Test Your Knowledge – Elvis Presley’s Television Appearances

This year on the Graceland Blog, we’ve been pretty focused on celebrating all of Elvis’ many accomplishments from 1956 – including his many television appearances. We haven’t covered them all yet, but we’re getting there. From his first appearance on “Stage Show” to his celebrated “Aloha from Hawaii” special, Elvis always drew audiences to the small screen. How well do you know Elvis’ television appearances? Find out how much you know by taking the Elvis’ TV Appearances quiz below! Let us know how you did in the...
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Elvis Presley’s Homecoming Concert

Just 21 years after he was born there, and eight years after he left with his family as a young teen, Elvis Presley returned to Tupelo, Mississippi, as a star. Sixty years ago this month, Elvis performed a homecoming concert to celebrate his whirlwind success. In his touring years, Elvis performed many concerts in and around Tupelo, but this show, on September 26, 1956, was the big one, complete with a parade, thousands of fans and lots of press. Elvis performed that day in 1956 at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, and it was actually his third time to perform at the fair. When he was 10, he had entered a talent contest at the fair, where he sang “Old Shep” and came in fifth place. Elvis and his band returned to the fairgrounds in 1955 to perform a set alongside artists such as Webb Pierce and Wanda Jackson, but he wasn’t the star of the show. 1956 was, as we’ve covered before on this blog, a turning point for Elvis’ career. He’d recorded and released his debut album, performed several times on national television – including the prestigious “Ed Sullivan Show” – and was filming his first movie. Elvis was Tupelo’s most famous hometown boy, and the town wanted to celebrate him. The celebrations included a parade through downtown Tupelo, which Elvis didn’t attend – his manager, Col. Tom Parker, feared for Elvis’ safety in such a big crowd. But the town enjoyed the parade anyway, and encouraged participants to create Elvis-themed floats. Elvis performed two shows that day, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Admission to the fair was typically 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults, and the day of Elvis’s show, they charged 75 cents for everyone. Admission to Elvis’ show was $1.50. Elvis and his parents, his girlfriend Barbara Hearn and his friend Nick Adams all drove down from Memphis for the show. Elvis wore a beautiful blue velvet shirt made for him by Natalie Wood’s dressmaker. Elvis, backed by his band and the Jordanaires, performed thrilling shows, and thousands of fans were in attendance – anywhere from 5,000 to 12,000 to 50,000, depending on what news report you believe. Teenage fans rushed the stage, somehow defying the massive security team, and Elvis encouraged them to be safe – and they did. In the audience that day – in fact, in...
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The King’s Jokers

How do you open up for Elvis Presley? How do you entertain a crowd who’s ready for none other than the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll? In the late 1960s and 1970s, a few comedians found out, when they were asked to be the opening act for Elvis. This was a pretty daunting task, to open up a show for one of the most celebrated entertainers in the world, but these guys took on the challenge – with a smile and a laugh. Elvis’ all-female backing vocal group, The Sweet Inspirations, also opened for Elvis in addition to performing during his concerts. But a few comedians also helped get the audience ready for Elvis’ concert. In 1969, Col. Tom Parker saw Sammy Shore open up for Tom Jones and thought the trumpet-playing comedian was a hoot. Shore was a showbiz veteran, having worked on TV shows and movies like “Accidental Family,” “Sandford and Son,” “Love, American Style” and “History of the World, Part 1.” Sammy opened up for Elvis from 1969 to 1972, and in 1972 Sammy helped found the legendary comedy club, The Comedy Store, on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Many comedians got their start at The Comedy Store or simply entertained fans there – including Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Amy Schumer and many more. Sammy continues to bring the laughs and his sons, Pauly and Peter, are both in entertainment – Pauly is an actor and comedian, and Peter worked as a director. Sammy’s ex-wife, Mitzi, continues to run The Comedy Store. After Shore left to run the venue, comedians Nipsy Russell and Bob Melvin stepped in to open up for Elvis. But then, Col. Parker spotted Jackie Kahane opening up for Wayne Newton, and knew Jackie’s family-friendly fare would go over well with Elvis and his audience. Jackie also worked with other stars such as Sammy Davis Jr., Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick and Tony Bennett. In 1961, he was named as one of Time magazine’s Outstanding Comedians, one of his highest honors. Jackie opened up shows for Elvis from 1972-1977, and he delivered the eulogy at Elvis’ funeral. He went on to start a production company and he produced TV shows like “Honeymoon Haven” and “Off the Wall.” Both Sammy and Jackie honored Elvis at the Elvis in Concert event in 1997, presented at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis on the...
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60 Years Ago Today: Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show

Sixty years ago today, more than 60 million people watched Elvis Presley perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Elvis’ first performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” took place on September 9, 1956. At this point in his life, he’d already performed on national television shows like the Dorsey Brothers’ “Stage Show” and “The Milton Berle Show.” He’d released his debut album and was filming his first movie. He had a few hit songs on the charts, like “Heartbreak Hotel.” He was still living on Audubon Drive in Memphis and wouldn’t purchase Graceland for another few months. Elvis was famous, and he was thisclose to becoming the most famous man in America. But of course, Elvis has not yet been booked on the country’s most popular variety show, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” And the show’s host had promised he wouldn’t feature the then-controversial young singer; Elvis had a reputation among conservative leaders and parents for his performances, which they often labeled as inappropriate or even dangerous. Elvis was simply unlike any other performer they’d ever seen, and they were concerned. It was a surprise, then, when Ed announced in the summer of 1956 that Elvis would perform not just once, but three times on his show. Ed had watched Elvis’ career blossom and knew he’d pull in high ratings if he allowed Elvis to perform. Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, negotiated hard, and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was to be paid $50,000 for all three performances – an unprecedented amount at the time. On September 9, 1956, neither Elvis or Ed Sullivan were in the studios that day for filming. Ed had suffered injuries in a car accident and was at home recuperating, while actor Charles Laughton filled in for him on the show. And Elvis wasn’t in New York City, where “The Ed Sullivan Show” was filmed. He was seen from Hollywood, where he was in the middle of filming “Love Me Tender.” Still, the show was a success – 60 million people, or 82.6 percent of the entire television audience, watched Elvis perform “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Ready Teddy” and a few verses of “Hound Dog.” “Love Me Tender” had not yet been released, so fans ate up the new single – which only increased the hype for the new movie and its soundtrack. Elvis returned to “The Ed Sullivan Show” – this time with Ed hosting, and...
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In the Studio with Elvis Presley

Fans saw Elvis on stage and on the big screen, but fans never had the chance to see Elvis work in one of his favorite environments – in the studio. And, really, the studio is at the heart of Elvis’ career. It was in studios in Memphis, Hollywood, Nashville and New York, where he cut songs that became No. 1 hits, songs that shook the foundation of American music, and songs that became fan favorites. Elvis had hundreds of recording sessions in many different studios, but let’s take a look at just a few of the special ones where Elvis recorded some of his biggest hits. ELVIS’ FIRST STUDIO – SUN STUDIO The very first songs Elvis recorded at Memphis Recording Service – aka Sun Studio – were “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” in 1953. But his recording sessions got interesting on July 5-6, 1954, when he recorded a little record you may have heard of – “That’s All Right” – as well as “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “I Love You Because.” During Elvis’ time at Sun, he recorded many songs that would go on to become classics, like “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Mystery Train” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” (Elvis’ first No. 1 hit), all with Sam Phillips at the helm. In the spring of 2017, the new state-of-the-art entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, will open at Graceland and will feature a permanent Sam Phillips exhibit. HOLLYWOOD Two of the Hollywood studios Elvis used were the Paramount Scoring Stage and Radio Recorders. Here are some insights into just a few of the sessions that took place at these studios. On September 1-3, 1956 Elvis recorded a slew of songs at Radio Recorders – a studio used by most of the major labels – for RCA. On September 1, he recorded songs like “Love Me” and “How’s The World Treating You,” followed by “Long Tall Sally,” “Too Much,” “Old Shep” and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again.” On September 3, he wrapped the session by recording “Ready Teddy,” “First in Line” and “Rip It Up.” Elvis was very familiar with “Old Shep” – he performed that song in a talent show as a young boy growing up in Tupelo (and only won fifth place). He performed the master recording in one take, but performed...
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