Friday, 24 February 2023

The Genesis of Elvis

From the Netherlands comes a new Elvis book by Bart Eikema van Hommes, The Genesis of Elvis, first written in Dutch in 2016 but recently translated into English!


This biography aims to uncover Elvis’s cultural roots and identify the sources he drew from on the path to his world-changing sound. The musical history surrounding the pop icon is excessive and this book takes an analytical approach to try and shed some light on Elvis’s world. Where did he live and which churches and schools did he attend with his friends? Which artists and radio stations influenced him at an impressionable age? Where did he perform in the early days and first commit his voice to the eternal grooves of vinyl? All these questions and more must be asked to begin to understand Presley’s sound and it’s invaluable influence on Rock and Roll. As John Lennon once put it: “Before Elvis there was nothing!”

For more info and an inside look at the book, have a look at Amazon here.

The book is also available in South Africa online at Loot, currently for R349.

Tuesday, 21 February 2023


Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii

In 2023 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this first worldwide satellite concert by ONE MAN.  

Some interesting tidbits surrounding this historical broadcast:

  • There were other satellite concerts before and after Elvis. 
  • The satellite that would transmit the concert signal belonged to NBC and was very costly to hire. NBC was asked to host the Special and in return received the highest TV ratings for the year. 
  • The stage was made in L.A. and shipped to Hawaii.  
  • When the wife of Kui Lee heard that about Elvis' concert for her charity foundation, she had to go straight to the doctor for tranquilizers.
  • You cannot charge money for a TV audience, so donations were asked for each ticket.        
  • Aloha From Hawaii was the most expensive TV concert of its time at $2,5 million.
  • The rehearsal concert was set to be recorded at 20:30 on 12 January 1973 but by 19:00 six thousand fans had already stormed the venue and crammed into the available 5,300 seats. 
  • Elvis wanted a suit that said America. Initial ideas included the outline of a map or the star-spangled banner, but they eventually decided on the national bird. 
  • The live broadcast had to be just shy of an hour, after which the satellite feed would be cut off, so Elvis organised for Joe Esposito to be at the side of the stage with a flashlight to indicate when there were 10 minutes left.
  • The sound equipment of NBC and RCA combined overloaded the power. Two hours before the rehearsal concert the lights flickered on and off and the sound engineers went to borrow extra equipment from the Navy. A few minutes before the start of the show, there was a hum in the sound system, caused by the stage lights, and lead plates were obtained, again from the Navy, to counteract this.

There are many more fun facts, especially the 1.5 billion people having watched the broadcast, amongst others South Africa. (NOT!) At this point in time? Sure! The Parker marketing machine did the trick, though, and it's all now part of Elvis lore.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Elvis Songs With Spoken Segments

In the 1950s, talking over the music was big, especially on slow songs. 

The question is, what qualifies as a spoken segment in a song? The answer is a good poetry or dramatic reading, or some idle chatter and everyday speech. As the spoken segment is part of the song, shout outs and cheering instructions to the crowd or band do not qualify. 

The goal of the spoken part in a song is to give the singer a chance to take a step back and offer a type of director's commentary on proceedings. 

Quite a few Elvis songs feature spoken segments. Obvious ones are That's When Your Heartaches Begin, Are You Lonesome Tonight and I'm Yours

Let's have a closer look at some more Elvis songs that contain a spoken segment:

1. U.S. MALE

In 1965 Elvis recorded movie songs ONLY. In my opinion his "comeback" already started when he recorded a Grammy Award-winning gospel album the next year. All through 1966-1968 it seems like Elvis experimented different ways to go musically, but no one (especially not the charts) took notice. One of these "comeback" songs was U.S. Male, a talking blues. I bet Elvis was eager to cut his teeth on this one.


On 31 July 1969 Elvis returned to live performances in Vegas. Mama Liked The Roses was recorded earlier the same year at the American Studio in Memphis. According to accounts, Elvis LOVED this song but had laryngitis, so a backing track was laid down and Elvis overdubbed his vocal at a later stage. 


This song was also recorded at the American Studio sessions. One time during the recording they had to stop as the engineer heard a strange buzzing sound on the tape. Turns out it was a car idling outside! It seems Elvis found Only The Strong Survived difficult to sing as he reprimanded himself throughout, but he did not give up and eventually did 29 takes of which the last one was seemingly used.


This song, which Elvis only recorded live on stage, is about the lifestyle of a poor girl and her family. It seems "polk salad" is a tall plant of which the leaves are eaten, after having been cooked several times, and goes well with ham. Elvis introduced this showstopper at his second Vegas season in Jan/Feb 1970. 


Elvis' July 1973 Stax Studio recording session had sound problems. One evening after noticing that his mic was gone, Elvis left and the band laid down four tracks to be later overdubbed at Elvis' home in Palm Springs via RCA mobile truck. Also present at the dubbing session was VOICE, Elvis' new personal backing group. Elvis was excited to get them on record and allocated most of his recording time to their demos. As a result Elvis overdubbed only one of his required backing tracks, in stead recording two VOICE suggested songs of which Are You Sincere was one. Parker was furious and ordered these tracks to be released as is, with no strings and horns overdubs.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Who Was Elvis?

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of children's books that explore the lives of outstanding people. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. In one of the new releases you can now discover Elvis.

This book might be just in time, because it seems as if we have reached a point in time where journalists have to explain to the younger generation who Elvis was. Hopefully they now know!  

The synopsis for Little People, BIG DREAMS: 

Elvis was born into poverty in North Mississippi, a place where opportunities were a rare thing to see. Still, he felt that someday, somehow, something amazing would happen. When he sang in a school talent show, he realized that singing was all he wanted to do with his life. 

He had just finished high school when he plucked up the courage and walked through the doors of Sun Studios, ready to record his first song. After this came hit after hit, and he popularized a new genre of music that mixed all kinds of different styles. That genre was Rock 'n' Roll, and it would take the world by storm!

All the great artists that came after him still look up to little Elvis, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, the unique and irreplaceable artist who changed the course of music history. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

From Dick to Roy

Dick Guyton has been the executive director of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation that has overseen the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo for the last 20 years. At 82 he has decided it is time to slow down.  He started working at the Birthplace in 2002 (when the EPFCA started to meet up.)     

The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau several years ago did a study on people coming into the city and it was estimated that the taxes that Elvis brings in is roundabout R18 million each year in revenue for Tupelo. More than a million guests have visited the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum since Guy came on board.

The new executive director is Tupelo's Roy Turner, an avid Elvis fan and key to the writing of the excellent book Elvis and Gladys by Elaine Dundy, who dedicated the book to Roy for his exceptional work.  

In an interview Guyton said: 

I have enjoyed every minute of every day. It has been fun and it's been a great ride, a real pleasure to serve the community as well as all the international visitors that we've had. Our board of directors have been looking to continue to improve the place but at the same time to keep it to how the fans want it to be, because that's what we're all about.