian Exposition . The tower had the advantage of no moving parts, while Ferris's invention had to rotate. Ferris's design was 71 tons and had a 45 foot axle. After the fair, Ferris became immersed in a tangle of  lawsuits about debts he owed suppliers and that the fair owed him. The wheel was then bought and moved to St. Louis for that city's 1904 world's fair. Two years later it was scrap metal . It is also known as the Big Wheel and is a similar idea to the Pleasure wheels of the 17th century where passengers rode in chairs suspended from large wooden rings turned by strong men. The Big Wheel became a permanent feature at all fairs and shows for over a century and continues to be popular for young and old alike.
  • Elvis and Roustabout -- Elvis played the part of Charlie Rogers and it also starred many upcoming actors in Richard Kiel,Teri Garr and Raquel Welch. The soundtrack was Elvis final number one album on the billboard charts during the movie years. Songs on the album were written by Giant,Baum and Kaye, Joy Byers, Dolores Fuller and Ben Weisman. They included  Brand New Day on the Horizon, Big Love Big Heartache and Poison Ivy League. A cover of the Leiber and Stoller song, Little Egypt Ying! Yang! which was originally recorded by the Coasters was also added to the soundtrack.   
Coasters Little Egypt

The Ra Ra boys are being groomed for business some day. Poison Ivy League.
Raquel Welch in the blue dress.

  • John Rostill -- He was a bassist and member of the English band The Shadows until the band split at the end of the sixties. This is when John joined up with the legendary Tom Jones until his premature death when at the age of 31 he was found dead in the studio on November 26th 1973.
Elvis and Olivia 
O Come All Ye Faithful 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Two Poor Boys Who Loved To Sing

Singer Hank Ballard said 'There are two artists;
I don't think any two men on this planet ever had the charisma of Elvis Presley and Jackie Wilson'. 'The two of them remind me of each other; the charisma.
  • Jackie Leroy Wilson -- was born on June 9, 1934. He was an American soul singer and performer. A tenor with a four-octave vocal range, he was nicknamed "Mr. Excitement", and was important in the transition of  rhythm and blues to pop music.Wilson first gained fame with the group Billy Ward and his Dominoes, which he joined in 1953. He became a solo act in 1957. His first major hit, "Lonely Teardrops," was released in 1958. Jackie "Sonny" Wilson was born in Detroit, Michigan, the only son of Jack and Eliza Mae Wilson from Columbus, Mississippi. His father was an alcoholic and constantly unemployed, and his mother, who had lost two earlier children, doted on Jackie and became a powerful influence in his life. He began to sing at an early age, and even formed a quartet called The Ever Ready Gospel Singers Group. He began drinking at age nine, and in 1950 at age 16 dropped out of high school. He married Freda Hood, his childhood sweetheart, and a daughter arrived in March, 1951. Jackie collapsed on stage in 1975 and for the majority of the next nine years, he spent in a coma, dying on January 21, 1984.

  • Elvis Aron Presley -- was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, to Gladys Love Presley/Smith in the two-room shotgun house built by his father, Vernon Elvis Presley, in preparation for the birth. Jesse Garon Presley, his identical twin brother, was delivered 35 minutes before him, stillborn. Minnie Mae Hood married Jessie D. McDowell Presley on July 20, 1913. The couple welcomed their first child, Vernon Presley, on April 10, 1916.Vernon Presley served a nine month jail sentence for forgery. Interesting how Jackie married a Hood from Mississippi .
 Elvis and Jackie on Stage

  • Emmett Louis Till -- was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, the only child of Louis and Mamie Till. In August 1955,his uncle, Moses Wright, came up from Mississippi to visit the family in Chicago. At the end of his stay, Wright was planning to take Emmett's cousin back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives down South, and when Emmett, who was just 14 years old at the time, learned of these plans, he begged his mother to let him go . Initially, his mother was opposed to the idea. But Emmett desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi, and in a fateful decision that would have an impact on the course of American history, his mother relented. Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi on August 24, 1955, Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. What exactly transpired inside the grocery store that afternoon will never be known. He purchased bubble gum, and in later accounts he was accused of either whistling at, flirting with or touching the hand of the store's white female clerk and wife of the owner, Carolyn Bryant.
  •      This was a key incident in the black rights movement because four days later, Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J.W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett. They then beat the teenager brutally, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water. The men were tried for murder, but an all-white, male jury acquitted them. This fueled the emerging Civil Rights Movement. 

 Emmett Till 100 photos

  •       Twelve months after the Emmett Till incident a meeting of the two giants of the music industry occurred in Vegas. While there is no visual proof of them meeting. I would say it was quite possible as there is film of Elvis meeting Liberace and other celebrities at the Sahara, around this period. During the Million Dollar Quartet sessions at Sun records on December 4th 1956 . Elvis talks about the “slender” “colored” singer that he saw a couple of weeks prior in Las Vegas fronting Billy Ward’s Dominoes. The Dominoes had been playing the lounge at the Sahara and Elvis attended several of their shows.  Presley says the singer tried “Hound Dog” and didn’t do very well, but his version of “Don’t Be Cruel” was so impressive that Elvis spends a bit of time impersonating the impersonator doing his own song. Jackie  “sang hell outta that song” and did it better “than that record of mine.”  While he pokes fun of Wilson’s pronunciation of the word “telephone” in “Don’t Be Cruel”, getting a rousing laugh from the room, Elvis seems to have adopted Jackies spin on the word when he performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show a month later.
  •  Jackie Wilson on Elvis, 'A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis'.
Love Train Jackie Wilson 
Going to check in to Heartbreak Hotel

  • Jesse Belvin -- The night of February 6 1960 a concert performed by black entertainers to an integrated audience in Little Rock, Arkansas took place. When Jackie Wilson, Arthur Prysock, and Jesse Belvin took the stage racists interrupted the show several times to walk through the audience and demand that white teenagers leave. Jesse Belvin, his wife, and their driver died as a result of a car crash after that concert. It is widely believed that someone tampered with their car before they hit the highway. Jackie Wilson and his friends Sam Cooke and Jesse Belvin reached the peaks of their careers. Two of them Sam Cooke and Jesse Belvin met untimely deaths. The rage, racist white males felt at the thought of their white women, finding black men attractive , it was a risk, Jackie Wilson, faced on every tour.
The Way I Am 
Jackie Wilson

  • Jackie was bashed unconscious at one concert by police after coming to the assistance of his fellow performer who police were obstructing from singing on the front edge of the stage because of just this. Then in 1961 Jackie was shot twice in the stomach by Juanita Jones, an aspiring model, after hearing about his affair with Harlean Harris, ex-girlfriend of singer Sam Cooke. Wilson was rushed to the hospital where quick surgery saved his life, although he lost a kidney. Since one of the bullets was too close to his spine, doctors ruled out removing it. Wilson would have to carry it around for the rest of his life. Jackie Wilson was incredibly naive and easily trusting, something that his manager Tarnpool took advantage of and something i think Elvis and Jackie had in common or maybe they just wanted to sing/perform and not get into the dark money making side of the business which probably cost Sam Cooke his life. The problem is with corporate greed its a reality in the world of music as it is in all other walks of life. We have all heard about big record labels that steal money from their artists, exploit their stars to gain greater fortune and try to control young up and comers. These major record labels are like the Wall Street of music. Back in 1988 there were the big six, Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony, BMG, Universal Music Group and PolyGram only three continue today having absorbed their other competitors and established themselves as financially dominant on the music market.

  • Sam Cooke -- In the early 1960s, he started his own record company, SAR Records.He saw where the money was going. He understood why his fellow stars, such as his friend Jackie Wilson, made hit after hit without seeing the money they should be collecting. He wrote and published his own songs and he began buying back his own masters from RCA, insuring he would eventually take in a healthy return on reissues. In 1964, Jackie Wilson was tortured (literally) into resigning a contract with Brunswick/Tarnopol. It’s thought Jackie wanted to sign with his buddy Sam Cooke’s company and the story about Jackie’s torture and the murder of Sam Cooke in December of that same year,I believe ,were acts to keep artists in line. Cooke was one of the most prolific R&B singers of his time. With 19 albums and 29 Top 40 singles under his belt by the age of 33, it looked like nothing was going to stop him from taking over the world. Cooke and his long-time friend and singing associate J. W. Alexander started the SAR label in 1957.The label folded after Sam Cooke's death on December 11, 1964. Sam was making a strong commitment to the civil rights movement,at the time and his song A Change Is Gonna Come was adopted as a kind of anthem for the movement.

Jackie Wilson Talking about Elvis

  •        Starting from 1962 Jackie and Elvis became even closer with Wilson visiting various movie sets during the mid sixties. The first was on the Girls,Girls,Girls set as mentioned in Priscilla Presleys  book. While filming the sequence where Elvis performs Return To Sender she says Jackie was sitting right there in the studio and this is why you see the Jackie Wilson moves in his performance. He was doing an imitation of Jackie. They are similar to the moves he does in the filming of the song Bossanova Baby in 1963 except Jackie was'nt there, on this occassion. In May1965, Elvis started filming the movie Frankie and Johnny which was six months after the death of  Jackie's friend, Sam Cooke . Sam was shot by Bertha Franklin in the Hacienda Motel. It is interesting that one of Sam's final hit records, just a year, before his death was Frankie and Johnny. Then in 1966, Elvis friend and DJ, George Klein arranges a meeting of Elvis and James Brown at a Jackie Wilson show. Elvis walks over to James at his table and introduces himself. James was impressed that Elvis shook his hand in front of the crowd. After this show Elvis would attend an after party where a strong friendship would grow between the three of them. James would at times visit Graceland spending the night singing gospel songs for hours, with Elvis. Following this show Jackie would visit Elvis on the set of Double Trouble. A movie which would be one of the lowest point of  the Kings career.   
  • James Brown -- “I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother. 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”.When Elvis died James Brown was allowed to view Elvis, at the open casket for several minutes and was visibly saddened. James on Elvis dying, “his death hit me very hard. When he died, I said, ‘That’s my friend, I have to go”.

  •    During the seventies Elvis and Jackie would visit each others shows. In a 1974 concert you hear Elvis introduce Jackie and sings a one line of Higher and Higher. There is many images of the two together but the later ones from 74/75 are not flattering to either as they had both put on weight and the hard life of a musician had obviously started taking its toll on both. It was while performing at a Dick Clarke Show on September 29th 1975 that Jackie fell to his knees singing My heart is crying, people thought it was initially a part of the show. Jackie was never to recover remaining in a coma with moments of consciousness for nine years. It is believed Elvis visited Jackie in hospital and offered his family money for medical bills. This has never been varified by the family but i can envisage the King doing this. He loved Jackie who i think played a big part in many of Elvis performances. If you listen to Rags to Riches, a song he would record in 1970 . It is very close to Jackies version from Billy Ward and the Dominoes in 1953.

Two Poor Boys That Loved to Sing
From Rags to Riches
 Elvis Presley 1970

19 year old Jackie Wilson 1953

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Elvis and Mark James

Mark James or Francis Rodney Zambon a Texas born songwriter, first came to prominence penning "Hooked on a Feeling", a  number five hit for B.J. Thomas. However, his biggest career break occurred when Elvis Presley cut his song "Suspicious Minds", which landed him a monster number one hit around the world and helped resurrect "The King's" career as a recording artist. He also wrote songs for Brenda Lee and she was offered the grammy winning tune, "Always on My Mind". 

Its Only Love
     In 1966 B.J.Thomas had his first hit with a cover of Hank Williams, " I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and soon after he was signed by Sceptor Records. Then he sung a twenty minute set at Elvis 1968 New Years Eve bash supported by Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. It is believed this is where Elvis first heard Mark James, "Its Only Love ". He would later go on and record his version at a marathon session at RCA Studios in late May 1971 which produced three albums. It is believed Elvis had just finished cutting "I'm Leavin" and "We Can Make The Morning" at 4am on the 20th of May when he commenced the recording of "It's Only Love" . There is a vulnerability in his voice and although he follows the B.J.Thomas arrangement but he seems to add a new dimension to each line as it flows and builds in stature.
Elvis and Mark Raised on Rock 

 Mark and Elvis Meeting
    In the late 1960s, Mark James was signed as a staff songwriter to Memphis producer Chips Moman’s publishing company.  Moman then produced B.J.Thomas versions of  his songs "The Eyes Of A New York Woman", "Hooked on a Feeling", and "It's Only Love" from 1968 to 1969 as well as James own version of "Suspicious Minds," also produced by Moman, on Scepter Records in 1968, the recording was more-or-less the same arrangement, which became a smash for Elvis in the following year. Suspicious Minds was a song written during Mark's first marriage about a girlfriend called Karen who Mark cared a lot for and actually the song "Its Only Love" was written for Karen as well.

 On a bitter cold morning of January 13th 1969 at Chip Moman's American Sound Studios in Memphis, Elvis and Mark, first met. Mark had been told Elvis was coming in to record songs and if he could possibly pen one, that may suit him. Just two days before, he still had'nt come up with anything, good enough. Chips then suggested his back catalogue of songs and straight away, Mark thought of "Suspicious Minds" but after being told Elvis was coming in with forty songs to record , his hopes sunk. Mark stayed away on the first day, thinking Elvis had enough songs and did'nt go to the studio but after getting a call from Chips, saying Elvis liked the song and was going to record it. Mark became ecstatic and even though, nervous about meeting Elvis, got up the courage the following morning to go down and watch the session, as they took a break, he nervously went down and introduce himself. Mark said, " hey Elvis i heard you might cut Suspicious Minds". Mark on the meeting. "He was such a nice person and he later invited me to Vegas to watch him perform Suspicious Minds . That day I remember him getting straight up from the table with Sammy Davis and Andy Williams and coming over to me, shaking my hand and asking me, how i was doing". Mark and Elvis remained good friends throughout the seventies. Mark saw Elvis in concert numerous times during the 70s, one of these occassions was March 13th 1974 at Greensboro North Carolina. Elvis recorded many of his songs including Raised on Rock/Always on my Mind/ Its Only Love and one of his final recordings Moody Blue.Mark said, "After Elvis died, I heard he'd always asked the guys in the studio, 'Did Mark send me any more songs?' Golly, I wish I had known that." Mark James on Suspicious Minds " when I heard how it was embellished later, I was blown away". Felton Jarvis, Elvis's longtime producer was never happy that Elvis recorded at American Studios. It was a control thing. So when Jarvis took the tape of 'Suspicious Minds', he added this crazy 15 second fade toward the end, like the song was ending, and brought it back by overdubbing to extend it.
Mark and Elvis

 Elvis,Mark and Session Musicians

Always On My Mind

       Moman recorded the first demo cut on the song "Always on My Mind" with Wayne Carson who said that he wrote most of the song in ten minutes at his kitchen table in Springfield, Missouri, and completed the song in the studio. When Wayne Carson was in the studio recording, Mark James was working for him as a session musician .The musicians felt the song was complete, but Moman refused to record it unless they came up with a bridge . Carson asked Mark if he could help add a bridge to the song that Moman insisted it needed and a two-line bridge was then added.  B.J.Thomas recorded it in 1970. The song was passed to Elvis via a bodyguard but he did not record his version of "Always on My Mind" until March 29, 1972, a few weeks after his February separation from wife Priscilla. The song received immense fame and critical appreciation and is considered one of the standout songs of the '70s for Elvis. Moman produced Willie Nelson's version years later which would result in three wins at the 25th Grammy Awards in February 1983 for songwriters Christopher, James and Carson. It won Song of the Year and Best Country Song and in addition, Nelson won for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

Moody Blue

 "Moody Blue" was written and recorded by Mark in 1975 and passed on to Elvis for his final recording sessions on October 1976 which took place in the Jungle Room at Graceland. It would be released in January 1977 and be Elvis last number one country song before his death. He performed it live for the first time on February 20th that year. 
 Mark James Moody Blue

Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman --  June 12, 1937 died June 13, 2016 was an American record producer, guitarist, and Grammy Award-winning songwriter. In the 1960s, Moman worked for Stax Records before founding the American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, and later worked extensively in Nashville. As a record producer, Moman was known for recording Elvis Presley, Bobby Womack, Carla Thomas, and Merrilee Rush, as well as guiding the career of the Box Tops.

Mark's tribute to Elvis after his death. 
Blue Suede Heaven

Monday, October 2, 2017

Elvis and the Boxers

Jackie Wilson -- 2 Wins 8 Losses Higher and Higher
Jack Leroy Wilson Jr. was born on June 9, 1934, in Detroit, Michigan. Although Jackie was born in Detroit, his parents had moved up from Columbus, Mississippi in the 1920s . Like Elvis, Jackie had a very close relationship with his mother they virtually lived for each other. Jackie, too, was an only son. His mum, made him get out of boxing because she feared he would get hurt. His stagecraft in his live shows inspired James Brown, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, as well as a host of other artists that followed. Presley was so impressed with Jackie that he made it a point to meet him, and the two instantly became good friends. In a photo of the two posing together, Presley's caption in the photo reads "You got you a friend for life." Wilson was sometimes called "The Black Elvis" . Elvis used to say "I guess that makes me the white Jackie Wilson".  Elvis can be heard talking about Jackie Wilson during 'The Million Dollar Quartet' session in 1956. Elvis talks about a group he'd seen in Las Vegas, Billy Ward And The Dominoes." There's a guy out there who's doin' a take-off of me 'Don't Be Cruel'. He tried so hard, till he got much better, boy, much better than that record of mine". Elvis over the years went to see, Jackie's shows many times and the two stayed in contact regularly.Jackie would often visit Graceland and movie sets to see Elvis up until  he suffered a heart attack on stage in New jersey, in September 1975. Then for the next eight years he was in a state between life and death, unable to communicate for the entire period. He died in January 1984 and was buried in an unmarked grave outside his home city of Detroit. Elvis was said to have sent cheques to Jackie's mum to help with the medical bills at the time. Don't Be Cruel million dollar quartet

Bossanova Baby with his Jackie Wilson moves. 

Roy Hamilton -- 6 Wins 1 Defeat You Can Have Her
Roy Hamilton was born on April 16, 1929 and died July 20, 1969. Roy gave up boxing to take on a singing career in the early 1950's and by combining semi-classical technique with traditional black gospel , Roy gave soul to popular music of the 50's. He is best known for his recordings of "You'll Never Walk Alone", "Unchained Melody" and "Pledging My Love". Hamilton's style and sound directly influenced later artists such as Elvis , Jackie Wilson and The Righteous Brothers, all of whom covered his music. Hamilton recalled  his early venture into the music industry. "I really had nothing different to offer. They were seeking blues singers at the time, and I didn’t know any blues at all." So, to support himself while he developed the different sound and singing style he wanted, Hamilton took a job as an electronics technician during the day and became an amateur heavyweight boxer at night. His influence on Elvis cannot be under estimated and if you listen to Elvis recordings of many of Roy's songs you can hear the same bluesy/operatic vocals of which Roy was so famous. Songs like Hurt, Pledging my Love,The Impossible Dream, and You Can Have Her. It was'nt until January 1969 at Memphis Sound Studios that the two met and became friends. A song called Angelica written by Barry Mann was on Elvis's short list for recording but as the story goes he decided it would be a good song for Roy. It would become Roy's final single before his passing in July 1969.
You'll Never Walk Alone only time performed live 
Uniondale 1975 .

Lionel Rose -- 42 wins 11 losses Pick Me Up on Your Way Down
Australias Champion boxer who became the first aboriginal recipient of the Australian of the year award in 1968 and it was in this year he would, meet the king at the studio lot where Elvis was filming, Trouble with Girls. Elvis had requested the meeting because he was a big fan of Lionel's . Lionel got the message the day before his title fight in Los Angeles,while he was at the gym, practicing  and was a bit stunned at the request. Then the next day a car arrived to take him to the lot.  Born and raised at Jacksons Track in Victoria, Australia. Rose grew up in hardship and learned to box from his father. His father, Roy was a skilled fighter at local shows. Lionel followed his father into boxing. He would often fight larger opponents and was badly injured in his first amateur boxing match against one such opponent. He won the Australian amateur flyweight title at 15. In 1967 saw him win eight bouts including a thirteenth-round knockout win against Rocky Gattellari to defend his Australian championship before fighting, Harada for the world bantamweight title on 26 February 1968 in Tokyo. Rose was the first Aboriginal Australian to be a world champion boxer when he defeated Harada in the 15-round decision. This win made Rose an instant national hero in Australia and an icon among Aboriginal Australians. He also had a dabble in the music industry charting with Pick Me Up on your Way Down and I Thank You. Lionel's words on his own experiences with racial prejudice, condemns Anglo-Australians who are intolerant of diversity. He suggests that this discrimination is also connected with class, as he did not suffer from it when he became a world champion.

Lionels Autographed photo of Elvis and him.

Mohammad Ali -- 56 wins 5 losses The Gangs All Here
Ali was probably the one who had the closest relationship with Elvis which continued on until Elvis's death in 1977. Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer and activist. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, Muhammad Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. Following his suspension for refusing military service, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning famed bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman along the way. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He died on June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona.
   Mohammad Ali on Elvis -- "Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you'd want to know'. 'Elvis was my close personal friend. He came to my Deer Lake training camp about two years before he died. He told us he didn't want nobody to bother us. He wanted peace and quiet and I gave him a cabin in my camp and nobody even knew it. When the cameras started watching me train, he was up on the hill sleeping in the cabin. Elvis had a robe made for me. I don't admire nobody, but Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you'd want to know'. There is conflicting dates as to when Ali first wore the robe. Elvis first presented the robe to Ali before the fight against Joe Bugner but they say he never wore it until the Norton fight which he lost. New footage actually shows Ali wearing it at the Bugner fight. 

 Mohammad Ali and the Robe

Mushy Callahan --  67 fights 48 wins 
Mushy Callahan November 3 1904 to June 18 1986 was the ring name of Vincent Morris Scheer, a Los Angeles based boxing champion in the World Light Welterweight Division for five years from 1926-30. He took the ring name of Mushy Callahan.  He was nicknamed Mushy from his Hebrew name Moishe, or Moses. Callahan retired from professional boxing around 1932 after his last fight he began to referee boxing matches, in fact, over four hundred between December 1932, until November 1960. He stayed close to the Los Angeles area, so he could pursue his career in the movie industry, during this period. In 1937, he would appear in the original movie Kid Galahad, starring Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis. Also working as the trainer and advisor as he did in the Elvis musical remake of 1962 which was filmed in the location of Idyllwyld. There is more connections to be made here with the director, of the Elvis remake was also the director of the original Kid Galahad movie and possibly Presley's finest movie, King Creole, Mike Curtiz. Elvis plays the part of Walter Gulick and his love interest is Joan Blackman who also appears with Elvis in Blue Hawaii and of course was a love connection that dates back to 1956.

Kid Galahad and Idyllwyld and the old oak tree.

Elvis and Mushy Callahan photos
Ruby Rose is Lionel Roses Goddaughter

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Elvis and Spain

Las Vegas

 Never Been To Spain June 10th 1972 Madison Square Garden
So I headed for Las Vegas only made it out to needles.

       On this day, in 1905 in the U.S. state of Nevada, the City of Las Vegas, aka Sin City was founded. The name of the state and the city came from the Spanish language. Las Vegas means the meadows! Water from underground artesian wells in the desert region,help form the green meadows from where Las Vegas gets its name. The water enabled the foundation of the city in the desert and Vegas became one of the railroad stops, built to connect Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. 
          In 1931, Nevada legalized casino gambling and also witnessed the beginning of construction on nearby hoover dam. The influx of construction workers and their families helped Las Vegas avoid economic disaster during the Great Depression. The construction work was completed in 1935. Then, following World War II, lavishly decorated hotels, gambling casinos, and big-name entertainment became synonymous with Las Vegas
       In 1951  City residents and visitors were to witness the mushroom clouds and be exposed to  fallout from the nuclear tests carried out on a site northwest of Las Vegas. these continued until 1963.
During the 1960s, corporations and business powerhouses such as Howard Hughes were building and buying hotel-casino properties. Gambling was referred to as "gaming" which transitioned into legitimate business.  Elvis Presley made his Las Vegas debut in 1956 at the New Frontier Hotel and returned to Vegas to make the movie Viva Las Vegas,” which was filmed in and around the Flamingo Hotel in the summer of 1963. Elvis is a singing racecar driver Lucky Jackson, who''s love interest,is the Flamingo’s pool manager, Rusty Martin, played by Ann Margret. The movie shows scenes of a younger, roomier Las Vegas and the climactic race scenes were filmed from Fremont Street to Hoover Dam and Mount Charleston.

 Images from behind the scenes in Viva Las Vegas
         Then on May 1, 1967 Elvis 32 and Priscilla 21, married at the new Aladdin hotel. Colonel Parker organized it with the owner Mr Prell. The ceremony was performed before a few friends and relatives, in Prell’s private suite before the party opened up to a celebration breakfast of 100 friends and guests. Exactly nine months later on February 1st was the birth of daughter Lisa Marie.
The summer of 1969, Kirk Kerkorian was ready to open the International Hotel. With 1,519 rooms, it was the largest resort hotel in the world. To give it a proper opening, Kerkorian hired two of the day’s biggest stars: Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley. The story goes that the Colonel wanted Barbra to perform first to iron out any problems with the new venue. Elvis followed and strode onstage at the International on July 31, 1969. Now he was an all-round entertainer fronting a rock band polished and magnified by horns and strings. Elvis last performance in vegas was on December 12th 1976.

El Toro --- The Bull

Ole -- Bravo
The red cape -- The red cape is not used to make the bull charge . Bulls are actually colour blind. It is used to mask the blood of the bull and somewhat, disguise the cruelty of the kill .
The song El Toro, I believe, has Elvis taking the bull, El Toro''s side. The bull is the hero of this song defeating the Matador. 
The God Bull 
Because of its virility, power and regal presence, the bull has been an icon for worship in many ancient cultures. The bull was considered a sacred animal in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Egypt to name a few. It is common to see the bull offered as a blood sacrifice in these cultures.
 The bull was an attribute of  Zeus represented by the constellation of Taurus. He transformed himself into a glistening white bull. Zeus (in the guise of the white bull) unassumingly planted himself amongst the herds in an effort to capture the attention of the lovely Europa with whom Zeus was completely smitten. Classic art will show Europa riding a white bull. This is Zeus in the form of a bull, and touches on symbolism of passion, transformation, virility, strength and fulfillment.
The bull symbol is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It is thought this symbol was derived originally from the Semitic word for bull, and it is based on a pictograph that looks very much like a bull or ox head.
In Celtic symbolism the bull represented physical strength and power. To the Celtic way of thought, the bull was also extremely virile, and so symbolized fertility and the power to procreate to extend the life of the clans. Druids associated the bull with solar energy and the female cow with earth energy. 
La Paloma -- The Dove

La is the feminine in Spanish ! Where El is the masculine .
"La Paloma" belongs to a genre of songs called "Habaneras," a musical style developed in 19th-century Spain that is very much present today in the form of folk songs. The Habaneras, characteristic and distinct rhythm reflects the fusion of the local Cuban songs that the Spanish sailors brought back with them from their travels to the islands, with the rhythm structure of the Andalusian, flamenco. "La Paloma" became popular outside of Spain and is one of  the most-recorded Spanish songs. The original lyrics are a sailors lament after leaving his woman, he asks her to cherish his spirit if it returns to her window as a dove. Then he fantasizes that if he does return safely, they will marry and have seven, or even fifteen, children. Elvis version of La Paloma was titled, No More and first recorded for the Blue Hawaii soundtrack. The lyrics were written by Don Robertson. Don talking on how the song came about, "Ï received a letter from RCA asking me if i could write another adaption of a classical song similar to Its Now or Never for the movie Blue Hawaii. La Paloma came straight to mind but  I didn't have a copy of the music, so I worked it out from memory. This was probably a blessing in disguise, because it took on a unique quality, different from the song I had learned as a child. Hal Blair and I spent most of the day in my office in Hollywood. I sat at the piano and he pulled up a chair next to me and we followed our usual procedure, both of us coming up with lyric phrases and trying them out as I worked on the arrangement and sang in Elvis' style. The lyric and the arrangement gradually evolved until we had a song we thought would fit Elvis and that we felt he might like". March 21st 1961, elvis recorded No More at the Hollywood Studios.The following  recording was made for the Hawaii Benefit Concert , January 1973 production.

No More

Spanish Eyes  or  Moon Over Naples
Music written by Bert Kaemfert
      The earliest vocal version was recorded by Freddy Quinn in 1965 after its release, the single was pulled from the market, when Decca, Kaemfert's label, threatened to sue, claiming ownership of the song. A version by Sergio Franchi with lyrics by Charles Singleton was recorded in late 1965 titled "Moon Over Naples", but did not chart. It would become a hit single in 1966 for Al Martino when a new set of lyrics were written by composer Eddie Snyder, now titled "Spanish Eyes". Since then Kaemfert,Snyder and Singleton have had their names on the composition, as writers.
Elvis performed this song on rare ocassions, in concert and at rehearsals . His studio recording was released on the 1974 Good Times Album. There is also home recordings of Elvis singing this song.

 Si Si
Si, when it is written with an accent, it is pronounced using higher harmonics (in terms of frequencies), and generally with higher intensity, i.e. with stress. It means "yes
Si, if it is written without an accent, and it is pronounced using lower harmonics (in terms of frequencies), and much lower intensity than any typical word with a stress. It means "if"

Spanish Eyes and Spain 

Padre -- Father
In a late fifties interview Elvis is heard mentioning this song as one of his favorites.

Flamenco Dance
      It most likely originated in Andalusia from the 13th  to the 15th centuries, when Spain was under Arab domination, their music and musical instruments were modified and adapted by Christians and Jews, and later by gypsies. The flamenco dance and music that we see today are the results of centuries of amalgamating together, elements of the diverse cultures. Greek, Roman and later from Indian, Moorish, and Jewish cultures .
Flamenco consists of three distinct parts: the 'cante' or song, the 'toque' or playing of the guitar, and the 'baile' or dance.
The period, from 1869 to 1910, saw the appearance of cafes cantantes. These small venues organised, ticketed performances of Flamenco. Thanks to them,  Flamenco became a public attraction and increased in popularity amongst the general public.

The bird Flamingo gets its name from Flamenco.
Los Angeles -- The Angels
Vega --- The brightest star in the constellation Lyra, approximately 26 light years from Earth. Vega is one of the stars that make up the Summer Triangle.
Charro -- A Mexican Cowboy