In my Wall Street Journal article today on Elvis: Prince From Another Planet (go here)—the new three-disc set (two CDs and one DVD) from RCA/Legacy—I write about Presley's only New York arena concert series in June 1972. I did some digging into Presley's fears about performing in New York and discovered what the fuss was all about. It wasn't a fear of critics.
I also spoke to musical director Joe Guercio and pianist Glen D. Hardin, members of Presley's TCB Band in 1972. I also tracked down Mary Malin, daughter of Joe Malin, whose orchestra played behind Presley during in New York. And I spoke to Don Lance, a fan who shot the never-before-seen film footage of the concert that appears on the DVD in the new set. [Pictured above: Joe Guercio and Elvis Presley horsing around]
During my conversation with Joe Guercio, I asked him about the "Joe Malin Orchestra," which was the only credit for the horns and strings on the original double LP and remains so on the new digital set. No personnel is listed.
"We didn't want to fly-in Elvis' horns and strings from Las Vegas, which would have been a hassle and a big expense," Joe told me. "Besides, the New York area had some of the best musicians in the business, so it didn't make sense. Joe Malin was an old friend of mine from my New York days, so we decided to turn to him.
"Joe, along with his wife, Carmel, were superb violinists and concert masters—which meant they ran the string section. Joe also was one of the top contractors in New York, which meant he could hire the necessary musicians. He did this for some of the biggest names in show business at the time when they toured the region, including Frank Sinatra."
"Oh, man, you should have seen it. The band was amazing."
Who was in the chairs?
"Well, I'm standing there conducting, and who am I looking at? The best studio guys on the East Coast."
Wait a second, what?
"Yeah, I know. Al Cohn and Elvis. Amazing, right? No matter what you thought of rock at the time as a jazz musician—and even if those guys thought this was just another gig—they knew Elvis was larger than life and a giant performer. They also knew that the gig was bigger than entertainment or run-of-the mill show business. Even guys like Al were blown away."
So there you have it. A post that covers jazz and rock. Want to know who else played in the Joe Malin Orchestra at Madison Square Garden in June 1972? I found a list of the musicians on the web (go here). And here's part of the tour index. By the way, Sol Schlinger was on baritone sax, not percussion. [Photo above of Wayne Andre by B. Spilka]