February 11, 2020

He Didn’t Know…

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Vienna, Austria, reflecting on the last couple of days with the 2020 group that came with us to Vienna. Our host, Dennis Jale, the Imperials, Glen D. Hardin, the Holladay Sisters, Donna Presley, Elvis’ cousin, and Paul Leim, one of the really great drummers still making it happen on stage. He’s here with his beautiful wife of 51 years, Jeannie. As we sat around the top floor of the Intercontinental Hotel, we shared stories, we listened to Glen D Hardin tell of his arranging history. He told us he developed an interest in orchestration long before working with Elvis. He went to the book store and bought a book for $1.25 on the instruments he would arrange and their ranges. He didn’t know what Coda or the D.S sign meant so he looked them up in that little book. After learning the definitions of the terms used, he went through the L.A. phone book looking for a musician who could help him. He finally found one. The man said I’ll teach you the basics in an hour. So one Saturday. He went to his home, they sat down, and this musician began giving him loads of information on chords, terms to be used for charting, and valuable points to consider when scoring a chart for orchestra. 

Glen D. Hardin

It wasn’t long after that, he began writing for orchestra and without one lesson from a university professor! I’m sure there would be one somewhere who might have been able to help, but Glen didn’t need a semester learning from a professor who knew the same things that little book had already told him. The best instruction you will ever have is sitting under or behind one who has done it well. Experience has always been a better teacher than a classroom professor who couldn’t make it in the real world of music. If you have the talent, you can take it from there. 

By the time he wound up with Elvis, he had already begun to do orchestrations for many artists. One of his first was for the First Edition where he arranged the song, “Ruby”. 

Glen playing for Elvis

We had been in rehearsals with Elvis for several weeks in Los Angeles before the big opening in Las Vegas.  Glen wasn’t in the first month with us. A man named Larry Muhoberac was our first pianist. Our second month-long stay in Vegas, Glen D came on board. We were hashing out a few mistakes in rehearsal and Elvis said to the band, “I sure would like to cut Let It Be Me. We don’t have a chart on it but maybe soon I’ll hire someone to write one out”. Glen told us he went up to his room, took out his pencil and manuscript paper, and wrote the arrangement to that song in four hours! The next night when Elvis came down for soundcheck before the show, Glen passed out his arrangement to the orchestra, and as Elvis walked into the showroom, Glen hit the downbeat to the song for Elvis to hear. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! From that night on, Glen orchestrated all of Elvis’s songs. 

Glen D. Hardin is a very talented and humble man who merely decided he wanted to do something, so he did it! What a great lesson in that for all of us to learn. We are only limited by our minds. If we think we can do it, we probably can. You never know until you try. Study your craft and be the best you can be and you never know the doors God will open for you. 

March 9, 2018

We Got a Call From Elvis

After a year with Jimmy Dean, we got a call from Elvis. He had decided to return to live performances as he was not enjoying the movies as much as he did when he started. When he decided to put together his group, he called James Burton, the greatest guitarist available at the time. He asked James to put together a band for him. James hired Ronnie Tutt on drums, Jerry Scheff on bass, John Wilkinson on rhythm guitar and Larry Muhoberac on piano. I’m told he originally wanted the Blossoms as his black female backup group but they turned him down. The Sweet Inspirations were available and the group that opened with Elvis consisted of Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell, and Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston. Elvis had called Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires for his male quartet. At that time, the Jordanaires were very busy in the studio recording backup for almost every country artist in the country music world. They feared that if they accepted his invitation and went to Las Vegas, these artists would find other backup singers and never call them again. They weren’t sure Elvis had a long-term plan for concerts and so they turned him down. The next call he made was to the Imperials. Joe Moscheo was the manager at that time and with very little persuasion, the Imperials said yes.

On July 31, 1969, Elvis came back to live performances to rave reviews at the Hilton International Hotel, the largest showroom by far in Las Vegas. The band named themselves the TCB Band, the Sweet Inspirations, the Imperials, Millie Kirkham on the soprano parts, and a huge 40 piece orchestra behind him. The original conductor of that orchestra was Bobby Morris.

The order of the show brought the Sweet Inspirations out for three songs.  Elvis had a comedian that came on next named Sammy Shore. I will never understand how he got there, but I think the Hilton had him under contract so they had to use him. There was a short intermission and then the one everyone was waiting to see walked onstage to the 2001 Theme song. It was electric every night, but especially opening night.