Thursday, January 15, 2015


Last Thursday we celebrated what would have been Elvis Presley's 80th Birthday ...  

Today we share with you some of the feedback we received ...   


>>>SO many favorite and timeless tunes ... I couldn't possibly rank them all ... In fact, I couldn't even narrow it down to 80 of my favorites ... and (for the purpose of this article) I tried!!!  (kk)  
It IS tough to cut Elvis Presley's best material down to a mere 80 tracks.  At Reader's Digest Music, we released three Elvis box sets, the first being "Elvis: His Greatest Hits."  Assembled by Ira Howard, it contained nearly all of Presley's top-charting single sides -- and, as you'd expect, was a huge seller.
I followed it up with "Elvis: The Legend Lives On," which took a rather different approach.  Aside from including the key original hits omitted from RD's first Presley box set, I created a super-concert by reviewing every version of the songs Elvis recorded on stage, choosing the best performance of each and then editing those together into a single "ultimate concert."   This, of course, was simply employing the same technique used to compile a souvenir concert album by any artist from the best of multiple recordings of the same songs made at various venues along one or more concert tours.  
I did the same thing, albeit in shorter form, to close out "Elvis: A Three-Hour Special," the career retrospective (with fun facts and interview clips) I wrote and produced in 1977 for broadcast the weekend after Presley's passing.  At the time I was busy assembling the 52-hour "History of Rock 'n' Roll" and had only sketched in the Elvis sequence because I had been promised a personal interview with Presley himself in September, 1977, by his manager, Col. Tom Parker.  When the news broke that August that Elvis had died, we immediately stopped work on the HRR and spent the next three days 'round the clock producing our three-hour tribute to The King.   The minute the special was ready to be shipped, copies were express air-freighted to more than 400 radio stations all over the world.   The Elvis sequence which later appeared in "The History of Rock 'n' Roll" was, in reality, a slightly condensed version of "Elvis: A Three-Hour Special." 
The third Elvis box set Reader's Digest Music released was "The Elvis Presley Years."  Due to licensing restrictions, Elvis material had never before been available to mix in with other artists' tracks in compilation albums.  Once it was, I decided to track, year by year, through the Elvis Presley era (1954 to 1977) by juxtaposing samples from his output against the top hits of other stars.  For the first time on disc, you could hear Elvis in context with whatever else was happening in pop music at the time.  All three Presley box sets proved to be immense sellers for Reader's Digest Music -- although all three are now out of print due to Reader's Digest Music folding a few years after I left. 
Gary Theroux


Hi Kent,  
Here's a story I helped out with for Elvis's 80th Birthday that's about Elvis in Chicago.   

Elvis in Chicago Was 'Electrifying': An 80th Birthday Celebration

By Casey Cora on January 8, 2015 5:48am | Updated on January 8, 2015 10:02am

CHICAGO — Before opening night of his 1957 tour at the International Amphitheatre, Elvis Presley held a news conference in the Saddle and Sirloin Club, a nearby ritzy hangout for cattle executives visiting the Union Stockyards.
Flanked by a hound dog and a gaggle of reporters ahead of his first-ever Chicago stop — the first concert after his waist-up "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance — the 22-year-old Presley unveiled golden shoes, part of the custom-designed gold suit that he'd debut that night and that would become iconic.
Then came the 16-song, 47-minute performance, attended by some 13,000 rabid fans who rendered "the King" and his backing Jordanaires inaudible with their screams.
Newspaper accounts detail the pandemonium: Grown women were reduced to tears. Dozens of girls fainted. An usher from Bridgeport was cold-cocked by the purse of a fan trying to rush the stage at the arena, located at 42nd and Halsted streets.
Presley was born on this day in 1935 and rocketed to periods of global stardom until his death in 1977.
From his rollicking rhythm and blues roots to the grandiose stage shows at now-shuttered arenas, the relationship of "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" — born 80 years ago Thursday — with the city was special.
"I don't think there was a more pivotal or more important voice to younger generations at that time. They needed that beacon of energy for their generation and certainly Elvis was it," said Cory Cooper, a Nevada-based "Elvis expert." 
Like most major cities in the United States, Chicago was a familiar and frequent spot for Presley, where he played both the Amphitheater and Chicago Stadium. But Presley's legacy here took a macabre turn in 1956, the year his film "Love Me Tender" was shown at the Brighton Park Theater on the Southwest Side. 
McKinley Park sisters and devoted Elvis fans Patricia and Barbara Grimes attended a screening on Dec. 28 of that year, reportedly their 11th viewing. After they left the movie, they disappeared. 

 A concert poster promoting Elvis Presley's 1957 performance at the International Amphitheatre.
A concert poster promoting Elvis Presley's 1957 performance at the International Amphitheatre. 
Publicity about the case sparked a number of reports of their sighting, including one from a woman who said she saw them in Memphis, leading some to believe they had gone to Tennessee to see Presley.
The singer even issued a plea to the sisters, saying, "If you're good Presley fans, you'll go home and ease your mother's worries."
The girls were found dead a month later in suburban Willow Springs. The nude bodies of Patricia, 13, and Barbara, 15, appeared to have been tossed out of a car. The case remains unsolved. 
And then there is “In the Ghetto,” Presley's 1969 hit that told the story of poor child born “on a cold and gray Chicago morn,” which was written by Mac Davis. Davis has said he was inspired by a childhood friend from his hometown in Lubbock, Texas. The boy lived in a predominantly black, poor part of town.
“A child is born in a situation, his father leaves, and he ends up acting out and becoming his father. Being born and dying and being replaced by another child in the same situation is basically what I was talking about,” Davis once said. “Dying is a metaphor for being born into failure, being born into a situation where you have no hope.”
Davis said he thought Presley took a risk to sing a song with a political bent because “he was always in the middle of the road when it came to controversy.”
Davis credited Presley with adding the mournful final line "and his mama cried."
A year after the 1957 Stockyards concert, Presley was drafted and wound up in the Army. He'd return to the city several more times during various points in his career. 
Some of those concerts ended up on vinyl, many of them bootlegs. Chicago Stadium shows from Oct. 15-16, 1976, were released as “The Hit That Saves the Day” and “Love American Style,” collectively known as the Chicago Chronicles.
With a painful colon condition in remission, he was described as "looking better than he had for several years" at those performances, although a Chicago Daily News reviewer blasted the performance as a shameless money grab. 
Still, "no matter what else one says about him, there's no doubt Mr. Presley can sing a song," wrote critic Jack Hafferkamp.
Other concerts included a June 17, 1972, Chicago Stadium show where his 27-song set included "That's All Right," 'Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog" and "Suspicious Minds," which can all be found on the record "From New York to Chicago."
A May 1977 show had Elvis singing "C.C. Rider," "Early Mornin' Rain" and "Johnny B. Goode." Then-Tribune rock critic Lynn Van Matre wrote that it "was painfully impossible to notice that Elvis doesn't put on that great of a show."
"Like Mick Jagger, Presley long ago turned into a self-parody," she wrote.
Barbara Hahn, the Chicago-born partner of Elvis memorabilia collector and historian Jerry Osborne, was at one of those May 1977 shows. Like the other throngs of fans who packed the old Chicago Stadium, she disagreed with the critics. 
"I remember it so well," said Hahn, who as a 19-year-old paid a friend to wait in line for tickets at the arena's box office. "He was overweight, and he stood on there, on stage. All that shook was his right leg, not the running around he used to do, and I remember he was laying on the the floor singing. But it was electrifying. It absolutely was."
 Elvis Presley's 1976 concerts at the Chicago Stadium were captured for this live recording.
Elvis Presley's 1976 concerts at the Chicago Stadium were captured for this live recording  
The International Amphitheater, 4220 S. Halsted St., played host to such mega-acts as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and the Jackson 5, as well as cattle expositions, circuses and multiple political conventions — including the historic 1968 Democratic convention. It was torn down in 1999. 
The Chicago Stadium, 1800 W. Madison St., was demolished in 1995.
Cooper, the Elvis aficionado, said finding anyone with firsthand knowledge of Presley's early stints in Chicago is getting harder and harder to come by.
"All these people, they're passing away now. They're all at that age," he said.
Cory Cooper  

I was one of the fortunate ones who got to see Elvis perform here in Chicago three times ... first at The Chicago Stadium in 1972 (where his show matched the "Live From Madison Square Garden" album released just a couple of weeks later to a "T".)  Words alone cannot describe the electricity of excitement that went through me the moment the lights dimmed and Elvis took the stage.  It was something you simply had to experience to appreciate. 
I went again in 1977 (TWO shows this time) when Elvis triumphantly returned.  Critics were hard on The King for these shows, judging him more for his looks and moves on stage than the concert itself ... which is too bad, because he could obviously still sing and, in my opinion, he was killin' it up there.  (One thing that has always stood out for me on this one was the fact that he performed his recent hit "Hurt" twice ... it seemed to be a mistake, like they'd somehow lost their way on the set list but, once committed, carried on to finish the song a second time.  Hard to believe he'd be gone just a few months later.
These are experiences I wouldn't trade away for the world.  Never got to see in him Vegas (although we did walk through the exhibit put on by what used to be The International Hotel while we were there.)  And then again there's our famous trip to Graceland in February of 1976, recounted many times in Forgotten Hits over the years.  The King was still alive ... but out on the road at the time ... and admission Graceland was absolutely off limits to us "normal civilians" ... it had yet to be turned into the museum and tourist attraction it is today ... that wouldn't happen for years to come. 
But that particular day, it didn't matter ... the guards opened the gates for us and invited us in to sit in the guard house with them, snacking on donuts for about an hour.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I don't think was extended to very many people!   
I wish I could have seen him during those earliest rock and roll years ... but I was too young ... and, truthfully, I don't think Elvis toured all that much back then.  Then it was off to the army and, after that, movie set after movie set, churning out virtually the same movie again and again.  
It was Elvis' comeback special that won me over for good ... he just got up there and showed us what he still could do ... and again the results were electrifying.  I've watched it HUNDREDS of times since then ... and still enjoy the pure joy and delight on his face, watching him work his magic throughout the night, proving that he still had it.  As soon as that show was finished taping, Elvis knew that he had to get back out on the road. 
Elvis, we miss you ... and I guess we always will.  Thank you for the music ... thank you for the culture shock that turned the world on its ear ... incredibly we're still feelin' it, even all these years later.  Rock and Roll was supposed to be a flash-in-the-pan phenomena ... yet even 60+ years later it's still going strong.  Just goes to show you ... again ... how much the critics and consultants really know ... yet radio continues to listen to them.  We celebrate his music for Christmas ... and on his birthday (and on the day he died) ... but honestly, in my opinion, there should be something by Elvis on the radio every single day if only to remind us where it all started.  The fact that there isn't is just wrong.    

Kent ... 
Got this from Ron Smith's Oldies ... Elvis At 80 ... It Could Have Been A Wonderful Life 

Frank B.   
One of the ideas I kicked around for our Elvis Birthday Tribute was a "current" interview with The King ... I just couldn't decide whether we'd meet up at a donut shop or the local Burger King ... I like this recap even better ... covering EVERYTHING you "missed" during the past 38 years!  Fun stuff ... and pretty clever.  (Scarily enough, some of these "suppositions" may not be too far from the truth had he lived!!!)  I've also heard the idea ... quite often actually ... that had HE lived, Bobby Darin would be the one enjoying the career resurgence of the past 20 years instead of Tony Bennett ... an interesting concept as well!  (kk)   

As usual, I couldn’t agree with you more. Recently I bought a CD entitled “Elvis: The Classic Christmas Album” OK , so what you ask. For some reason they felt the need to “alter” the “classics”. They did overdubs with Carrie Underwood on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and Martina McBride on “Blue Christmas”. Granted, they sounded great ... BUT they shouldn’t be on a “classic Christmas album”  of an artist that probably neither of them knew (was either of them even alive during Elvis’ life time?). It is a shame that they don’t make an exception for him on their playlists. 
Scott Schultz

Rolling Stone is announcing a SLEW of brand new Elvis releases in celebration of what would have been his 50th Birthday.  These include a brand new series of Elvis' '60's Albums reissue (in box set form) as "The Complete '60's Collection".  Part 1 (containing the LP's Elvis Is Back, G.I. Blues, His Hand In Mine, Something for Everybody, Blue Hawaii, Pot Luck, Girls! Girls! Girls!, It Happened at the World's Fair, Elvis' Golden Records Vol. 3, Fun in Acapulco, Kissin' Cousins, Roustabout, Girl Happy, Elvis for Everyone and Harum Scarum) covers the years 1960 - 1965 ... and is already available on iTunes. 
In addition, a brand new website ( has just been launched ... and, as we mentioned last weeks, truly SERIOUS fans of The King ... who've just got to have EVERYTHING ... can now bid on two of his private planes!!! 
More details here:    

Enjoyed the eight selections you posted of Elvis' songs. I was reminded of something though.
Many years ago here in OKC on our local oldies station, on Elvis' birthday, the mid morning DJ brought in someone (from back East, I believe), who supposedly had every Elvis recording he had ever made. The DJ and man in question would discuss stories about Elvis and also take requests from listeners via the phone. Now, if anyone called up and requested an Elvis song which this individual did not have in the control room at the time, the man with all the Elvis records would buy for said listener a brand new car (a Buick I believe). Needless to say, no one ever called up and requested a song by Elvis that the man did not have.  And there were some pretty odd and rare recordings that Elvis made.
Now my question to you is, up in your part of the country, do you ever remember a promotion or show being done by one of your radio stations doing this? I can't think of the man's name with all the
Elvis records. I know he brought all his records into the control room in boxes, suitcases, etc.  Songs in question could have been on vinyl, CD, or whatever.
One of my favorite songs by Elvis was FLAMING STAR from the movie of the same name.  If I  remember right, the original title of the song was not FLAMING STAR but I can't remember the title. The man did play it though.
Larry Neal
I don't remember anybody doing this on the radio here in Chicago ... nor do I know how (way back then) he could have possibly transported every Elvis recording to the studio!!! (I guess today you could load them all on to a hard drive and have at it ... but this certainly wasn't the case all those years ago!)
As for "Flaming Star", the song you're thinking of is "Black Star" ... Elvis recorded the song that way before the title of the film was changed.  (According to the liner notes to the special "Elvis' Double Features" CD's, which spotlighted the movie soundtracks to ALL of his films, "Flaming Star" took over two years to get to the screen.  Originally, it was announced in April, 1958, that Twentieth Century Fox had purchased the rights to the novel "The Brothers Of Broken Lance" by Clair Huffaker.  In June, Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra were slated for the roles of Paces and Clint Burton ... meanwhile, the film title had changed to "The Brothers Of Flaming Arrow" ... and then "Flaming Lance".  Two years later, it was announced that Elvis had been signed to star in the latter.  By the time the cameras started rolling on August 16, 1969, the title fluctuated between "Flaming Heart", "Flaming Lance" and "Black Star".  Elvis even recorded the title song as "Black Star" but on September 2, "Flaming Star" became the film's official title.
By the way "Flaming Star" was banned in South Africa because of strict racial laws!  Some disc jockey had taped the songs from the film while watching it in a movie theater and started airing them on his radio program, prompting Twentieth Century Fox to spring into action.  (Apparently RCA had no intention of releasing the film's soundtrack at the time ... so this enterprising dj was airing what truly was a "world exclusive"!!!)
One other interesting fact ... a song called "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears" was recorded for the movie but later dropped ... apparently the scene in which it aired featured Elvis singing to Indians around a campfire ... apparently it prompted so much laughter during a test screening in Inglewood, California, that the entire scene was deleted from the film!  The song later appeared on the EP "Elvis By Request" ... and "Flaming Star" wasn't officially available on an album until several years later when RCA's Camden Label released it as a budget LP. 
Here's your rare "Black Star" track.  (See, I've got a pretty extensive Elvis collection, too!)  lol  (kk)

I certainly remember Elvis!
See attachment from his International Hotel stint in '70 (also autographed by Roy Orbison ... we were there with a few other people from MGM) and Colonel Parker (I don't know what he wrote but I saw him write it).
Davie Allan

Meanwhile, Country Superstar Garth Brooks made headlines this past week when his total album sales once again surpassed those of Elvis Presley.  (Garth has been absent from the music scene for a number of years ... but his comeback spelled MEGA bucks for the performer.  The two have teeter-tautered back in forth for several years now ... and I don't think Elvis' latest "80" is going to break any records ... yet Presley's records continue to sell decades after his death ... so who knows!  (Kinda like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and The Eagles' "Greatest Hits" albums ... these two have swapped the #1 spot dozens of times over the years as best selling album ever.)  kk

Kent ...
From Ron Smith's book "Eight Days A Week":
1/14/1960 = Elvis is promoted to Sergeant in the U. S. Army.
From King to Sgt. --- sounds like a demotion.
Frank B.
Ironically, I was just listening to the soundtrack to Elvis' "G.I. Blues" in the car on the way to work this morning ... one of my favorite movie soundtracks by him. (In fact, I featured "Pocketful of Rainbows" in last week's FH tribute!)
This one's been on tv quite a bit lately ... the plot is pretty thin and predictable ... but I think Elvis sounds pretty darn good for just getting out of the army!  (kk) 

Finally, here's a piece we did on Elvis a few years back ... it takes a long look back at Elvis '69, a BIG year for The King after his comeback television special from the year before.  Suddenly Elvis was relevant again and ready to get back up on the stage and out on the road.  He hit #1 twice that year with "In The Ghetto" and "Suspicious Minds", his first #1 Records since 1962.  (He'd go on to have one more with "Burnin' Love" in 1972.)