Guest Blog: My Elvis Story

This guest blog is by Ann Moses, who was editor at “Tiger Beat Magazine” from 1965 – 1972 and sat on the stage for Elvis’ “’68 Comeback Special,” toured Elvis’ and Colonel Parker’s offices, observed filming for “Change of Habit” and attended Elvis’ opening show in July 1969 in Las Vegas. Here, she shares her memories of being a part of the 1970 documentary, “Elvis: That’s The Way It Is.” Hear from Ann at Elvis Week 2018 at Conversations on Elvis: Elvis Connections, on Friday, August 17 at the Graceland Soundstage. Get tickets to this event now. By Ann Moses It seems as though every person I meet has their own personal Elvis story. For some it was seeing him for the first time on TV or hearing him for the first time on the radio, for others it was the first day of a love affair with a man few of them would meet. My personal Elvis story began in 1956. I was nine years old and as was our Sunday night custom – we had dinner on TV trays in front of the family TV. Back in the day, at least in our house, my dad would be the one to choose what TV shows we would watch. Luckily, Sunday night in Anaheim, California, “The Ed Sullivan Show” was on at dinnertime, airing at 7 p.m., I think. Our menu was always the same (almost). Every other night of the week my mom made a home cooked meal and we sat at the dinner table as a family. Sunday was mom’s “day off” from cooking and we had Pink’s hamburgers (10¢), French fries, and malts. Pink’s was a pre-McDonalds hamburger stand just a mile from our house. My dad would drive and pick up the order and it was always a special treat. Every other Sunday he would pick up two take-out pizzas from a pizza place down the street. Mom would make a green salad with blue cheese dressing as a side dish. It was in this iconic ‘50s setting that my Elvis story began. On September 9, 1956, my older brother (by 18 months) and I were absolutely blown away when Elvis sang “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Love Me” and “Hound Dog.” We had heard his songs on the radio, but seeing Elvis on TV changed everything. He was like nothing we had seen...
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‘King Creole’ at 60

Fans, critics and Elvis himself all agree on one thing: “King Creole” is one of the best movies he made. Out of the 31 feature films Elvis made, he often said “King Creole” was his favorite. Both fans and critics say the movie features Elvis the actor at his best. “King Creole” opened on July 2, 1958 – 60 years ago this month – and it was a huge hit. All these years later, it remains a fan favorite. In “King Creole,” Elvis stars as Danny Fisher, a rebellious young man who is trying to support his father and sister, so he works at a night club to make ends meet. His boss, Maxie (Walter Matthau), also oversees his own local gang, and Danny becomes entangled Maxie’s web of lies, betrayal and criminal activity. Naturally, there is some romance, too – Danny woos both Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), his boss’ girlfriend, and the sweet Nellie (Dolores Hart). “King Creole” was based on the Harold Robbins novel “A Stone for Danny Fisher,” which told the story of a New York boxer. After purchasing the movie rights in 1955, producer Hal Wallis changed the main character into a New Orleans singer. The movie was filmed in the Big Easy, which proved difficult at times, as Elvis drew hundreds of fans. The entire 10th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel was reserved for the movie’s cast, complete with Pinkerton Guards guarding the halls. Security was strict, and there were orders given that the elevators could not stop on the 10th floor. One evening after filming, Elvis and his friends returned to the hotel after a long day of shooting. The elevator operator told him he couldn’t go to the 10th floor because Elvis Presley was staying there. Dolores Hart, niece of singer Mario Lanza, starred as Elvis’ leading lady for the second time; she also starred in Elvis’ second movie, “Loving You.” She later left her acting career and became a nun. Today she is Mother Superior, but she is still a voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures. Carolyn Jones is known to classic TV fans as Morticia on “The Addams Family.” She also starred in films such as “The Seven Year Itch,” “House of Wax,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “How the West was Won.” Walter Matthau showed his dark side as the cold-hearted Maxie...
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Elvis Presley and The Memphis Horns

You know the Memphis Horns, even if you think you don’t. This magical musical duo, made up of saxophonist Andrew Love and trumpeter Wayne Jackson, played on countless hit songs for decades. The pair played on soul, blues, R&B, country and rock ‘n’ roll hits, always adding that special Memphis sound to each and every recording. The Memphis Horns played on three of Elvis’ hits: “Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain.” Let’s learn more about these guys, who provided an incredible sound for so many legendary artists, including the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Andrew Love, a Memphis native, began playing music in his father’s church. Wayne Jackson, from West Memphis, Arkansas, took up the trumpet in the school band. Both of the men found careers in music in the Bluff City – Jackson joined a group called The Mar-Keys, while Love performed session work at Willie Mitchell’s Hi Records. The guys eventually landed at the legendary Stax label, where they met. You could say the rest is history, but it’s a really good history. Jackson and Love performed for Stax, Hi Records and American Studio, all in Memphis, and they also recorded at studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The guys decided to form The Memphis Horns after performing with Otis Redding at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. The guys were employed by Stax, but left in 1969 to offer their services to anyone who wanted that special Memphis sound. Love and Jackson played on Elvis’ RCA sessions at American Studios in Memphis on January 13-16 and 20-23, 1969, and Jackson performed on the sessions on February 17-22, 1969. “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto” were recorded in January, with “Kentucky Rain” recorded in February. The Memphis Horns contributed to so many incredible hit songs and albums, beyond their work for the king. Here is an incredibly short and in no way comprehensive list of songs and albums the pair worked on: “Try a Little Tenderness” and “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding; “Respect” and “Think” by Aretha Franklin; “In the Midnight Hour” and “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett; “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge; “B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas; “Knock on Wood” by Eddie Floyd; “”Tired of Being Alone,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “I’m Still in Love with You” and “You Ought to Be With Me” by Al Green; “Shaft” by Isaac Hayes;...
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Guest Blog: ‘Speedway’ Turns 50

June 12, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the release of Elvis Presley’s movie “Speedway.” Here is a special blog by his youngest co-star, Victoria Paige Meyerink, as she shares some of her memories of working with the king. by Victoria Paige Meyerink Being in the film business is unlike any other. The bonds formed during production last a lifetime and, in Elvis’ case, beyond. When I was cast as Ellie Easterlake in “Speedway” I knew the project was special and that it would be a great experience… I had no idea that from that moment on, Elvis Presley would become a huge part of my life and career forever. They cast me without even auditioning and I recall the first time I met Elvis was at a rehearsal for our number “Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet, Baby” on an MGM soundstage. Of course I knew of Elvis! I was excited about meeting him and that we’d be working together for weeks. I had already worked with huge celebrities like Danny Kaye, Rock Hudson and Clint Walker and considered Elvis a fellow actor and professional. We were there to make a movie together. So when we were introduced, a very formal almost-7-year-old extended her hand and said, “Hello, Mr. Presley!” He replied, “Hello, Victoria! This is going to be fun!” The cast included Bill Bixby, Nancy Sinatra and everyone’s favorite film/TV dad, William Schallert. Bill Bixby was at that first rehearsal, too. Bill and I had met previously on the Paramount lot, and I was very happy to see him again. Even though Elvis did ask me over lunch who I would marry – him or Bill Bixby – I didn’t know Elvis as an adult. I love that I had the privilege of knowing Elvis when I was just 7 years old… I gained a unique perspective, different from all his other co-stars over the years. Elvis and I got to play together in the MGM sandbox and we had a terrific time. That Elvis seemed to prefer hanging out with me on the set and lunching together is flattering. I got the impression he really enjoyed being a big kid, making my little books with me, playing cards between scenes and rehearsals, and feeding the tiny kitten in my trailer (I had sneaked kitty onto the set in a shoebox). Anyone could tell he’d be a terrific...
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Elvis and Chet ‘Mr. Guitar’ Atkins

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll never made music by himself. He worked with some of the best musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and engineers in the business. All of these talents combined to bring some of the most influential and groundbreaking music to the ears of music fans around the world. Here on the Graceland Blog, we’ve covered several of the incredible talents who worked with Elvis, including Floyd Cramer, Blue Moon Boys, Sam Phillips, and The Jordanaires. This week, we’re getting to know musician, producer and songwriter Chet Atkins, better known as Mr. Guitar or The Country Gentleman. Chet Atkins was born in Luttrell, Tennessee, in 1924. He loved music from a young age and started playing the ukulele as a child. He later moved on to the fiddle and then the guitar – which quickly became his favorite instrument. He practiced and practiced, and by the time he was in high school, he was an accomplished guitar player. He began to develop his own style in 1939 after hearing musician Merle Travis on the radio. Travis’ style was called “Travis Picking,” and Atkins was inspired. He soon began his music career, and it was slow going for a few years until he was signed by RCA Victor in 1947. Atkins wore many hats during his career. He recorded his own music, assisted recording executive Steve Sholes as a session leader, manged RCA Victor’s Nashville Studio (eventually seeing the completion of RCA Studio B, where many artists, including Elvis, recorded their hits), and became a design consultant for Gretsch, a guitar manufacturer. He wrote songs and was a session musician, too. Steve Sholes took over pop production in 1957, as Elvis’ career took off, so he put Atkins in charge of RCA’s Nashville division. Atkins, along with producers Bob Ferguson and Owen Bradley, created what would become known as the “Nashville Sound” – less of a rough, honky tonk sound, and more of a polished, sophisticated sound with strings, choruses and background vocals. This smooth sound allowed country artists to crossover to more of a pop sound and appeal to a wider audience. Atkins enjoyed a long career in music, and he worked with some of the best in the business. He recorded his own albums, which featured him performing a mix of country, jazz and pop standards. He was never afraid to mix things up and experiment. As vice president...
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