On The Elvis Beat #1: From Elvis In Memphis/A Life In 57 Albums/John Walker Ross

Welcome to the first edition of On The Elvis Beat, a new, continuing series on The Mystery Train Blog. On The Elvis Beat will feature a short roundup of interesting tidbits from around the online Elvis world.


Friends,

As of late, one of my favorite posts to write was “Blogs! Blogs! Blogs!” where I pointed you to various other Elvis sites. In that spirit, On The Elvis Beat begins.

Thomas Melin over at The Elvis Today Blog continues to post must-read content. After reviewing the new 33 1/3: From Elvis In Memphis book (“From Elvis In Memphis Revisited“), he interviewed the author, Eric Wolfson (“From Elvis In Memphis: The Eric Wolfson Interview [Part 1]“). I enjoyed Thomas’ review so much that I immediately ordered the book. It is now in a very large pile, waiting for me to have time enough at last to read them all.

Howard Jackson is 19 albums deep into a 57 album look at Elvis’ life and times that began back in November with his debut album, Elvis Presley (“Elvis Presley — A Life In 57 Record Albums 1: Elvis Presley“). What I enjoy about Howard’s series is that he intermingles in-depth looks at the albums with personal reflections. The Elvis portion of his site can be found in the Music, Stuff and Elvis section.

Finally, Neal Umphred on his Elvis — A Touch of Gold site provided a worthy tribute to his friend and collaborator John Walker Ross, AKA “Nondisposable Johnny” of The Round Place in the Middle, who passed away last month (“John Walker Ross — Rest in peace, my friend“). While I unfortunately never got to know Nondisposable Johnny personally, I enjoyed reading his blog over the years. He also commented here on The Mystery Train about a dozen times. Back in 2012, I asked readers what Elvis event they would record with an audio time machine. Here is Nondisposable Johnny’s response:

“I want the recorder to be trained on Elvis at the moment when they came and got him out of the theater the night ‘That’s Alright Mama’ was first played on the radio. Love to see his expression at the very first moment when he might have had some inkling that there was a public out there that might actually respond to what was in his head.”

He’ll be missed. I’m praying for his family and friends to have strength and peace.

Blessings,
TY


“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”
Psalm 73:26

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 ElvisNews.com 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,
TY


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

The Elvis Today Blog Volume 2 author talks to The Mystery Train

Last month, Thomas Melin released a new book, The Elvis Today Blog: Volume 2. Available from Blurb, the paperback compiles 230 more Elvis Today Blog posts. It also features a foreword by Michael Jarrett, writer of “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” and “I’m Leavin'”, as well as a previously unreleased interview with DJ Fontana, Elvis’ first drummer. Melin recently took the time to chat about Elvis and the 328-page volume.

The Elvis Today Blog, Volume 2

Cover of The Elvis Today Blog, Volume 2

“Since the first time I heard Elvis, when I was nine or ten years old, I’ve been a fan,” said Melin. “I became really dedicated a short while later when I borrowed a bunch of Elvis albums from a classmate.” The titles included Elvis In Concert, A Canadian Tribute, and C’mon Everybody.

Melin, who lives in Sweden and is now 45, notes that it has always been Elvis’ music and variety of singing styles that have drawn him in. “Being a fan for me also means trying to learn more about the man that was Elvis Presley by listening to alternate takes, reading books, talking to his musicians, and watching documentaries,” he said.

He began blogging about Elvis on August 16, 2007. Five years worth of posts later, he is not sure if it has changed his perspective on the singer, but feels that it has enriched his life as a fan. “I’ve been able to share my ‘Elvis experiences’ with other fans,” Melin said, pointing out that the blog has helped him get to know other Elvis fans around the world.

The Elvis Today Blog: Volume 2 picks up right where the first volume ended. It collects all of the posts from January 8, 2010, through August 16, 2012. “I think it’s nice to have them all in one place, so to speak, and to be able to leaf through the pages and read a bit more thorough when something catches your eye,” said Melin.

“The kind of posts I’ve always loved to write the most has been […] ‘Special Moments With FTD,’ where I, with the help of an alternate take, some studio banter, information in books, and last, but not least, some imagination, try to describe what was going on in the studio or on stage when the recording equipment caught Elvis in his line of work. In my second book, the one that I’m the most satisfied with is the ‘Special Moments With FTD 11’ post, describing the recording of the song ‘Guitar Man’ on September 10, 1967,” he said. The post was inspired by the 2011 FTD release Elvis Sings Guitar Man.

As mentioned, one of the special bonuses this time around is a foreword by Michael Jarrett. “It all started in December 2008 when I wrote about one of the biggest daily newspapers in Sweden ranking Elvis’ ‘I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day’ as the second best Christmas song ever,” he said. Jarrett subsequently got in touch to thank him for mentioning his song.

“From there on we have stayed in contact, and I’m honored to have Michael Jarrett among my readers, which obviously means a lot. When I asked him if he would write the foreword and he accepted, I was thrilled,” he said.

The other special bonus, of course, is Melin’s interview with drummer DJ Fontana. In April 2006, Fontana was touring Sweden as part of a Swedish group called The Cadillac Band. At that time, Melin was working as a reporter at a radio station, where he also produced a one-hour program about Elvis’ religious music. He says he “begged” his news editor to let him interview the drummer when The Cadillac Band came to town. Melin said, “I found DJ Fontana very friendly, and he seemed to enjoy talking about his time with Elvis.”

Blurb specializes in self-publishing and provided the platform for both books based on Elvis Today Blog. “What you need is a PDF version of the book to upload on Blurb, and I’m lucky to have a brother who is very, very good when it comes to design and page layout,” he said. He explains that Staffan Melin used the Adobe Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign) on the first volume, but decided to try open source software (Scribus, Inkscape and GIMP) on the latest volume.

“This book is actually part of [Staffan’s] master’s thesis in media technology, where he examines if free software can be used for book and magazine production. Obviously, it can,” said Melin.

Elvis Today Blog celebrated its 500th post on August 16, 2012, which was also the cutoff date for the new book. Since that time, Melin has been in semi-retirement from blogging. “When I decided to take an indefinite break from blogging, it was because so much was going on in my life, mainly due to my two-year-old daughter. I just didn’t have the time or energy to write about Elvis anymore. I still don’t,” he explained.

“I still listen to Elvis all the time, and my daughter seems to like his music, too, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss blogging at times. That’s why I’ve written one or two posts since ‘retiring,’ and I guess it will continue that way,” Melin said.

“For now, I’m satisfied with my 500 posts and two books. Every time I look at them sitting in the shelf I feel a bit proud, thinking in my own small way, I’ve done something to keep Elvis’ memory alive,” he said. “It’s been a fun ride!”

Order The Elvis Today Blog: Volume 2 over at Blurb.

No particular place to go

All right, this will be one of those off-the-top-of-my-head posts – so who knows what you’re gonna get out of reading this.

I’m just sitting here on a rainy Saturday afternoon listening to Elvis.

Blue HawaiiI’m getting back into vinyl after pretty much being all CDs all the time for the last twenty years. I pulled out my old collection, and the first one I played was Blue Hawaii.

I couldn’t believe how incredible it sounded on record. I sense a new obsession coming on.

The good thing is, I already have about 25 LPs and 25 45s from the old days before I had a CD player, so those should tide me over for awhile.

* * *

So, there were a bunch of great posts around the web for Elvis Week 2012. My favorite was probably Indisposable Johnny’s “When Elvis Moved On” over on The Round Place In The Middle blog. If you haven’t already, be sure to read it.

One post that I didn’t want to read because I knew what was coming was “Treat Me Nice”, a farewell of sorts by Thomas Melin over on his Elvis Today Blog. After five years and 500 posts, he’s taking an indefinite break from blogging about Elvis in order to spend more time with his family. It’s hard to fault him for that. I’m sure gonna miss his posts, though. Best wishes to Thomas.

While Thomas’ absence leaves a huge void, all is not lost. For instance, Sheila O’Malley continues her excellent series of Elvis Essays on The Sheila Variations blog. Meanwhile, artist Joe Petruccio just began a brand new blog called My Elvis Journal. Petruccio’s unique posts are definitely worth checking out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

* * *

August 28 Update: I’ve just found that there is yet another new Elvis blog, and it’s one I definitely want to mention. Elvis audio expert and frequent For Elvis CD Collectors Forum poster elvissessions recently began elvissessions.net, which will cover “Elvis Presley in the studio — and beyond.”

I love his informative FECC posts, so I’m looking forward to following elvissessions’ blog. Here’s a recent entry about obtaining Ernst Jorgensen’s autograph on his copy of A Boy From Tupelo during Elvis Week 2012.

Speaking of FTD’s mammoth SUN project, my copy will supposedly be in the mail this week. No autographs, though. I guess that’s one of the many perks of being in Memphis during Elvis Week. Either way, I can hardly wait for this release.

Guest Blog #6: From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World (The Edge Of Reality #7)

What if the previously unreleased cassette recording of Elvis rehearsing the day before his opening show at the Las Vegas Hilton on January 26, 1973, had been a rehearsal for an upcoming world tour instead? In an alternate universe, a review of the recently released From Hawaii To Las Vegas album from FTD would have sounded a bit different…. You’ve just crossed over into… the edge of reality.

The Edge Of Reality

[Read the full post by Thomas Melin over on Elvis Today Blog.]

Guest Blog #4: Elvis 1967 – That Wild Presley Beat (The Edge Of Reality #4)

What if the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Young Man With The Big Beat box set turned out to be something called That Wild Presley Beat, focusing on 1967? You’ve just crossed over into . . . the edge of reality.

 “THAT WILD PRESLEY BEAT” 5-CD Deluxe Set

1967 saw the beginning of Elvis Presley’s return to the charts with songs that were once again artistically significant. But it didn’t happen overnight. The once “young man with the big beat” from Memphis was still tied to the formula of making movies and recording soundtrack albums. By the end of that fateful year, though, he’d shown the world that he was still a force to be reckoned with.

That Wild Presley Beat

That Wild Presley Beat puts the focus on Elvis during 12 months, from February 1967 to January 1968. The package includes his RCA studio master recordings in Nashville; his soundtrack master recordings in Nashville and Hollywood; alternate masters, outtakes; home recordings, and much more. Taking its name from the poster for his movie Clambake, the super deluxe 5-CD, 12 inch square box set (with an amazing 80-page book with timeline) will be available on April 31.

The five CD’s comprise the following, all material originating from February 1967-January 1968:

CD One, Soundtrack Master Recordings
19 tracks recorded in Nashville and Hollywood, starting with nine songs from Clambake, (February 21-23, 1967) followed by 10 songs from Speedway, including the previously unreleased movie version of “Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby” (June 20-21, 1967).

CD Two, Studio and Soundtrack Master Recordings
17 tracks recorded in Nashville, starting with 10 songs from the “Guitar Man sessions,” including the unedited masters of “Guitar Man” (with a fade-out jam on “What’d I Say”) and “High Heel Sneakers” (September 10-11, 1967), followed by three songs from Stay Away, Joe (October 1, 1967) and four more songs from the combined studio sessions/soundtrack recordings for Stay Away, Joe (January 15-16, 1968).

CD Three, The Outtakes I
Four outtakes from the Clambake soundtrack recordings (“The Girl I Never Loved,” “How Can You Lose What You Never Had,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “A House That Has Everything”), segueing into the complete session of October 1, 1967 (19 takes of “Stay Away, Joe,” three takes of “All I Needed Was The Rain” and five takes of “Dominick”).

CD Four, The Outtakes II
Nine outtakes from the “Guitar Man sessions” plus another 15 outtakes from the combined studio sessions/soundtrack recordings for Stay Away, Joe, including all 12 takes of “Too Much Monkey Business.”

CD Five, Home Recordings and Interview
Eight home recorded tracks done in early 1967, including “Suppose” that Elvis submitted to his producer Felton Jarvis for overdubbing (done on March 20, 1967) by musicians and backup vocalists. The other seven tracks are previously unreleased, among them “It’s Now Or Never” (with Charlie Hodge) and “Elvis Practicing Organ.” The CD ends with a newly discovered interview with Elvis on the set of Stay Away, Joe. The interview was done and taped by reporter Joseph Lewis, doing a story for the Cosmopolitan.

That Wild Presley Beat will feature an extraordinary book, where the focal point, spread across its 80 pages, will be a unique, meticulously-researched, day-by-day chronology of Elvis during 1967, including every recording date, film schedule, personal events in his life, and much more. A dazzling photo array of memorabilia will illustrate each day and entry. Movie posters, RCA memoranda, letters from fans, postcards from Elvis to his family, personal photos, magazine covers and articles, trade charts, fan club relics, RCA publicity photos, candid photos, and more will be a feast for the eyes and the imagination as 1967 unfolds.

That Wild Presley Beat will also include five rare 8×10 photographs, three original-size movie poster replicas, and a replica of the “specially autographed” wedding photo originally included as a special bonus inside the Clambake album.

Pre-order customers will also receive an exclusive “Stay Away, Joe” vinyl 7″. Sharing the same striking cover art as the movie poster, the EP features “Stay Away, Joe,” “Goin’ Home,” “All I Needed Was The Rain,” “Stay Away” and “Dominick.”

This imaginary box set is available only in . . . the edge of reality.

/Thomas, Elvis Today


Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Blog has commemorated the 44th anniversary of 1967. Find out why here. This concludes our coverage.

Shoppin’ Around: Elvis Presley 2011 Christmas Gift Guide

For those of you that know and love an Elvis fan, here are some Christmas gift ideas that suit a wide variety of budgets. Price ranges listed are in US dollars, but most of these items are available around the world.


Under $10

The Elvis Today Blog (book): By relating his personal experiences, author Thomas Melin crafts a unique volume that follows the triumphs and trials of being an Elvis fan in the post-1977 era (Read full review). Available from Blurb.

Treat Me Nice (book, Kindle edition):Treat Me Nice argues that Elvis and the Frankenstein Creature were condemned to self-destruction because they both horrified their creators,” states an intriguing marketing excerpt for this book by Howard Jackson (not yet reviewed). Available from Amazon. Also available in traditional book format.

That’s Alright, Elvis (book, 2011 Kindle edition): Long out-of-print, the autobiography of Scotty Moore is now available on Kindle from Amazon (not yet reviewed).


Under $20

Elvis Is Back! (2-CD set, 2011 Legacy Edition): This release contains 1960’s Elvis Is Back! and 1961’s Elvis For Everyone. Elvis is in top form here, and these recordings have never sounded better. A few bonus tracks are also included on each disc, from the same time period. Recommended for intermediate fans who are just beginning to explore Elvis beyond the typical greatest hits collections. Strong fans will already have this material.

Elvis: The Great Performances (2-DVD set, 2011 reissue): This set covers his life and career. The two volumes (Center Stage and The Man & His Music) are 1990 documentaries that updated 1981’s This Is Elvis. Though much ground is covered, watching the set often feels repetitive. Recommended for casual fans only. A modern documentary of Elvis is sorely needed.


Under $30

Elvis Sings Guitar Man (2011, booklet cover)

Elvis Sings Guitar Man (2-CD set): Strong fans will enjoy this release from the Follow That Dream collectors label. This is a unique album, compiling 1966-1967 masters and alternates to better document an important timeframe in Elvis’ career. A highlight is hearing him in the studio with Jerry Reed (Read full review). Find FTD releases at ShopElvis.com and other online Elvis stores.

Live In Vegas (2011)Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show (CD): Another FTD release that every strong fan should have, this one showcases Elvis Presley at his best on stage in a sound presentation that is richly mastered and crystal clear.

Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis (2011)Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis: Recorded Live On Stage In Richmond, Virginia – March 18, 1974 (CD): At the Richmond Coliseum, Elvis proves he is still on top in this FTD release. Highlights of this newly discovered professional recording include “Steamroller Blues,” “Polk Salad Annie,” and the “Rock Medley” (Read full review).


Around $100

Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete 1956 Elvis Presley Masters (5-CD set): For strong fans, the main draw of this beautifully designed, deluxe package from Sony is the first-ever release of Elvis’ final Louisiana Hayride appearance from December 1956. The concert is spectacular. For those fans who do not wish to purchase the entire set for just a few tracks, Sony has also made the tracks available for individual purchase and download. That means you can buy the Hayride show for only $10. No need to go with an unauthorized version on this one. For intermediate fans who do not yet have the other tracks, there is even more to enjoy.


Good luck with your Christmas shopping. Feel free to comment below on any other Elvis goodies you may find along the way.