March 1992: The Elvis Beat #1

And now, one from the archives. I first started writing about Elvis back in 1992. Thirty years ago now, I began an official fan club whose sole purpose was to allow me to write an Elvis newsletter. Not wanting to compete with any existing clubs in my area, I named mine “The Elvis Beat: International Elvis Presley Fan Club.”

The “International” part reflected the lofty ambitions of 16-year-old me. Though The Elvis Beat never obtained any members from outside of the United States, I see The Mystery Train Elvis Blog as a realization of the dream to connect with fellow Elvis fans from all over the world.

I published the newsletter sporadically over the next five years. Most of the time, I printed a master copy using a PC and an ink jet printer. Early issues included literal cut and paste jobs on the paper to include photos, as I did not have a scanner. Then, I would have copies made. Unfortunately, my original master copies have disappeared, but I still have my archive of newsletter copies.

At first, I charged a nominal fee to join, but I soon made it free with the request that members send postage stamps if they could to offset some of the costs. To their credit, most members did send stamps. Still, I would have been in trouble had membership ever exploded much beyond 50 at any given time.

Eventually, I decided to end the club, mostly because I was unable to keep any kind of schedule going on the newsletter. Soon after releasing the last issue in 1997, I began to learn how to create web pages. My first web site would be devoted not to Elvis, though, but to Star Trek.


The Elvis Beat #1 (Cover)

The Elvis Beat #1 (Cover)

Elvis stamp unveiled

On February 24, at the Las Vegas Hilton in Nevada, the dream of millions of Elvis fans finally became reality. United States Postmaster General Anthony Frank, along with Milton Berle and Barbara Eden, officially unveiled two possible versions of an Elvis Presley stamp, one of which will become an official U.S. postage stamp.

The two stamp finalists were chosen from more than 50 entries, according to Frank. One is a circa-1950’s Elvis and the other is circa-1970’s. The public will be given the opportunity to select their favorite through the use of five million ballot cards which will be available at post offices in the month of April. The ballot cards must be mailed with the appropriate postage.

The winning stamp is expected to be announced in May at Graceland, and will be issued in 1993 as the first in a series of American music legends expected to be issued over several years. “He broke new ground,” said Frank, who went on to say that Elvis was the obvious choice to begin the series.

Elvis fans have been lobbying for this recognition for years. Pat Geiger of Vermont began the “Elvis Presley Postage Stamp Campaign” in 1983, and thought that having the stamp passed would be a “simple thing.” In 1987, the first year Elvis became eligible, she quickly found that it wouldn’t be that easy. But after the initial rejections, Elvis is finally to be honored six years later than she had planned.

The Elvis fans have won, and now it is up to the general public to pick their favorite Elvis.


Now (2022)

Elvis Stamp Official Ballot (1992)

Elvis Stamp Official Ballot (United States Postal Service, 1992; from Tygrrius’ collection)

It’s amusing for me to remember how seriously I took the whole Elvis stamp business. If it were taking place now, I would probably only give a brief mention here of the stamp.

Not long before the release of this first issue, I even wrote a “letter to the editor” that appeared in both of our local newspapers in which I defended the 1973 stamp design against typically vicious media portrayals of it as “fat” and “old.” No need to get into that here, because if there’s one thing Elvis fans can agree on is that he was not overweight or old in Aloha From Hawaii.

After releasing this newsletter, I can remember going to the post office the first day the stamp ballots became available. I grabbed three of them: One to vote and two to keep. You see, I considered it wrong to vote more than once. Remember, this was serious business. Turns out, I should have used all three ballots, as my choice was beaten rather handily. But that’s a topic for the next issue!


Then

Back to 1992, here’s a look at some of the other content from that first issue.

In A Flash (page 2): Covered three additional news stories (“That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour outtakes to be released,” “Graceland is named a national historical landmark,” and “Five disc set to be released for fifteenth anniversary”).

Editor’s Corner: (page 3): Included a brief welcome to the first issue and a re-print of my defense of the 1973 stamp.

Walk a mile in his shoes (page 4): Speaking of things I find funny that I cared about back then, I devoted two whole pages to reviewing various portrayals of Elvis in movies or TV shows, ranging from 1979’s Elvis, starring Kurt Russell, up to the 1990 Elvis TV series, starring Michael St. Gerard (with lots of mostly bad ones in between). If you are curious, I determined Gerard as being the best of the lot. I pretty much stay away from these kinds of movies now, but I’d probably still pick Gerard as the best. We’ll see if Austin Butler can deliver the goods in the upcoming ELVIS movie.

Reader’s Comments and Memories (page 6): I wanted The Elvis Beat to be interactive and inclusive, so this page consisted of me begging for people to send content.

Elvis Super Trivia Challenge (page 7): Twenty questions, with the answers printed upside down at the bottom of the page (probably another literal cut and paste job to achieve the upside down text, but I honestly don’t remember). Questions ranged from, “What song is played at the conclusion of ELVIS (1968 TV Special)?” to “Which LP albums did Elvis record in the ‘Jungle Room’ at Graceland?”

The 1956 Albums (page 8): This was a word search containing the songs from the albums Elvis Presley and Elvis. It was a nod towards the types of content I had seen in other Elvis newsletters at the time. I soon dropped this concept.

In Dreams Of Yesterday…1971 (page 9): I could think of no better way to conclude the first issue of The Elvis Beat than to include Elvis’ entire acceptance speech for being recognized as one of the ten outstanding young men of 1970 by the national Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). I still find his words from that moment inspiring:

“Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to thank the Jaycees for electing me as one of the Outstanding Young Men.

When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream that I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.

These gentlemen over here, it is these type people who care, who are dedicated. You realize that it is […] possible that they might be building the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s not too far-fetched from reality.

I’d like to say that I learned very early in life that:

‘Without a song, the day would never end,
Without a song, a man ain’t got a friend,
Without a song, the road would never bend,
Without a song.’

So I keep singing a song. Goodbye. Thank you.”

[Originally Published March 3, 2012; revised March 24, 2022]

Found and Lost: The official Elvis On Tour video outtake releases

Elvis On Tour Countdown: 2 weeks to theater event, 19 days to Blu

The Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises communications department must have loved me back in the early 1990s. I was 15 or 16 years old and somehow got into the habit of sending them letters through the mail with questions about Elvis.

As I started to build my Elvis music collection, I also began reading whatever material I could get my hands on about him. Among these were tribute magazines collected by my brother celebrating Elvis’ 50th birthday in 1985 and commemorating the tenth anniversary of his death in 1987.

In one of those magazines, I read an article titled something like “The Elvis Movies: Have We Really Seen Them All?” It mentioned Bill Randle’s infamous Pied Piper of Cleveland short film (1955), but it also focused on potential outtakes from the documentaries That’s The Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972).

As a huge fan of both of the documentaries, I had to know if there was more footage in the vaults. So, I did what any self-respecting Elvis fan would do – I fired off a letter to Graceland and asked them about it. I had been to Graceland, and I was pretty sure that if anyone would know, it would be the people who worked there.

To his or her credit, and my surprise, someone there actually took the time to write me back. (I was unable to dig up the letter in time for this entry, but I know I still have it somewhere in my archives.) Receiving a letter from Graceland was quite the thrill.

Even more thrilling, though, was their answer. Not only did such footage exist, but Turner Entertainment had even compiled it together for video release. Unfortunately, the release was on hold as to not conflict with the 1990 Elvis: The Great Performances videos.

Not understanding the marketing and contractual issues behind the delay, I quickly resented The Great Performances for holding up the outtake footage. Though it contained two or three newly released numbers, most of The Great Performances was just a slightly modernized re-hash of 1981’s This Is Elvis.

Promotional flyer for Elvis: The Lost Performances (1992)

Promotional flyer for Elvis: The Lost Performances (1992)

It seemed like decades later to me, but 1992 arrived, and there were two big Elvis releases that year – which marked the 15th anniversary of his death. One was ELVIS: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Complete 50s Masters, the now legendary 5-CD boxed set that chronicled his studio recordings from that era. Until I had a little help the following year, that one was temporarily out of my financial reach.

It did not matter one bit to me, though, for it was the other big release of 1992 about which I was most excited. Released in the same month, possibly even the same day as the CD set, Elvis: The Lost Performances was a one-hour VHS videotape that finally delivered those promised outtakes from That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour.

Watching Elvis: The Lost Performances for the first time was, perhaps, the best hour of my entire Elvis fan experience – including all the way up until the present day. I remember coming to the end of the tape, rewinding it impatiently, and immediately starting it over again. I must have watched it at least three times that first day, maybe even four.

The majority of the video focused on incredible material filmed for That’s The Way It Is, but it also included a few songs filmed for Elvis On Tour:

  • All Shook Up
  • Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Release Me

The Lost Performances was actually not the first time that Elvis On Tour outtakes became available to Elvis fans, though. Back in 1981, a couple of songs were prominently featured in the movie This Is Elvis:

  • Always On My Mind (rehearsal)
  • An American Trilogy

That movie also included some miscellaneous outtake footage, such as the recently separated Elvis boisterously indulging in guy talk with his entourage.

Thursday, July 29, will offer fans another chance to see Elvis outtakes, as previously unreleased footage will be shown as part of a special screening event in US theaters. Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration will also feature the newly restored Elvis On Tour.

Go to Fathom Events to find out if a theater is showing the event near your area. On August 3, Elvis On Tour will make its DVD and Blu-ray debuts. All of us who can need to be there in both cases to support Elvis and encourage future releases of additional Elvis On Tour and That’s The Way It Is footage.

Elvis: The Lost Performances never made it to DVD, so let’s make sure that these and dozens of other hours of Elvis footage from the two films are not lost forever.

Elvis On Tour Countdown

  • 14 days until Elvis On Tour 75th Anniversary Celebration theater event
  • 19 days until Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases

* * *

For more information (official sites):

Selected posts about Elvis On Tour from The Mystery Train:

Education, Elvis Style (Part 1)

At this time of year in the United States, high school and university graduations are taking place. It is customary to send friends and family members gifts once they reach this milestone. Particularly for high school grads, these gifts often come in the form of money – intended for use in further education.

I graduated from high school in the early 1990s and sure enough, in the last few months of my senior year, checks from various friends and family members arrived in the mail. At the time, I was still working on obtaining my first summer job. When it came to money, I basically had none.

That had never stopped me from spending time browsing record stores, though. I can remember drooling over two Elvis CD releases in particular that had been out for about a year by that time: ELVIS: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Complete 50s Masters and Elvis Today.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, of course, was the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed 5-CD boxed set that collected his 1950s material together in a coherent fashion for the first time. I can remember just staring at the track listings on the back of the box, marveling over the song titles.

Cover of 1992 Elvis Today CD

Elvis Today was the CD debut of a 1975 album previously available only on vinyl. Since RCA had inexplicably deleted the original album from its catalog, I had been trying to track it down for years before the CD release. I only had three of the songs on it and wanted desperately to hear the others.

Both releases were part of RCA/BMG’s “Elvis In The 90s” series, which had the mission of bringing all of his master recordings to the CD format.

As I dutifully wrote out thank you notes for the gracious graduation gifts people had sent me, a plan began formulating in my head. Sure, I was starting university classes in a few months, but what did I need for that right now? I had a better idea.

Soon enough, I was at the record store and spent most of my graduation money on The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Elvis Today. I had just enough left over to buy a reference book I had also been eyeing up for some time: ELVIS: His Life From A to Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius.

People had sent money for me to further my education, and that was exactly what I intended to do.

To be continued. . . .