Play the ’68 Special 50th Anniversary Trivia Game

We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ ’68 Special this month! Check out our previous blogs about the ’68 Special: 50th Anniversary “If I Can Dream” Bill Belew Take the quiz below – and don’t forget to plan your visit to Elvis Presley’s Graceland! We hope you’re inspired to visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee! Start planning your visit...
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’68 at 50: Elvis’ Iconic Special Turns 50

In 50 minutes – from “Trouble” to “If I Can Dream” – Elvis Presley reaffirmed his title as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis’ iconic, game-changing special debuted on NBC 50 years ago, on December 3, 1968 at 9:00 pm ET. It was immediately a smashing success, garnering about 42% of the viewing audience, and 50 years later, it’s still one of Elvis’ most defining moments in a career full of iconic performances, movies and music. Elvis spent much of the 1960s making movies, and he was growing weary of it. He wanted to return to his music career, so in 1967, his manager, Col. Tom Parker, began negotiations to produce a television special with NBC. The show would mark Elvis’ first television appearance and live performances in more than eight years. In 1968, Elvis was 33. He and Priscilla had married in 1967, and they became parents in February 1968 when Lisa Marie was born. The special, now known as the ’68 Special, was named simply “Elvis,” and it was now time to find the perfect creative team to create the special. Bob Finkel, who had produced the successful “Andy Williams Show” (for which he had won Emmy Awards), signed on to be the special’s executive producer. Col. Parker wanted the special to have a Christmas theme, as it was airing in December, but Finkel talked Parker out of that idea. Instead, Finkel and other executives wanted to celebrate Elvis’ natural charisma and talent, and to tell a story loosely based on Elvis’ life. The Singer Company, known for its sewing machines, became the special’s only sponsor, and Singer executive Alfred D. Scipio liked the semi-documentary feel of the special, which would showcase Elvis as an innovator in music. The concept, he felt, complemented Singer products. Steve Binder, then 36, was hired as the special’s director. He had planned to go into medicine, but after meeting with members of the music industry, he turned his focus to music and directing musical productions. He had a natural talent for it and he directed many successful projects, like the TV shows “Hullabaloo” and “Shindig.” He also directed the 1965 documentary “TAMI Show,” which featured artists such as The Beach Boys, The Supremes, James Brown, Lesley Gore, The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry. Elvis had enjoyed that production, and, after Binder produced a new Petula Clark special, his reputation was...
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‘Live a Little, Love a Little’ at 50

This blog could have been called “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” at 50, but thank goodness, it’s not. That was the original title to Elvis Presley’s 28th movie, “Live a Little, Love a Little.” Released in October 1968, the comedy just turned 50. In addition to plenty of laughs, the movie gave us one of Elvis’ biggest hits, “A Little Less Conversation.” Let’s take a look back at this comedy, and say farewell to one of the king’s co-stars, on this week’s Graceland Blog. “Live a Little, Love a Little” is based on the novel “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” by Dan Greenburg. Greenburg became a best-selling writer with his 1964 book “How to Be a Jewish Mother.” He adapted “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” into a screenplay with Michael A. Hoey. Other working titles for the film include “Bumblebee Oh Bumblebee” and “Born Rich.” Greenburg also wrote for the TV show “Adam’s Rib.” Hoey grew up around Hollywood movie studios, as his father was character actor Dennis Hoey. He worked with director Norman Taurog on several Elvis movies, including “Spinout,” “Stay Away Joe,” “Tickle Me” and “Live a Little, Love a Little.” He received two Emmy Award nods for his work on “Fame,” the TV show, and he produced several Emmy Award-winning shows. “Live a Little, Love a Little” was directed by Norman Taurog, who directed nine Presley pictures – more than any other director. He directed “G.I. Blues,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls!Girls!Girls!” “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” “Tickle Me,” “Spinout,” “Double Trouble” and “Speedway.” “Live a Little, Love a Little” was not only his last Elvis movie to direct, but the last movie he directed at all – he retired from directing after making this film. He later taught at the University of California School of Cinema and remained a board member of the Director’s Guild. Elvis reported to MGM Studios on March 4, 1968, to begin pre-production. He worked with musical conductor and writer Billy Strange – who he collaborated with on several films and on the ’68 Special – and recorded the soundtrack on March 7. Filming began on March 13, and locations included the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Marineland, the Hollywood Citizen News building, Los Angeles Music Center and the streets of Hollywood Hills. In “Live a Little, Love a Little,” Elvis stars as photographer Greg Nolan. He’s working for two employers...
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Six Degrees of Elvis Presley

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is one of the most well-connected celebrities. Of course, Elvis worked with some of the most influential and legendary artists of his day, including Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Perkins, Ann-Margaret, Jerry Lee Lewis, Angela Lansbury, and many, many others. It’s through those connections that you can connect Elvis to today’s biggest actors and singers. Naturally, there are countless connections to be made – but here are just a few of our favorites. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll loved comic books, and he’d probably be amused that he’s just a few degrees from today’s biggest comic book superhero movie stars. Actor Kurt Russell appears briefly in Elvis’ 1963 film “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” and Russell has enjoyed a lengthy career. In 2017 he starred in the blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” alongside stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper – putting them all just two degrees away from Elvis. Cooper stars in and directs the new hit musical “A Star is Born” with Lady Gaga, putting Gaga only three degrees from the king.   Actor and dancer Russ Tamblyn served as an uncredited choreography advisor for “Jailhouse Rock.” Tamblyn’s daughter, Amber, is an actress and has starred in films like “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “The Ring” and “127 Hours,” plus TV shows like “Joan of Acadia,” “General Hospital” and “Two and a Half Men.” That puts Amber at just two degrees from the king.   The legendary Angela Lansbury starred in “Blue Hawaii” as Elvis’ character’s mom – even though Lansbury was just 10 years older than the king. Lansbury is still working; in fact, she’ll star in the upcoming “Mary Poppins Returns,” starring Emily Blunt and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. That, too, puts those stars at just two degrees away from the king. Another star with just two degrees from Elvis is Whitney Houston. The legendary singer’s mother, Cissy Houston, sang back-up for Elvis as a member of The Sweet Inspirations. (She also sings on the new Elvis gospel record, “Where No One Stands Alone.”) Actor George Clooney also has family connections to the king. George Clooney is the nephew of the legendary actress and singer Rosemary Clooney, and she starred in “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby. Elvis has two connections to Crosby’s family: Crosby’s nephew Chris Crosby presented Elvis...
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Elvis Presley’s #1 Hits – Part 7

Here we are, Elvis fans… the last part in our Elvis’ #1 Hits series. It’s really incredible to consider Elvis’ success. Fans often gasp when they round the corner to see his wall of gold at the Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum. So many Gold, Platinum and Diamond Records. So many awards. So many records sold, so many spins on the record player, jukebox and CD and, now, so many digital streams. So many lives touched. This final part of our series spotlights a few of the king’s biggest hits. Learn more about Elvis’ #1’s in the previous parts of this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6. Be sure to tell us your favorite Elvis hit in the comments! “Heartbreak Hotel” “Well, the bellhop’s tears keep flowin’ And the desk clerk’s dressed in black Well, they’ve been so long on Lonely Street Well, they’ll never, they’ll never get back…” According to songwriters Mae Axton and Tommy Durden, the inspiration for this blues song came from an article in the Miami Herald. According to the story, a man had completed suicide and left no identification or any other information, aside from a note that read, “I walk a lonely street.” A demo of the song was made by Glen Reeves, and Axton took that demo to a DJ convention in Nashville, where she played it for Elvis. She offered him a share of the writers’ publishing ownership if the song would be his first new single release for RCA, which had just purchased his recording contract from Sun Records. Elvis and his band recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” on January 10, 1956, at RCA studios in Nashville in his first recording session for RCA. Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins were on guitar, with Bill Black on bass and D.J. Fontana on drums. Floyd Cramer played piano. Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires, plus Ben and Brock Speer, provided background vocals. The original lyrics were “they pray to die,” but were changed to “they could die.” Take 7 was chosen as the single, and it was released on January 27, 1956. The young King of Rock ‘n’ Roll had a hit – by April, it sold a million copies. “Heartbreak Hotel” became Elvis’ first #1 on Billboard’s pop singles chart and his first gold record award winner. It reigned on the Billboard pop charts for eight weeks of...
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