Elvis Week Day 5: Dreams Come True at Elvis WeekPosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Aug 14, 2014 | 0 comments
By Jon Waterhouse
Call it cliche, but dreams come true at Elvis Week.
In fact, the whole shebang revolves around one man’s dream that reverberated into reality. And we’re still feeling the results of that dream today.
Nowhere was it more apparent than yesterday at Graceland’s Main Stage. The Elvis Presley Fan Club Presidents’ Event centered around the charitable efforts of Elvis fan clubs, keeping the king’s dedication to giving in tact.
Elvis Radio’s Argo hosted a chat with AP writer Linda Deutsch, who launched her writing career at age 12 by publishing an Elvis Fan Club newspaper. Jimmy Snow, son of country music legend Hank Snow, shared stories of performing on the road with Elvis. His last visit with the king took place in 1958 during a 10-day stay at Graceland when Elvis asked Snow to take a peek at a movie script he was offered. The film was “King Creole.”
Arguably one of the most inspiring moments took place when Elvis fan William Bryan took the stage. He explained that thanks to Elvis fans from around the world, he was able to pursue a lifelong dream. Through a Kickstarter campaign, Bryan raised $15,000, enough money to produce an Elvis biopic.
Fans were treated to the first look of “Nobody,” a 15-minute short film about Elvis Presley’s talent show performance in April 1953 at Humes High School. Ironically, as we all gathered to celebrate the fruits of Elvis’ dream, we saw someone else’s play out on the big screen.
Q&A WITH WILLIAM BRYAN, DIRECTOR OF “NOBODY”
Q.: How did this project begin?
A.: This whole thing started when I was about 14 or 15 years old when “Walk the Line” with Joaquin Phoenix came out. I realized there had never been a theatrically released Elvis feature biopic. And so I realized that day that was going to be my lifelong dream. I carried that idea with me through high school and film school in Chicago. Around sophomore year in film school, my film professor mentor said to me, “When do you plan on making this feature film?” I said, “I don’t know. Maybe 10 years down the road.” He told me I needed to do something that I could go ahead and execute. He suggested that I take the George Lucas route where his final short film at film school ended up being his first feature. That way I could get in the right circles with the right people and execute it, while other filmmakers would be waiting in the wings to get features done. So that shifted things from doing a full feature to focusing on one event in Elvis’s life.
Q.: What made you want to do a film about Elvis’s high school talent show performance?
A.: I never thought [my film] would be about Elvis before he became famous. In July of 2012, I began reading “Early Elvis: The Humes Years” by Bill Burke. …When reading about the talent show, I realized that was our story. It was something that hadn’t been covered cinematically, and seldom in books. I thought people would be thrilled to see a movie about Elvis before he became famous.
Q.: A period piece like this is quite ambitious. How did it come together
A.: This whole thing has just been divine intervention, because I’ve had so much opportunity come my way. It was August of 2012 when I first pitched it to Elvis Presley Enterprises. I told them it was a very professional, sincere endeavor, and that it would mean so much to me to form a professional friendship with them than anything else. I think they took to that and realized the story had potential, and their professional friendship has been priceless to me. …I took my time and things came my way. We had the opportunity to shoot on location at Humes High School and Sun Studio. Wardrobe was provided by Hal Lansky, son of Bernard Lansky, who sold Elvis his clothes. We hired an industry professional crew from the area, some of whom worked on the TV show “Nashville” and the movie “Walk the Line.” We got a $100,000 camera shipped from Hollywood for our four-day shoot. It cost $4,000 to rent. I knew we wanted a young actor who could act and look like Elvis, and I wanted a dynamite vocalist to provide the singing voice. Going in to auditions, we knew it would be hard to find all three. So we ended up casting the very first person who auditioned for us, 15-year-old Drake Milligan from Fort Worth, Texas. …Before going to auditions, I offered my good friend, Ted Torres, to be the singing voice of Elvis. We decided to record our voice of Elvis at Sun Studio, and came up with this great take of a song that Elvis never recorded. It’s called “Till I Waltz Again With You,” which Elvis performed at the Humes talent show.
Q.: Your short film is about someone following his dreams, and here you are following yours. Does Elvis’s story inspire you?
A.: It really has. This story is really important to me, because almost no one can relate to the overnight success Elvis experienced, both the amazing stresses and the positive accolades. But there’s one thing everyone can relate to is that Elvis went to high school. So doing stories about youthful characters like that has always been important to me, showing the struggles people go through at that time. The other thing is that it is a dreams-coming-true confidence story. The title “Nobody” makes you think it’s referring to Elvis being a nobody before he was famous. At the end of the movie when he says, “I don’t sound like nobody,” it shows that it’s about Elvis getting the confidence he needs to launch his career. And it really has been kind of inspiring for me. It sounds cheesy, but there have been times when I’ve been working on this project and I thought, “I can’t live up to this. I’ve created something I can’t do justice to.” But then I constantly came back to thinking about what the title of the film was and that everybody has to start somewhere. And I think this is a great place for my professional career to start.
For more information about additional film screenings, visit: nobodyshortfilm.com.
HOW TO SING ELVIS A CAPPELLA
Fans at the Elvis Presley Fan Club Presidents’ Event were treated to a surprise sneak peek of Elvis A Cappella: A Tribute to the King. These brand new Elvis Week concerts featuring some of the best a cappella groups in the country takes place August 14-16 at Graceland’s Main Stage.
Yesterday the Acoustikats, an a cappella group from the University of Kentucky, performed “All Shook Up,” complete with percussive vocalizations for the backing tracks. Elvis had a soft spot for harmonies, so a cappella renditions of his classics are a perfect fit. But how does an a cappella performer tackle the king’s catalog? We asked Acoustikats music director, Jordan Lindsey, for his advice.
“You have to stay loose while you’re onstage and really feel it while you sing,” Lindsey said. “We have a backstage ritual before we go onstage. We get in a circle and sing, and get our bodies moving and blood flowing. For Elvis Week, we’ve kind of updated that and added some Elvis moves, some leg shakes and hip thrusts. That’s how we get ready to really sell it with our bodies on stage.”
“You have to have an emotional connection with the audience,” added Lindsey, “and be able to internalize the music, really put some soul behind it and believe what you’re singing.”
Interpreting the Lyrics
“You’ve got to know what you’re singing and what you’re singing about, know the story behind the song,” he explained. “You use that to put it into your body and sell it to the audience. …It’s great to be able to come here and do music that was performed by the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Pop music wouldn’t be where it is today without Elvis’s influence on what we’re doing. So it’s a great experience for us to get to go back to pop music’s roots.”
THE AUCTION AT GRACELAND
Gazing at Elvis memorabilia, I can’t help but feel that twinge of envy wishing I could pack it all up and take it home. Hey, there’s plenty of room in the mini-van.
Today for the first time ever, Elvis fans and collectors have the opportunity to scratch that similar itch. The Auction at Graceland, taking place 7 p.m. in the new Graceland Archive Studio, features 72 items up for grabs. All of the regal rock ‘n’ roll relics come from the collection of Greg Page, founding member of The Wiggles. Bidders will gather in the new Graceland Archive Studio, while others can watch a live stream in Graceland’s Main Stage.
Highlights run the gamut from Elvis’s 1977 Cadillac Seville to his personal copy of the original script for “Love Me Tender.”
To paraphrase an appropriate Elvis tune: I want, I need, I love it! Well, my bank account won’t necessarily allow me to follow that dream, but it’s fun to look. Here are three of my most coveted items.
Gold Lion Mask Pendant
One look at this one and I’m roaring, “Gimme!” This 18-karat gold king of the jungle has two emerald eyes plus a ruby and a whole mess of single-cut diamonds. Elvis wore it on several occasions, including the time he shook the hand of President Nixon, captured in that famous photo.
Martin D-28 Guitar
Elvis loved to give. In early 1977 he gave this gift of music to his friend and bodyguard Sam Thompson. It includes a letter from Vernon Presley, which states it was one of several gifts Elvis gave Thompson.
Elvis Presley Black and White “Penguin” Suit
Even when it came to casual duds, the king dressed to impress. Affectionately known by fans as the “penguin suit,” this one was designed to be worn off stage. However, in August of 1975 when he was running behind for a Vegas show, Elvis didn’t have time to change. So he wore it underneath the spotlight.
ELVIS WEEK FOOD FIND
Peabody Hotel Deli & Desserts
149 Union Ave., Memphis
Look closely in the glass cases of this intimate sandwich, coffee and dessert shop located in the Peabody lobby, and you’ll see the face of Elvis staring back at you. His edible mug emblazons The King, a sweet something with a chocolate brownie base. Bakers scoop out the center of the brownie, replacing it with a peanut butter filling. It gets topped with a dollop of banana creme, a white chocolate wafer with musical notes dancing across it, and a chocolate straw sticking out like a radio antennae. The crown jewel is a colorful, ready-to-eat square featuring a head-shot of Elvis.
THE MEMPHIS BOYS
Yesterday American Sound Studio received its long overdue historical marker at 831 Thomas Street celebrating the hallowed site of an incredibly important chapter in Memphis music history. The Memphis Boys, the studio’s house band, and producer Chips Moman collaborated with Elvis on his legendary 1969 recording sessions at American. The band backed a who’s-who of artists on countless cuts, 120 of them reaching the national charts. The studio’s resume prompted Mayor A.C. Wharton to declare it “American Sound Studio Day around the world.”
“You know how they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” Wharton asked the crowd. “Well, what happens in Memphis stays with you everywhere you go.”
That universal musical appeal was proven yet again later that evening at the Memphis Boys Salute at Graceland’s Main Stage. The band was joined by vocalists Terry Mike Jeffery, Scat Springs and Jennifer Chihi and rambled through a roster of greatest hits the band played on. This included tunes by Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett and others.
The Elvis songs, however, garnered the biggest response. Here are the top three Elvis moments of the evening.
3. “Wearing That Loved On Look”
The band charged hard out of the gate with this soulful groove, thanks to Bobby Emmons riding that Hammond B3. Terry Mike Jeffrey handled the lead vox, and some audience members, including emcee Argo, chimed in on the “shoop shoop” background vocals.
2. “Kentucky Rain”
Emmons’s organ the Bobby Wood’s twinkling keyboards melded together over the solid rhythm section anchored by drummer Gene Chrisman. The song built up gradually, just like the record, with help from those tight horns.
1. “Suspicious Minds”
From the beginning of the trademark riff from Reggie Young’s guitar, this undeniable crowd pleaser had the majority of the audience up on its feet singing along. As an added bonus, the song’s composer Mark James grabbed the mic and sang lead for the last quarter.
Elvis Week Video Host Memphis Jones also had a chance to interview Elvis collector Greg Page and put Elvis A Cappella to the test! See below or check out more photos, videos and blogs by visiting ElvisWeek.com.