June 28, 2018

A Message That Resonated Loudly and Clearly

By this time in our careers and after the second release, Imperials Now, we had really begun to establish a reputation. That can be good and that can be bad! Fortunately, it was mostly good. Yes, we had long hair and were a bit unconventional in appearance but our music spoke to a wide variety of listeners. With every Imperial release, you didn’t know what you were going to get. I remember well, going to a very conservative Christian college which shall remain nameless. We were warmly welcomed by the students and tentatively accepted by the faculty. While the students loved us and our music, the faculty endured us. Though they didn’t understand the music, they couldn’t argue with the message contained in the songs. I think they couldn’t get past our clothes! No suits, no ties, but a message that resonated loudly and clearly to all the listeners.

We got the call from Colonel Parker’s office in the spring of 1969. We were singing with Jimmy Dean, working in huge venues around the country as a supporting act for Jimmy and getting great reviews. National television was opening up for us and it seemed that God was smiling on us. I think our appearance on the Merv Griffin Show when we got a chance to sing, we chose He Touched Me. We could have chosen a more contemporary song with a watered down message but we decided to go with our heart. It seemed that God smiled on us that night. Unsolicited positive responses from the actress, Greer Garson, only served to enhance our appearance. So, in June of 1969, we flew to LA to begin rehearsals with the TCB band and the Sweet Inspirations at Universal Studios in Hollywood. You can witness some of those rehearsals in Elvis’ movie, “That’s The Way It Is”. We would arrive in the morning and spend two to three hours on vocals and then Elvis would drive up either on his motorcycle or his Mercedes Benz. Elvis always made a statement when he walked in.

April 11, 2018

He was just being Elvis

The first month for Elvis in Las Vegas was memorable in so many ways. The anticipation of his return to live performances led to the intense excitement by the fans and friends of Elvis and the entire entourage. No one knew what to expect after his long absence from live performances. The media had played this up to be a huge comeback and the pressure on him to prove he was worthy of all the attention he was getting was intense. You could sense it in his actions on opening night as we made our way to the side of the stage. When his body was still, his fingers would be twitching. He would look around for assurance and confirmation that he was doing the right thing. He had moved away from the black leather suit of the ’68 Comeback Special and had opted for the one piece jumpsuit with the high collar and flared sleeves and legs. Intricate embroidery was utilized to make those suits interesting and white was used quite often because they thought it would show better under all the stage lights. The problem with leather was that it was heavy (about 10 pounds) and under the stage lights it was unmercifully hot for him. With all the karate moving and jumping,  Elvis told us he lost about 5 pounds on every show. He wore high top patent leather boots and colorful scarves to share with the ladies during the show.

The Sweet Inspirations were dressed in shorter skirts and the Imperials had paisley black and white shirts with black slacks. It was an informal look for us while he garnered all the well-deserved attention at center stage. Many leather suits were made for this show and he picked a well-known designer, Bill Belew, to come up with the suits he wore on stage. There’s no telling how many jumpsuits are now worn by ETA’s across the world. Elvis was a trend-setter but he didn’t know it. He was just being Elvis. He always did it far better than anyone else who copied him.

March 22, 2018

Elvis Walked On Stage

Opening night, July 31, 1969, was the place to be. Every movie star, every singing star who could be there, was there. I remember very well seeing Cary Grant sitting with his friends in a booth straight back from center stage. Center stage right by the front of the stage was Sammy Davis, Jr. He was so close you could touch him. He drank in everything Elvis did. He was so “into it” that Elvis acknowledged him from the stage and between songs he walked over to him, took off one of his rings, bent over and handed it to Sammy. He was so taken with that generous gesture and showed such appreciation to Elvis for this unexpected gift from the king of rock and roll. Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger) was there, Juliet Prowse as well.  Meanwhile, backstage we were making our way to the side of the stage as the comedian was finishing up. We stood around and Elvis was nervous. He didn’t know how that audience would react to him and he needed reassurance. We all were very supportive and encouraging to him. This was a huge gamble on his part but he was always a risk-taker. He blazed trails no one had ever traveled before. True legends like him are willing to take those risks. So he was there and ready to walk on stage as he was torn between the bold and creative man that got him there and the timid and insecure man that held him back.

The comedian walked off stage with a tepid response and there was dead silence for what seemed like an eternity. The lights were out on stage and we walked onstage with the TCB band and the Sweet Inspirations to get in place. Then that plaintive sound of the 2001 A Space Odyssey began. At the end of that last chord, Ronnie Tutt began his drum rift. He had two bass drums and the largest drum kit I’ve ever seen. He used every one of them for this opening. Then James, Jerry, Larry, John, and the orchestra kicked in.

Elvis walked on stage, and you have never seen such an ovation in your life!  Every flashbulb in the house went off. It had gone from total darkness to lights flashing everywhere. The Elvis return to live performances had begun.