The Musicians of Elvis Presley’s Memphis

A few months ago, Graceland opened a new entertainment and exhibit complex, called Elvis Presley’s Memphis. The complex, much larger than the former Graceland Plaza, features the world’s largest Elvis museum, a new automobile museum, Discovery Exhibits covering Elvis’ Army years, his life in Tupelo, his style and much more. There’s a soundstage that shows Elvis movies and concerts and restaurants named after his parents. Thanks to the expansion, more artifacts from Graceland Archives are on display than ever before. While Graceland shares details of Elvis’ personal life, the complex is all about his career and accomplishments. It’s only fitting, then, that we have Memphis musicians who perform at the complex daily. Whether they’re playing their own versions of Elvis hits or something they wrote, these musicians are channeling the king’s musical energy and influence to entertain Graceland guests. Let’s get to know these musicians, and feel free to say hi or request a song if you see them playing at Elvis Presley’s Memphis! Vinnie Hines There’s a chance you’ve seen Vinnie Hines before. He was a contestant on “American Idol” season 15, and for four years, he entertained thousands of guests as he toured for nearly four years with Carnival Cruise Lines. These days, though, the 26-year-old Auburn, Illinois, native is performing in the Bluff City. Hines was in college studying architecture when he was asked to fill in for his cousin’s band. He realized music was his true calling, so he left college and started pursuing music full time. His style, he said, is a mixture of rock and soul. “Distorted guitar combined with groovy bass lines and classic soul vocals make up my Bill Withers meets Maroon 5 vibe,” Hines said. Hines comes from a long line of Elvis fans. He grew up listening to Elvis’ music with his grandmother, and his sister is a big Elvis fan, too. “For almost 10 years,” he said, “she dressed up as a tiny sequin-studded Elvis for Halloween and for any other excuse she could find.” Hines has released a debut album, “HQ,” and he plays around Memphis, as well as at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. His music can be found on both iTunes and Spotify, and you can follow him on Facebook. Alejandro Paredes At Elvis Presley’s Memphis, Alejandro Paredes is playing music he loves for people who love it, too. Paredes – or Alex Walls, his more English-friendly stage...
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45 Years Ago: Elvis Presley Sells Out Madison Square Garden

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll shattered many records during his incredible career. Forty-five years ago this weekend, he became the first entertainer in history to sell out four consecutive shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Elvis’ Madison Square Garden shows were the first time Elvis performed in front of a live audience in New York since his TV appearances on the Dorsey Brothers, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan shows in 1956 and 1957. Elvis performed before an audience of 20,000 fans at each of the four shows that took place June 9-11, 1972 (that’s a total of 80,000 fans for the entire weekend). Initially, only three shows were booked, but those sold out instantly, so the fourth show on June 11 was added. Elvis held a press conference on June 9 at the New York Hilton, where he candidly answered questions from reporters. Here are a few of those questions and answers: Reporter: You used to be criticized so much for our long hair and gyrations, and you seem so modest now. Elvis: Man, I was tame compared to what they do now, are you kidding…I didn’t do anything but just jiggle. Reporter: Elvis, are you satisfied with the image you’ve established? Elvis: Well the image is one thing; a human being is another. Reporter: How close does it come? How close does the image come to the man you really are? Elvis: It’s very hard to live up to an image. I’ll put it that way. Reporter: Why do you think you’ve outlasted every other entertainer from the fifties, and for that matter, the sixties as well? Elvis: I take Vitamin E. (laughs) I was only kidding. I don’t know. I just…embarrass myself. I don’t know dear, I just enjoy the business. I like what I’m doing. Elvis’ setlist for all four shows included his early hits, fan-favorite songs from his movies and newer hit songs. “American Trilogy,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “That’s All Right,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” were all included at each of the shows. David Bowie, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Art Garfunkel were spotted at the shows. Elvis received rave reviews in three features in the New York Times. “He looked like a prince from another planet, narrow-eyed, with high Indian cheek bones and a smooth brown skin untouched by his 37 years,” Chris...
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Elvis Presley’s Graceland at 35

Before Graceland opened to the public in 1982, it was practically unheard of for fans to take a tour of their favorite celebrity’s home. Thirty-five years later, millions of Elvis fans from around the world have done just that at Elvis Presley’s Graceland. They’ve experienced the colorful Jungle Room and imagined watching TV with the ceramic monkey in the TV Room. They’ve been wowed by walls of awards and sparkling jumpsuits. They’ve stepped aboard his airplanes and taken selfies with his famous Pink Cadillac. Graceland opened to the public for tours on June 7, 1982 – 35 years ago. Graceland has remained largely unchanged, but the Graceland experience has evolved and expanded into something you have to see to believe. Check out this timeline and learn about how Graceland’s tours have changed over the years. June 7, 1982 – Graceland opens for tours. Elvis’ cars were still in the carport, as no Car Museum had been created yet. Guests were transported to the mansion in vans, after purchasing a ticket across the street at a ticket office, which included a gift shop. Tour tickets were $5. More than 3,000 guests toured Graceland on opening day. February 22, 1984 – Elvis’ jet, the Lisa Marie, arrives in Memphis and is brought down Elvis Presley Boulevard to its present location. Elvis Presley Enterprises acquires the shopping center across the street from the home. Later in 1984, one of Elvis’ tour busses and his small Jetstar are loaned to Graceland, and are opened for tours. Graceland also celebrates its 1 millionth visitor this year. 1985 – Graceland’s corporate offices open across the street from Elvis Presley’s Graceland, in what would later become the Car Museum. Gift shops and restaurants, including Heartbreak Hotel Restaurant, EP’s LPs (a music store) and Graceland Hall (complete with a dance floor and carnival games), open up in that same shopping center across the street, in what will eventually become the Graceland Plaza. 1987 – Christmas Wonderland at Graceland opens. It features special mechanical light displays, a dancing water show, horse-drawn carriage rides and a Christmas choir. 1989 – The Trophy Room is renovated, and the corporate offices move from across the street to a building near the mansion. The Elvis Presley Automobile Museum opens across the street on June 12, 1989. Vernon’s Office opens to the public. July 3, 1989 – Graceland welcomes a record number of...
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The King’s Men: The Jordanaires

If you’ve enjoyed an Elvis Presley song, chances are you’ve also enjoyed the sweet sounds of The Jordanaires. The quartet sang backup vocals on many, many of Elvis’ hits, including “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Don’t,” and “Surrender,” just to name a few. We’ve shared the stories of the artists and producers who helped shape Elvis’ iconic sound, like the Blue Moon Boys and Sam Phillips, so this week, let’s get to know The Jordanaires members. The quartet formed in 1948 in Springfield, Missouri, by brothers Bill and Monty Matthews. The group sang barbershop and gospel music, and debuted on the Grand Ole Opry in 1949. Elvis heard The Jordanaires perform in October 1954 with country singer Eddy Arnold at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis. He met the guys in the group and told them he loved their sound, and that he hoped they could work together. In 1956, as Elvis’ music and movie career was really taking off, he called on the group to sing backup for him on his records and at live performances. At that time, The Jordanaires were Gordon Stoker (first tenor), Hoyt Hawkins (baritone), Neal Matthews (second tenor, and in no relation to the founding Matthews members) and Hugh Jarrett (bass). Ray Walker replaced Hugh Jarrett in 1958. The Jordanaires’ line-up has changed several times throughout the years. The Jordanaires backed Elvis on his early television performances, including his “Ed Sullivan Show” performances. The quartet backed him at his concerts, too, including his 1956 Homecoming show in Tupelo. The band backed Elvis on everything from his rock tunes to gospel numbers, from Christmas songs to his movie soundtracks. The Jordanaires worked with Elvis until 1969. As his movie career came to a close, Elvis started prepping his return to the stage, but The Jordanaires decided to stay home in Nashville. They had a steady workload as studio musicians, working two to four sessions a day, six days a week, for more than 20 years. The quartet backed country, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and pop artists. You can hear The Jordanaires on hits like “Crazy,” by Patsy Cline, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn and “Travelin’ Man” by Ricky Nelson, and the band has also recorded with top country stars likes of Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr and Johnny Cash. It has been estimated that more than 8 billion records featuring...
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Elvis Presley’s #1 Hits – Part 2

It’s easy to say that Elvis Presley had a lot of hit singles. Even the most casual fan can sing a few lines from his biggest hits. But there’s more to Elvis, and to those songs, than catchy hooks and topping the charts. In January, we shared some insights into a handful of Elvis’ No. 1 hits, and this week, we’re doing it again, taking a look at another five of Elvis’ hit singles. Keep reading to find out who wrote these tunes, where Elvis recorded them and much more. “Love Me Tender” “Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go…” This song is such a classic. “Love Me Tender” was written for Elvis’ first film of the same name. Elvis’ version is based on the Civil War-era tune “Aura Lee,” written in 1861 by W.W. Fosdick and George R. Poulton. Later, “Aura Lee” was changed to “Army Blue,” and it was used as the class song for the West Point class of 1865. “Love Me Tender” is Elvis’ version, and it was adapted by Ken Darby, the movie’s musical director. He shared writer’s credits with his wife, Vera Matson, and Elvis. However, neither helped with the writing. Elvis recorded “Love Me Tender” on August 24, 1956, at Fox Stage 1 in Hollywood. This session felt a little unfamiliar to Elvis: he had to record on a massive 20th Century Fox soundstage, and he was not joined by his regular band and back-up singers. The musicians on this recording include Vito Mumolo on guitar, drummer Richard Cornell, bass player Mike “Myer” Rugin, Luther Rountree on banjo and Dom Frontieri on accordian. Charles Prescott, Jon Dodson and Rad Robinson performed vocals. Bob Mayer and Ren Runyon engineered the song. The second take of the song was used as the single, and it shipped to stores about a month after it was recorded, on September 28, 1956. Fans loved it. “Love Me Tender” was No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart for five weeks, and it stayed on the charts for a total of 23 weeks. The song charted at No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B singles and Country singles lists. “Love Me Tender” reached No. 11 on the British pop singles chart. The hit song has been covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Linda Ronstadt, Barry Manilow and Percy Sledge, as well as Barbara Streisand,...
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