What was the most memorable part of Elvis Week for you?
The 30th Anniversary Concert at the Fed Ex forum on August 16th.
The whole show was fantastic. I was six rows from the front in the VIP stand and the view was amazing. The whole placed just rocked ! The TCB Band were on top form as usual, The gospel groups were just phenomenal ! We had The Jordanaires (Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker, Louis Nunley, Curtis Young), The Imperials (Terry Blackwood, Joe Moscheo, Sherman Andrus, Gus Gaches), The Stamps (Bill Baize, Donnie Sumner, Ed Hill, Larry Strickland, Richard Sterban), The Sweet Inspirations (Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, Portia Griffin) & Millie Kirkham. There was a guest appearance by Priscilla, and Lisa Marie sang the duet with her Daddy In the Ghetto, which featured a guest appearance by Bishop Al Green of the Full Gospel Tabernacle. The show comprised of everything from the early years until the 70's. It was a truly memorable night, I would even go as far as to say that it was a better show than the 25th Anniversary.
What other events did you attend ?
Candlelight Vigil - where my sister and I stood in line for six hours ! It took us 1 1/4 hours to get from the gates till when we passed the grave.
Movie & Music on the lawn (more of this to follow !)
Scotty Moore at the Peabody - One of the fan clubs organised a show with Scotty. He came out and gave us a conversation, An English group who he champions then played. A guest appearance by The Jordanaires occurred, and they sang a couple of songs. We had a small obituary for Boots Randolph, then Billy Swan and his band played. Scotty came out for the last two numbers and played Heartbreak Hotel.
The Midnight Concert - Same format as the Anniversary Concert above, but trying to recreate the atmosphere of the midnight concerts in Las Vegas. All the material was from TTWII-SE.
Were there many gospel events or events with gospel input?
Movie & Music on the lawn at Graceland was the only one I think I saw advertised, but I might be wrong.
Can you tell me something about that please?
EPE organised a big inflatable screen where we watched Elvis – That’s The Way It Is SE. But before that, we had a fantastic show by the gospel groups who sang with Elvis. The Imperials, The Stamps & The Sweets. They all did about 20 minutes of their own material and Elvis gospel material, then sang for about 10 minutes as a group. It was a truly remarkable evening with great music and a fantastic film.
Did you get to meet any of Elvis' family, friends, co stars, musicians?
I saw the above people, but didn’t get to talk to them as such. All that is, except Jerry Scheff, whom I met in Walgreens in downtown Memphis, buying Pepto-bizmal !!! Also saw Joe Esposito on his ‘phone in the Peabody’s Hotel lobby, George Klein presenting his radio show from the Plaza and James Burton being harassed by some fans in the Peabody! Being a VIP at the concert, The Band, Priscilla & Lisa all came up to the bar and said Hi to everyone and signed autographs.
Was there anything different about this particular Elvis week compared to others (apart from the heat!)?
There were a lot more people there this time. More impersonators, less British TV crews but a lot of the Americans ones. The heat never dropped below 101 degrees F all of the time we were in the States. There is a new exhibit of Elvis jumpsuits in one of the museums, The jumpsuits in the raquetball court have now been enclosed in cabinets, There is another new exhibit in one of the shops in the Graceland crossing plaza. The last shop right at the end now holds an exhibit about when Elvis met President Reagan. Some of the shops have changed also. There also seemed to be a lot more events than I can recollect from 5 years ago.
How often do you visit Memphis?
Elvis Week 2002, Birthday Week 2005 & Elvis Week 2007 are the times I have visited Memphis.
When do you plan to visit again?
I’d like to, but I don’t know when the next time will be. I’d like to go for the Birthday Week 2010, but we'll see.
Any thing else you would like to say about Elvis Week and why you go?
I go purely for the love of Elvis Presley. Getting to know people from all around the world is a great thing to do, and it’s all down to one man! I also don’t know of any other person, where 50,000 people, I would guess, took all night to file past the grave 30 years after that person died.
I also love the Southern hospitality you get there. Getting a "Hello Sir" from the shop staff every time you go in anywhere is a great feeling. You never get it in this country!!
I don’t know if its my age (don’t think so though only being 24 :o)). But I think I enjoyed the Birthday Week in January better then than Elvis Week, because there were less people there. Don’t get me wrong on that though, I had a fantastic time!! On the organised tour I was with, they took 1000 people.
The organised tour also went to Tupelo for 3 days before we headed to Memphis. It was great there also. We had the tour of Tupelo, which included the school he attended, Tupelo Hardware, the sight of the fairgrounds and his house. As I was there a day before the contingent arrived, my sister and I went to the house when there was hardly anyone about.
The next day was the Elvis Day and there were 1000s of people there! They laid on entertainment for everyone, which included The Landmarks gospel quartet in the church opposite the house. A brilliant group whom I have seen before and this time I bought the CDs !!! There was also a rock & roll group in the sports hall behind the church, and to one side of the house, near the picnic benches were a Bluegrass band called String Theory.
I was in Heaven that day, Elvis Presley, Gospel music & a Bluegrass band !!!
Thank you so much Oliver for your time. You have certainly painted a wonderful atmospheric picture of Elvis Week for those of us who could not be there.