Elvis Presley: The Searcher (2018) Movie Script

Priscilla Presley:
Elvis was a searcher.
It's a part of him
that never left.
The following program
is brought to you
in living color, on NBC.
Singer presents Elvis,
starring Elvis Presley
in his first TV special,
his first personal performance
on TV in nearly ten years.
(blues music playing)
If you're lookin'
for trouble
You came to the right place
If you're lookin'
for trouble
Just look right in my face
I was born standin' up
And talkin' back
My daddy was
a green-eyed mountain jack
Because I'm evil
My middle name is Misery
Well, I'm evil
Ah, so don't you
mess around with me
In '68, he was
a nervous wreck.
Nervous because he didn't know
if his audience was
going to accept him.
People had not seen him
perform in so long.
It felt like his record career
was over as well.
It was intense.
The '68 Special,
it was either the beginning
or the end of his career.
Tom Petty:
You know, God bless him.
He was a light for all of us.
We all owe him
for going first into battle.
(Petty laughs)
He had no road map,
and he forged a path
of what to do
and what not to do.
We shouldn't
make the mistake
of writing off
a great artist
by all the clatter
that came later.
We should dwell in what he did
that was so beautiful
and everlasting,
which was that
great, great music.
Yes, my baby left me
Never said a word
Was it something I done
Something that she heard?
My baby left me,
my baby left me
My baby even left me
Never said a word
Lord, I stand at my window
Wring my hands and cry
I hate to lose that woman
Hate to say goodbye
You know, she left me
Yeah, she left me
My baby even left me
Never said a word
Play it blues, boy
(film projector whirring)
Jerry Schilling:
Elvis always remembered
what it was like
to have nothing,
and to have no respect,
to be looked down upon.
Elvis never forgot
the experience
of being in poverty, ever.
It stuck with him
all his life.
When I look at photos of Elvis
when he was young,
I see that little boy in him,
that playfulness,
the curiosity in his eyes.
But I also see how he felt
responsibility for his mother.
Bill Ferris:
Elvis was born
in a shotgun house.
The poorest of the poor
lived in those houses.
His twin brother
did not survive birth.
And it's said that
his mother would tell him
that if he sang when
the moon was full at night,
his twin brother
could hear him.
Gladys was a doting mother,
but she could be
quite firm as well.
Always very protective of him.
He was her only child.
She lived for him, and...
he lived for her.
When Elvis was
three years old in 1938,
his father was sentenced
to three years in prison
for forging a check.
The check was to buy food
to put on the table.
Gladys would take him
to see his father.
Vernon was so embarrassed.
John Jackson:
Thankfully, he doesn't have
to spend the three years.
He only spends
six months in prison.
But what it does is
it starts a pattern
of Vernon being away
and Elvis and Gladys being
left to their own devices.
And they move around and live
in different boarding houses.
This was the end
of the Depression.
Vernon, after that experience
at Parchman Prison,
he had a hard time
finding jobs.
Elvis told me that his father
really lost his spirit.
And his mother had to work
really hard during that time.
Yes, that's it.
(guitar playing)
Ready here for the slate. 802.
(music continues)
Steve Binder:
When I first got
the phone call
to get involved with Elvis...
my partner at the time,
Bones Howe,
who was a very successful
record producer,
was really flabbergasted
when I said no.
And he came over to me
right after I hung up
the phone,
and he said,
"Steve, I engineered
an Elvis Presley album.
I know Elvis Presley,
and I think you guys
would hit it off great."
(playing continues)
Bones Howe:
Elvis was a guy
who sang from his gut.
This is something
you're born with.
You're born with that
commitment to the music.
The one thing I remember
that stuck with me
all these years,
was Binder said,
"People need to see him
the way he really is.
"He had to dig back
to find his real self,
and it was like looking
back into the past."
(gospel music playing)
(wind howling)
(gospel music continuing)
Red West:
Vernon and Gladys
heard this loud roar,
half in their sleep.
They picked Elvis up.
Thought they were putting
him out a window
to get him away
from the train
that was coming.
Threw him right into a wall,
and he bounced off
and fell on the floor.
His cryin' woke them up,
and they saw it was no train.
It was a tornado
that went through Tupelo.
Southern religion
reminds its believers
that we're here
for a short time.
If you lost your life
or you were spared,
it was because
of divine providence.
The loss of life,
the destruction of property,
it was a reminder
of the fragility of life.
(piano playing on record)
Going to church
with his parents,
hearing gospel music,
being a part of people
getting in touch,
moving with the music,
getting lost in the music.
I've got that
old-time religion
Got that old-time religion
That is why I'm satisfied
Larry Strickland:
If you lived in a rural area,
there wasn't much else
but the music and the church.
It wasn't like you'd be
going there and sitting back
and crossin' your legs
and relaxing.
You know, you get very involved
and very energetic.
It's as much a feeling
as it is a hearing.
Elvis Presley:
I've always liked music.
My mother and dad
both loved to sing.
They'd tell me that when I was
about three or four years old,
I got away from
them in church
and walked up
in front of the choir
and started beatin' time.
Have you seen
Where the Lord's gone?
Tell me now
Where he's gone
Where he's gone
(singing continues, indistinct)
The hymns were more
than religious.
They were fundamental
building blocks of music.
Rhythmic, hard-hitting,
you had the foundation
of rock and roll bands,
playing in churches.
When I sit down
Lord, sit down
Something will be over
Lord, sit down
When I sit down
Lord, sit down
Gonna say come over here
(indistinct excited speaking)
Man: I'm so glad!
I'm working over here!
People came to be excited,
and taken out
of their daily experience.
Elvis was like
Huck Finn exploring.
At night, he would slip
in to black churches.
He would listen
to gospel music
and to the sermons.
Gladys let him
pursue the music
that he could
surround himself with.
Elvis was very different.
Color lines were
rarely crossed.
You just didn't find
white people
that tuned into black music
and stayed there
and found it interesting
and studied it.
David Porter:
A time where the country
was into racism
and segregation,
and here was a young kid.
He was not afraid to go
and be exposed to it,
so he could learn
even more about it.
He was doing what
he enjoyed doing.
I don't think
it was conscious,
but he absorbed
everything that he saw.
That's all right
He would seek out people
in his neighborhood
who could play music
or had records,
or had a radio.
Any way you do
Bruce Springsteen:
You could turn a dial
and hear gospel.
Well, my mama,
she done told me
Turn a dial
and hear country.
Turn a dial and hear blues.
Turn the dial and hear
Sunday Night Creatures,
you know?
I mean, it was all just there
in the Southern atmosphere
he grew up in.
That's all right now, mama
(Elvis humming)
If today
Was not an endless highway
If tonight
Was not an endless trail
If tomorrow
Wasn't such a long time
Then lonesome
would mean nothing
To me at all
Yes, and only
I always felt that
someday, somehow,
something would happen
to change everything for me.
And I'd daydream
about how it would be.
If I could hear her heart
(music fades)
(traffic honking)
Once he moved to Memphis,
everything started
opening up for him.
He was 13.
As BB King once said,
when he moved to Memphis,
"It was like moving to Paris."
It was a different culture,
and a sense in which
things were connected
and happening,
that someone like Elvis
could not even
imagine in Tupelo.
The wealth, the affluence,
the scale of buildings,
the power of that river
flowing by.
Memphis is
a very diverse city,
not an integrated city,
but a very diverse city.
So you had a lot
of people moving there
after the war.
Well, you know
I love my baby
It was really the hub
for people from that Southern
cotton plantation area
to either stay or use it
as a stepping stone
to go somewhere else.
Like many Southern families,
the Presleys moved
to the big city
seeking a little better
Portia Maultsby:
Memphis developed a very
vibrant entertainment district,
'cause, you know,
people brought with them
their music, their culture.
You've got that spill
there of the blues,
of gospel, pop music,
country music.
All those things,
they cross over each other,
and radio definitely
had to play
a big role in his influences,
because I don't think he was
carrying the kind of dough
to have an enormous
record collection.
(Petty chuckles)
WDIA, it was a 50,000 watt
African-American radio station
that artists like
Bobby "Blue" Bland
were being played
'cause the whole emphasis
was black music.
Black music was just beginning
to take root in our area,
and there's no doubt in mind
that Elvis Presley
listened to WDIA.
Percy Mayfield (on radio):
It's a real pleasure
to invite you
to keep your radio
dial turned to 1070.
That means WDIA.
That's 50,000 watts
of powered entertainment
for your pleasure.
(children chattering)
We were both just
above the poverty level.
I lived in one housing project,
and he lived in
Lauderdale Courts
about three or four
miles away.
We grew up the hard way.
(children chattering)
Alan Light:
The apartment
in Lauderdale Courts
that the Presleys moved into
was part of the early
New Deal housing program.
It was affordable,
but it was bigger than
anything they were used to.
They gave him everything.
They let him sleep
in the big bedroom.
They saved what
little money they had
so that he could buy a guitar,
he could buy a record player.
And they gave him that
same sort of independence
to go out in the city
and be exposed to other musics.
(jazz playing)
Train I ride
He loved the bright lights.
He loved the music in the city.
He loved hearing people
in the street.
He loved listening to music
coming from the bars.
And he'd study them.
Elvis was a student.
As a kid, I would go
to the Flamingo Room,
myself and Elvis would hang
at the Flamingo Room.
When you realize that Elvis
knew where Beale Street was,
and knew what that all meant,
you could sense
that he was different.
You walk in the Flamingo Room
on a Saturday night
or a Friday night,
you're in another world.
It's like a Mardi Gras
except the music is soulful.
There was so much color
in clothing, in dress, in vibe,
and the music
was tremendously upbeat.
Comin' on 'round the bend
You're not seeing
that for one night.
You're seeing that
everytime you go there.
Rufus Thomas:
Beale Street was
the black man's haven.
When he'd come here,
everything lit up.
Lit up like a slot machine.
Everything was fired up!
Beale Street was the place.
You'd go out
on your weekend night,
and you were
an African-American,
at that time,
you're making small wages.
You were in a racially
prejudiced time,
and you had to have an escape.
And the legitimacy of the
Flamingo Room experience,
and the Beale Street
was something
that took your mind
totally away
from those things.
But if you had
the right kind of personality
and spirit about you,
regardless of who you were,
you could come in
and check out the music.
Train, train
Preston Lauterbach:
BB King, Rufus Thomas,
Johnny Ace,
Bobby "Blue" Bland.
You know, these giants
were playing
little neighborhood
juke joints.
Looking at that,
you would see
how powerful it would be
connecting to an audience.
stop your train, darlin'
Let a
A poor boy ride
Why don't you hear
me cryin'?
If you're a young kid,
a black kid or a white kid,
you were not
analytical about it,
but you certainly knew
the difference
between feeling
and not feeling.
And you heard it,
and you felt it.
Ike Turner:
Elvis, he would park his truck
in the alley behind the club,
and he used to come around
to the back of this place,
and he would watch me play
the old upright piano.
When you see him stand up
and he'd be doing his legs,
when he'd be playing
with the guitar,
all this came
from back in those days
when we used to do it.
Howlin' Wolf:
Don't you hear me
talkin' to you, woman?
Since I've been gone
Elvis picked up everything.
He was the most
eclectic human being
I have ever been around.
He would pick up something
from another singer,
or he would pick up something
from a guy
walking down the street,
and say, "Jerry,
look at that walk.
I'm gonna use that walk."
Warren Zanes:
He's looking around
for pockets of expression
and putting together
his version of himself
based on these
highly expressive models
that are often quite different.
You know, the Dean Martins
of the world,
the Mario Lanzas,
the black church.
At this point,
Elvis and his parents
are going to a lot
of gospel services,
musical events around
the town in Memphis,
both black and white.
(up-tempo piano playing)
Rock my soul
in the bosom of Abraham
Tony Brown:
Quartets were the alter ego
of the Christian people
back in those days.
In the bosom of Abraham,
Oh, rock my soul...
'Cause they wore
really tight, cool suits,
and they had slick-back hair
and sideburns.
Rock my soul
in the bosom of Abraham
We looked at those people
like they were our
pop stars in a way,
which is what Elvis
really wanted to do.
You know, he wanted to be
in the Blackwood Brothers.
Elvis, he longed to be
a great gospel singer.
I think he wanted to be
in a gospel group.
He wold have been
a great tenor.
I'm glad I've got
That old-time religion
It helps me on my journey...
Bill Malone:
Those Pentecostal preachers
were pretty dynamic
individuals, you know.
Back and forth
across the stage
and shouting
and raising their hands
and being very theatrical.
Oh, I couldn't get along
Without Jesus
I couldn't sing my song
Without Jesus
I wouldn't know
how to pray
Without Jesus
I wouldn't know
what to say
Without Jesus
Joy bells couldn't ring
Without Jesus
Angels couldn't sing
Without Jesus
My life wouldn't
mean a thing
Without Jesus
I couldn't reach my goal
Without Jesus
With no one to keep
my soul
Hey, tell me,
what can I do without...
Front man is something
that was derived from preacher,
you know, fronting
the choir in church.
So whether you're
James Brown or Elvis
or anyone out there,
your position, basically,
is always proto-religious,
you know?
Those are its roots.
Oh, tell me what
would I do without Jesus
In my life
Elvis always was
seeking a way
to manifest his musical
interest in some way.
And I went to Humes
High School in Memphis.
I was taking music.
I flunked music.
Just flat, man. Whew!
"F." The only thing
I ever failed.
They had a little
talent show every year.
People would sing,
dance, whatever.
(Elvis speaking)
I had a little
four-piece band,
I was playing the trumpet.
And Elvis had a guitar,
and he got up
and he sang, "Old Shep."
Red Foley's sad song
about his old dog that died.
And one day
The doctor looked at me
And said
"I can do no more
for him, Jim"
I think that's the moment
where the school
sort of throws down and goes,
"That's what this
weird kid's about."
The moment that
applause broke through,
that's probably the first
real validation that he's had.
Singing that tearjerker,
he put emotion into it.
Sang the heck out of it,
and he won first place!
And my little band
didn't do shit.
That's a big step
for a young man.
At that moment, he had to see
the power of the material.
He had to go,
"This is what I am.
This is what
I'm going to do."
It was amazing how--
how popular I became
in school after that.
Just walking in the rain...
(Elvis speaking)
James Tipler:
When he wasn't
driving the truck,
he'd help the electricians
pull wire
or whatever they
needed him to do.
Gladys Tipler:
He had long hair.
It was real thick,
and looked like it was
pasted down really.
We all laughed at him
about that.
(Elvis speaking)
He just what
he wanted to do
is to get in some
kind of business
where he could make
his mother a living,
where she would not have
to struggle for it anymore.
Shake their heads...
Ernst Jorgensen:
At that time,
The Prisonaires had
recorded their big hit,
"Walking in the Rain."
The Prisonaires
were a group
that Sam Phillips
was recording.
Sam Phillips, he grew to be
one of the most famous
and celebrated
record producers of all time,
but at first,
he started his own label.
The Prisonaires.
They were brought out
with handcuffs
into Sun Records to record.
To even conceive of that
as a possible source
for great music
that people should hear,
there's just a
democratization of...
of art,
of the possibilities for art.
Walkin' in the rain
What happened in
Memphis at that time
was a convergence
of forces.
The emergence of radio,
deejays, and artists.
And then you add
to that concoction,
the genius of producers
like Sam Phillips.
There wasn't much
in the way of rhythm and blues,
black music recording
It was very much
a do-it-yourself,
mom-and-pop business.
Sam Phillips loved the blues,
and he was interested
in recording
as many blues
performers as he could.
Elvis was aware
of what Sam had recorded
at Sun Studios.
Rufus Thomas.
Ike Turner.
The Prisonaires.
I really believe Sam Phillips,
for a long time,
had the idea of finding
a white singer
that could bring black music
into the white mainstream.
For a lot of noble reasons,
not just commercial.
Everybody thinks that Sam
was looking for a white boy
to do black music.
But Elvis was looking
for Sam Phillips.
Sam Phillips:
I had seen him go by
in his Crown Electric truck
a number of different times,
'cause we had
an open storefront.
He'd go by and go back,
and go by and go back.
This guy would not
come in the studio
and ask me to audition him
for nothin'.
Elvis had never
been in a studio.
There was a newspaper story
about how you could
get lucky at Sun Records,
and Elvis just went for it.
(Elvis speaking)
If you
Find your sweetheart
In the arms of a friend
Elvis went in to do
what he thought
he should do
to get a record deal.
He had this beautiful voice,
a high voice, singing
slow love longs, ballads.
And he sang Dean Martin.
He sang Ink Spots--
black but white-accepted music.
There was nothing
that was exciting Sam.
I didn't want that.
It had to have a feel.
(feedback whines)
I did have the feeling
that this guy had
something in the raw
that we could
do something with
if we even knew
what the hell we were doing.
Brought in Scotty Moore,
he was working at his
brother's dry cleaning plant,
and Scotty played the guitar
and was not afraid
to experiment.
Bill Black, I knew could
play a good slap bass.
Black was working
in an appliance store
repairing appliances.
And I said,
"Go and woodshed, boys."
Scotty Moore:
Sam said, "All I need is just
a little background noise.
"You don't have
to worry about
arrangements or anything.
"Don't need the whole band,
just a little rhythm stuff."
I knew Sam was looking
for something,
but he couldn't tell you
what he was looking for,
you know? (chuckles)
This day we had wound up
just about ready to give up
on having any success
on a session.
About ready to bag up
the instruments and go home.
I knew Sun Records
had to make it
on something that
was a little bit
out of the ordinary
or we may as well forget it.
Things aren't going well.
Elvis is nervous.
We'd been there
two, three hours,
and it was starting
to get late
and we were getting tired.
And, uh, we stopped
and had a Coke or something.
Elvis was just about
a year out of high school,
19 years old.
He wanted to please Sam,
and he knew he had
to prove himself.
Robbie Robertson:
It was in that moment
that the world changed.
(up-tempo music playing)
Elvis sets his Coke down,
picks up the guitar,
starts just frailing,
you know, fire out of it.
I mean, he was beating
his rhythm thing.
Well, Bill picked his bass,
started slapping,
playing along with him.
Just-- just all rhythm.
Guitar was leaning up
on the amp and I picked it up
and started just kinda
vamping along with him.
Well, Mama,
she done told me
Papa done told me too
"Son, that gal
you fooling with
She ain't no good for you"
Well, that's all right
Although Elvis knew
a lot of blues,
country and pop,
it shocked me,
because here is
a classic blues number,
and here is a white cat
not imitating
or mimicking or anything,
but just putting
his feel into it.
Blew me away!
You hear performers
in the thrall
of the beauty of invention,
not knowing quite
where they're going to go,
not knowing exactly
what they're doing.
I'm leaving town, baby
I'm leaving town for sure
Just discovering it
and doing it
literally as the music
is being played.
You're out on the frontier,
and it's a very pristine
and exciting place to be.
That's all right now, mama
Any way you do
(scatting to rhythm)
That's all right
It's all right
That's all right, now, mama
Any way you do
One more time, baby.
One more!
(women screaming)
Yeah, baby
Well, my Mama
she done told me
Papa done told me too
They said, "Son,
this gal you foolin' with
She ain't no good for you"
That's all right,
little mama
Any way you do
Give it all, baby!
(scatting to rhythm)
That's all right
That's all right,
little mama
Any way you do
(song ends)
(cheers, screams)
We knew it was
a little different.
We didn't know
what it was really.
There was no mention
of, you know,
get this out or anything,
'cause we didn't know.
(up-tempo piano playing)
Write me a letter
(Dewey Phillips
speaking indistinctly)
Just flat fixin' to bring you
the hottest thing
in the country.
Red, Hot, and Blue coming
to you, WHBQ,
in Memphis, Tennessee
and it's Friday night.
Tomorrow's payday
and bath day.
That's a good deal.
Growing up in Memphis,
I'd been listening
to Dewey Phillips
and his Red, Hot,
and Blue show
for two years
before Elvis came on.
DJ Fontana:
He was the number one jock
in Memphis at the time.
When Elvis was played,
it was just different.
It wasn't really
rhythm and blues,
and it wasn't country.
Dewey's program,
he started playing it
and phones was
ringing off the wall.
In fact, they went,
took Elvis out of the movie
he was at,
and told him that, uh,
that Dewey wanted
to talk to him on the radio.
He came on,
did the interview.
He was nervous
and he stuttered.
"That's All Right, Mama"
was a hit
in Memphis, Tennessee,
It was quite
phenomenal, really,
getting that kinda response
off a local radio station.
Dewey played it on the air,
just the one side,
and Sam got
ahold of us, and,
"Gotta get back in here.
We got to have another
side for this record."
I said, "Do you know
anything else
that's as wild as that?"
Blue moon of Kentucky
Keep on shining
Shine on the one
that's gone
And proved untrue
Blue moon
Blue moon
Blue moon
keep shining bright
Blue moon, keep on
shining bright
You're gonna bring me
back my baby tonight
Blue moon
Keep shining bright
That one record
summed up his roots--
the very best of
both black blues
and white bluegrass.
Blue moon of Kentucky
keep on shining
He knew the blues.
He knew Arthur Crudup,
Bill Munroe.
He knew that stuff by memory.
Stars shinnin' bright
The elements there
that came together
were things that I had
prayed for so long:
To record a black low-down
almost gut-bucket blues,
and turn around
and put a classic,
classic bluegrass number,
"Blue Moon of Kentucky,"
on the other side.
It didn't have
to have a color.
It didn't need a color.
I don't know if Elvis
was looking at it
all in that noble of a light.
It was just music he liked.
Oh, well, I said,
blue moon of Kentucky
Just keep on shining
"Blue Moon of Kentucky,"
he has got this entirely
original take on the bluegrass
and it transforms into
what would later
be called rock and roll.
Shine on the one
who's gone and left me blue
(Sam Phillips talking)
Emmylou Harris:
There's no one that
creates music in a vacuum.
We're all influenced
by what we've heard
and what has come before.
But occasionally, you have
those crossroads moments
when something
completely new is born.
It was a beautiful,
beautiful thing.
It was high art,
in the greatest degree,
you know, this is Picasso.
I mean, this is really
taking your influences
and going somewhere with them,
to a place that's new.
Now, Elvis had a hit record,
and he was touring
every night somewhere,
each night a different place.
The basic mistake
people make about Elvis
was that he came along
and got lucky.
No, he didn't get lucky.
He worked hard
and he created the music
with great musicians.
He had a drive
that motivated him,
and it was there
from day one.
Well, what a fool I was
To think that you
could love me too
Bill Malone:
In those early days,
whether it was Slim Whitman
or Jim Reeves
or Elvis Presley,
if they wanted to survive,
they had to hit the road.
It's an old-fashioned
in the sense that he was
part of a touring band.
Which meant that
night after night,
he was putting on his act.
And there's something
that happens
through extensive touring
that you can't
get anywhere else.
You look back at the
calendar of his dates,
and he's literally playing
dates every single night.
The circuit that
they're working
is probably one
of the most thankless
and low-paying,
just grind-of-a-circuit
that you could imagine.
There's a depth of craft
that's attained
through simply constantly
doing it night after night,
having to satisfy all
different types of audiences.
You know, you have
the stereotype
of the bass being
tied on top of the car.
That was true.
They really did that.
May I ask, where did you
pick up your style?
My very first appearance
after I started recording.
I was on a show
and I was scared stiff.
And I came out and I was
doing a fast type tune.
Everybody was hollering,
and I didn't know what
they were hollering at.
Everybody was screaming
and then I came offstage,
and my manager told me
that they was hollering
because I was
wiggling my legs.
I was unaware, and so
I went back out for an encore,
and I did a little more.
And the more I did,
the louder they went.
Sam Phillips was able to get
Elvis on the Opry in Nashville,
which was massive.
I mean, you don't just
get on the Grand Ole Opry.
The Opry, you had to be
a member, be in this club,
the traditional
Nashville establishment.
You had to dress the way
that they wanted you to dress
and sing the way
they wanted you to sing.
The Opry was very,
very segregated.
This was an older audience.
They had their artists
that they went to see.
And here's a kid
dressed funny,
coming out, doing one
of their idols' songs
in a blasphemous way.
They didn't get up
and cheer and holler.
Now, if you are fainthearted,
you're gonna
give up in a hurry
on a situation like that.
We were not fainthearted.
But we certainly didn't know
whether we would win it.
We knew in time
that something this great
could not be kept
under a bushel.
You cannot understand Elvis
apart from country music,
but he was pulling it away
from the traditional
Grand Ole Opry sound
and shaping it as a new,
bluesier version.
While country music
could recognize it,
they also knew it was
a threatening sound
that would ultimately
destroy the power
of the Grand Ole Opry.
So four months after
the release
of the first single,
they play their first
Louisiana Hayride show.
(man speaking)
(Elvis speaking)
(man speaking)
(Elvis speaking)
(feedback whines)
Tweedle, tweedle,
tweedle, dee
I'm as happy as can be
The Louisiana Hayride was
strictly a country show.
Webb Pierce, Faron Young,
Nat Stuckey, George Jones,
just about everybody
played the Hayride.
The Louisiana Hayride
was really the place
where country music and blues
hit one another and exploded.
It was a critical moment
in his career.
The radio broadcasts
had an enormous
impact in Memphis,
but the Louisiana Hayride was
a whole different audience.
Hayride could be heard
all through the western
part of the South,
so it had a pretty wide
geographical audience.
That was a kind of
testing of his ability
to reach audiences
beyond his own home
in Memphis.
The Louisiana Hayride
did send out
road tours
to surrounding towns.
The entire show would move.
They'd start to build
these touring routes
that bring them back
to Shreveport once a week.
That's a big turning point,
not only from
a financial perspective
but also from
a exposure perspective.
Elvis played a lot
of these first shows
with Jim Ed and Maxine Brown,
Bud Deckelman,
uh, Betty Amos--
successful country artists,
but not on a real top level.
Those performers are
competing with one another.
Somebody wants to leave there
feeling like they won.
And being on bills like that,
you are amongst people
who are gonna
teach you things.
And that's a big part
of what made Elvis
in those early becoming years
was that he had
an antenna that was up,
and he was stealing tricks,
he was learning lessons.
He was bringing it all in
without it seeming like
he was just doing
somebody else's act.
He could go out there,
and the audience
wouldn't be on his side
for maybe five minutes.
But all of a sudden,
somehow or another,
he'd turn 'em around.
He could read
an audience very well.
He could tell
if it didn't seem
like he was going
or just right,
he'd do something,
something you wouldn't
even expect.
He often started
a song by like a wail
and then left it
hanging there,
so people were like,
"What's going on?"
He would stop
in the middle of a song
and turn around
or walk away,
and then go back,
or do something with
a microphone stand.
And he would grab
that microphone,
and he would drag it
across the stage.
He was so
sophisticated already
about making contact
with an audience.
If the audience reacted
a lot to something he did,
he did it again.
(distant screaming)
He just had this look,
like a wild, captured animal.
Shook his head and his hair
was down in his face,
and just to watch him
walk from that curtain
to the microphone,
you felt a part of it.
He gets presence
on the charts,
and his records
kept doing well,
and eventually, he gets voted
the Most Promising New Artist.
And he finally got a Cadillac.
And when I was
driving a truck,
every time a big,
shiny car drove by,
it started me
sorta daydreaming.
I'd daydream...
about how it would be.
And the first car
I ever bought
was the most beautiful car
I've ever seen.
It was secondhand,
but I parked it
outside of my hotel
the day I got it.
I sat up all night
just looking at it.
And the next day,
well the thing caught fire
and burned up on the road.
Uh, I've got a lot of cars,
but none of 'em would take
the place of that first one.
The story that we hear
about early rock and roll
is that the major labels,
in the main,
passed on rock and roll.
And so the indie
labels took it up,
and it took the
major labels a while
to see that rock and roll
wasn't going away.
Now if you've got a woman
Victor Linn:
The RCAs, the Capitols,
the Columbias, the Deccas,
they were called the majors.
All the other people,
these were independent
who sold records to stores.
I have a small
record company,
been in business five years,
worked the lower
of my anatomy off,
peddling days of me
on the road
to the tune of
70,000 miles a year.
When we say "independent,"
Sam was connected to no one
at the major labels
in any way.
He would produce what
he wanted to produce.
Dog that bite your hand
It means record it.
It means edit it.
They went into the lab
and did the mastering.
Packaging was already done,
and then they put a bunch
of singles in the car,
and got on the road
and went into the hills
of Tennessee.
And this is really a very
traditional way of doing it.
I went down to the river
Now what the record company
would like to see happen
is they could spread
that regionality,
get it from northern
Georgia to Alabama,
and from Alabama
across to Mississippi.
You know, then they've got
national distribution.
I knew, really, so little
about the business
when it came
to merchandising records
and this sort of thing.
The main thing that
did more for us
than anything else
was it created excitement
amongst the major labels.
A lot of hard work
went into this thing,
both on the part of Elvis
and the part of Scotty,
and Bill, and myself.
Elvis, when he was
19 years old,
he knew what he had to do
to get where he wanted to.
He was a very driven man.
Every two months,
he was releasing
another single
at Sun Records.
Sam knew what to ask for,
what to push for,
and all of those pieces,
the way they fit together,
it was like Sam Phillips
was the other member
of that group.
(train whistle blows)
The Sun space was
pretty indicative
of most small recording
studios of the era.
You know, they were intimate.
They were small.
You were up close
with everybody and everything.
And those early records,
they almost knock you
off your heels,
because all that big sound
is coming from so little.
I think people
make the mistake
that when they think
of rock and roll,
they think of drums.
Oh, baby, baby, baby
If you listen to a lot
of the early rock and roll,
rhythm came out
of the slap bass,
rhythmic hitting
of the guitar,
and the swing
of the singer's voice.
Come back, baby,
I wanna play house with you
Jon Landau:
There was only a couple
of microphones.
It was-- it was pretty
You may have
a pink Cadillac
But don't you be
nobody's fool
Now, baby, come back
You could feel the true
artistry in that period,
because there was not
a lot of recording equipment
to sonically make records
sound a certain kind of way.
I say meet me in a hurry
behind the barn
Elvis listened to everything
that came his way.
Sam was the same way,
only he was...
he was into
the technical aspect of it,
but very much a natural.
I heard the news
He didn't want to
overproduce anything.
He wanted to capture raw sound.
In Elvis, he found
a combination
of rawness with that vision.
The drive of the black music,
you can hear just as well,
the twang on the
white side of music.
Scotty Moore,
he and Bill Black
and DJ Fontana
were an enormous
blessing for Elvis
and the coherence of the
records they made together.
Well, if I had
to do it over
I tried to play what
I thought would fit
the way he was
singing the song.
Tried to do solos
and fills that--
that made sense
on that song.
Baby, trying to get to you
Scotty is brilliant,
one of the great
musicians of all time.
Never plays
unless it's necessary.
Could keep me
away from you
When your
loving letter told me
Bill Black, the bassist,
the way he pops the strings,
it's him plucking
the bass string,
rather than just striking it.
(Petty imitates bass strumming)
Pretty fierce stuff.
Brought me through
But the basic setup,
when it was just
Elvis, Scotty, Bill
and a beautiful
echo tape delay,
it was all you needed.
With that voice,
you could do anything.
Elvis (echoing):
Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Elvis's early recordings are
marked by, one of the things,
the freedom of not having
heard yourself very often.
So, they're very,
very un-self-conscious.
Blue moon
You knew just
what I was there for
You heard me saying...
Elvis's voice has
plenty of space
and beautiful
geography to it.
Someone I really
could care for
And the way he was
recorded by Sam Phillips
is tremendously pure.
(Elvis vocalizing)
You know, there's a looseness,
as there usually is,
in your early recordings.
You're excited about
a sudden discovery of self...
of your powers,
your abilities,
and what you can
do with them.
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream
in my heart
Without a love of my own
I hear all that on
the Sun sessions.
(Elvis vocalizing)
Without a love of my own
(song fades)
(man speaking)
(Elvis speaking)
(man speaking)
(Elvis speaking)
(typewriter clacking)
(typewriter bell dings)
Vernon Presley:
In 1955,
Colonel Parker was booking
shows down through Florida.
People like Hank Snow,
Marty Robbins.
(audience cheering)
(Colonel Tom Parker speaking)
(audience screaming)
Mike Stoller:
He knew he had
something very special
and he knew from
the audience reaction.
He promoted him.
He dropped his other artists
and devoted himself
entirely to Elvis.
Keep my eyes on you
The Colonel, he's a very
hard guy to understand.
His past was complicated.
I think there was
a real respect
between Elvis
and the Colonel,
but he was a promoter,
he wasn't a creative guy.
He was a brilliant promoter.
There was a big tour
in February '55.
Hank Snow was the headliner,
and Colonel Parker
had managed
as a favor and a plot,
to get Elvis on as
an extra added thing.
Being on a Hank Snow show
was a real big step forward.
The Colonel planned it
to be a big step forward.
He wanted to see
how far Elvis could go.
Gimme, gimme, gimme
all the love you got
Just three months later,
they realized that
the star, Hank Snow,
couldn't close
the show anymore.
After Elvis had performed,
people left.
From June of '55,
you know, basically a year
into Elvis's stay at Sun,
people are making offers
to buy Elvis's contract.
The Colonel was afraid
that if Elvis became
much more successful
than he already was,
that he was eventually
not gonna be able
to take over his management.
He would be so big
that he was no longer needed
to bring it further.
So over the next month,
he actually starts
manipulating everything.
And after that,
it became obvious
between the management
of Bob Neal
and Sam's little independent
record company,
they couldn't
push a record
the way the big
companies could.
Elvis starts worrying
about that element.
Mae Axton:
A lot of my listeners
have seen you
and they've heard
your records,
and they think
they're very wonderful.
And of course, you really
skyrocketed to fame
on "That's All right, Mama,"
wasn't that the one?
Well, yes, ma'am.
That was the one
that got me on my way
and everything.
I wasn't very
well-known down here.
I mean, you know,
I'm just with a small company,
and, uh, my records
don't have the distribution
that they should have,
but, uh...
Oh, of course that--
that's coming, you know.
It takes a little bit
of time for that
and to get distribution
all over the United States,
but I think you are one of
the fastest rising young stars
perhaps in the field.
Do you know what
I can't understand,
is how you keep that leg
shaking just as-- just at...
Elvis, he knew,
"I've got to make a choice."
He and Sam spoke the same
language creatively.
And they loved each other.
But he knew
that Colonel Parker
was about national,
about movies,
and about television.
And that if he chose
Colonel Parker,
Sam would be gone.
Sam Phillips saw in Elvis
what Elvis dreamed of
and no one else
could understand.
Elvis was still underage,
under 21.
The Colonel set up
an appointment
with Vernon Presley
and Gladys and talked to 'em.
"I'd like to buy
his contract from Bob.
I think he has
a lot of potential."
They were suspicious
of everybody,
and they should've been
suspicious of the Colonel,
but the Colonel filled 'em
with all kinda hope.
They said, "Well, okay."
In that whole
scenario here,
we have the Colonel
locked in on the idea
that he wanted RCA.
Because he knew RCA
from Hank Snow,
and he even puts up
money of his own
as an opening
to the dealings with RCA,
which he would lose
if he didn't bring in
the RCA contract.
He really believed
in Elvis's potential.
When I got into
the music business
in, uh, November of 1956,
in those days,
most of the-- most, not all,
but most of the records
that were being recorded
were ballads.
Just walkin' in the rain
Getting soaking wet
Torture in my heart
You know, they weren't stuff
like Elvis was doing.
It wasn't what, unfortunately,
had the nomer of "race music"
and rock and roll,
and they released as little
of it as they possibly could.
They felt they had
the shareholders
of the company
to worry about.
They had distributors
to worry about.
They had stores
to worry about.
They had radio stations
to worry about.
They said, "Our whole world
is tied up in white music."
People come to their windows
They always...
They were very,
very reluctant
to expose black music
until such times they
couldn't avoid it anymore.
You know what it takes,
you got it, baby
You are the only one
I've chose
Don't leave me here
with all these heartaches
After a lot of going
back and forth,
eventually the Colonel
pushes RCA
to buy the contract,
and all the recordings
that were made,
both that were released
and those that weren't.
When it rains,
it really pours
I think he's the test object
for the majors to really
get in the game,
and it worked.
People have asked
me repeatedly,
"Do you regret
selling Elvis Presley?"
I got a feeling
for you, baby
I do not.
And you're the only one
who knows
About my troubles,
troubles, troubles
Man: It'll just be
one second, Elvis.
All right.
(audience chuckles)
My boy, my boy,
got my guitar.
Uh, Steve?
Can we have a lot of gain
on this playback?
Steve: More gain.
Man: Right.
Are we on television?
Binder: Huh?
Are we on television?
Just a minute.
Binder: One day
in the middle of taping
a production number...
(playing guitar)
...we're called into
Colonel Parker's office.
I'll have a blue
Binder: Colonel says,
"It's been called
to my attention
that we don't have a
Christmas song in the show."
And when those blue
"Elvis wants a Christmas
song in the show.
Don't you, Elvis?"
Man: Aw, yeah!
You'll be doing...
His hands cross,
his head goes down,
and I hear Elvis
mumble, "Yes, sir."
I watched Elvis
cower to Parker.
Blue, blue Christmas
(women scream)
I said, "If that's
what Elvis wants,
that's what I'll do."
The Colonel says, "Okay,
then we're all in agreement."
Elvis walks out the door.
Head goes up, lot of energy,
and he jams me in the ribs,
and says, "Fuck him."
Blue, blue, blue Christmas
Decorations of red
On a green Christmas tree
Won't be the same dear
If you're not here with me
And when those blue
Snowflakes start fallin'
That's when those blue
Memories start callin'
You'll be doin' all right
With your Christmas of white
(song fades)
Elvis was one of
the first artists
that actually
produced himself.
By the time he lands at RCA,
he's in charge.
They're a rock and roll band,
and Steve Sholes
didn't know
how to make
one of those records.
Elvis did.
Elvis was a very
different person
and a very different artist
going in to make
the first RCA record
than he was walking in
as an absolute rookie at Sun.
He'd been out touring
and playing in front of people
for those months in-between.
He had experience
in the studio.
He had had the inspiration
of Sam Phillips,
watching, pick the songs
and the arrangements
and all of that.
You can hear
"Heartbreak Hotel"
has got echo chamber,
because he's clearly
asking for echo.
And they don't know
how to give him the slapbacks,
so they're turning up
the chamber,
and he's just like,
"Okay, I'll make this work."
And he does.
Petty (imitating Elvis):
Heartbreak Hotel,
where I will be
So lonesome, baby
I'll be so lonely, baby
They're so lonely,
they could die
Now, the bellhop's
tears keep flowing
My function was in the booth.
But I always spent a lot
of time out in the studio.
What you saw from Elvis
was that being in
a recording studio
or being on stage was
exactly the same thing to him.
They're so lonely
He was always a real
organic part
of the music physically.
Extremely animated
when he sang.
He never stood still.
Take a walk down
Lonely Street to
Heartbreak Hotel
Where you will be,
you will be so lonely
And the guys, they just
shifted right into that mode
that Elvis was in.
So lonely, you could die
If something wasn't
working right
or it was too slow
or too fast,
they all looked to him,
and then he would
move to the music.
If the music was right,
he was a show out there.
He was a captivating person,
and nobody made
suggestions to Elvis.
Although it's always crowded
You still can find some room
For brokenhearted lovers
to cry when they're blue
Where they'll be so
They'll be so lonely, baby
Well, they're so lonely
They'll be so lonely
they could die
Elvis's music was shot
through with the blues,
which he played
quite a bit of.
But he was always
mixing genres.
Elvis, by the
first RCA record,
is already showing
that he can pull in
a wide range of genres,
but they all come out Elvis.
He didn't invent
rock and roll, per se.
I mean, you've got
Little Richard and Joe Turner
and all these people
on that tip,
but what Elvis did isn't that.
You know what--
What he did is different.
It's bringing
the country music in,
bringing white
gospel music in,
and it becomes pop music.
Most of Presley's
first recordings
were basically covers
of black singers.
(piano playing)
Little Richard, Arthur Crudup,
Joe Turner, Lloyd Price.
Lloyd Price:
Well, now, lawdy,
lawdy, lawdy, Miss Clawdy
Girl, you sure
look good to me
Please don't
excite me, baby
Know it can't be me
Because I give you
all of my money
Yeah, but you just
won't treat me right
Elvis and Elvis's music
pointed to black culture
and said,
"This is something that's
filled with the force of life."
If you want to be a complete
and fulfilled person,
if you want to be
an American,
this is something
you need to pay attention to.
The American teen
just knew it rocked.
No white music
had ever done that.
Plenty of black music had.
Tell my mama
Lord, I swear to God,
what you been doin' to me
I'm gonna tell everybody...
Elvis was able
to bring a value
to the presentation
of black music,
African-American artists,
at a period that
they were being ignored
by the great artists,
in a credible way,
because he learned it
from the source.
Girl, I don't be
comin' no more
Goodbye to little darlin'
Down the road I go
Can't stop me now, man.
We can't stop.
All right, all right.
I said, bye
Bye, bye, baby
Girl, I won't...
In the Colonel's view,
whatever the songs were,
whoever played on it
didn't matter.
It was Elvis.
It was, in his mind,
about the merchandise.
He always called it
"the merchandise."
And that's what it was
to him and to RCA.
We think tonight
that he's going to make
television history for you.
We'd like you
to meet him now.
Elvis Presley!
Colonel knew how to do it,
and had the contacts
with the--
the show in New York,
the Tommy Dorsey Show.
RCA didn't seem to be able
to secure TV performances,
and eventually,
Colonel Parker secures
Elvis for shows
to coincide with the release
of the record in January.
The earliest shows,
he doesn't have that much
material to draw from.
What he's doing really
are the-- the covers.
These songs
initially recorded
by black songwriters,
black performers:
"Shake, Rattle, and Roll"
and "Money Honey"
and "Flip, Flop and Fly."
He was an
incredible performer
in that his body
really picked up
all the intricacies
of the rhythm.
It's so lighthearted,
but it's so deep
and meaningful
at the same time.
It's such a magical
thing to see.
He looks really supernatural,
'cause of the kinescopes,
just the way
it distorts the image.
There's some beautiful thing
going down there,
you know, and it must
have been really incredible
to see it with no warning.
(audience cheering)
I'm like
a Mississippi bullfrog
Sittin' on a hollow stump
I'm like
a Mississippi bullfrog
Sittin' on a hollow stump
I got so many women
I don't know
which way to jump
Well, I said
flip, flop and fly
I don't care if I die
I said flip, flop and fly
Don't care if I die
Don't ever leave me,
don't ever say goodbye
(applause and cheers)
He just did all those
Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey shows.
That was nationwide TV.
And it all went through
the roof from then on.
That's when
we saw somebody
that could sing better
than other people,
could move better
than other people,
had style that was better
than other people.
In the pop world,
when this came along
it broke glass.
You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog
Cryin' all the time
You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog
When you look at those
television performances,
you see the band
watching Elvis.
They all got their
eyes on Elvis.
Well, they said
you was high class
That was essential
to the way the band swung.
Elvis is simply
swinging your world
with the way
he's swinging his hips
and moving his legs
and his shoulders.
He's pushing and pushing
his musicians.
You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog
Cryin' all the time
You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog
We were doing
The Milton Berle Show,
and we was doing "Hound Dog."
Right at the end,
we usually go out.
You ain't
no friend of mine
All of a sudden, he went
into this half-time bluesy
"You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog," slow.
And we had never
did it that way.
We all looked at each other.
"What do we do now?
We'd better follow him."
You ain't nothin' but a...
I just figured, well,
I better catch his blues licks
and his legs and arms
and do everything I can.
It was like every man
for himself, actually.
Everytime he'd move
a finger, a leg, an arm,
or run across the stage
like a machine gun.
(Fontana imitates drumming)
Just every lick
I could catch, you know?
My parents are watching it.
They don't know
I'm watching it.
They're looking,
and... (laughing)
My mother's saying,
"That's disgusting!"
Crying all the time
Well, you ain't never
caught a rabbit
You ain't no...
As a little kid,
I can remember
the living room discussion.
His appearances on TV
were of a sexual nature.
He had really
stepped over the line
of what's decent
on television.
After that, our parents
wouldn't let us see him.
The ministers, reverends
told our parents,
"Keep him away
from your children.
He's the devil."
So, he's forbidden fruit.
(flashbulbs popping)
On your personal
you create
a sort of mass hysteria
amongst your audiences
of teenagers.
Is your shaking
and quaking in the nature
of an involuntary response
to this hysteria?
Elvis: Involuntary?
Man: Yeah.
Uh, well, I'm aware
of everything I do at all times,
but, uh, it's just
the way I feel.
And do you think
you've learned anything
from the criticism
leveled at you?
Elvis: No, I haven't.
Man: You haven't, huh?
Because, uh, I don't--
I don't feel I'm doing
anything wrong.
Do you read the stuff?
Nik Cohn:
One of the paradoxes
with Elvis is
how could a boy
so in love with God,
so obsessively in love
with his mother,
so decent,
and "yes, ma'am,"
and "yes, sir"
and all of that,
how could he be so
unconfined on the stage?
How could he do this?
That was just totally
because the mid '50s being
the beginning of the
civil rights movement,
the biggest fear that
most Southerners had
was so-called race mixing.
Elvis's first television
were earth-shattering.
He sang at a moment
in the history of the South
in the early '50s,
when his music was truly
a revolutionary sound
that bridged the black
and white musics
of Southern worlds
in a way that had
never been heard before.
I don't think
he was, necessarily,
trying to shake
the world in that sense,
but I think he...
he knew what he was onto.
He knew it
made him feel great,
and he knew there was
a rebellious streak in it.
He had to know that,
and it made him powerful.
They're clearly
afraid of him...
(Petty laughs)
...to some degree.
If you see a large social
anxiety on the horizon,
there's probably issues
of bodies in control involved.
Young people,
whether they were
physically mixing
black and white or not,
they were culturally
mixing black and white,
the way they were
expressing themselves,
the movements in space
as that mixing happened
were sexual in nature.
And I think,
in the case of Elvis,
the fearful response,
it had a racial component
and a sexual component.
You know, it's all about
fear and the body.
I and millions of other
kids growing up,
we all had this feeling
that Elvis was,
sort of, sent to us,
to lead us out of the darkness
of our own confusion,
sexual confusion,
social confusion,
Here's what it was for me.
Elvis came along,
and this soundwave came out
that ran right through me.
You felt like
he was looking at you.
I mean, he had these eyes,
and he was connecting
with his audience.
As teenagers,
it was liberating.
Now we had something
to claim for ours.
I don't think there
was any context
for the kind of shift
that Elvis represented.
I don't think there was
any-- any possible way
to know that that
was going to resonate
and shake young people
to their core
in such a profound way.
Steve Allen:
The reason I booked him,
I recognized right away
that he had something,
a cuteness.
It was chiefly his face,
but a beautiful sound,
he really never had.
The thing is that it was
well-known that Steve Allen,
who fancied himself
a major songwriter,
hated rock and roll.
And his purpose
in having Elvis was,
first and foremost,
he needed the ratings,
but secondly,
to be sarcastic
and condescending to Elvis
and to the music
he openly despised.
You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog
Cryin' all the time
You ain't nothin'
but a hound dog
Cryin' all the time
Dave Marsh:
Steve Allen, he was out
to humiliate an entire culture
of what he would've
called "hillbillies."
It was all a sneer.
It's a control thing.
It was humiliating.
After that, he didn't
like Steve Allen at all.
Well, that was just a lie
As a child,
I was deeply offended.
There was something
wrong there.
Elvis, why are you
letting him do this to you?
We can look at Elvis
as a Southern trickster figure.
You deal with power
by yes-ing them to death,
and that's what Elvis did.
Very polite, very deferential,
but with his eye
on the sparrow.
He was basically
a good-natured Southern kid,
but he was on a mission
to deliver this music.
By 1956,
Elvis was coming
into his own.
The RCA singles were enormous.
"Hound Dog,"
"Don't Be Cruel."
They sold
three million copies.
When Elvis's
first album came out,
that sold 300,000 copies.
"Heartbreak Hotel" topped
all three Billboard charts:
country, pop, and R&B.
This was now a career
that was going to these
unimaginable heights.
I often wonder
if there had ever
been a 21-year-old
that had that power,
that could mobilize
millions of youths
with the wave of his hand.
His mother worried
so much about him.
He always wanted
to be a good son,
mostly to his mom,
and didn't want
to give her fears.
They would talk
every single day,
and he was comforting her
that he'd be okay
and not to worry so much.
By the time Elvis made
the first appearance
on The Ed Sullivan Show,
it was already something
everybody was waiting for,
watching for.
There was all kinds
of pressure
and all kinds of expectation.
The Sullivan Show
was the crown jewel,
that was the biggest
game in town.
It was almost like,
okay, you know,
"I'll do these shows,
I'm doing my song,
I'm doing my thing."
But he's not letting go
of his roots.
Well, the morning's
so bright
And the lamp...
Gordon Stoker:
He wanted to do
"Peace in the Valley"
on The Ed Sullivan Show.
They said, "No, we've
never had a religious song
on this show,
and you're not going
to sing one now."
That's one of the songs
his mother loved
was "Peace in the Valley."
He fought for that song.
No one wanted him
to do that song.
There will be peace
In the valley
For me
But it was important for him
to sing it for his mother,
to his mother,
and keep his roots intact.
Peace in the valley
For me
If you really look at Elvis
on the Dorsey shows,
that's the rebel.
But then you see him
doing "Peace in the Valley"
on The Sullivan Show,
that's the good-natured
Southern kid.
Trouble I see
There will be peace
In the valley
For me
Okay, Elvis, this is
sort of off-the-cuff,
but how does it feel to be
right up there on top,
right with the best of 'em,
since you are
one of that class,
how does that feel?
Uh, it all happened so fast,
so I don't know.
I'm afraid to wake up,
afraid it's liable to be
a dream, you know?
(man speaking)
(Elvis speaking)
We got a seven-year contract
with Paramount Pictures.
It's a dream come true,
you know?
I've had people ask me
was I gonna sing
in the movies, I'm-- I'm not.
Man: I see you're signed
by Hal Wallis and company,
out of Paramount.
Elvis: Yes.
Man: Can you
tell us anything
about the first movie
that will be made?
We'll have
a movie coming out,
uh, we start making it
in June. It's, uh...
It's a movie
with Burt Lancaster
and Katharine Hepburn
called The Rainmaker.
He didn't get
The Rainmaker.
They talked him into
doing Love Me Tender.
And then talked him
into four songs.
I think that Elvis brought
a lot of insecurity with him.
He wanted to be a movie star,
that was much bigger
than being a recording star,
and he was fairly disheartened
when he learned
that he had to sing
for these movies.
In the first four movies,
you see him so into the part,
and you see him really
taking the role seriously.
He learned everyone's lines.
He thought that's
what an actor did.
Training himself to be
more like a Marlon Brando
or a James Dean
or a Humphrey Bogart.
He respected
these actors very much,
and this is where he thought
his future was going.
The movie people
took him very seriously.
These were
carefully made films.
They had scripts.
They had emotion.
King Creole,
Love Me Tender,
Jailhouse Rock.
They assigned him
stellar people.
Michael Curtiz,
who directed King Creole,
is the same Michael Curtiz
who directed Casablanca.
So they treated him
with respect.
King Creole, it was being
prepped for James Dean...
before the fatal crash.
Fresh and ready
To cook
See, I got 'em
See the size
Stripped and cleaned
Before your eyes
Sweet meat, look
Sweet meat, look
Fresh and ready to cook
Fresh and ready to cook
Now take Mr. Crawfish
in your hand
He's gonna look good
in your frying pan
If you fry him crisp
Or you boil him right
He'll be sweeter than sugar
with every bite
See I got 'em
See the size
Stripped and cleaned
Stripped and cleaned
Before your eyes
Sweet meat, look
Sweet meat, look
Fresh and ready to cook
Fresh and ready to cook
Out of all those movies,
King Creole was
really his favorite.
It was Leiber
and Stoller songs.
It was songs that he loved.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller,
they were two of the greatest
songwriters in Americas
during the late '50s
and early '60s.
If you're lookin'
for trouble
You came to
the right place
If you're lookin'
for trouble
Just look right in my face
When we first met him,
we hit it off.
We were talking
about different records
that we knew.
My daddy was a green-eyed
mountain jack
That's why I'm evil
Elvis was into blues.
We thought we were
the only white guys
who were into blues.
Well, I'm evil
So don't you
mess around with me
In order to control music,
and in order
to make more money,
Colonel Parker set up
music companies
that would deliver songs.
We were given assignments,
but they also went
to all the other writers
who were assigned
to Hill & Range Songs.
Thus the owners
of Hill & Range
Elvis Presley music.
Flesh, blood and bone
Stoller: Hill & Range was
one of the biggest publishers
in the United States.
And if you wanted
to be on an Elvis record,
you were gonna play ball.
The publisher gets half,
and the writer gets half.
As Elvis is becoming
an A-list superstar,
he's reaching
a level of success
that nobody had
ever had before.
In fact, several big pop hits
into his career,
he makes a feature film,
and then, very soon
signs a contract
for a bunch of feature films.
Nobody had ever done that.
There's nobody, who
this early in their career,
is given all
of this territory
between the radio,
the television
and the movie screen.
There was no blueprint
for how you navigate
something like that.
(horn honking)
(horn honking)
Actually, it was
Vernon and Gladys
that found Graceland
and showed it to him.
He fell in love with it,
but more than that,
it was to give
a beautiful home to his mom.
And of course, his father too,
but really for his mother,
because he saw her
working so hard.
He wanted to be a great son.
Schilling: He was living
the most hectic time
of his life, career-wise.
This was his
controlled escape.
Just the name of it itself
pulled directly out
of gospel tradition.
It's an idealized home.
The perfect symbol of someone
who's come up from the bottom
and-- and enjoyed the best
the country has to offer.
It was a huge moment for Elvis
to walk through those doors
and call that place his home.
It had all of the things
that Elvis had never
known as a kid.
It's not a lavish home.
It's not Tara.
But it is everything
that money and fame
could deliver according
to his specifications.
Yeah, I understand that you
bought a home for your folks.
And even though
your father is only 39,
you've insisted
that he retire.
Is that true?
Uh, yes.
Well, he's more help, I mean,
he's more help at home
than he is anywhere else,
because, uh...
he can take care
of all my business.
He can, uh, look after
things when I'm gone.
Well, I think that's--
I think that's very smart.
I, of course...
Elvis gave Vernon
a huge obligation.
"Take care of me."
He had an office.
It gave him a job.
It gave him something to do,
and it was for his son.
They made sure that
they kept everything in order,
because he was really in fear
of not doing the right thing.
Vernon's office,
you can tell,
didn't come from
a sophisticated
business manager.
It came from a poor man
from Tupelo, Mississippi.
Elvis had all the
money in the world.
He had anything he wanted.
He built Graceland,
and yet, he had
some sweetness about him
that kind of
breaks your heart.
I mean, really.
I don't think he--
he ever lost that.
(man speaking)
(Elvis speaking)
Elvis never wanted to go back
to the days
where they struggled,
the days of poverty.
In 1958, Elvis was
drafted into the Army.
And no matter how much
he'd been through
on the road
and making movies,
the notion of going
to another continent
away from his family,
was a difficult thing
for him to consider.
The idea was, of course,
that Elvis would do his duty,
so he could come back
and be respectable
in the Colonel's new vision
of the future Elvis Presley,
which was a brilliant vision.
He knew exactly where
he wanted to take Elvis.
Colonel said,
"We don't want any favors.
"He's not gonna be
in entertainment.
He's gonna be a soldier."
Elvis, you don't get out
of the Army until 1960.
If rock and roll should
diminish in popularity,
or even disappear,
what would you do?
Well, uh...
I would probably try acting.
I mean, you know, I, uh...
Being drafted
was something
he never thought
about happening to him.
The Army, which is odd,
because there was no war on.
There's not a lot
of people being drafted.
But Elvis, he goes
along with it.
The biggest star in the world
going into the Army.
You know, from our
historical perspective,
that's a very
strange episode.
But then if you try
to get in to his experience,
having gone through this
profound rise to fame,
there's total uncertainty
as to what
he will return home to,
if he returns.
Elvis in his 20s,
he was still inventing
all the rules.
In those days,
there was no perception
that a rock and roll musician
could have a long
and lasting career.
People expected
that kind of a career
to be over within moments.
RCA panicked.
The pushed the Colonel
to set up recording sessions
before Elvis left,
so they could record
a lot of material.
The impulse was
to flood the market,
give the fans
as much as possible,
and keep riding this
as hard as you can.
And the Colonel works it
the opposite way.
His idea was to have
just enough material
to keep Elvis's name alive.
He wanted to keep the mystery.
He kept Elvis away
from performing,
serving for his country
like a good soldier.
He had fans waiting
for him to come back.
Man: "I..."
I, Elvis Presley...
"do solemnly swear..."
do solemnly swear...
"that I will bear
true faith and allegiance,"
that I will bear
true faith and allegiance,
"to the United States
of America."
to the United States
of America.
His mother was concerned
about him going to Germany,
'cause all they heard
at that time was Russia.
She thought
he was going to war.
Her son was leaving
for two years,
and he'd never been
out of the United States.
When he went
to basic training in Texas,
they talked every day.
And kept saying, "Mama,
I'm gonna be okay.
I'm gonna be okay.
I'm gonna be fighting."
But she just couldn't
get it into her head.
(wind whistling)
(choir singing)
Oh, by and by
Tempted and tried
We're oft made
To wonder
Why it should be thus
Before he left
to serve in Germany,
Gladys suddenly got sick
and she passed.
When those things
happen like that,
you don't do
a lot of talking.
Elvis and his mother,
that's the closest
I've ever seen anybody
as far as that goes.
Sure was.
She worried about him
night and day,
because he was
such a sensitive boy.
And yes, she was
overly protective,
but because of the loss
of the twin brother,
that protectiveness
really lingered
until the day she--
she passed.
Farther along
We'll know
All about it
Farther along
Easy to sneer that Elvis
was a mama's boy and so on,
but it wasn't that.
It was one of those relations
between a mother and son
where you could hardly say
where the mother ends
and where the son begins.
And when his mother died,
it left a hole in him.
He was never whole again
as it were.
He deeply feared
not being a good man,
being a godly man.
He needed her there
to say, "I love you,
"and you're doing
the right thing,
and I know you're good."
He needed her. Absolutely.
By and by
The loss was the most
devastating time in his life.
It was all fun before that.
It was the skating rink,
it was the theater.
It was making a movie,
then going back to Memphis
being with his friends
and playing.
And then, of course,
having Graceland
as the center.
Fixing all that up
for the family,
and so, he matured a lot
because of the loss
of his mother.
It was unbearable
for him during that time.
Then do we...
Now, as we're getting
closer and closer
to the time that
they're gonna pull
that gangplank away,
and you'll be on your way.
Since this is probably
the last chance
that you'll have to say
something to your fans,
do you have any
particular message?
I'm gonna be very
honest about it.
Uh, in spite of the fact
that I am going away
and that I'll be
out of their eyes
for some time,
I hope that I'm not
out of their minds.
And, uh, I'll be
looking forward
to the time
when I can come back
and entertain
again like I did, and...
All we can do is
wish you a wonderful trip
and all the best
luck in the world
and come home soon.
Well, thank you very much.
I'll do my very best.
Elvis hadn't had
much time to himself
between that summer day when
he recorded "That's All Right"
and when he was
shipped to Germany.
Suddenly, on a boat
to Germany,
there was lots of time.
That's where he meets
Charlie Hodge,
and they start talking
about music together.
They start singing.
(guitar playing)
Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa,
men have named you
Charlie Hodge had
been a gospel singer,
who Elvis had heard sing.
He liked Charlie
because Charlie was
in the music business
and somebody he could
relate to that way.
Elvis was so down that
Charlie would tell jokes
and try to keep him up.
Do you smile to tempt
a lover, Mona Lisa
To have somebody who
he felt understood him,
that he could lean on,
and also to be able
to turn to that music
was tremendously important
for him to get
through that time
and everything
that was going on.
Brought to your doorstep
They just lie there
And they die
Are you warm?
Are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely
Lovely work of art?
(Elvis vocalizing)
When he gets to Germany,
yes, he's--
he's obviously, uh, committed
to, uh, the hours every day,
but there's, again,
a lot of spare time
in an apartment
or at a house in Germany
where he doesn't know anybody.
So there's a lot of time
for reflection.
He goes into the Army,
which is where
he gets the, um,
the pep pills
for the first time,
the methadrine,
to stay up on watch.
That was the beginning.
He started with the uppers
to get him through the Army,
to get him through
the cold days,
to get him through
the lonely nights.
Do you have any time
for, uh, music anymore?
Well, uh, only at night.
You see, I get off work
at five o'clock
in the afternoon...
...and, uh, I have a guitar
up here in the room,
and I sit around,
and you know, up here.
I don't want to get out
of practice, you know,
if I can help it.
I sure hope not.
Let me tell you...
The struggle while
Elvis was in the Army
was a mandate
from Colonel Parker
that he not record
and not make new music
since he wouldn't
be able to promote it.
But what Elvis didn't know
was Parker was not a legal
resident in the United States.
And without
legitimate papers,
any travel that he took
could present
big problems for him
trying to get back in.
The Colonel,
he would come up with
excuses and
explanations to Elvis,
to his family.
There'd be telegrams
from Colonel Parker
telling him not to worry,
"I've done this,
I've done this."
Parker was releasing
songs for him
every few months
to keep the fans interested.
But it's not a lot,
and not at the pace
that they were used to
and that the machine required.
This approach to Elvis's career
was preying on
his vulnerability.
This was certainly
an opportunity for the Colonel
to fully seize the role
of parent, mentor.
The one person who could
take him through
this difficult time
and lead him out
the other way.
Colonel was like
a father figure.
There's no doubt
about that.
And he felt Colonel knew
what he was doing.
I mean, Colonel brought him
to where he was.
Sam Phillips couldn't do
what Colonel Parker did.
He was bright enough
to know that.
So he was gonna follow
what Colonel Parker said.
He'd been right so far.
Oh, rock
Of ages
Hide thou me
There is no other
Refuge can save...
Anytime Elvis was going
through a really rough time,
he always went
to gospel music.
This old world
What is gospel?
Gospel is a place where
you go for transcendence,
where you go for peace,
where you go for a
certain type of security.
It's a home.
It's a deep home within
your soul and your body.
Hide thou me
We just went to Germany.
My father was stationed there.
Air Force.
And a man came up
to me and said,
"Would you like
to meet Elvis Presley?"
And I thought
he was kidding.
I said, "Sure."
He goes, "No,
I'm really serious."
I told him if I were to--
to meet him,
he'd have to ask my parents,
and my parents
were very reluctant,
and I persuaded them
to at least let me,
you know, meet him.
I will spend
my whole life through
Loving you, loving you
What does anyone say
to a famous person?
Winter, summer,
springtime too
Elvis was sitting in a chair,
his legs crossed.
Elvis walked over to me,
and he said,
"Oh, what do we have here?"
He started playing the piano
looking over at me,
and I kind of smiled at him.
The more I looked over,
the more he would
entertain even more.
Three days later,
I get a call
that Elvis would like
to see me again.
And the rest is history.
I'll always be
Loving you
I learned so much
from Elvis about music.
Songs that he played
when I was in Germany
with him for those six months,
some of 'em
I could hardly connect to.
I was listening
to Frankie Avalon, Fabian.
And his selection of music,
I never heard really.
I'll be true
The Ink Spots, The Platters,
Faye Adams, "Shake a Hand."
I didn't know
any of these people.
That's when I realized that
music was so much bigger
than what my music was.
Songs of loss,
songs of departing,
songs of hope.
I couldn't really even see him
as a movie star anymore,
that he was so much deeper.
I'll always be
Do you have any idea when
you'll be traveling back home?
Uh, no, I don't know.
Uh, I wish
I did know, you know.
Uh, how 'bout it?
Do you miss home?
Oh, boy,
you-- you-- (laughs)
I can't hardly talk.
(man laughs)
That's kind of--
kind of a silly question
on my part, I guess.
It's a lonely man
Who wanders all around
Lonely man
It's a lonely man
Who roams from
town to town
Always searchin'
For something
he can't find
Hoping, always hoping
That someday
fate will be kind
It's a lonely man
Who travels all alone
Chorus: A lonely man
When he has no one
That he can call his own
Well, Elvis, now
you're really home.
How does it feel?
It's hard to get used
to it, you know?
I mean, I've been looking
forward to it for two years.
That-- that was the
hardest part of all.
Just being away
from show business.
It wasn't the Army,
it wasn't the other men.
It was that.
It stayed on my mind.
I kept thinking about
the past all the time.
Contemplating the future.
It's a lonely man
Who wanders all around
It's a lonely man
Who roams
from town to town
always searchin'
For something he can't find
Hopin', always hopin'
That someday
fate will be kind
It's a lonely man
Who travels all alone
When he has no one
That he can call his own
Always so unhappy
Taking shelter
Where he can
Here I am
Come meet a lonely
Lonely man
(Elvis vocalizing)
(song fades)
Oh, break it, burn it
You drag it all around
Twist it and turn it
You can't tear it down
'Cause every minute,
every hour
You'll be shaken
by the strength
And mighty power of my love
Crush it, kick it
You can never win
I know, baby,
you can't lick it
I'll make you give in
Every minute, every hour
You'll be shaken
by the strength
And mighty power of my love
Love, love
Baby, I want you
You'll never get away
My love will haunt you
Yes, haunt you
night and day
Touch it, pound it
What good does it do
There's just no stopping
The way I feel for you
'Cause every minute,
every hour
You'll be shaken
by the strength
And mighty power of my love
Yeah, yeah,
every minute, every hour
You'll be shaken
by the strength
And mighty power of my love
Man: All right, we have
a wide shot, so no one
can be in here.
Standing by.
Jerry Schilling:
The ' 68 Special
really showed
Elvis's career in its entirety.
They took Elvis's
original songs
and they made 'em more modern.
Priscilla Presley:
This was bringing him
back to the beginning
but yet going into the future.
Well, I quit my job
down at the car wash
I left my mama
a goodbye note
There was the jam session
with his original musicians.
It had simplicity, spontaneity.
And it also had
the choreographed pieces
that really was
a reflection of the movies
and the post-Army years.
But nobody wanted
to hire a guitar man
Steve Binder:
The real spine
of the special
came from our writers.
They locked themselves
in their office
and played every Elvis record
you could find.
Chris Bearde:
We wove a story of Elvis
from his beginnings
to being a superstar.
It gave everybody a look
at Elvis as a musician.
I'm hopin' I can
make myself a dollar
Makin' music on my guitar
It's funny. It's telling
Elvis's story, yes,
in a variety show.
It's got the girls.
It's got him playing guitar.
I look back now...
his life was so big,
I don't know if you can
get it in an hour. (laughs)
Yes, I'm gonna walk
On that milky white way
Oh Lord, some of these days
I started out when I was
just out of high school,
I started out
driving a truck,
and, uh, I was training
to be an electrician.
Some of these days
Well, well, well, well
One day at my lunch break,
I went into this
little record company
to make a record.
The guy put the record out,
and overnight, in my hometown,
people were saying,
you know, "Who is he?"
I'm gonna walk
on that milky white way
Oh Lord, some of these days
I started to play
little nightclubs
and little football fields.
Like a year and a half,
I was doing this,
I met Colonel Parker.
My mother howdy,
howdy, howdy...
In 1956, they arranged to,
uh, to put me on television.
So they dressed me
in a tuxedo,
had me singing
to a dog on a stool.
My mother howdy
when I get home
I went to Hollywood
and I did four pictures.
I was really getting used
to the movie star bit.
I'm gonna shake
my mama's hand
Just overnight
it was all-- all changed.
I will shake her hands
that day
I got drafted.
That's when we walk
On that milky white way
Oh Lord, one of these days
On some of these days
Warren Zanes:
Returning from the Army,
coming back home,
getting ready to perform again,
it's obviously not the '60s.
Those '60s haven't come yet.
This is pre-civil rights.
Things are happening
in that regard,
but it's not really
coming to a head yet.
I'm sure he was aware
of how much had gone on.
He could've gone
in several directions.
Well, Elvis, now
you're really home.
How does it feel?
It's pretty hard
to describe, I'll tell ya.
It's hard to get
used to it, you know?
I mean, I've been looking
forward to it for two years,
and, all of a sudden,
here it is.
It's, uh...
It's not easy
to adjust to it.
Man: Elvis, do you think
the music has changed
since you've been
out of the service?
I mean, since you've
been in the service.
Possibly, yes.
I-I... I can't say really.
I haven't been here
long enough to even know.
The only thing I can say
is if it has changed,
well, I would be
foolish not to...
try to change
with it, you know?
John Jackson:
When Elvis gets back
from the Army,
he was still
one of the biggest
stars on the planet.
But rock and roll,
that force that happened
between '54 and '59,
basically had evaporated
while he was away.
And you see,
immediately, the results
of the Colonel plotting--
"How do I make him
as widespread as possible
and polish his image?"
Get him on the path
towards being a Frank Sinatra
or a Dean Martin,
pop singers who have
very long careers.
Alan Light:
This was a curious
crossroads in his career.
It was open field to see
what was he gonna do
and where was he gonna go.
The work that he had done
during his time in the Army
broadens the scope
of the music
that he was interested in.
He didn't wanna
do the same music.
He wanted to grow.
He wanted to evolve in a way
that he could offer something
different in his music.
Ernst Jorgensen: With Elvis,
it was always about
the challenge, the motivation.
He's already in
the recording studio
in Nashville
two weeks after coming home.
He knew what was at stake,
so did the Colonel
and the engineers,
There was this
tension in the room:
"What's it gonna be like?"
You ready?
(guitar plays)
Let's cut one.
LTWB0081, take one.
(train whistling)
I just got
your letter, baby
Too bad you can't
come home
They all relaxed after
just a few takes
because he's so on top of it.
He's been longing
for this moment--
both to get his
career started
but also to express
a new range of music,
his new understanding of music.
Everything he could do.
I ain't slept a wink
since Sunday
I can't eat a thing all day
Since the last Ed Sullivan Show
appearance in 1957,
the Colonel decided to take
Elvis off of television.
He didn't want
to give Elvis away
when you could sell tickets
in a movie theater.
But in the relaunch,
he wasn't gonna gamble.
He wanted exposure to make
sure they got a head start.
Now it was time to deliver.
The Colonel's plan was
get Elvis on television
in front of as many
people as possible
with the world's
other most famous singer.
Make it fun and exciting,
so that now the career
can continue.
(women screaming)
I know that I
Held nothing
If you should go away
But to know
That you love me brings
Bruce Springsteen:
The Sinatra show,
it was a very conservative
move at the time.
It was just trying
to find his place
after coming out of the Army.
He simply had to believe
in himself,
and that's what Elvis did.
Fame and fortune
My way
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
(women screaming)
Elvis put himself forth
as somebody who was not
a flash in the pan
but who was in a long line
of a tradition of American
pop singers.
They were saying there's
a life for Elvis after Elvis.
(screaming continues)
I tell ya something,
it was great!
Jon Landau:
I remember when he appeared
on the Frank Sinatra special.
That show was
very much the opposite
of The Steve Allen Show.
There was
a collegial atmosphere.
Frank Sinatra and Elvis
had two different styles
but were in an incredibly
exclusive club.
We work in the same way
only in different areas.
Love me tender
Love me sweet
Never let me go
Trading their own hits
with each other
is the big moment
that the Colonel
engineered for him.
Those fingers
in my hair
(women screaming)
You can hear the women
in the crowd start screaming.
Elvis sexes it up a little bit.
That strips
my conscience bare
It's witchcraft
Love me tender
(women screaming)
Love me true
Sinatra, he's fitting
"Love Me Tender"
into that swing thing.
He's born on the beat.
Oh my darling,
I love you
And I always will
It's such
an ancient pitch
(women screaming)
One I wouldn't switch
'Cause there's
no nicer witch
Than witchcraft
I love you
And I always will
For my darling
I love you
Man, that's pretty.
And I always will
He's embraced
by the community
that had previously
put him down,
and that signaled
he was now ready
to take on this role
of cultural icon.
You get this new Elvis,
the Elvis that
Colonel Parker wanted,
the Elvis that had grown up
exactly the same way
that his core audience
had grown older.
They were gone
from being teenagers
to being young adults.
So for him, it was
the perfect launch.
The public widely
accepted that,
but, obviously,
this was a transition.
You gave me love to enjoy
Like a bright shiny toy
to a baby
No matter what
you would do
I depended on you
Like a baby
He knew that next album
was important.
He gave it a lot of thought.
The Elvis is Back! album
reveals new influences,
new interests,
new arrangements.
He had been getting
ready for this mentally
while he was in Germany.
There's a little bit of R&B,
there's a little bit of pop,
ballads, country.
New songs that represented
a different vocal approach
than anything
he had tried before that.
I was blind,
'cause I just
David Briggs:
His voice was very much
in tune always,
and that's because he didn't
have to fight the band.
Those guys were soft
and they didn't push him,
and they weren't too busy.
The band had the ability
to play all this music
that came from
so many different sources.
Like a baby
That was the true magic
of Elvis combining
with this band.
They perfectly
understood each other.
(Elvis vocalizing)
Red West:
Those musicians
were incredible.
Bobby Moore on bass,
Floyd Cramer on piano.
Man, those guys
heard a demo once
and bam,
they were ready to go.
They were a real tight group.
Nobody played anything
that didn't go
with what the other one
was playing.
I need soul
DJ and Scotty
were still there,
but they began to play
a lesser and lesser role
and that made it
a little more sophisticated.
Then I broke down
and cried
He liked the way
the music sounded.
Technology, it evolved
while he was gone.
RCA Studios got
a three-track recorder.
That immediately adds
a technical professionalism
as recording technology
is moving into the future.
Like a baby
He started feeling confidence,
because these were
his song choices.
These were songs that
he was singing in Germany.
That's the freedom
that he wanted.
That's what
he was looking for.
Like a baby
And that's why
it was so successful.
Just blew people away.
Elvis, when he came back,
clearly in finding the songs
and making the records,
was very driven.
His vision was very intact,
and I don't think
he could be distracted.
Elvis was so attuned
to the emotional.
He was always on the search
for emotional music.
I asked him one day,
"What makes you
pick out your songs?"
He said, "I wanna be able
to reach and feel
what we all go through
as human beings."
This is the mysterious
part about music.
How do we know when
we're listening to a song
that someone means it?
We just know.
Are you lonesome tonight
And the people who mean it
are generally the ones
who are processing
some kind of loss
through music,
and we can hear them
negotiating their loss,
and we connect to it.
Does your memory stray
To a bright summer day
When I kissed you
And called you sweetheart?
David Porter:
Those who are truly
a recording artist,
you go into
the artistic aspect
of what makes
whatever you're doing
alive and unique
for that song.
So he would lose himself
in an artistic way
in order for people to feel it.
And picture me
That's called soul.
Is your heart
filled with pain?
Shall I come back again?
Tell me, dear
Are you lonesome tonight?
Usually when we chat, Elvis,
we ask you to, uh,
select your favorite song
of all your recordings.
What's the current
favorite of yours?
I think, uh,
"Now or Never."
It's "Now or Never."
Ooh, ooh, ooh
It's now or never
Everything was
a level up on the '50s.
The three singles,
"Stuck on You,"
"It's Now or Never"
and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
were number one hits.
It was a true triumph
and a whole new ballgame
of what pop music was.
Tomorrow will be too late
his sense of time,
his phrasing, musicality,
Elvis was impeccable.
When I first saw you
He loved opera singers.
He loved the range
of an opera singer.
"It's Now or Never"
is very much like that.
My heart was captured
Tom Petty:
What he did that was unusual
was he could slide up the scale
into a tenor voice
and then back down, you know.
And he's just having fun.
He's sliding
all over the scale.
It's so human.
It's so real.
It's now or never
Come hold me tight
"It's Now or Never" was
adapted from "O Sole Mio,"
the Italian song.
Elvis had always
had this interest
in the Italian crooners.
When he was in the Army
with Charlie Hodge,
they were exploring that
kind of drama in his singing.
That sound, that style
became one of the staples
of Elvis's musical range
from then on.
Just like a willow
It's about challenge.
It was the challenge that
made him do that extra thing.
And hitting the high notes
at the end
on "It's Now or Never"
was the challenge.
And sweet devotion
He can't really reach it,
and the engineer says,
"We can cut the ending only,"
and Elvis goes back and says,
"No, if I can't sing it
the whole way through,
I'm not gonna do it."
For who knows when
He challenged himself.
He got a thrill out of
hitting a note so high.
It's now or never
My love won't wait
It's now or never
My love won't wait
(folk music playing)
Can't you see
I love you?
Please don't break
my heart in two
That's not hard to do
'Cause I don't have
a wooden heart
And if you say goodbye
Then I know
that I would cry
For Elvis to have
to do G.I. Blues,
reflecting his two years
in the Army
in a way that probably
doesn't compare a lot
to what it was like,
I don't think he really
enjoyed that.
G.I. Blues was
a family type of film
moving Elvis's image
in a completely
different direction
from the very young,
aggressive characters
in the '50s movies.
But he was given the promise
that there would be two films
for 20th Century Fox,
following this,
that were serious roles.
It may have been a reasonable
bargain for Elvis at the time.
When he found out the songs
that he had to do
in G.I. Blues,
he said, "Baby, I don't know
how this is gonna go.
I'm a little disappointed."
The songs they had
to fit into the plot,
but musically, they were
not where Elvis was at.
He makes a compromise.
That was the really
disheartening part for Elvis.
The soundtrack of G.I. Blues,
it was the most successful
album they had made.
It sold much more
than the absolutely
brilliant studio album
that came out
some months before.
Elvis is now a big business.
So instead of going out,
getting the best
songwriters in general,
Hill & Range,
from the Colonel,
were hiring a couple
of songwriters
to write Elvis songs.
They would bring
all of the material,
that was the unspoken rule.
Nobody else was allowed
to bring any music
into the session.
That was very tightly
controlled by the Colonel,
by the publishing company,
and by the record company.
The Colonel eventually
started getting
a percentage of everything.
He was a businessman.
He didn't give a damn
if it was worth a crap.
Elvis could care less
about the songwriting,
publishing in general.
Some of it,
he got and understood,
but he cared more
about good material.
It was more about the Colonel
owning the publishing,
which was a huge
stone in his shoes
the rest of his life.
It was this business of
"We must own the copyright
or we don't
want you to do it."
Elvis said, "I'm starting
to feel the pressure.
"I'm obligated here.
I don't think there's
a way out for me."
And I said, "Well, can't you
talk to Colonel?"
And that's when I think
he started getting
Basically, Colonel
was part of it.
Already, he's feeling
that he's not in control,
and this is really early on.
Gladys Presley:
Oh, home sweet home
There's no place like home
(song continues)
I already had a feeling
of what Graceland was like
through Elvis's description.
He told me in Germany,
"I want you to come
and see Graceland."
And he would give me images.
When I came, the first time,
he told me to close my eyes,
and not to open them.
We're driving, and then
he said, "Open them."
The gates of Graceland open up.
It was everything
that he'd described.
It was bigger
than life for me.
His safe haven.
Graceland always represented
something more than
just a house to Elvis.
Graceland was
something initially
that he had bought
with and for his parents,
and it reminded him
of his mother,
her presence and her
influence in his life,
which didn't end
after she died.
I opened up a closet
and it was filled
with her clothes.
And I had such a sense of her.
She liked soft fabric.
Her hats, her shoes--
he hung on
to those personal things.
Even though
it had been a few years,
there was still a lingering
scent there, of her.
It really showed me
the love that he had for her.
She never really
wanted anything,
you know, anything fancy.
She just stayed the same
all the way through
the whole thing.
There's a lot
of things happened,
and there are times
when it feels like
I don't know what
I'm gonna do next, you know?
Once he got back
to Graceland
and wanted to reconnect
with the spirit he was
brought up in
and the memory of his mother,
the best way was
to go back to the music
that he had grown up with.
The theme of return,
and in Elvis's case,
a return to gospel,
is part of how
we all experience music.
There are these
profound experiences
that happen with music
at a younger age.
Through our lives,
we're often chasing them.
If you were raised
in the proximity of gospel,
that's what launched you into
the world of emotional music.
He was getting into
another phase in his life,
and gospel, religious music,
was his favorite,
and that's why he did it.
Just on the heels
of G.I. Blues,
he goes in and records
a complete album
of gospel music
with songs from
all his old heroes:
Blackwood Brothers,
Golden Gate,
Statesmen Quartet.
It's a tribute to everything
he came from,
and he does it with a voice
at his best ever.
Why don't you
swing low, sweet chariot
Stop and let me ride
Tony Brown:
It was so close
to those records
that the Statesmen
and Blackwoods were making.
It could've been those records.
He had the Jordanaires
as the key element
of developing a gospel feel
with a band feel that
was true to the music
on the Elvis is Back! album.
Let me ride
Rock me, Lord,
rock me, Lord
Obviously, it's not
really rock and roll,
but there's drums
and there's saxophones.
There's a lot of swing to it.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet
Well, well
The way he blended
them together
is an incredibly
original thing to do.
Sometimes, you know,
he wasn't traveling
very far away from the gospel.
I mean, some of it,
it was just about
putting a beat to it.
Wasn't so particular
about the chariot wheel
That angle of the two
and the four are
slightly different
than gospel good.
Why don't you swing down,
sweet chariot, stop
And let me ride
You have a feeling that
he's truly enjoying this.
It's a very joyous
record to listen to.
His Hand in Mine
was a passion.
The whole gospel influence
was as much a part of him,
and maybe even more so
as the rhythm and blues.
This was just his
opportunity to get it out.
And it was a mission
to show others,
the listeners, that in these
choices of music
and how it's embellished,
really what Elvis was
looking for as an artist,
to have that freedom.
It's that simple.
Just wanted to lay
down this heavy load
Why don't you
swing down, sweet chariot
Stop, let me ride
How's Blue Hawaii going?
It's going on very well.
We leave tomorrow
for Kauai, you know.
I think we'll be there
for about 10 days.
Man: Tell us about
Blue Hawaii a bit.
There's about
11 songs in it.
Some Hawaiian tunes?
You got some
special material written
for you for the picture?
Elvis: Yeah, we had
about 10 songs written
especially for the picture.
We do that, you know,
before the picture starts.
The film Blue Hawaii was
an overwhelming success.
That is the point where
it gets real interesting.
The two dramas,
Wild in the Country
and Flaming Star,
they're not as music heavy,
and they actually lose money.
And that's when
they told him,
"This is proof. This is
what the public wants.
"People just wanna
hear your music.
They wanna hear you
sing in movies."
(crowd cheering)
The last concert he played,
for almost a decade,
was a charity show
near Pearl Harbor.
(women screaming)
Well, so long
That was like the
ultimate charity show,
because it was
for the building
of the Pearl Harbor
Couldn't be more patriotic.
Couldn't have been
more of a cause
that people could get behind.
He's back,
he's served his time.
He's a great patriot.
It was more to build
that piece of the story
that the Colonel
wanted to tell.
He's cleaned up
and he's a good boy.
Let you go ahead on, baby
Pray that you'll come back
home some time
Boots Randolph.
(women scream)
The band that he brings
with him is very interesting.
He has Scotty and DJ,
but he brings
with him his all-star
Nashville, session guy band,
including Boots Randolph,
who was a great
saxophone player.
(women screaming)
Boots Randolph brings
in a lead instrument
that can balance out
Elvis's singing
in a way that Scotty
playing rockabilly licks
didn't do previously.
So it just becomes
a much more full sound.
It's a tragedy that
he didn't continue
to play live
for people at that point.
But the Colonel knew
that the films
got Elvis in front of millions
of people simultaneously
with as little
work as possible.
The post-Army films,
I went to them.
They were a separate category
for what happened in the '50s.
He finds himself
in a situation
where he's just
churning out stuff
that he couldn't possibly
have believed in.
I said, take it easy,
baby, I worked all day
And my feet
feel just like lead
You got my shirttails
flying all over the place
And the sweat
poppin' outta my head
She said,
Hey, bossa nova, baby,
keep on workin'
For this ain't
no time to quit
She said,
Go bossa nova, baby,
keep on dancin'
I'm about to have
myself a fit
Bossa nova, bossa nova
The Colonel negotiated
contract after contract.
MGM, Paramount,
United Artists, you name it.
Hal Blaine:
He was inundated with
work, work, work, work.
I can dance with
a drink in my hand
She said,
Hey, bossa nova, baby,
keep on workin'
For this ain't
no time to drink
Everybody was trying
to get every penny they could
out of whatever
they could.
Bossa nova
He had to make
three movies a year.
So these soundtrack albums
became a big part
of the contractual obligation
to release music with RCA.
Bossa nova
That was not his music.
It was killing his
recording career,
because they were
movie songs, situation songs.
Priscilla: Obviously,
in some of the movies,
you got some hits--
"Viva Las Vegas,"
"Bossa Nova Baby."
They weren't all bad,
but because it was
connected to a movie,
it wasn't like a real record.
The songs had to fit the scene.
And the Colonel obviously
knew that the best format
was girls and
beautiful locations.
Robbie Robertson:
I thought it was
terrible direction--
the idea to do a bunch
of corny-ass movies,
Where this is all being led?
It's no-man's-land.
He-- he certainly knows
this music is crap.
The movies were
very harmful to his image.
As an innovator,
as a great musician,
they were harmful.
He's very talented.
I mean, he's very present.
It's an incredible
image of him.
But where he had
a nice start in the movies
and did do some
creative things early on,
and you could see
that there was great
potential for this guy,
there was really
no way for him
to become
the huge movie star
that he would've
liked to have been
and the Colonel
keep control of it.
You know, there's too many
creative aspects
gonna come in,
and they're gonna challenge
the Colonel's
carnival mentality.
Colonel Tom Parker:
Well, no, no, no, no, no.
No, no, no.
Far as I was concerned,
I was not involved other
than making the contract.
He had the opportunity to say,
"I don't want to do it
or I'd like to do it."
No one told him
he had to make a picture
that he didn't want to do.
When we had a script,
we'd deliver it to Elvis.
Elvis did refuse
a bad picture.
In comes the Colonel,
in comes the studios,
in comes the record company.
They would say to him,
"You don't fulfill
your contracts,
you won't do anything."
Well, come on everybody
And turn your head
to the left
Come on everybody
In Viva Las Vegas,
it's the closest he ever
gets to having a true co-star.
Take a real deep breath
and repeat after me
That becomes a problem
for the Colonel,
because he doesn't
want anybody to even
come close to outshining Elvis.
Hey, hey, hey
and my baby loves me
My baby loves me
My baby loves me
Chorus: My baby loves me
My baby loves me
I said, my baby
My baby
Loves me
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Ann-Margaret (laughing):
The Colonel did not want
Ann-Margaret in his world
after she got
a lot of press.
Anybody who had influence
on Elvis was a threat.
The tragedy of the
old style of management
was to try and maintain
control of the artist
by limiting their
exposure to opportunities.
The Colonel
was not interested
in Elvis becoming
too independent of a thinker.
He needed Elvis to think
that everything good
came from the Colonel
and anything bad came
from imagined enemies.
He kept that con game
going for much too long.
The years spent
chasing the movies,
you know, seven years,
they were very
destabilizing for Elvis,
because music
was always the buoy.
It's clear about halfway
through that period,
he becomes very restless,
and very annoyed
with the whole process.
Elvis didn't have
script approval.
There weren't great budgets.
The humdrum movies
that he was given--
boy chase girl,
boy gets girl,
they get married,
and it's happily ever after--
that was not Elvis Presley.
He was not that man.
He was much deeper than that.
He had no inspiration
He knew he had
to make it work.
He knew he was
under a contract,
and he walked through
every one of them.
After a movie,
he felt trapped.
He dreaded the next script,
because he knew
it would be the same thing
over and over again.
But the disconnect,
the disconnect in the two
was really wearing
on his mind--
that Colonel was not taking him
to the place he needed to be.
This is what
we'll never understand
is why did
Colonel Parker have
this kind of influence
over him.
Why was he willing
to knowingly humiliate
himself for this man,
or for the money
promised him by this man?
He puts up with it.
I have never felt
Elvis was lost.
He knew with all those movies,
as is the case
with every artist,
that they're taking themselves
away from their strength.
Many artists can't get back
to where their strengths are.
Emmylou Harris:
An artist has to
constantly grow,
and to continue creating,
and changing,
and being inspired
by things around him
in a spiritual
or a personal way.
I'd like to stay
in the same vein.
I-I mean,
I wouldn't like to, uh,
be at a standstill,
you know what I mean?
I'd like--
I'd like to progress.
I'd like to do a lot
of things, but I...
I realize, uh,
that it takes time,
and you can't, uh,
you can't go out of
your, uh, capa--
uh, your limitations.
You have to know
your capabilities, you know.
Like I have people
to say to me all the time,
"Why don't you do
an artistic picture?
"Why don't you do this
picture and that picture?
Why don't you go
do something blah, blah?"
Well, that's fine, but, uh...
Uh, I would like to.
I'd like to do
something someday
where I feel that
I really done a good job.
You know, as an actor
in a certain type role,
if what you're doing
is doing okay,
you're better off
sticking with it until,
you know,
until just time itself
changes things.
The great irony is that Elvis
was such a significant force
in the launch
of rock and roll,
and the very revolution
that he sparked
carries on without him.
There is a renaissance
that is underway,
and he is, in effect,
in a bubble in Hollywood,
as it passes him by.
'63, '64, '65, when
all the bands were coming in,
he just didn't really
wanna hear music.
He didn't wanna
hear the songs.
Was there room for him now,
being a solo artist?
Elvis really wasn't interested
in writing his own music,
and all these other
groups coming up,
The Beatles,
Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys,
they all wrote
their own songs,
so they could direct
their careers
in a way Elvis couldn't.
There is no road map
at this point
as to what a
rock and roller does
when he gets older.
The Beatles had each other.
You know, they had four people
together to go through it.
And Elvis was totally alone.
There was no one
vaguely his equal.
There was nobody he could
bounce anything off of.
Elvis really didn't ask
for anybody's advice.
He didn't ask the guys
for their advice.
Oh my gosh, he would never.
I mean, you didn't
tell Elvis what to sing
or what movie
he should be in.
Elvis was truly his own man.
He needed someone
to come in with a game plan
and offer it to him.
"What do you think of this?"
But he hung out with
the same people all the time.
We all lived in this bubble.
Very few outsiders came in.
His world was really
quite small,
and only consisted of us,
people that he trusted.
You didn't really talk about
the movies around Elvis.
We didn't go there.
Why get him upset?
And people-- the guys were
around to bring him up.
Elvis was going to us
and saying,
"Damn it, I know
there's good music out there.
I hear it.
Why am I not getting it?"
You can tell his interest
in making records
has kind of gone away.
You don't get him
in the studio a lot.
He was just struggling
with what to do next
and where to go,
trying to figure out
his purpose again.
It was very difficult
to watch.
How many roads
Must a man walk down
Before you call him a man
By this point,
Elvis had grown so
disconnected from the music
that he was recording.
He knew that
it was inauthentic.
He knew that
it was insincere.
And he was looking for
some connection to music
that still made him
feel the way
that music had made him feel
when he was younger.
How many times
Must a cannonball fly
He was interested in
this new folk music--
Peter, Paul, & Mary,
the songs of Bob Dylan.
He didn't love
Bob Dylan's voice,
but he was interested
in this imagery
and this language that drew
from the gospel and the blues.
And here he has
Odetta singing.
When you hear the song,
now you've got the lyrics
that match his feelings,
you've got the lyrics that
he can see himself singing.
Only if my true love
was waitin'
If I...
Many of his relationships
with the culture of the day
were circuitous,
because he was Elvis
and he was behind a--
a high wall.
Only she was
Lying by me
Then I'd lie
In my bed once again
Elvis, a lot of times when
everyone had gone to bed,
or there was no one around,
he would go into the
music room at Graceland.
Just sit there
totally in solitude,
as if even I wasn't around,
and just start playing.
Always it was gospel.
Always it was
"Precious Lord."
Precious Lord
Take my hand
When he would sing,
it was like a character study
watching him get lost.
I'm tired
I'm weak
I'm worn
Through the storm
Priscilla: And then,
he'd look over to see
how I was relating to it.
He'd look over
and wink at me.
Lead me on
Those were times that
I cherish the most, actually.
He wasn't really trying
to impress anyone.
He was doing it for himself
and just getting in touch,
getting in touch
with his maker.
It was a plea.
Well, you may run on
for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Let me tell you,
God Almighty's
gonna cut you down
He didn't have a
burning desire anymore
to record songs.
Midnight rider
The real interesting
element in that
is that when he regains
his appetite for recording
and wants to prove
a point in 1966,
he makes a gospel
record again.
Talkin' to the man
from Galilee
During the middle
of The Beatles,
and The Birds
and The Stones,
and Elvis makes
a gospel record when
he wants to come back.
Great God Almighty,
let me tell you what he said
Go tell that
long-tongued liar
Go tell that
midnight rider
Tell the gambler, rambler
Elvis is connecting
to new music.
He wants a more modern sound,
a more aggressive
rhythm section,
a rock and roll mix.
Run on for a long time
Let me tell you,
God Almighty's gonna
cut you down
You may throw your rock
and hide your hand
I think Elvis's
return to gospel
was a part of simply the deep
religiousness of the South
and his upbringing.
But in the late '60s, people
were having a hard time
looking past
the kitsch aspect
of some of the things
that Elvis did.
You gonna reap
just what you sow
To appreciate that music,
that stuff
couldn't bother you.
Long time
Run on for a long time
(film projector whirring)
What do you think
of yourself now?
You mean, uh,
as an entertainer
or an individual or what?
I can sum it up
fairly easily.
I, uh, as a-- as a
human being, really,
who's been very extremely
fortunate in so many ways...
I've a lot that I'd like to do,
a lot that I'd like
to accomplish.
I'd like to get married.
I'd like to have a family.
I suppose the most
important thing
in a person's life is,
uh, is happiness.
I mean, not
wordly things, because...
You realize, I mean,
you can have cars.
You can have money.
You can have a fabulous home.
You can have everything.
If you're not happy,
what have you got?
I was very young
and very in love,
and I wanted to be
with him a lot.
The times that
we were together,
I-I cherished.
I picked up my bag
And went looking
for a place to hide
When I saw old Carmen
and the devil
Walking side by side
I mean, 1968 was a wild
and violent year
in American history.
She said I gotta go
But my friend here
can stick around
At the beginning of the year,
Lisa Marie is born.
And then a couple
of months later,
Martin Luther King
is assassinated.
Take a load off, Fanny
We were making
a movie at MGM
when we heard on the radio
about Martin Luther King.
King was that hope
to bring us all together,
and Elvis knew that.
Elvis looked down
and he said,
"He always told the truth."
It's just old Luke
And Luke's waiting
on Judgment Day
There's this contentious
presidential election going on.
Bobby Kennedy is assassinated.
There's chaos
at the Democratic
convention in Chicago.
Baby now,
won't you stay
Things were
just in disarray,
and it was never
the same after that.
Nik Cohn:
By '68,
most Elvis fans had,
more or less,
given up the ghost.
There'd been
so many poor movies,
so many throwaway singles.
Elvis starts to think about,
"Okay, so how can I
play live again?
There's no infrastructure
for me to do that."
A couple of really
bright guys who got Elvis
talked their way
into making a TV special.
Their mission was
to remind everybody
just who Elvis had been,
and who he still was--
in a sense, to erase
the last seven years
of the movie soundtracks.
When the opportunity for
the TV special is presented,
he hasn't performed
for an audience for years.
He was actually thinking
what he would do
if everything went wrong.
This was his career.
This was his life.
This was the moment of
realization that this is it,
that this is gonna be
either a complete failure
or it'll change everything.
Well, I remember I waited
for weeks
for the '68 Special
'cause I knew it was coming.
I can remember
exactly where our TV
was set up
in the dining room,
the exact place
I was sitting.
I mean, it's one
of those things
that's imprinted
on my memory forever.
But you weren't sure
if he had the ability to focus
and gather it all
together one more time
to create
musical explosiveness.
Uh, welcome to NBC,
and the
Elvis Presley Special.
(cheers, applause)
You can do better than that.
I'm gonna say it all over again.
Now, I wanna really
hear something.
When I went with him to NBC,
he was very quiet.
He didn't know how people
were gonna feel about it.
He was extremely
nervous that night.
It's all new again,
and I'd never seen Elvis
perform live before.
I didn't really know
what to expect.
We didn't know where
it was gonna go, period.
Just before it began,
on the first taping,
Elvis called me
into the makeup room.
He was sitting there
and he asked everybody
in the room to leave,
so he could just be
with me one on one.
I said, "What's--
what's the problem?"
"Problem is
I changed my mind.
I don't wanna do this."
Man: May we strike
the coil and cable off
the platform, please?
We weren't seeing,
sitting in the audience,
what was going on.
I'd stayed away
from the dressing room.
He didn't want
anyone around.
I was sitting there going,
"Oh my gosh," you know.
"Is he gonna be able
to pull this off?"
I said, "What are you
talking about?"
And he said,
"I don't remember anything
I sang in the dressing room.
"I don't remember
any stories that I told.
"My mind is a blank, Steve.
Let's just call it off.
It's not gonna happen."
I said, "Elvis, I've never
asked you to do anything
that you don't wanna do..."
Host: Mr. Elvis Presley.
(crowd cheering)
"...but you've got
to go out there."
Thank you very much.
I don't know
how this happened,
but I saw him relax.
They want me
to sit on the floor!
(women cheer)
(playing guitar)
(band joins in)
It's all right
It's all right
It's all right
Yeah, man
It's all right
It's all right
all right
(Elvis growls)
It's all right
Oh, yeah!
I had no knowledge
or understanding
about how incredibly talented
he really was until that show.
He's having an experience
in the moment.
During the years
he was doing Hollywood movies,
you never got to see him
in the moment.
Yeah, baby!
We're goin' up,
we're goin' down
We're going up, down, down,
up any way you want
Let's roll
Yeah, yeah, yeah
You got me doin'
what you want me
Oh baby, what do you
want me to do?
The interplay
with Scotty and DJ
who's playing drums
on the back of a guitar case.
DJ Fontana:
It felt like
we were back home again.
All right
Hep, hep, hep, hep, hep, hep!
Boones Howe:
Those are guys
who grew up together,
and they suddenly
have a moment
of reflection.
The past, their early days.
Down, any way
you wanna let it roll
He was rediscovering
the sheer animal joy
of making music, and realizing,
for the first time in years,
just how good he was.
Baby, what do you
want me to do?
You got me doing
what you want me
Oh baby, what do you
want me to do?
Man: All right!
You got it!
That show was
1,000% Elvis.
His fingerprint was on the
first frame to the last frame.
He was a man on a mission.
And that night
when it premiered on TV,
we were all silent.
We just sat there
and watched the show
and never said a word.
And then, of course,
the telephone calls were
coming in, and reviews.
And, oh my gosh,
it was such a relief.
It was so great
to see him smile again.
We're caught in a trap
After the comeback special,
Elvis didn't have
to look too far
to find his way
back to the source.
Because I love you
too much, baby
It was the old story.
You could take the boy
out of Memphis.
You really couldn't
take Memphis
out of the boy, you know?
The roots that you come from
are always compelling
to return to
no matter how
far away you get.
By that point, he only had
a couple of movies left.
And so when he went
back to the studio,
he wanted to
do things differently.
Preston Lauterbach:
Elvis returned home
to restart
his career as
a recording artist,
with local musicians,
with a local producer in
a little humble storefront,
north Memphis,
that's where Elvis returned
to essentially save his career.
Chips Moman, his job
was writer and producer.
He had evolved
from Stax Records
as a producer primarily
associated with soul
and with black artists.
But Chips was one of these
trans-racial kinda figures.
He thought in terms of style,
in terms of sound.
And he really did
embody Memphis music.
Asking where I've been
It was the greatest sessions,
the greatest.
My gosh, I mean,
he came alive again.
He was liberated.
It was, uh,
a beautiful marriage.
We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build
our dreams
He told Elvis, "I have
a stack of records here
"I think are hits,
"and you don't
have any publishing.
What do you wanna do?"
Oh, let our love survive
Elvis said, "Chips,
I need hit records."
I'll dry the tears
from your eyes
Let's don't let
a good thing die
He decides he's gonna
sing contemporary material.
Publishing be damned.
He's gonna do what he wants.
Lied to you
Yes, yes
We're caught in a trap
The songs, every one
of 'em, was a hit.
That's the biggest sales
Elvis had had ever.
Love you too much baby
You would think
that would've been
the next recording session.
Never recorded
with Chips again.
I can't walk out
(match strikes, flares)
Ronnie Tutt:
August '69, he got
a chance to play live
at the International Hotel.
Vegas was a huge
event for him.
Back in the '50s,
he wasn't accepted too much
then in Vegas.
Vegas, it's not
about teenyboppers.
It's aimed at
a particular audience--
people interested
in a show that's there,
so that they'll stop
in the casino,
on the way in or out,
and drop some money.
Their burning thing
to go to Las Vegas
and play long stands,
you know,
that doesn't happen
till they've virtually run
aground in the film business.
There isn't a single studio
that will throw down
any significant money
for Elvis in a movie.
So, they look around go,
"Well, what we gonna do now?"
Elvis is going on stage,
you know. Thank God.
And "You Don't Have
to Say You Love Me,
and, uh... (indistinct)
I was able to witness him
put a band together.
When he goes out to Vegas,
he's really
making decisions
that are a little
more for Elvis
than what came before.
He's wanting to play
with the band.
He's wanting to go
through a deep catalog,
you know, big parts of which
remind him or his own youth.
Well, you may go to college
May go to school
You may get religion, baby
Don't you be nobody's fool
Now baby, come back, baby
I personally went to him
and said, "Elvis,
"I wanted to know
if you wanted me
"to try to duplicate
classic songs.
What was done previously."
He said, "Absolutely not.
Just do what you do,
that's why you're here."
I thought it was good that
he would try different songs
that he liked the sound of.
Glen D. was the arranger,
and he would write these
great arrangements for him,
and they would--
they would be exciting.
Come back, baby, come
Come back, baby,
I wanna play house with you
Then it goes into this one.
I wanna try something.
And since, this is last verse...
I think the vocals were
just as important to Elvis.
Okay. The horns are
answering it then.
He had to have
The Sweet Inspirations.
They had been working
with Wilson Pickett
and Aretha Franklin.
Talk in
everlasting words
Talk, words
And dedicate them
all to me
Dedicate them
all to me
Cissy Houston:
Elvis did whatever
he wanted to do.
If he was feeling it,
we had to feel it too.
And we could connect,
because we were from gospel.
We were raised gospel.
You think that
I don't even mean
A single word I say
It's only words
And words are all I have
To steal your heart away
Colonel Parker, he had
billboards all over.
There was a vibe.
Everybody knew
that Elvis was there.
He was a nervous wreck.
It's one thing to have
a small invited audience.
Now he's going
on the biggest stage
in the world.
It's Las Vegas.
This is the nitty-gritty time
as far as being
nervous, you know.
Opening night, man.
He was excited,
and also nervous.
He didn't know exactly
how he was gonna be received,
and he wanted
the best of everything.
There were all these big
goals as far as attendance,
and he had a very
competitive nature.
So he wanted to be able
to be as powerful
and popular as Sinatra,
Tom Jones.
He wanted to take his music
to a whole different level.
(drums roll, play rock beat)
(band joins in)
The first time
I ever saw him on stage,
was the first time
he played in Vegas in '69.
The '68 special, it was more
of a controlled environment.
It was for television.
But in Vegas, to actually
see him walk out there
and own that stage,
it was like,
"Oh my gosh, I get it.
I get it!"
Well, that's all right, mama
That's all right with you
That's all right, mama
Do it any way you do
That's all right
That's all right
Yeah, that's all right
That's all right
That's all right, mama
That's all right
Any way you do
Well, Mama,
she done told me
Papa done told me too
Son, that gal
you foolin' with
She ain't no good for you
Well, that's all right
That's all right
Yeah, that's all right now
That's all right
That's all right
now, mama
Any way you do
Play it.
I remember looking around.
They're all applauding.
So drawn into him.
I'd never seen anyone control
an audience that way.
It was like he rehearsed
that show all his life.
(Elvis scatting)
That's all right
That's all right
Yeah, that's all right
That's all right
That's all right
now, mama
Any way you do
Well, that's
all right now, mama
Any way you do
(song ending)
(cheers and applause)
There's a place
on Lonely Street
They call it
Heartbreak Hotel
Where brokenhearted
lovers go
It was great, staying up
all night, being in Vegas.
We never left the hotel.
But psychologically,
at a point,
it weighs on you,
and you may not
even know it.
Heartbreak Hotel,
where I'll be
I'll be so lonely
I'll be so lonely,
I could die
Although it's
always crowded
You still can find a room
For brokenhearted lovers
Thirty days, 61 shows,
first engagement.
Six months later,
the second engagement.
The third engagement.
Playing that much
for weeks on time,
not seeing daylight.
Dave Marsh:
Locked up in a hotel room,
what is there to do?
Talking to the same
15 guys every day?
Bored out of your mind,
and it all kind of conspires
to make Elvis vulnerable
in ways that if he had
a more rational life,
he would not be vulnerable.
You got a tale to tell
And that's when
the Colonel took over
and went back
into modus operandi.
Let's see as much money
as we can make out of Elvis
for as long as we can.
It worked great
in the beginning.
It just got to be
same old stuff.
He realized that fans
want to hear the hits--
kind of painted himself
into a corner, so to speak.
(cheers and applause)
Back in those days,
there was a dinner show
and then a late show.
So all the tables up front,
they were serving dinner
and drinks and stuff.
And the only people that could
afford the up-front seats
were the high-rollers,
the older cats.
Elvis needed connection
with the audience.
And Vegas, it was a very
reserved, rich crowd
dressed up for the Elvis show.
It frustrated Elvis that
he couldn't quite seem
to get the mayhem going.
He felt like really
what he needed
was to get outside
of Vegas and go out
and get connected
with people
though he hadn't been
on tour for over 13 years.
What, uh, what made you
decide to come to Texas?
Well, I think the most
important thing is the, uh,
the inspiration that I get
from a live audience.
I was missing that.
Well, I never
been to Heaven
But I've been to Oklahoma
Well, they tell me
I was born there
But I really don't remember
In Oklahoma
Or Arizona
Yeah, what does it matter?
What does it matter?
Back in the 1970s,
I was working
for Rolling Stone.
They sent me to Boston
to review an Elvis concert.
"He stands there
in a black jumpsuit,
"gold spangles
and an orange cape.
"When he stretches
out his hands,
"the cape forms
a half-sun
"under his outstretched arms,
and he looks like the
true king of rock and roll.
"He parades in front
of 15,000 people,
"and waits for the applause
to wash over,
"and it comes as it always does
"and as he knows it will.
"Elvis Presley
has lived through
"the greatest superstar
trip of any performer,
"and he survived it
in his own kind of way.
"Elvis participates in a pure
one-to-one relationship
with his audience.
"When he steps on the stage,
"it is he and he alone
who is the subject
of the manic, ecstatic,
irrational adoration."
I've never been to Heaven
"His brilliance is reflected
in his control."
But I've been
to Oklahoma
"He never moves too far
in any one direction,
and never loses his grip."
They tell me
I was born there
But I really don't remember
In Oklahoma
Or Arizona
"To me, no matter
how frustrating
"the lapses in his career
have been,
he remains an artist..."
In Oklahoma
Or Arizona
"...an American artist,
whom we should be proud
to claim as our own."
Yeah, yeah
(song ending)
Thank you.
Elvis, in concert, covered
all kinda genres, you know.
And he came out
and he would do
all those songs
from the '50s and '60s
that he broke with.
But during the show, there was
a lot of country standards.
He just did things
that he liked.
You have any
thoughts about
the rising interest
in country music?
I think it's fantastic.
You see, country music was
always a part of the influence
on my-- on my type
of music anyway.
It's a combination of, uh...
country music, and gospel,
and rhythm and blues
all combined.
That's what it really was.
As a child, I was
influenced by all of that.
But I like the blues,
and I like, uh,
the gospel music,
gospel quartets and all that.
Thank you.
Good rehearsal, see you soon.
If you look at the band
he put together
for the '70s shows,
there was a huge
gospel contingent.
Those sections of the show
were so powerful.
Straight out of white
and black gospel tradition.
In the '70s, Elvis had moved
on to "American Trilogy."
His show was consisting of
a huge cross-cultural picture
of America and Americana.
(Elvis vocalizing)
He was trying to encompass
an image of the country
as a whole
that he could be a vessel
that could contain
the entirety of
American experience.
Oh hush, little baby
Don't you cry
You know, that
version of "Dixie"
and uh, the
"Battle Hymn of the Republic,"
it's so beautiful!
You know, the band
he's put together
is so over-the-top,
and only Elvis would have
that kinda spending power,
and just audacious craziness.
Choirs, and orchestras,
and a great rhythm section,
maybe another
gospel group on the side.
None of it makes sense
until you suddenly
hear something like that,
and they're all playing
a role in that,
and it's very moving music.
(flute playing)
When you see him
do that music
in those little pieces of film
that I've seen of him,
that's the pure joy
of music in the man.
You know, that's when
I see everything stop.
(music crescendoes)
Glory, glory
His truth is
His truth is
(wild cheering)
Elvis: Whoo!
Thank you, thank you.
Whew! Boy.
How was the sound
in that building?
Very good,
very good.
Here. Hold on.
That was his life.
He lived to sing and perform.
It's a hot time in Florida.
Boy, it is.
An artist like Elvis is,
rather than pretending
when he goes on the stage,
he's actually pretending,
when he's home, to be normal.
And when he goes out
on stage at night,
it's who he actually is.
It's a very
difficult dichotomy.
To see him become
even bigger than life,
he had so much so soon.
He was snatched
from the ordinary life
of a-- of a young man
into a place that
no one else had ever been
in society or in our culture.
To have that success,
and to experience it,
he had to hand over
significant portions
of youth.
That was the trade.
He is unmoored from
the Earth experience.
We were living
two different lives.
He was performing, and, uh,
and he was home
very, very little.
It was very difficult to
communicate at that time.
Uh, Elvis had a horrible
fear of not sleeping.
He would spend
many, many nights alone,
and he would think
and that would keep him up.
So he started
on sleeping pills,
and he thought that
he had it under control.
Everything that he ever had
was prescribed.
(indistinct chatter)
Are you satisfied
with the image
you've established?
Uh... well, the image is
one thing,
and a human being
is another, you know, so.
How close does the image
come to the man?
It's very hard
to live up to an image,
I'll put it that way.
Come on, bring your
cameras over here.
Come on through here.
Soon as the Colonel gets
through talking, I'll tell you--
I'm-- I'm sorry.
Oh, yeah, I'd like
to do something.
Uh, there's so many places
that I haven't been yet.
I'd like to go to Europe.
I'd like to go to Japan
and all those places.
I-I've never been
out of this country
except in the service,
you know.
Elvis, from early on,
had expressed interest
in touring overseas
having no idea
that Colonel Parker
was never going to let him.
Because if the Colonel
went with him,
he was afraid
he was not gonna be
let back into America.
Colonel knowing that Elvis
wanted to tour overseas,
colonel not wanting
anybody to know
that he wasn't a US citizen,
how could he answer Elvis
but come up with something
that nobody had ever done.
Instead of shutting
down the idea
of Elvis playing
in different countries
and just sort of
curtailing it for now,
he actually uses it
to his advantage,
and creates the first-ever
live concert simulcast
on satellite television,
so that people
in every country
all over the world
can see Elvis
play a concert.
By the time
of the Aloha special,
Elvis had been
touring non-stop.
His health wasn't great,
his weight wasn't great,
and now he was confronted
with this performance
that was gonna be seen
by a billion people
around the world.
It's so very hard
to comprehend it,
because I...
In 15 years, it's hard
to comprehend that happening.
To all the countries all over
the world via satellite,
it's very difficult
to comprehend.
It becomes the
biggest media moment
of his career
up to that point.
And he knows this.
He's trimmed down for it.
He looks amazing.
The band is super tight.
Aloha does represent
Elvis music,
the moment that
Elvis brought together
all of his influences
to solidify an image of Elvis,
a look and a style
and a presentation
that seals in amber,
this is what Elvis is.
Elvis was the first major
televisual musical star.
We can see him,
but we can't touch him.
Elvis, without intending to,
created an image of himself
he would never live past.
Yeah, now this time
Lord, you gave me
A mountain
A mountain
I may never climb
It isn't
That show was another way
in which he was truly
disserved by the Colonel.
It's a bit of a metaphor
for keeping the blinders on,
which is what I think
the Colonel is all about.
My picture of the
Colonel really is
someone that loves
selling merchandise,
you know, that
wants it to the end,
walk the aisle selling
posters and ballpoint pens.
It doesn't make
any sense really
to keep him from
touring other countries,
to keep him from
really going to, you know,
the whole way with the music,
like, letting him
be an artist.
(crowd cheering)
Thank you!
I think the troubles between
Elvis and the Colonel
started getting
worse at that point.
There was the bond,
but they were
two very different people.
Elvis outgrew Colonel Parker
as an artist,
but he, um, didn't know
how to cut the strings.
By this time, he had started
to turn to prescription drugs
to keep himself going.
He was on a
relentless wheel
of performance to travel
to performance to travel,
and you start to see
the stress of that.
All the things he told me
that he wanted to do--
travel the world,
meet new audiences--
none of that happened.
All the light went
out of his eyes.
With an addiction
to prescription pills,
if you are a performer,
what you're after is the
anesthetizing part of it.
But that's gonna
take you away
from your powers
as a performer,
and he's gonna go
on stage nonetheless.
He had many afflictions,
and he hurt himself
in many ways.
But there was a core in there,
that, if you let it,
would shine through,
and sometimes in the
most unlikely places.
Lord Almighty
I feel my
temperature rising
We has basically tried
to influence him
to do more rock and roll.
"Burning Love," that one
had some potential.
He never felt
comfortable with it,
because he had a hard time
with the lyrics.
He was going through
a lot at that time,
so he didn't want
to do the song,
and the guys kept expressing
that he should do it,
and he was really
fighting it.
"Burning Love,"
well, it's one of the
greatest records
he ever made.
Like the sweet song
of the choir
And you light my morning sky
With burning love
With burning love
Hunk of burning love
Just a hunk of
hunk of burning love
Chorus: Ahhh!
A hunk of
hunk of burning love
Chorus: Ahhh!
A hunk of hunk of--
(music stops)
It was a hard song
for him to sing
and to get into.
About them lyrics...
It was only one,
and I hit my mouth.
He wanted to
let out his feelings
in a-- in a song that
related to how he felt.
It was difficult
to be given music
for something that's
really uplifting, upbeat,
and that's not
matching his tone,
that's not matching
his feelings.
I see a change
Is coming to our lives
It's not the same
as it used to be
And it's not too late
To realize our mistake
We're just not right
For each other
Love has slipped away
Left us only friends
We almost seem
like strangers
All that's left between us
Are the memories we share
Of times
we thought we cared
For each other
Elvis was very
family oriented.
He did cherish family,
but Elvis wanted it all.
Pieces left behind us
It takes two
in a relationship.
Having a child, not being
able to do the traveling.
I was a mother.
He always used to say,
"You can't serve two masters."
(chorus vocalizing)
Someday when she's older
Maybe she will understand
Why her mom and dad
are not together
The tears that
she will cry
When I have to say goodbye
They tear at my heart
There's nothing left to do
But go our separate ways
After he recorded
"Separate Ways,"
he wanted to go
into the control room
and listen to that song
for hours.
And he would just look up
and shake his head,
'cause I know he still
always loved Priscilla.
Elvis and I,
you know,
we held hands in court.
There was still
a lot of love there.
He was a doting father.
We kept that relationship
very close.
I know he was
always there for me,
and for Lisa as well,
but the breakup
of the marriage
was painful for both of us.
Gordon Stoker:
He was never
the same after that.
He just changed.
He was very moody.
He just wasn't well
doing two shows a night.
And he had to take uppers
to get him going
and downers
to put him to sleep.
Well, I don't know,
but I know one thing.
When I told Elvis
to slow down,
he said, "I wanna
play more dates."
So I booked more dates.
I said, "Well, I don't
think you should,"
and he said, "Well,
it's what I wanna do."
He was very unhappy,
so we started all over again.
With some 25 colored
portraits available...
Man: Souvenirs!
Hey! Take home
a little bit of Elvis!
Elvis super souvenirs!
I think night by night,
it became harder for him to--
to carry on being Elvis.
Drugs and the
were all punishments.
He was in great pain, and yet,
he gave so much pleasure.
He would go offstage
and collapse,
and the audience would
go out buoyed up and joyous,
spiritually blessed.
Elvis was always
searching for answers.
Why him?
"Well, maybe God
had something else
planned for me.
Am I supposed to be
giving a message?"
Not realizing he was doing
what he was
supposed to be doing.
The last days of his life
was not his best work.
He had a lot of problems.
He had gained weight
which is a cardinal sin
in show business.
Isolation, you know,
that-- that brings on
the drug abuse.
He's lost touch
with his father.
His mom's gone.
His wife is gone.
It had to be very lonely,
we know that.
There's a point when--
when you have success,
and you get really wealthy
and there is that day
where the letter comes
that none of this is
gonna make me happy.
And he knew he had
to try to find some--
something, you know,
but I think he gave up.
I think he felt out-gunned
and gave up.
Those last shows,
those shows those
last couple of years
were not the most memorable
as far as performance.
Sometimes he didn't
get through a-- a song.
I think the last year,
he was pretty much over it.
I don't even know why,
you know, he went on stage.
They're just hard to watch.
Sometimes, I think
it was better, maybe,
if they just
canceled the show.
We got the call that Elvis
wanted to record in Memphis.
Whenever we got the call,
we would be there
at his beck and call
whenever they were ready.
In my mind,
we're going to, like,
Sun Records or someplace over
there, Chips Moman's studio.
But we pull into Graceland,
and I say, "Well,
what are we doing here?"
They said,
"We're cutting here."
He wouldn't go to the studio.
The studio had to come to him,
right in the Jungle Room there.
It's hard to get him to go
into a studio environment,
because he was
uncomfortable there.
Man 2:
Didn't wanna
go to Nashville,
didn't want to go to Stax,
didn't want to go
to Chips Moman's.
He wanted to stay at home.
We would come over
from Nashville,
check into a hotel that was
just right down the street.
And then, we'd all be
ready there to go,
and they'd say,
"Elvis is still not up."
He could come down
at midnight
or it could be two o'clock
in the morning.
You never knew what
the night was gonna hold.
Elvis ended up
back in the Jungle Room,
recording his last record.
Graceland can be
something that's--
that gives you
a sense of-- of place,
and of-- of center.
Uh, but it can also
be a place where--
that you just disappear into.
It seemed to me that
Elvis was caught in-between
doing a little bit
of both there.
Seems to be,
he's picking songs
that somewhat reflect
his state of mind.
Like "Hurt" which is one
of the-- the very last ones.
I think he's--
he's feeling very hurt.
He's very down.
He's very alone.
He doesn't understand
what's happened to music,
and he got left out of that.
He had become a thing.
He was no longer
Elvis Presley.
He was "Elvis."
Norbert Putnam:
Well, when I first came
over to the Jungle Room,
they had removed
all the furniture.
They covered the walls
in blankets.
There was a semi,
like a very large
tractor trailer,
out behind the house.
It was RCA's complete
mobile recording studio.
They would run
all their recording lines
into the Jungle Room.
It looks like you're in
Tahiti or something.
It looked like you
were in the islands.
But we're all just crammed
into this tiny little space.
It was a nightmare for
the recording engineers
to keep that sound clean
without too much bleed
with open microphones,
and we did our best to do the
recordings as best we could.
It wasn't like we did
a lot of rehearsal
for the recordings.
It was "Turn the machine on,
and he's gonna sing."
We would all watch each other
doing it on the fly.
And you know, I-I remember
one of the first songs
that I recorded with him,
uh, was "Hurt."
We didn't have a clue
of how it was gonna go down
or how he would perform it.
All of a sudden,
he takes his stance.
So hurt
To think that you lied to me
I'm hurt
Way down deep inside of me
You said
Our love was true
And we'd never
Never part
Now you want someone new
And it breaks my heart
Oh, I'm hurt
Much more
Than you'll ever know
Yes, darling
I'm so hurt
I still love you so
But you know
Even though you hurt me
Like nobody else
Could ever do
I would never ever
Yeah, you
(song ends)
Elvis wanted to finish the
'68 Special on a big note.
Quite frankly, we didn't
know how to finish the show.
Every day at four o'clock,
we would all sit in the
piano room, of our offices,
rehearsing with Elvis.
While we were sitting
in Steve's office with Elvis,
we had a little
black and white
television in the corner.
(indistinct chatter)
On that TV...
Robert Kennedy
was assassinated.
(indistinct shouting)
Elvis picked up a guitar,
and he started playing.
Talking at a mile a minute.
He said, "I want you
to understand me,
"because this is a
moment in time
where we all have
to understand each other."
There must be lights
burning brighter
Got to be birds
flying higher
In a sky more blue
If I can dream
of a better land
Where all my brothers
walk hand in hand
Tell me why
Oh, why
Oh, why can't my dream
come true
Oh, why
There must be peace
and understanding
Strong winds of promise
That will blow away
all the doubt
And fear
If I can dream
of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps
shining on everyone
Tell me why
Oh, why
Oh, why won't that sun
We're lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We're trapped in a world
That's troubled with pain
But as long as a man
has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul
And fly
He can fly
Deep in my heart
There's a trembling question
Still I am sure
that the answer
Answer's gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark
There's a beckoning candle
Oh yeah, and
while I can think
While I can talk
While I can stand
While I can walk
While I can dream
Please let my dream
Come true
Right now
Oh, let it come true
right now
Oh, yeah
(song ends)
(film reel whirring)
Can't you see
I love you
Please don't break
my heart in two
That's not hard to do
'Cause I don't have
a wooden heart
And if you say goodbye
Then I know
that I would cry
Maybe I would die
'Cause I don't have
a wooden heart
There's no strings
Upon this love of mine
It was always you
from the start
Treat me nice
Treat me good
Treat me like
you really should
'Cause I'm not made of wood
And I don't have
a wooden heart
No, I don't have
a wooden heart
(music ends)