Our first month with Elvis in Las Vegas was hectic. Elvis was getting into his rhythm on the songs he had decided to do in the show. Many songs were culled and he ultimately decided on a list and an order of songs he felt comfortable with. We did two shows a night for a month. Our first show started at 8 pm and ended around 9:45. We would have a two-hour break and start the second show at midnight. That meant we didn’t get through until around 2 am. Almost every Saturday or Sunday a third show, a matinee, was added and it made for a busy schedule.
That first month, there were movie cameras everywhere filming the show. They filmed almost every night. This filming ultimately became the movie, “That’s the Way It Is” and it was a huge success though it took at least a year of editing it before it was released. At least once or twice a week Elvis invited us up to his penthouse after the second show and we stood around the piano and sang gospel songs with him. Food was provided and Elvis occasionally would don his karate outfit and do a demonstration for us using poor Charlie Hodge as the guinea pig. Elvis had a black belt in karate and he was in great shape. By the time the demonstration was over, Charlie wasn’t in so great a shape.
Often, we would sit around and listen to Elvis’ favorite gospel quartets. One of his favorite groups was a very popular group, the Harmonizing Four. They were a great group with an even greater bass singer, Jimmy Jones. One of his favorite songs by this group was a song entitled, Farther Along, featuring Jimmie on the lead. He had these amazing low notes that almost rattled the speakers but then he would get into an upper register and sing notes that no bass could even think of singing. And, as a plus for this great singer, he had a soul! It was a great combination and Elvis loved his singing. We did too. I’ll tell you a tragic story about this great story next week.