Elvis Week Day 5 – Epically Elvis

BY JON WATERHOUSE Without fail, something epic drops daily at Elvis Week. Yesterday, however, things hit a peak. The day began with computer glitches, which had me struggling to meet my blog deadline. Soon after wrapping, I found myself sprinting to the sold-out Conversations on Elvis: Elvis Family & Friends event at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Unfortunately, I missed most of it. Host Tom Brown would later tell me Bill Medley’s appearance was not only monumental, but monumentally hilarious. After telling the audience the story of Elvis crashing the stage in the middle of a Righteous Brothers performance, Medley followed suit by walking across the stage in the middle of Jerry Schilling’s interview. I did, however, arrive in time to catch Priscilla Presley’s Q&A with Tom. She spoke about a variety of things, including the upcoming Elvis Exhibit at the O2 Arena beginning in November; Elvis’ personal search for spirituality; his love for road trips; and more. When chatting about his penchant for gadgets, she said, “I think he wanted to be James Bond.” Priscilla then commented on the fact Elvis was one of the first people in the world to have a cellular phone. As far as contemporary digital tech goes, however, she said she couldn’t have imagined Elvis taking a selfie. The conversation ended with Priscilla thanking the fans for their continued support. Backstage, she shook my hand before saying, “Keep on blogging.” My reply: “A blogging we will go.” Here are a few excerpts from Priscilla’s onstage conversation with Tom Brown: On seeing Elvis perform live for the first time: “I had never seen Elvis perform before until ‘The ’68 Comeback Special.’ You have to remember, he had only done movies. He was doing three movies a year, and he hadn’t (performed live) in 10 years. I was in the audience and saw him perform in the round. Mind you, this was a small studio set. So, I’m looking at him performing, and I think, ‘Oh, my God. I finally get it.’ He came out in that black leather suit, and I almost ran up to the front to give him a kiss myself.” On The Guest House at Graceland hotel: “With our new partners, we’ve been able to fulfill the dream that we’ve always wanted. When we started, Jack Soden and I always wanted to have a nicer and better place. We always wanted to have...
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Elvis Week Day 4 – Gold and Platinum Records, and Legends – Oh My!

By Jon Waterhouse If they gave badges for making mistakes in life, mine would be the biggest and shiniest. Yes, I slipped, I stumbled, I fell. Repeatedly. Yet, when you look down at your phone and see a text image of your 13-year-old son rocking the Elvis Presley Snapchat lens, you know you’ve done something right. Due to the proper exposure, our boy Levi was loving the king before he could walk. And while I was attending yesterday’s Official Graceland Insiders Conference at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, inspiration struck. Now I know what to bring home to him: CD copies of Elvis’s albums with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. While watching Priscilla Presley’s acceptance of a pair of gold and platinum record awards for “If I Can Dream” and “The Wonder of You,” respectively, I realized Levi didn’t have those in his collection. And he needs them. A gazillion Elvis fans can’t be wrong. Backstage after the acceptance, Priscilla, Jerry Schilling, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ CEO Jack Soden, and others mingled with record label staff. The framed awards sat nearby, propped up on chairs and shining beneath florescent lights. When Priscilla and the record company team posed around the awards for pics, I suppressed the urge to photobomb. The crowd began to disperse, and I noticed a familiar face entering backstage. Wanda Jackson, the queen of rockabilly and a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, made her way toward the dressing room. My inner fan boy threatening to explode from within, I managed to keep it at bay while smiling and shaking her hand. Wanda’s catalog —from 1958’s blistering single “Fujiyama Mama” to her contemporary albums such as 2011’s “The Party Ain’t Over”— stays in heavy rotation on my iPod. Wanda’s Elvis connection remains the stuff of legend. Her country music career began in 1952 while Wanda was in her teens. After graduating high school in 1955, she began touring with her father, Tom Jackson, who managed her career. She soon found herself on a bill with Elvis, and the pair became fast friends. They even dated briefly in 1955 and 1956. In fact, she cites Elvis as someone who pushed her to venture into rock ‘n’ roll. Today Wanda’s musical significance continues. An endless array of artists call her an influence, including Adele and Jack White, the latter producing “The Party Ain’t Over.” At the moment, Wanda is collaborating with producer...
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Elvis Week Day 3 – Rockin’ the Exhibits at Elvis Presley’s Memphis

By Jon Waterhouse If I had to choose one person to guide me through the new museum spaces at Elvis Presley’s Memphis —with the exception of Elvis himselvis— it would be Angie Marchese, director of archives for Elvis Presley Enterprises. And yesterday Angie gave me the grandest of tours. A large portion of the 40-acre entertainment complex consists of vibrant exhibit halls showcasing everything from the king’s shimmering stage wear to his fleet of slick rides and all points in between. In addition to overseeing and preserving the vast Presley archives in storage, and managing a staff of 26, it’s Angie who determines how the collection is displayed, right down to the paint that’s slathered on the walls. If you like the up-close-and-personal and take-all-the-time-you-want aspects of the new museums, you have Angie to thank. Not only does she have a comprehensive and detailed knowledge of the museums’ contents, Angie rocks Elvis trivia like a computerized databank. As we trekked our way around the grounds, Angie shake, rattled, and rolled off facts faster than my note-taking hand could write. The following are the highlights from my tour of Elvis Presley’s Memphis with Angie Marchese: The Country Road to Rock: The Marty Stuart Collection The complex has permanent exhibits and rotating ones, the latter which Angie and the staff refer to as “discovery zones.” These specific areas take a specialized look at different aspects of Elvis’ life and career. This one examines the country music and style that influenced a pre-fame Elvis. Country star Marty Stuart shares portions of his impressive collection of genre memorabilia, much of it from the Grand Ole Opry’s heyday, which seeped into Presley’s pores. Elaborate stage duds, like Hank Snow’s floral suit by legendary designer Nudie Cohn, certainly rubbed off on Elvis. The exhibit also shows Elvis’ own influence on country music entertainers. A pair of sunglasses Elvis gave to the recently departed Glen Campbell glisten beneath the lights. Mystery Train: The Sam Phillips Exhibit Across the hall from the Stuart collection, you’ll find the story of Sam Phillips, the groundbreaking record producer not only responsible for discovering Elvis, but for helping lay the groundwork for rock ‘n’ roll. At the helm of Memphis Recording Service, Phillips recorded Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, and other African-American artists he thought deserved to be heard. One was Jackie Brenston, who many critics cite as cutting the first rock...
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Elvis Week Day 2 – Elvis Week Shop-a-Thon, Part One

By Jon Waterhouse Fellow die-hard Elvis fans know the feeling. Our burning love for the king often blazes all the way from our hearts to our wallets. When it comes to Elvis merchandise, my hands start shaking, my knees get weak, and I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet. I just can’t enough. Is there a support group for this sort of thing? If so, sign me up. Let’s just wait until after Elvis Week. For now, I’m shopping until I’m dropping. And there’s no better place to do it than at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Yesterday, I began my spree, and came across gaggles and gaggles of goodies. Check out these super, awesome finds: The Joe Petruccio Collection When I pack for Elvis Week, I load the suitcase with my collection of Elvis T-shirts. But there’s always room for one or 10 more. This line of shirts featuring the art of Joe Petruccio beg to jump off of the shelf and onto my back. The styles are many, and each features one of Joe’s signature Elvis-inspired paintings or drawings. “The Candlelight Vigil” Book The Candlelight Vigil will always be the centerpiece of Elvis Week. It’s what started it all. This hardcover book tells the visual story with photos, newspaper clippings, and more straight out of the Graceland Archives. “A Boy From Tupelo – The Complete 1953-55 Recordings” Nothing quite compares to the raw, unbridled energy of early Elvis. This three CD set —it’s also available digitally— is the most comprehensive collection of early Presley material ever released. You get every known Sun Records master and outtake, live performances, radio recordings, Elvis’ self-financed first acetates, and more. A newly discovered live recording of “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” has me going ga-ga. The Elvis Presley Museum Collection These framed artifacts from Graceland Authenticated are nothing short of amazing. You can take home a piece of Col. Parker’s Elvis stationary from 1956, a swatch of Elvis’ clothing, a target shot from the king’s Colt 45 pistol, and more. Come back soon to the blog. I’ll be hitting the gift shops for round two. If you can’t make it to Graceland, you can find some of these products and more at store.graceland.com. HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GOSPEL MUSIC OF ELVIS PRESLEY CELEBRATION CONCERT Although Elvis loved a variety of musical genres, gospel rose to the top of his list....
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Elvis Week Day 1 – TCB on the Dance Floor

By Jon Waterhouse There was rain in my shoes, but it wasn’t of the Kentucky variety. I could feel it seeping into my Varvatos kicks, my socks quickly soaking up the moisture. Moments before yesterday’s Elvis Fan Reunion Event at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, sheets of precipitation swept the parking lot as I splashed my way across it. Just like Elvis sang in “Kentucky Rain,” the stuff was indeed cold. Arriving at the Fan Reunion, the chill was quickly replaced. I soon began feeling warmth from the inside out. Connecting and reconnecting with fellow fans at Elvis Week really does resemble a family reunion. Making my way through the Soundstage, that instantaneous, unspoken bond felt more alive than ever. The familiar faces, hugs and handshakes came quick, a unique byproduct of Elvis’ impact. Special guests, including ever-amazing Elvis artist Betty Harper and legendary TCB Band axeman James Burton, shared their stories with fans. Co-hosts Tom Brown, Memphis Jones, Argo, Dean Z, and Joey Sulipeck asked trivia questions, doled out prizes, and visited with their fellow inhabitants of Elvis World. Joey, an ace Memphis meteorologist, eventually invited me onstage, giving me the chance to share my feelings regarding the Elvis Week fan connection. Carrying on my tradition of snapping selfies with Elvis Week celebs, I took one of Joey and I from the stage, before turning my camera on the crowd. MY MEAL AT VERNON’S SMOKEHOUSE After the Fan Reunion, I decided to duck into a restaurant, those gray clouds threatening to drop more rain. The choice: Vernon’s Smokehouse, a quick-service eatery at Elvis Presley’s Memphis where southern comfort food wraps your taste buds like one of Granny’s cozy quilts. Guests can go for the meat-and-two concept with items such as fried chicken tenders and fried or baked catfish buddying next to a choice of veggies. Knowing Elvis’ fondness for meatloaf, I requested a slab with sides of collard greens and mashed potatoes. The loaf provided a flavorful punch of protein, and the chunks of ham hiding beneath the bed of collards brought just the right amount of smoke to the table. After shoveling spoonfuls of the gravy-soaked taters, the idea of jumping face-first into a creamy vat of it crossed my mind. Yet, I have to say the BBQ sampler stole the show. The gentleman at the carving station piled a plate full of ribs, pork, BBQ sausage, and beef...
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