Elvis Presley In Las Vegas

Confessions of a Jumpsuit Junkie

Posted by Chuckmonster


Las Vegas - Summer 1969

The world's largest hotel "The International" is opened on July 2, 1969 by airline and real estate entrepreneur Kirk Kerkorian. The hotel featured a 2,000 seat showroom and 1,512 rooms on 30 floors situated on Paradise road, just east of the growing Las Vegas Strip, neighbors to the just opened "Landmark Hotel" and the Las Vegas Convention center. Opening night featured the white-hot Barbara Streisand as opening night headliner. The hotel had also announced that at the end of their month-long opening celebration that The King of Rock and Roll - the one and only Elvis Presley - would return to the stage after a 9 year absence. Sandwiched between Striesand and Mr. Presley's appearance another major event was to take place, this time over the skies of Las Vegas - American Astronaut Neil Armstrong would be the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

Memphis - Spring/Summer 1968

Despite the semi-success of the "'68 Comeback Special" Elvis Presley's career is stalled. His most recent films "Charro!" and "Live a Little, Love a Little" have all sputtered at the box office and the prognosis two more films in the pipleine "The Trouble With Girls" and "Change of Habit" were bleak at best. Coinciding with Elvis' cinematic drought his post-Beatles musical bankability had gone from 'almost also ran' to near oblivion - the soundtrack for "Speedway" had failed to dent the charts but managed to scrape it badly as it sunk out of sight nearly instantly. Elvis's longtime recording contract with MGM had quietly lapsed, neither side eager for renewal.

At the love me tender age of 33, Elvis Presley was at a crossroads.

Ever the businessman, Elvis' long-time manager Colonel Tom Parker saw it differently. As Elvis returned to Memphis for some R&R back home with wife Priscilla, Elvis initiated recording sessions at American studios in Memphis - all out of the range of Col. Parkers everpresent radar. Eager to shed his "Elvis Portrays Racecar Driver Yet Again" image, Elvis gelled with American's funky surroundings and their even funkier house band.

The result was From Elvis In Memphis [ Amazon.com | iTunes icon] a stripped down chickin-pickin southern rock gospel country soul blues explosion that would provide a clear prototype for the music that Elvis would make for the rest of his life. From its kick start "Wearing That Loved On Look" all the pieces are there - Booker T styled Hammond Organs, country twang guitars, soul-sister background singers. "Long Black Limousines" exquisite orchestrated breakdowns that melt effortlessly into Elvis's trademark swamp funk. "Power of My Love" is a page ripped straight from the play book of Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker - but dressed up in a pastiche of spiky horn blats, waka-chika guitar boings, whining harmonica, soul choruses, and plinky pianos all frosted by Elvis' passionate vocals. As if that weren't enough "Gentile On My Mind" comes of as a lost track from "Catch a Fire" by Bob Marley and The Wailers and the records closer "In The Ghetto" is a race-relations protest song - a very daring move for 1968. The All Music Guide rightly calls "From Elvis In Memphis" "one of the greatest white soul albums (and one of the greatest soul albums) ever cut". Elvis was on fire... home again with the music that he loved.

Once recording sessions concluded, Elvis left for Hawaii to complete his film obligations - the dismal "Change of Habit" which featured Mary Tyler Moore. Behind the scenes, Col. Tom Parker was in talks with MGM's International Hotel about presenting Elvis as the headliner for their July 1969 opening night. Col. Parker rightly figured that Elvis should not open the showroom - a new venue needs some time to work out its kinks.

Las Vegas/Memphis - Winter/Spring 1969

Elvis announces the International Hotel contract (it won't be officially signed until Col. Parker gets everything he wants - two months later). Barbara Streisand has been booked as the headliner for opening weekend, Elvis will begin his 4 week run on July 31st - 6 weeks after the release of "From Elvis In Memphis". Despite his extreme excitement, Elvis was worried whether or not anyone would come see him play, it had been 9 years since his last live performance.

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