My Weekend With Elvis - JazzWax

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August 18, 2010


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Another superb Elvis documentary is "Elvis '56", which is a retrospective on his breakthrough year. Another video reference point in understanding Elvis is the "Comeback Special" from 1968. In the WSJ article, June Balish's comments about Elvis are very insightful! -- TF

Claude Neuman

"I believe if the jockeys would have played the originals at that time, they would have been big," Phil Chess observes in the documentary film, Sweet Home Chicago. "Very, very big. But it wasn’t accepted at that time. I went to Boston on a promotion trip one time and I took a bunch of records. And I went to see this one disc jockey, and I never forgot it. I give him the records, and he looks through it and he says, ‘Yeah, this I can listen to and play, this I can listen to and play.’ And he got to a Howlin’ Wolf record, and he says, ‘I don’t play this,’ and he throws it to the side. I said, ‘What’s wrong ? You didn’t listen to it.’ He said, ‘I don’t play that kind of music.’ I never forgot it. It kinda bothered me. He said, ‘Well, it’s a black record. I don’t play it.’"

Ed Leimbacher

Nice work, Marc. Three belated observations: I lived in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955-56, and I can Garon-dam-tee you that Elvis was burning up the airwaves day and night. (In a poem years later, I described that stirring year: "Then two Kings rocked the Confederacy's cradle...") My biggest musical regret is that I didn't see him on stage back then, but only 20 years later when Vegas success left him drugged and fatter than that 32" waist you saw... A terrific photo from the early Memphis days shows EP standing between (as I recall) Junior Parker and Bobby Blue Bland; and he was known to study B.B. King and Jackie Wilson performing too, learning from the best around. Finally, the most dedicated Elvis fan I ever met lived in the Tongan Islands, in Nuku'alofa; she owned a video store there in the mid-Eighties, the shop and display windows full of martial arts movies and Elvis memorabilia. She spoke no English but had every album and many of his 7" singles, and she had journeyed the many thousand miles to Graceland--twice! For that woman and the other true fans, dead or alive, Elvis has never left the building.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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