Live In Las Vegas: The CD Box Set
(Image Courtesy of RCA Records)
This week, I failed to mention Elvis Presley's birthday on January 8th, which was unintentional. Over the past few years, I've written a series of lesser known stories about Elvis, and wanted to briefly mention a few of them here.
In May, 1971 Elvis recorded the song, "I'm Leavin'". Looking back, I'm surprised this song never became a single. The theme was marital discord, and cut close to home with Elvis' impending divorce. It took Elvis some time to embrace the song. After hearing a playback, he mentioned that the subject was rough, but noted that "the thing is worth working on". You can find it on the 1999 RCA CD release, "Burning Love", which is itself, a subject beyond the scope of this blog post. But essentially, producers went back and carefully assembled material that Elvis was recording and performing at the time. This was in sharp contrast to the original release, a budget album with older movie recordings and the hit single at the center. It is a fine CD.
June 25, 1977
Another amusing story I shared came late in Elvis' life. Minutes after his jet arrived at Dane County Regional Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Elvis' limousine was stopped at a traffic light along East Washington Avenue at North Stoughton Road. It was after 1 a.m. and a fist fight broke out nearby at the Skyland Standard gas station among three teenagers. Glancing out the window of the limousine and seeing the fracas, Presley ordered his driver to stop before bolting out the right rear door. Dressed in a blue jumpsuit from a concert he performed hours earlier in Des Moines, Iowa, Elvis interrrupted the youths. "All right, I'll take you on", he said. It took the boys a moment to realize that they were, in fact, being confronted by Elvis! The altercation ended immediately and Elvis reportedly asked, "Is everything settled now?", according to Madison resident Bruce Frey who witnessed the encounter. Presley remained at the scene as all parties shook hands. Several photographs were taken with Elvis and the youths before he climbed back into the limo and banged his hand on the rear of the front seat laughing. "Did you see those guy's faces?", he said.
The Medallion of Life
Backstage, before one of Elvis' final concert performances, he accepted a plaque from a local politician, and a visit from a young Native American girl who presented him with a "Medallion of Life" from her tribe. Presley was so moved, he kissed the girl on the cheek and paused to examine the medallion. Aides quickly moved in, dabbing the perspiration from Presley's face and urged him to begin walking to the stage. He waved them off, and asked twice for a scarf that he could give as a gift to the girl. This is how I choose to remember Elvis.
In the 1980's I briefly met J.D. Sumner, Elvis' favorite bass singer, and former leader of the vocal group, The Stamps Quartet. Sumner was in Dallas, Texas on tour with The Master's V Quartet (featuring Sumner as bass, Rosie Rozell as tenor, James Blackwood and Jake Hess alternating as lead and baritone, and Hovie Lister on piano). I managed to ask J.D. Sumner after the church concert about working with Elvis in the recording studio. J.D. said, "Elvis was simply recording supreme".
This week, it's amazing to reflect on the young boy who grew up in the projects of Tupelo, Mississippi, and went on to become the world's greatest entertainer.