Blogs! Blogs! Blogs!

Today, The Mystery Train’s spotlight shines on some of the other Elvis Presley blogs out there in Internetland.

First up, I want to acknowledge a milestone over at ElvisBlog. Phil Arnold today published his 1,000th post! ElvisBlog began back in 2005, and Phil has really kept up with his writing since then. Lately, he has been thinking about retiring from his blog, but I’m happy to report that he still plans to post on occasion for at least the next year or so. Phil was once a contributing writer to the now-defunct Elvis International Forum magazine. He also wrote the foreword to Alfred Wertheimer’s 2010 photography book Elvis: The Early Years. In 2015, Phil published Big E and the Santa Man: A Rock & Roll Christmas Fantasy, a novel about a rock ‘n’ roll singer who gives up his former life and joins Santa Claus at the North Pole. Check out ElvisBlog #1000. Congratulations to Phil.

Speaking of books, Kees Mouwen last month released Elvis Day By Day 2020: The Year In Review, which compiles last year’s Elvis news stories from his Elvis Day By Day Blog as well as features additional content from Elvis Information Network and other Elvis fans worldwide. It is a follow-up to his first book, which covered 2019. Kees was one of the founders of what is now the site back in 1999. In 2010, Kees branched off to create the Elvis Day By Day Blog. Since that time, he has published over 3,370 blog posts about Elvis! 2020 ties with 2010 for his highest number of posts at 352. That’s almost one post a day, and it should certainly make for a fantastic read. Congratulations to Kees on his latest book. Find out more over on Elvis Day By Day.

ELVIS DAY BY DAY 2020 (Poplar Tunes Publishing and the Memphis Mansion, 2021) | Click image for full-color version | Original image credit: Kees Mouwen

Incidentally, I am honored to have contributed in a small way to Kees’ book. While some of my past posts have appeared in other Elvis books over the years, this is the first book to include an original piece from me. Thank you to Kees for the opportunity.

Finally, I want to say a hearty “Welcome back!” to Thomas Melin over at Elvis Today Blog. Last month, he quietly returned to blogging after an absence of more than three years. So quiet that I totally missed it until he recently emailed me. Thomas began the Elvis Today Blog back in 2007. By 2012, he had amassed over 500 posts. Though he’s slowed down since then due to other priorities, he says he plans to continue writing a post now and then. That’s the way to do it, and I’m definitely glad to hear he’ll still be around. Thomas published compilations of his first 500 posts on Elvis Today Blog in book form back in 2011 and 2012. Congratulations to Thomas on his return.

I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed by all three of these fellow Elvis fans. Keep up the good work, gentlemen!

Your conductor,

“Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.”
Proverb 29:23

As close as I’ll ever get (Conductor’s Reflections #13)

My buddy Phil Arnold recently posted a piece about Elvis impersonators over on his ElvisBlog. Against my better judgment, I’ll link you to it – but with the strong warning that many of the photos there may cause permanent eye damage.

In any event, Phil concludes his post as follows:

“If you never saw Elvis in concert, [Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest winner] Shawn’s show is as close as you’ll ever get.”

I beg to differ, with all due respect to Phil and even to Shawn Klush – who I’m sure puts on a good show for those that are into that sort of thing.

I never saw Elvis in concert, but the following essential DVDs allow me to get much closer to that experience than watching any imitator:

Elvis: The Ed Sullivan Shows

  • September 9, 1956
  • October 28, 1956
  • January 6, 1957

ELVIS: ’68 Comeback Special – Deluxe Edition

  • June 27, 1968, Sit-down Show #1
  • June 27, 1968, Sit-down Show #2
  • June 29, 1968, Stand-up Show #1
  • June 28, 1968, Stand-up Show #2

Elvis: That’s The Way It Is

  • August 1970 live performances

Elvis: That’s The Way It Is – Special Edition

  • August 1970 live performances

Elvis On Tour

  • April 1972 live performances

Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – Deluxe Edition

  • January 12, 1973, rehearsal show
  • January 14, 1973, satellite broadcast show

On a 73-inch screen with surround sound kicked up, the above DVDs – and others featuring the real Elvis – allow me briefly to believe I am really there at these events. Even the best imitator cannot do that. Why watch an imitation when you can watch the genuine article?

Though the visual component is missing for most of them, I could also cite dozens upon dozens of electrifying concerts on CD that help bring the real Elvis back for an encore, including:

  • December 15, 1956 (Young Man With The Big Beat)
  • March 25, 1961 (Elvis Aron Presley)
  • August 26, 1969, Dinner Show (Live In Vegas)
  • August 26, 1969, Midnight Show (All Shook Up)
  • August 12, 1970, Midnight Show (That’s The Way It Is [2000 Special Edition])
  • April 18, 1972 (Close Up)
  • March 18, 1974 (Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis)
  • December 14, 1975, 10 PM Show (Fashion For A King)

I am 37 years old. If I had been exposed to imitators growing up rather than the real Elvis via recordings and videos (on a 13-inch black & white TV with mono sound, so it is not the equipment that matters), then I would not be an Elvis fan today. He would not even be on my radar.

I say this not to knock imitators – at least not the few who attempt to put on respectful, quality shows. However, Elvis Presley Enterprises should get out of the imitator business. It should never have gone there in the first place. EPE does a disservice to Elvis’ legacy by endorsing imitations. EPE should maintain focus on the real Elvis.

There is only one Elvis Presley. I accept no imitations. Neither should EPE.

Elvis on stage in 1970

Elvis on stage in 1970

From Blogs To Books/From Books To Movies

Thanks again to Thomas for taking over as guest conductor last week. I decided to just take the whole week off from keeping up with Elvis news and writing the blog. Honestly, what I learned during my week away from The Mystery Train is that I need time off from here more often, despite how much I love it. Taking a few steps back made me realize that sometimes this fun little hobby consumes too much of my life.

Last Train To Memphis: The Movie That Wouldn’t Die

With that being said, I did have a chance to go back and catch up on the news. One of the main stories to hit the Elvis sites last week was talk of a movie version of Last Train To Memphis: The Rise Of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick’s definitive early Elvis biography. The book was first released in 1994, seventeen years ago. I believe Hollywood has been trying to turn this into a movie for almost that long.

I can actually remember covering the Last Train To Memphis movie for the fan club newsletter I wrote back in the early to mid 1990s. My last story on the subject was something to the effect of “Unfortunately, plans for a movie version of Last Train To Memphis have been put on hold.”

Over the years, the project has continued to garner a mention out here in web land every now and then. IGN Movies even reviewed a rough draft script for Last Train To Memphis by Jim Uhls (Fight Club) back in 2000. None other than The New York Times listed a now-abandoned Last Train To Memphis incarnation with Mike Newell directing, Leonardo DiCaprio producing, and John Goodman appearing in an unidentified role (perhaps Colonel Tom Parker?). Long-time Elvis friend Jerry Schilling was also attached to the project as co-producer.

Here we are, well over a decade later, and plans for the movie have apparently been put back on the track, with John Fusco set to write a new adaptation for producer Steve Bing (“John Fusco Takes His Shot At Early Elvis” — Deadline Hollywood). Fusco‘s biggest credit to date is 1988’s Young Guns, while a few of Bing’s past productions have been documentaries. He also wrote the Chuck Norris Missing In Action series of movies.

My hope is that Last Train To Memphis: The Rise Of Elvis Presley will not be yet another conventional dramatization of Elvis’ life, but instead a definitive documentary using archival music, footage, and photographs to tell the story. After all, the only person who can really do Elvis justice is Elvis himself. Johnny Depp need not apply.

An ultimate Elvis documentary would fill the void left by the now-dated This Is Elvis and Elvis: The Great Performances. If they do this movie right, there’s a sequel already waiting in the wings in the form of Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Guralnick’s somewhat disappointing 1999 follow-up that covered the remainder of Elvis’ life.

Sometimes, initiatives take flight right out of the Projects That Will Never Happen Department, and maybe that will be the case with Last Train To Memphis.

Live like Elvis – at any budget

ElvisBlog was one of several sites to cover one of Elvis’ former homes going on the rental market. The southern California residence that then-newlyweds Elvis and Priscilla used in 1967 can be yours for just $25,000 a month and includes, amazingly enough, “floor-to-ceiling walls throughout.”

If $25,000 a month is too much for you, then perhaps you might want to furnish your own version of Graceland instead by perusing eBay’s local classified advertisements (“Recreate Graceland Forever!” — The eBay Classifieds Blog). The Jungle Room is pretty cool, especially since two of my favorite albums were recorded there, but I think Elvis’ TV Room is more my style.

Judging a blog by its book cover

Finally, be sure to check out the ultra-slick cover to Thomas’ forthcoming book, which compiles his first 271 posts on the Elvis Today blog. It also features one never-before-published article. Hey Thomas, I’m just wondering, who is going to star in the inevitable movie version of the Elvis Today blog?

“They don’t seem like art to me” (Conductor’s Reflections #6)

“They don’t seem like art to me,” is how ElvisBlog’s Phil Arnold inexplicably dismisses the Elvis works of the legendary Andy Warhol in his post today commemorating Flaming Star (50th Anniversary Movie Pictorials: Flaming Star – 1960 — ElvisBlog).

The Warhol works are derived from a publicity photo of Elvis as he appeared in the 1960 film. Warhol’s 1963 piece Triple Elvis is in the collection of the Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts.

I saw it several times as a kid. It is quite stunning in person and very much “art.” I am hoping it will still be on display when the Elvis At 21 Alfred Wertheimer exhibit arrives there late next year.

Of course, there are also people out there who say that Elvis was never a singer, much less an artist, so I suppose Warhol is in good company.

* * *

Flaming Star, one of Elvis’ best movies, was directed by Don Siegel – who went on to direct Clint Eastwood in a number of films, including Dirty Harry. The end of the Eastwood-directed Unforgiven (1992) includes the dedication “To Sergio and Don,” his mentors. “Sergio” is Sergio Leone, who directed Eastwood in what became known as The Man With No Name trilogy, and “Don” is Don Siegel.

Read Phil Arnold’s foreword to Elvis: The Early Years

ElvisBlog‘s Phil Arnold has released online the full text of his foreword to the latest Alfred Wertheimer photography book, Elvis: The Early Years. The cover of this 120-page hardbound volume from earBOOKS features an iconic 1956 image of Elvis on his Harley.

Phil’s well-written essay for the October 2010 book explores the details behind Wertheimer’s various experiences with Elvis in 1956-1958, illuminating how he was able to gain closer access to the singer than any other photographer.

While other sources have indicated that Wertheimer took nearly 4,000 photographs of Elvis, Phil reveals that this number is exaggerated. “After culling out the unusable shots (too dark, out of focus, etc.), Wertheimer says he has around 2000 commercially viable photos to license for future ventures,” he notes in the foreword. Elvis: The Early Years contains 96 of those images.

The book, available in the United Kingdom, also includes 3 CDs of Elvis music from the same time period.

Read Phil Arnold’s foreword to Elvis: The Early Years over at ElvisBlog.

Elvis news . . . in a flash

Now that we’re starting to get back to “normal” here on The Mystery Train Elvis Blog after wall-to-wall coverage of Elvis On Tour, I thought it would be a good chance to catch up on some of the other things going on in the Elvis world.

Too much, plus tax

While I’ve got some book and Blu-ray reviews in the works, one upcoming Elvis release I’m not likely to be reviewing anytime soon is The Complete Elvis Presley Masters collection, formally announced by Sony Legacy this week and available for pre-order. This 30-CD set checks in at $749 US, plus tax and shipping.

The initial run is limited to only 1,000 units worldwide. You get 814 recordings, a new 240-page hardcover book, and a display case.

Don’t get me wrong here. This looks like a terrific set, and I’m drooling over it as we speak! $749 is simply too much for me personally, especially considering I already have all of the songs (though not always in the same sound quality as what will no doubt be included on this set).

Checking out the other Elvis blogs

Over on Elvis Today, Thomas recently reviewed the FTD edition of How Great Thou Art. He notes, “Getting a front seat in RCA’s Studio B in Nashville and being able to listen to Elvis’ new producer Felton Jarvis directing the session with his supportive comments and encouragement, offers a valuable insight into how the recordings took place and how the songs evolved.” Certainly, a must-read post and, apparently, a must-listen CD set as well.

Phil has some great coverage this week on ElvisBlog about what he calls “Two Very Rare, Weird, and Valuable Elvis Records.” Each one of those rare records will actually cost far more than the 30-CD set referenced above, by the way. One features “Doncha’ Think It’s Time” by Elvis accidentally pressed by RCA on a record labeled as “One For The Money (Part 1)” by The Whispers. How Elvis’ 1958 recording ended up on this 1976 single is anyone’s guess.

This reminded me of a similar mistake that Sony Legacy recently made – in reverse! Some editions of their 2-CD reissue of On Stage-February 1970 have an Alice In Chains album as the first CD – though it is still labeled as Elvis. Sony is offering a disc exchange, but that’s one I’d recommend keeping if you happen to have it, even if you don’t like Alice In Chains. It’s kind of a double collectible, for Alice In Chains fans may want to obtain this unique disc as well.

Continue keeping Myrna Smith in your prayers

One of the beautiful voices you’ll hear on the real version of On Stage is that of Myrna Smith. Because of Elvis, I’ve been listening to Myrna for all of my life.

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but I want to bring it up again. If you’re going to be in Memphis during Elvis Week, be sure to attend Elvis Unlimited‘s Back In Memphis concert, which will benefit Myrna – a founding member of the Sweet Inspirations vocal group that backed Elvis in concert performances from 1969 until his death in 1977. Myrna is hospitalized with a serious illness in California and the medical bills are quickly adding up. Kudos to Elvis Unlimited for taking the initiative to bring fans together to help her.

Even if you can’t attend the show, keep Myrna in your prayers, everyone. May she recover soon.

Potatoes, Secret Movies, and Elvis Blogs

A legendary potato

I’ve posted about the Mr. Potato Head Elvis Presley here a couple of times in the last week or so. Most recently, I had some fun with the idea and speculated about what some of the rejected marketing slogans for that dubious product might have been.

Other Elvis bloggers have also handled this hot potato. For instance, Phil over at ElvisBlog surmises that a 50s gold lamé suit incarnation of the big spud will follow the 70s white jumpsuit and ’68 special leather suit versions already in the works. If you’re going to insult Elvis fans, it’s only fair, of course, to insult fans of every Elvis decade. That way, no one feels left out.

In Phil’s post, you’ll see what amounts to a rogue’s gallery of mostly awful Elvis “collectibles” in the same vein as the potato. One that I apparently missed when it first arrived on the scene is “Plush Piggy Elvis” – which admittedly is even worse than the Potato Head. While the potato is official, I’m really hoping that piggy was an unauthorized product, though. Not even EPE would be that stupid, would they?

The secret Elvis On Tour movie

Well, I’m not going to let the potato get me down. Elvis On Tour‘s looming Blu-ray release is enough to satisfy me for 75th anniversary products. Last week, I also told you how Fandango, AMC, and others are advertising a theatrical showing of the film on July 29 at various theaters across the United States (billed as Elvis On Tour 75th Anniversary Celebration).

As far as I’ve seen, there’s still been nothing official posted from sponsors Warner Home VideoElvis Presley Enterprises, or Fathom Events. However, I can assure you that the tickets are very much on sale now – as I purchased mine from Fandango over the weekend.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Elvis On Tour in the theater. I just hope enough word gets out that I won’t be the only one there!

Seriously, seeing Elvis On Tour on the big screen will make the 75th anniversary a memorable one for me. I can’t think of a better way to remember Elvis than to see him live in concert in the closest way we can.

300 posts and counting

Speaking of milestones, Thomas is celebrating the 300th post over at his Elvis Today blog, so congratulations to him. Having read all 300 of them, I can safely say that Elvis Today sets itself apart from the rest of us by being a very personal and insightful blog of consistent high quality. When it comes to blogging, Thomas sets the ideal. I just wish he’d hurry up with the next 300 posts.

They’re not all bad

Besides Elvis On Tour, another upcoming, authorized Elvis product actually looks pretty terrific. I’ll have a post about that within the next few days.

Until next time, have fun everyone!