Well, the airline gods came through, but the car rental gods didn’t. Then when I got here the person who had my ticket wasn’t to be found. So I missed the entire morning. And I’m really sorry I missed Mike Stoller and DJ Fontana talking together. I sure hope Elvissessions has that in his report.
Wednesday afternoon EI Conference
Jack Soden gives greetings, then we see some of Having fun with Elvis on the ’68 Special. I thought we'd hear more from Jack than just welcome.
Tom Brown introduces Sammy Shore (SS), the comedian who opened for Elvis in Vegas. He says nobody wanted to see the comedian. They just wanted to see Elvis.
Tom: did you find that a challenge?
SS – I was an unknown. Opening night everyone in the world was there. Movie stars – Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, etc. I knew if I bombed my career would be over. If I did well, I’d do well in the business. I hadn’t gotten there yet. So this was it for me. Elvis and the Col saw me open for Tom Jones and they liked me. Elvis and Parker came backstage to meet him and I was speechless. Parker said “I like your humor” and I said I like your chicken”.
So, opening night there was a lot of pressure. This was it for me. It was me out there by myself. House lights dimmed and there was a tympany roll. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, a legend in his own time.. , but first here’s Sammy Shore. “ And the mike was dead! My big break and the mike was dead! They shoved out a new mike and I started to adlib to make it look like the second mike didn’t work. After 5-10 minutes I had ‘em. If the mike wasn’t dead I probably would have bombed.
When I came off I saw Elvis waiting. I shook his hand – and his hand was sweaty, too. He was nervous. After all, this was the first time in 12 years he’d been on a live stage. Of course we know what happened. My dressing room was next to his and I tried to get the celebs and the young pretty girls to come in to my room. But everyone wanted to see Elvis, of course.
Two older gentleman came in. They were very high ups in the William Morris agency!! They said what I’d done that night was incredible. We want to sign you at the WMA.
After all my small club experiences I was ready to handle what happened that night.
Vegas was the place to see and be seen. Everyone had an opening act. No longer. The hotels want everyone to see the show and get back to gambling. Nowadays there are few comedians playing there.
Tom: have you talked to people here that saw you in Vegas?
SS. Oh sure. But I tell you, working last night, opening for Shawn Klush.. I got my standing ovation – and then I watched Shawn. It was like going back in time. He was amazing. It was like going out on tour with Elvis!
Tom: tell me about your book.
SS: “the Man who made Elvis laugh”. (too fast to copy, but he’s very, very funny describing what’s in his book). But the serious part of his book amounts to “it ain’t over til it’s over”. (He’s 81.) Sammy’s son is Pauly Shore. He says “Let me say 2 words about Pauly: I’m sorry”. Then jokes that it could have been CarrotTop. (He was funny all the way through but I don’t think it translates well here on the written page.
(Note: Sammy Shore was very funny but I couldn't capture him here. Mannerisms, sound effects, etc. I hope you can hear it some day).
Sandi Pichon helps give away a prize. Tells the Elvis-gets-panty-thrown-at-him story. Talks about how great it’s been since she put out her 2 books. They help her relive her experiences. That's really special.
Tom is talking about the 25th anniversary concert. We see a clip. Then Tom introduces Joe Moscheo, Terry Blackwood, Sherman Andrus – The Imperials.
Joe: it was the best time of our lives. “He Touched Me” album – who knew what that would become?
Tom: Dixie mentioned that he seemed to be a different person when he sang gospel in church. What did you see?
Terry: Elvis would go see the gospel events, coming in late, leaving early so he wouldn’t bother everyone. My family attended the same church. Gospel influenced his life.
Tom: you can literally draw a line from that gospel to rock n roll
Sherman: when I listen to Elvis’ interpretation of songs you can feel all that passion. You knew he had something special. We called it in the church being endowed or having the spirit. This guy cut through all the cultural everything. It didn’t matter what kind of song he sang, but you always felt his passion.
Tom: if he had not been the singer he became, would he have fit into a gospel quartet?
Terry: laugh – how could you be in a group with Elvis? He’d always be standing out.
Joe: I thought he was an amazing gospel singer. Remember “If I Can Dream” he believes the lyrics, he’s selling the meaning. “I’m trying to tell you something”.
Tom: he would always sing gospel during the Vegas years.
Joe: there was a special elevator up to the suite. Even before getting to the elevator he’d already start “I, John” or something. He was relaxing us.
Terry: every time he initiated a song a capella it would be a gospel song. “Farther along” – we knew that song backwards and forwards.
Tom: when you were singing gospel, would Elvis stay on a part? Bass, tenor, etc.
Terry – Elvis could sing whatever he wanted. Laugh)
Joe: He’d sit at the piano and hit a high note – ‘see that note up here’, he’d say. ‘That’s Millie.’ Then he'd play a lower note and say 'that's Joe's...' He actually arranged the songs.
Terry: and he’d know if you missed a cue.
Joe threw a t-shirt into the audience.
Tom: what’s the number 1 thing people ask you about a memory you have?
Terry: was Elvis as nice as we’ve heard. What was he really like? Of course he was as nice as everyone has heard. He wasn't one of those stars who would do their job and leave. He wanted to hang around with us.
Tom interviews Carlee, the winner of the MySpace Karaoke contest. (She sang with the Imperials last night). She was pretty intimidated at first (last night). She has been learning a lot more about Elvis and he gained a lot more respect for him. You go, girl!
Next up: JoAnn Cash, John’s sister. (Can't believe I didn't take a picture of her. Sorry. I have one on video, but can't pull it out right now)
Tom: what was your first experience singing with John?
JC: We’d work in the cotton fields and we would sing all day long. I thought everyone sang. We sang in church, school. So it wasn’t that big a deal.
Tom: John wanted to be a gospel singer, too.
JC: yes, he did but Sam said it wouldn’t sell. But he did sing gospel later on in his career. Early on in his career he’d be in a different city every night and in order to keep going, Johnny would take the pills that would push his body. But he got passed all of that.
JoAnn Is a born again Christian. Then she met her husband in the church. They are pastors in a church they started in Nashville.
Tom plays the audio of Elvis introducing himself as Johnny Cash and starts singing “Folsom Prison” and “Walk the Line”.
JC: The kinds of songs Johnny sang were from his life experience. I write gospel songs that are truly from my experience. And Elvis could make you cry when he sang. He could also make you laugh. He was one of the funniest people, too.
Joe Petruccio comes out to give away another prize. It’s lot’s of stuff, including a small wood block he painted. Nice. Which I’d won that!
Another prize – Lowell Hayes is giving away a TCB! DRATS! Made from the original mould! I wish I’d won that, too! (sigh) Tom asks about what it was like putting these things together for Elvis. Lowell met Elvis in 1969 and then he asked me to start making his jewelry. TCB ring story – he wanted a stage ring. I made several rings – the big horseshoe ring he gave to JD. Then after that they talked about the design for a new ring. Elvis wanted him to bring it upstairs but I wanted him to see it under the light of the chandelier. He was amazed and thrilled. His comment was “Wow! Wait til Sammy Davis sees this ring!” We sing happy birthday to Mr. Hayes. He’s 69.
CMT had a contest – Viva Las Vegas contest. Winner is interviewed. I left the room for a few minutes here.
A bit of gospel video that includes Richard Sterban.
Next guest – Richard Sterban- from the Stamps and the Oak Ridge Boys. Elvis was a frustrated bass player.
Tom: what was it like to be in a group with 2 bass singers – Richard and JD. He was hired by JD when JD wanted to spend more time on his business ventures. I was there about 6 months when Elvis called JD to get the Stamps to go on tour with him. So JD wanted to sing again and Elvis wanted JD there, too.
Tom: When did you know you wanted to be a singer?
RS: I wanted to be a ball player, but that wasn’t to be. But believe it or not, when I was a kid I sang as a boy soprano. But when I was about 6 yrs old I already knew I wanted to sing for a living.
Tom: and before rock n roll, gospel WAS rock and roll.
RS: Yes. This music fascinating me, especially with JD.
Tom: how often did the offstage gospel happen?
RS: more often than not. Sometimes even *before* we went on stage, as well as afterward. It was a very big deal to be on one of the largest tours around. It was a very exciting time for me. A lot of people questioned my decision to move on to the Oak Ridge Boys, but I really liked them, too.
Tom brings out his old vinyl ORB records. Talks about RS’s fashion sense. Turns out RS once worked in the mens dept of Gimbels’ dept store. ( I just love Tom Brown. He's such a great interviewer because a) he's so knowledgeable about his guests and b) he's such a genuine fan!
Tom: what went through your mind last year when you did Elvis the Concert?
RS: the best part of the concert last year was being reunited with all the guys, the Sweet Inspirations, etc. I had a really long chat with Ronnie Tutt. But it was also unbelievable to sing with Elvis again (RS gets choked up here).
Tom: there have been tremendous changes in touring. How does it differ touring then
RS: With Elvis we played the biggest venues. It helped set me up for touring with the ORB. Then, we had a few lights here and there – today it’s techno shows and all.
RS: Elvis was a big football fan. Because of the 3 TVs he had, he could watch several games at the same time. Nowadays that’s much easier.
Tom: what do you think of the Elvis phenomenon after all these years?
RS It will never happen to any other entertainer. Last year they sold out the FedEx forum – for a dead entertainer! That will never happen again. My daughters love his music. It’s got that magic, just the music, even without the image.
I was on “Burning Love”. He walked around the studio with a handheld mike. That would never happen today. He’ was an engineer’s nightmare. Tom: talk to me about how important it was to find the right song.
RS: material is the most important thing in the music business. We’d spend hours listening to demos just to find that one right song. But Elvis had no idea what he was going to record before he went into the studio. We might listen to 4,5-10 songs and he’d decide which song to record. (He had a great ear for what would be good for him). So then someone would have to quick write an arrangement and Elvis would tell us what he wanted us to sing.
Tom: how have you guys (ORB) stayed together so long?
RS: the key is the love of what we do. We love the creative process. We’re not young anymore but I hope to continue working for a long time.
Video - Elvis sings “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”
Scott gives away several prizes, including a USB flash drive with 70 Elvis songs on it. Scott has cool prizes.
(I know I wrote about this when it came on but I just noticed it's not here...) At some point today they showed a photo/video montage of Elvis in the army with the audio of the Dick Clark interview with Elvis when he was in the army. I've never heard the whole interview before. It's really great! And some of the video was new to me, too, although probably not to many of you reading this.
That’s it for today. Going to see Terry Mike Jeffrey tonight and may run over to Club Elvis, but that depends on how I feel. I’m bushed from the red-eye flight and no sleep today.
I will post some pictures of the Expo - probably later tonight.