Elvis Movies: ROUSTABOUT

Earlier this year, I began a rewatch of Elvis Presley’s movies. Today’s focus is one that I have not seen as often as some of the others – Elvis’ 16th movie, Roustabout.


“Elvis Presley as a Roving, Restless, Reckless, Roustabout”

Roustabout (Paramount)
Wide Release: November 11, 1964 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Freeman
Screenplay By: Anthony Lawrence and Allan Weiss
Story By: Allan Weiss
Music Score By: Joseph J. Lilley
Produced By: Hal B. Wallis
Directed By: John Rich
Running Time: 101 Minutes


Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

In Roustabout, Elvis Presley stars as Charlie Rogers, a singer who ends up working at a carnival when Joe (Leif Erickson), a grouchy old carny, runs him off the road, damaging his motorcycle and destroying his guitar. Ah, Elvis Movies, you gotta love ’em.

The Morgan Shows carnival in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

The Morgan Shows carnival in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Despite the inane setup, Roustabout is pretty good! When Maggie (Barbara Stanwyck), the owner of the carnival, pays for a new guitar and repairs to his motorcycle, Charlie stays on as a roustabout until his bike is ready in order to spend more time with Cathy (Joan Freeman), Joe’s daughter. Joe, of course, is not amused by this turn of events.

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Outside of this movie, “roustabout” is not a term I have encountered. It essentially means an unskilled laborer. It seems to be used most often today in the oil rigging industry. In this case, Charlie does odd jobs at the carnival, such as helping to set up rides or even filling in at a candy apple stand.

When attempting to attract players for a game that Cathy is promoting, Charlie winds up singing and drawing a crowd. His roustabout days are soon behind him, for Maggie signs him on as a singer instead.

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) begins to draw a crowd for Morgan Shows when the carnival signs him on as a singer in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) begins to draw a crowd for Morgan Shows when the carnival signs him on as a singer in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

It turns out that Maggie has a habit of bailing Joe out of trouble, and her carnival is facing financial ruin because of it. Charlie brings in the teen money, and the situation begins to improve until things come to a head between him and Joe, causing Charlie to switch to a rival carnival.

Barbara Stanwyck is Maggie Morgan in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Barbara Stanwyck is Maggie Morgan in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis does a fine job acting in certain parts of Roustabout. A scene between him and Barbara Stanwyck is my favorite of the film:

Charlie: “You collect strays, Maggie. And you got one in Joe. Why don’t you stop recruiting? They don’t make a family.”
Maggie: “What would you know about a family?”
Charlie: “Nothing!”

After Maggie walks away and can no longer hear him, Charlie repeats the line again, softly, sadly: “Nothing…” It is a quick moment, but certainly one of Elvis’ best in his 1960s movies.

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

The rebellious Charlie is reminiscent of some of Elvis’ earliest film roles. For instance, Charlie remarks early on, “Look, if you’re not tough in this world, you get squashed, honey.” These words could have been taken right out of Vince Everett’s mouth in Jailhouse Rock (1957). Charlie also has traces of Deke Rivers from Loving You (1957) and even a little bit of Danny Fisher from King Creole (1958). At 29 during production of Roustabout, however, Elvis does seem a little old at times to be playing a rebel.

Even some of Elvis’ mannerisms in Roustabout remind me of his 1950s presence, otherwise left out of many of his 1960s movies. Elvis’ performance of “One Track Heart” in Roustabout, for instance, is quite reminiscent of his 1956 “Blue Suede Shoes” screen test, except with a less exciting song. Later on, during “Hard Knocks,” he does his more typical 1960s movie hand-clapping thing, though.

Elvis’ natural flair for comedy comes into play a few times in Roustabout. One example:

Cathy: “You must get your face slapped a lot.”
Charlie: “About 50–50.”

Pat Buttram does a terrific job playing the villainous Harry, the owner of the big-time carnival that is looking to put Maggie out of business. Another great couple of lines:

Charlie: “Not everybody is as big a crook as you are, Harry.”
Harry: “Well, everybody tries.”

Pat Buttram is Harry and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Pat Buttram is Harry and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Charlie’s show goes over well, and Harry asks him to do an encore. “Nah,” says Charlie. “Always leave ’em wanting more.” This phrase, of course, was the philosophy of a real-life carny huckster, “Colonel” Tom Parker, when it came to managing Elvis. Parker also served as technical advisor on Roustabout and most of Elvis’ other films.

I try not to review soundtrack albums in this series, focusing any discussion of songs instead on how they appear in the movies themselves. However, I do want to point out in this case that Roustabout has one of the worst soundtrack albums – with nary a hit or highlight in sight. I was surprised, then, that just about all of the songs work perfectly in the context of the actual film. Perhaps based on the fun of seeing the movie, fans propelled the otherwise lackluster Roustabout soundtrack to Billboard‘s number one album position in January 1965. It would be over eight years before Elvis scored another number one album (1973’s Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite).

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley in a production number taped for 1968's ELVIS television special (NBC)

Elvis Presley in a production number taped for 1968’s ELVIS television special (NBC)

Roustabout obviously had an influence on some of the production numbers created for the 1968 ELVIS television special, even down to costuming. The denim outfit that Elvis wears at times in the movie is almost identical to one he wears during portions of the special, for instance. Roustabout is also one of the few times we see Elvis in leather prior to the special. The barker lines on the ELVIS-TV Special soundtrack album might even have been directly lifted from recordings made for this movie. The performance of “Little Egypt” in the ’68 special is better than the cringey one in Roustabout, incidentally, though the outdated song is a detriment to both productions anyway.

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) at Harry’s carnival in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)


Boldly Go

Multiple uncredited cast members from Roustabout went on to play roles in Star Trek.

K.L. Smith plays the Sheriff in Roustabout and appears as a Klingon in the Star Trek episode “Elaan Of Troyius” in 1968.

Elvis Presley is Charlie and K.L. Smith is the Sheriff in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie and K.L. Smith is the Sheriff in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

K.L. Smith is a Klingon captain in the 1968 STAR TREK episode "Elaan Of Troyius" (Paramount)

K.L. Smith is a Klingon captain in the 1968 STAR TREK episode “Elaan Of Troyius” (Paramount)

Other cross-overs include:

  • Dick Cherney [Roustabout: Carnival patron | Star Trek: A council member in “A Taste Of Armageddon” (1967) and a passerby in “The City On The Edge Of Forever” (1967)]
  • Carey Foster [Roustabout: College girl | Star Trek: An Enterprise crewmember in “The Squire Of Gothos” (1967), “This Side Of Paradise” (1967), and “The Alternative Factor” (1967)]
  • Teri Garr [Roustabout: Carnival dancer | Star Trek: Roberta Lincoln in “Assignment: Earth” (1968)]
  • Marianna Hill [Roustabout: Viola | Star Trek: Helen Noel in “Dagger Of The Mind” (1966)]
  • Jesse Wayne [Roustabout: Carnival worker | Star Trek: Chekov stunt double in “The Tholian Web” (1968)]

Some of these players will show up again in other Elvis movies not yet covered, giving them another chance to be featured here on The Mystery Train Elvis Blog.

An honorable mention goes to Elvis’ pal Lance LeGault, who appears as a barker in Roustabout and plays Captain K’Temoc in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Emissary” in 1989.


Elvis Presley takes a pummeling as Charlie Rogers in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley takes a pummeling as Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Roustabout Tote Board

    • Songs: 11
    • Punches: 11
    • Kisses: 8
    • Karate Chops: 4
    • Slaps: 2
    • Motorcycle Crashes: 2

Songs In Roustabout

  1. “Roustabout” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  2. “Poison Ivy League” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  3. “Wheels On My Heels” (1964), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  4. “It’s A Wonderful World” (1964), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  5. “It’s Carnival Time” (1964), written by Ben Weisman & Sid Wayne
  6. “Carny Town” (1964), written by Fred Wise & Randy Starr
  7. “One Track Heart” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  8. “Hard Knocks” (1964), written by Joy Byers
  9. “Little Egypt” (1964), written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
  10. “Big Love, Big Heartache” (1964), written by Dolores Fuller, Lee Morris, & Sonny Hendrix
  11. “There’s A Brand New Day On The Horizon” (1964), written by Joy Byers

The Mystery Train’s Roustabout Scorecard

  • Story: 6 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 8
  • Fun: 8
  • Songs: 6
  • Overall: 7 (Worth Watching)

Further Roustabout Reading Around The Web


Click image for larger, full-color version


“Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, ‘I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.’ ‘Agreed!’ Laban replied. ‘I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.’ So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.”
Genesis 29:18-20

King Creole: The Making Of The Movie

Elvis Presley, 1958

Elvis Presley in King Creole, 1958

King Creole was based on the 1952 novel A Stone For Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins. The novel’s protagonist is a boxer in New York, which the movie adapted into a singer in New Orleans to better suit audience expectations of its star, Elvis Presley. Elvis read the novel as part of his preparations for the role of Danny Fisher.

Producer Hal Wallis had been trying to get the film version of A Stone For Danny Fisher off the ground since 1955, long before Elvis was attached to the project. At that time, A Stone For Danny Fisher was also playing as an off-Broadway production.

James Dean was even rumored to have been in the running for the movie’s lead at one point. This was Wallis’ second Elvis movie. He would go on to produce nine Elvis movies in all.

Hal Wallis: “Michael Curtiz directed the film and he has a very sharp but romantic instinct. Walter Matthau made an excellent heavy and we had marvelous locations in New Orleans” (1).

Controversy swirled around King Creole before shooting even began. In late 1957, Elvis received his draft notice ordering him into the US Army as of January 1958.

With production slated to begin in Hollywood that same month, Paramount requested a deferment from the Memphis draft board, citing $300,000 it had already pumped into the movie during pre-production. Milton Bowers of the draft board replied that a deferment might be possible under the circumstances, but that Elvis would have to be the one to request it.

On Christmas Eve, 1957, Elvis wrote a letter requesting extra time before reporting to the Army in order to make King Creole. He completed the letter by wishing a “Merry Christmas” to the draft board members. Bowers and the draft board indeed granted his extension request, but soon received heat from other organizations – including the national chapter of the American Legion – calling for the immediate induction of Elvis.

Milton Bowers: “You know what made me angry about the entire thing is that he would have automatically gotten the extension if he hadn’t been Elvis Presley the superstar” (2).

Elvis Presley: “I’m glad they were nice enough to let me make this picture because I think it will be the best one I’ve made” (3).

On January 10, 1958, just two days after celebrating his 23rd birthday, Elvis departed Memphis on a train for Los Angeles. He brought along several friends, including Alan Fortas.

Alan Fortas: “Every town we passed through, no matter what time of morning or night, the whole station was jam-packed. These people knew as soon as Elvis finished this movie, he was going in the Army, so most of them considered it the last time to see him. […] People knew and they were lined up along the tracks all the way across America” (4).

Elvis arrived in Hollywood on January 13 and reported for pre-production. During the week, he also began work on the soundtrack at Radio Recorders.

During pre-production, the movie was titled Sing, You Sinners. This title was changed to Danny, and finally King Creole, based on the strength of the rock ‘n’ roll tune Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote for the soundtrack.

Filming began on January 20. Many of Elvis’ early scenes were with Jan Shepard, who played his sister, Mimi.

Jan Shepard: “[W]e worked together alone for about a week, because we did the opening of the show. He was […] just a lot of fun and buoyant, not guarded at all. There was a five-and-dime store on our set, and in the morning I would find earrings and little bracelets, little five-and-dime stuff on my dressing room table. I used to call him the last of the big-time spenders!” (5)

Because of his character’s name, Elvis often sang “Danny Boy” on set. He would return to the folk song many times over the years, including a 1959 home recording captured while he was stationed in Germany (available on the posthumous release A Golden Celebration). He formally recorded the song in 1976 at Graceland for the album From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. An organist played the song at the beginning of Elvis’ funeral in 1977.

Dolores Hart appeared as Nellie, one of Danny’s love interests. She had previously appeared with Elvis in 1957’s Loving You, also a Hal Wallis production.

Elvis Presley: “[King Creole] was quite a challenge for me because it was written for a more experienced actor” (6).

Dolores Hart: “Elvis, no matter what anyone says, deserves credit as a person of talent. There is no reason he shouldn’t soar to the heights the kings [of the screen] occupy now” (7).

Jan Shepard: “[Elvis] was very concentrated, very focused on playing Danny. For a kid coming in and just beginning his career he had a great sense of timing; there was great honesty in his acting. He was a very good listener, and he just became the young boy […]. Just like in his music, he really got involved in his acting” (5).

Walter Matthau played Fisher’s antagonist, Maxie Fields. It was his sixth film.

Walter Matthau, 1958

Walter Matthau in King Creole

Walter Matthau: “I almost hesitate, I creep up to the sentence, [Elvis] was an instinctive actor. Because that is almost a derogation of his talents. That’s saying, ‘Well, you know, he’s just a dumb animal who does it well by instinct.’ No, he was quite bright, too. He was very intelligent. Also, he was intelligent enough to understand what a character was and how to play the character simply by being himself through the means of the story” (8).

Michael Curtiz’s directing credits extended back to 1912. In addition to 1942’s Casablanca, for which he won an Oscar, his other work, from among nearly 200 films, included the 1937 original version of Kid Galahad, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and White Christmas (1954). Curtiz was attached to King Creole before it was transformed into an Elvis movie.

Jan Shepard: “Curtiz said he thought Elvis was going to be a very conceited boy, but when he started working with him, he said, ‘No, this is a lovely boy, and he’s going to be a wonderful actor'” (5).

Walter Matthau: “Michael Curtiz used to call him Elvy and he’d call me Valty. He’d say, ‘Now Elvy and Valty, come here, now Valty, this is not Academy Award scene. Don’t act so much. You are high-price actor. Make believe you are low-price actor. Let Elvy act.’ But Elvy didn’t overact. He was not a punk. He was very elegant, sedate . . . refined and sophisticated” (8).

Jan Shepard: “You just didn’t have a lot of fooling around with Curtiz […]. But no matter what Curtiz would ask of Elvis, he would say, ‘Okay, you’re the boss'” (5).

Elvis at a party in 1958

Elvis performing at Jan Shepard’s birthday party on February 22, 1958. Also pictured is Dolores Hart on clarinet.

Hart threw a birthday party for Shepard on February 22. Elvis showed up with a stuffed tiger that he named “Danny Boy.” His birthday gift for Shepard was a movie camera, definitely not from the five-and-dime store. He also played guitar and sang at the party.

King Creole was the first Elvis movie to include location shooting. On March 1, the film’s cast and crew headed for New Orleans by train. At this point, Red West, Elvis’ friend since his high school days, and actor Nick Adams, who Elvis had befriended in 1956, joined up with the rest of his entourage for the trip.

Carolyn Jones played Ronnie, Danny’s other love interest. She brought her husband, actor Aaron Spelling, along for the train ride to New Orleans. The couple would divorce in 1964. Spelling later went on to produce dozens of television series, including Charlie’s Angels and Beverly Hills 90210.

Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, expressed concerns about security on the location shoot to Wallis. Wallis assured Parker that they could handle it. After all, he had worked with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis at the peak of the duo’s popularity.

Alan Fortas: “There were thousands of people. Hal Wallis couldn’t believe it. […] I never saw so many people in my life. They declared it Elvis Presley Day and let the kids out of school and it took us two hours to get back to the hotel no matter where we were, even from across the street” (9).

In the French Quarter, the car carrying Elvis was almost overturned by the massive crowd.

Carolyn Jones: “[Elvis] had to ride in an old sedan, lying on the floor in the back, so his fans couldn’t mob him” (10).

Elvis took over the tenth floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, one block from where they were filming in the French Quarter. Hotel security was so tight that no one was admitted to the tenth floor. As a joke, Hart, Jones, and Adams armed themselves with toy guns and held up the elevator operator to force their way to Elvis’ floor. The elevator operator was not in on the joke and was apparently still shaken the next day.

Alan Fortas: “[W]e got on the elevator and we said, ‘Tenth floor, please.’ The elevator operator said, ‘No, sir, I can’t stop on the tenth floor. Mr. Presley is up there and we just can’t stop.’ Elvis was on the elevator with us and he said, ‘Yeah, I know. I’m Elvis.’ The elevator operator looked straight at him and said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t stop on that floor for anybody.’ We had to go to the eleventh floor and walk down” (9).

The film’s climax was shot at a house on stilts at Lake Pontchartrain. Elvis and Jones shared scenes there.

Carolyn Jones: “[Elvis] was always asking a lot of questions. God, he was young! I didn’t think anyone could be that young. He was always talking about his folks and about the house [Graceland] he’d just bought them” (8).

When onlookers at Lake Pontchartrain became unmanageable, Elvis had to escape through the back of the house to a motorboat that whisked him away.

Though Memphis was tantalizingly close, the group had to return by train to Hollywood to be released from King Creole. Elvis attended a wrap party on March 12, and then he and his friends were on yet another train. Destination: Memphis.

Alan Fortas: “We’d just sit and talk [on the train], try to write songs, try to sing. You know, just typical ol’ boys. But it got to us by the time we got to Dallas. We couldn’t take it any longer. So we got off that train and rented some Cadillacs and drove the rest of the way home” (11).

Elvis arrived home on March 14 and was inducted into the Army on March 24.

Paramount released King Creole throughout the United States on July 2. It peaked at #5 on the Variety charts. At this time, Private Presley was still stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.

Hal Wallis: “Now, although I don’t have all the figures, I believe that one of the least successful of Elvis’s films was King Creole. But that was my favorite!” (1)

Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley in King Creole

Dolores Hart and Elvis in King Creole

Dolores Hart: “Elvis is a young man with an enormous capacity of love . . . but I don’t think he has found his happiness. I think he is terribly lonely” (12).

According to longtime friend Sonny West, if Elvis had his way, he would have reunited with director Michael Curtiz when Elvis was cast in a remake of Kid Galahad, which filmed in late 1961 (13). This time, Elvis actually played a boxer, albeit a singing one. Despite Elvis’ campaign, Phil Karlson received the directing nod instead. Curtiz passed away in April 1962 at the age of 74.

Elvis later reunited with Jan Shepard in 1966’s Paradise, Hawaiian Style, in which she played Betty Kohana. Shepard had maintained a friendship with Hart after King Creole. By this time, the quality of Elvis’ movies had declined. While King Creole is a contender for Elvis’ best movie, Paradise, Hawaiian Style is a contender for his worst.

Jan Shepard: “One time [Elvis] asked about Dolores Hart, and we had a little bit of a conversation. In the quiet moments, he was still very sweet. When we reminisced about Creole, he said, ‘Honey, that was my favorite picture'” (14).


Bibliography

  • Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, 1999.
  • Down At The End Of Lonely Street: The Life And Death Of Elvis Presley by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske, Dutton, New York, 1997.
  • ELVIS: The Biography by Jerry Hopkins, Plexus, London, 2007.
  • Elvis Commemorative Edition, compiled by Bill DeNight, Sharon Fox, and Ger Rijff, Publications International, Lincolnwood, IL, 2002.
  • Elvis Day By Day: The Definitive Record Of His Life And Music by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, Ballantine Books, New York, 1999.
  • The Elvis Encyclopedia by Adam Victor, Overlook Duckworth, New York, 2008.
  • Elvis: The Great Performances, dir. Andrew Solt, perf. Elvis Presley, 1989, DVD, SOFA, 2011.
  • Elvis: His Life From A To Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius, Wings Books, New York, 1990.
  • Elvis In Private, edited by Peter Haining, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1987.
  • Elvis: Still Taking Care Of Business by Sonny West with Marshall Terrill, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2007.
  • Good Rockin’ Tonight: Twenty Years On The Road And On The Town With Elvis by Joe Esposito and Elena Oumano, Avon Books, New York, 1994.
  • Internet Movie Database, accessed March 23, 2013.
  • King Creole, dir. Michael Curtiz, perf. Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, and Walter Matthau, 1958, DVD, Paramount, 2000.
  • Last Train To Memphis: The Rise Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, 1994.
  • Viva Las Elvis: Celebrating The King, compiled by Peggy Thompson, Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, 1994.

References

(1) Elvis In Private, p. 92
(2) Down At The End Of Lonely Street, p. 137
(3) Last Train To Memphis, p. 446
(4) ELVIS: The Biography, p. 129
(5) Last Train To Memphis, p. 450
(6) Last Train To Memphis, p. 456
(7) Elvis Commemorative Edition, p. 112
(8) Last Train To Memphis, p. 451
(9) ELVIS: The Biography, p. 130
(10) Down At The End Of Lonely Street, p. 139
(11) ELVIS: The Biography, p. 131
(12) Elvis: His Life From A To Z, p. 85
(13) Elvis: Still Taking Care Of Business, p. 120
(14) Careless Love, p. 209


My grandmother worked in the ticket booth of a theater for decades. I dedicate this series of movie posts to her, who would have turned 103 this month. I often remember her when I watch movies.

For Trivia Fans Only: Thomas wins Elvis Trivialities #14

Y’all had plenty of chances, but Thomas proved yet again to be an unstoppable force when it comes to Elvis trivia by winning Elvis Trivialities #14.

Thomas’ trophy shelf of bragging rights must be getting really crowded, for this marks his seventh victory. He also maintains a spot of honor among The Mystery Train’s Night Riders.

And the answer is…

For LP Fans Only was the first Elvis Presley album to receive a Grammy nomination.

For LP Fans Only was nominated for “Best Album Cover” of 1959. The honoree of this art direction nomination was none other than Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager.

Front and back covers of For LP Fans Only

Front and back covers of For LP Fans Only

I have no idea if this contributed to its nomination, but For LP Fans Only is distinctive among Elvis releases in that it was the first of only two RCA albums released during his lifetime that did not include his name on the front or back covers (the second was On Stage).

For LP Fans Only lost out on the Grammy to Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, also an RCA release.

Front and back covers of Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Front and back covers of Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

* * *

Do you think you have enough Elvis power to beat Thomas next time? Subscribe to The Mystery Train Blog using the feature in the menu bar to the right. Then, you’ll be notified whenever there is a new post – because you never know when the next trivia challenge might come along.


The Mystery Train’s Night Riders

  • February 22, 2013: Thomas (13:36)
  • January 11, 2013: George Millar (4:19)
  • December 23, 2012: Thomas (0:36)
  • October 9, 2012: David (14:38) | Honorable Mention: John (22:06)
  • February 4, 2012: Thomas (13:52)
  • February 3, 2012: Thomas (2:18)
  • December 21, 2011: Wellsy (2:37)
  • October 31, 2011: Thomas (17:32)
  • October 1, 2011: Jimmy Cool (1:01)
  • September 9, 2011: Steve Brogdon (0:17) <— Record time
  • August 6, 2011: Thomas (2:26)
  • July 9, 2011: Thomas (5:26)
  • June 23, 2011: Fred Wolfe (0:18)
  • June 22, 2011: Ty stumps the train (no winner)

Elvis 1967: Season’s Greetings From Elvis

As part of The Mystery Train Blog’s year-long celebration of 1967, below is a repost of a feature I wrote last year about Elvis’ first Christmas special.


While Elvis’ 1968 Christmas special is legendary, nearly lost to time is Elvis’ Christmas special from the previous year. His 1967 Christmas special no doubt inspired the original concept of the ELVIS (’68 Comeback) special.

Exactly 44 years ago today, on Sunday, December 3, 1967, a special called Season’s Greetings From Elvis aired on over 2,000 stations across the United States. Why is it mostly forgotten? Season’s Greetings From Elvis was a radio special.

Season's Greetings From Elvis flyer (1967)

Season's Greetings From Elvis flyer (1967)

The special contained no new numbers by Elvis, but instead featured previously released Christmas and religious music. The songs in the half-hour show included:

  • Here Comes Santa Claus (1957)
  • Blue Christmas (1957)
  • O Little Town Of Bethlehem (1957)
  • Silent Night (1957)
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1957)
  • I Believe (1957)
  • If Every Day Was Like Christmas (1966)
  • How Great Thou Art (1966)
  • His Hand In Mine (1960)
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1957)

The special’s finale, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” contained a new voice-over by Elvis: “Thank you for listening. I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.” Oddly, this 1967 audio was later placed on top of “Silent Night” on 1982’s Memories Of Christmas and re-released on 1994’s If Every Day Was Like Christmas. However, the beginning music of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and not “Silent Night” can still be heard in the background on those releases as Elvis speaks the lines.

Exactly one year later, on December 3, 1968, the more famous Elvis Christmas special aired for the first time. Colonel Tom Parker’s original concept for the ’68 special sounded like little more than a TV version of Season’s Greetings From Elvis. The eventual show turned out much different, of course, and changed everything.


Image Source
Thank you to Holger Bock at Rare Elvis for providing the original image of an RCA promotional flyer for the 1967 radio special. Please do not reproduce this image without obtaining permission of Holger at Rare Elvis.

Research Sources

  • Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, 1999 (page 282).
  • Season’s Greetings From Elvis, Elvis In Norway, 2010.
  • Elvis: Word For Word by Jerry Osborne, Harmony Books, New York, 2000 (page 204).
  • Elvis: The Biography by Jerry Hopkins, Plexus, London, 2007 (page 205).
  • ELVIS: His Life From A To Z by Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius, Wings Books, New York, 1992 (page 560).

Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Blog has been commemorating the 44th anniversary of 1967. Find out why here. Surf in again next week for the exciting conclusion to this series.

Elvis’ Christmas special

For today’s Christmas edition of The Mystery Train Elvis Blog, I originally planned to write a short retrospective of the 1982 album Memories Of Christmas. Last week, I browsed over to the Elvis Today blog and found that Thomas had just written almost the exact same “Memories Of Christmas” post I had planned (even down to beginning with a reference to 1994’s If Every Day Was Like Christmas album). Hey Thomas, get out of my head, man!

In all seriousness, Thomas and I have very similar views and approaches when it comes to Elvis, so these things happen to us from time-to-time. There was one small element of Memories Of Christmas that he did not mention in that particular post, however, so I decided to use that as a springboard to a new idea. This time, I ran it past him first to make sure he did not already have it in the works for this week.

Thomas gave me the all clear, so today I’m going to talk about Elvis’ 1967 Christmas special.

Wait, wait, wait. Don’t fire off a correction message to me just yet.

Yes, I said 1967 Christmas special. That was not a typo.

While Elvis’ 1968 Christmas special is legendary, nearly lost to time is Elvis’ Christmas special from the previous year. His 1967 Christmas special no doubt inspired the original concept of the ELVIS (’68 Comeback) special.

Season's Greetings From Elvis flyer (1967)

Season’s Greetings From Elvis flyer (1967)

On Sunday, December 3, 1967, a special called Season’s Greetings From Elvis aired on over 2,000 stations across the United States. Why is it mostly forgotten? Season’s Greetings From Elvis was a radio special.

The special contained no new numbers by Elvis, but instead featured previously released Christmas and religious music. The songs in the half-hour show included:

  • Here Comes Santa Claus (1957)
  • Blue Christmas (1957)
  • O Little Town Of Bethlehem (1957)
  • Silent Night (1957)
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1957)
  • I Believe (1957)
  • If Every Day Was Like Christmas (1966)
  • How Great Thou Art (1966)
  • His Hand In Mine (1960)
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1957)

The special’s finale, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” contained a new voice-over by Elvis: “Thank you for listening. I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.” Oddly, this 1967 audio was later placed on top of “Silent Night” on Memories Of Christmas (and re-released on 1994’s If Every Day Was Like Christmas). However, the beginning music of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and not “Silent Night” can still be heard in the background on those releases as Elvis speaks the lines.

Exactly one year later, on December 3, 1968, the more famous Elvis Christmas special aired for the first time. Colonel Tom Parker’s original concept for the ’68 special sounded like little more than a TV version of Season’s Greetings From Elvis. The eventual show turned out much different, of course, and changed everything.

To fellow Elvis fans across the world, I’d like to wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas.

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Image Source
Thank you to Holger Bock at Rare Elvis for providing the original image of an RCA promotional flyer for the 1967 radio special. Please do not reproduce this image without obtaining permission of Holger at Rare Elvis.

Research Sources

  • Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, 1999 (page 282).
  • Season’s Greetings From Elvis, Elvis In Norway, 2010.
  • Elvis: Word For Word by Jerry Osborne, Harmony Books, New York, 2000 (page 204).
  • Elvis: The Biography by Jerry Hopkins, Plexus, London, 2007 (page 205).
  • ELVIS: His Life From A To Z by Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius, Wings Books, New York, 1992 (page 560).