Elvis Presley In Las Vegas

Confessions of a Jumpsuit Junkie

Posted by Chuckmonster

Back in Memphis, Elvis eagerly began to put together his band by phone to Los Angeles. Anchored by stellar session guitarist and Rock N Roll Hall of Famer, James Burton, Elvis handpicked his band one by one. Fender bass player Jerry Schiff, rhythm guitarist John Wilkerson, phenominal drummer Ronnie Tutt, pianist/arranger Glenn Hardin, on moral support and non-audible acoustic guitar Elvis' Army buddy Charlie Hodge (Hodge mostly also handled Elvis' scarves, water and acoustic guitar.) The expanded ensemble included gospel vocal quartet The Imperials (later replaced by J.D. Sumner's Stamps Quartet), soul sisters The Sweet Inspirations and the Joe Guercio Orchestra.

Core band rehearsals began in Los Angeles in May 1969. The band learned roughly 200 songs including updated versions of Elvis classics, current hits, songs by the soon-to-be defunct and sometime nemesis The Beatles, as well as a chunk of the songs from Elvis' recent recording sessions in Memphis. In between rehearsals Elvis went to jumpsuit fittings with designer Bill Belew. A few weeks before the beginning of the engagement, the complete ensemble (the band along with the Sweet Inspirations, The Imperials and the Joe Guercio Orchestra) set up shop in a ballroom at the International. The film crew that was hired to document the occasion followed them from Los Angeles sessions to the International. Col. Parker bought advertising all over the city, printed up Elvis souvenir menus, posters, and handbills.


Las Vegas - July 31, 1969

Despite being in the best shape of his life, both musically and physically - Elvis was scared. It had been 9 years since his last live performance after all - was he washed up? would the crowd remember him? would he be able to deliver? how would they react to Vegas Elvis? Only time would tell. Opening week crowds were full of celebrities - Dick Clark, Fats Domino, Paul Anka, Cary Grant, Carol Channing, George Hamilton, Phil Ochs and many more. As the lights went down on the main event... the band burst into "Blue Suede Shoes" and Elvis Presley burst forth from stage right in full Vegas Jumpsuit regalia to the complete rapture of the capacity crowd. Over the next two hours, Elvis, accompanied by his hand picked band of ringers absolutely destroyed the showroom at the International Hotel. Like one giant orgasm, nine years in wait, Elvis exploded onto the stage and within an instant changed not only all those in attendance, but the whole city of Las Vegas, and pop culture in general.

There was no doubt. Elvis was back. Fortunately for those of us who weren't old enough to be there (or even born yet) there exists numerous documents of Elvis' first engagement in Las Vegas at the International Hotel.

Elvis - That's The Way It Is [ Amazon.com ]

This documentary/concert film follows Elvis from the first band rehearsals in Los Angeles, warm up performances in Las Vegas on to a selection of performances recorded over six nights during the first weeks of Elvis' Vegas engagement. Recently remixed and restored to pristine quality, this DVD is an essential document of the Elvis In Vegas experience. "That's The Way It Is" brims with confidence, it shows the many sides of Elvis "the performer". Not only are we treated to truly dynamic vocal performances, fantastic ensemble playing and period documentary but we get to see what a complete goofball Elvis actually was. His between song banter is infectious, inspiring and downright hysterical. Elvis is, at once, a man of the people - self-depricating, honest, funny and undeniably entertaining. Musically, every performance is a standout. His solid baritone never sounded truer on recent single "In The Ghetto" and "Patch It Up" - both songs exude gobs of gooey Elvis-pelvis excitement. The pairing of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" and the Tony Joe White penned "Polk Salad Annie" provide one of the many zenith experiences of this collection. The piece de resistance however is what was then Elvis' current single "Suspicious Minds". It's infectious beat and endless ending build like a giant squiriming show-stopping Bolero - only halted by Elvis' karate squat proclimations of love. From dead stop, Elvis slowly and steadily builds the music to a frenetic energy level, bounding about the stage, spilling everything he has out on the stage. It at this moment we see the undeniable genius and artistry of Elvis Presley. "That's The Way It Is" is truly an essential addition to your video collection - there's a reason why they call him "The King".



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