Interview with Myrna Smith
Source: Elvis Australia
March 28, 2016
Q : How did you get started singing for Elvis Presley show.
A : Well we had recorded in 1967 a song in Muscle Shoals. We had a session there. Atlantic sent us there to record. And, the session was going O.K. but there weren't any songs that kind of stood out. So a couple of the guys left the session, went into another room. Maybe 40 minutes later they came back with a song that was named after us called 'Sweet Inspiration'. And, it went on the album and it was our big hit and Elvis heard that song and liked it. And, so he got his people to get in touch. We didn't have to audition. He just knew that we were the ones that he wanted to sing because he wanted a soulful, R&B, gospel sounding female group and a gospel male group. He had it all planned. And so we did it without an audition. He just liked our record. He liked it so much he used it on Suspicious Minds too. But same writer though, same bass player.
Q : Where did you meet Elvis?
A : Well, we were starting rehearsals July of 1969 and we were all on the stage at what was then called the International and Elvis hadn't arrived yet, nor his entourage. And we're sitting there waiting for him to come in and all of a sudden he walks onto the stage, walks right over to us and plants a kiss on each one of us. That's how we met him. 'He had on a chocolate colored suit. He had a tan, and he looked absolutely gorgeous. He walked over to us and introduced himself - like we didn't know who he was: 'Hi, I'm Elvis Presley'. (Cissy literally fell off her stool.) From then on, whenever he'd see us, it was always a kiss'. He had so much energy. His voice was a lot more remarkable than it ever came off on record ... He was just a much better singer than could ever be captured...Some great singers' voices are just too big. Elvis' was like that'.
Q : How were those rehearsals?
A : Well, he gave us pretty much a lot of freedom. Because what had happened was, his people had sent us probably a million albums. And we tried to have a rehearsal, but it didn't work because we weren't too familiar at the time with Elvis material and it was just we were bombarded with too much. So we waited until we got to Las Vegas to learn the songs. And as we rehearsed it we realized, 'Oh I know this'. But our backgrounds weren't the same sometimes as was on the record. But, he gave us the freedom to do that.
Q : Tell us about your first night in Vegas at the International.
A : I remember Elvis being very, very nervous. And I remember thinking, Gee I hope he has a good crowd. Because I knew he hadn't performed live on stage like that for a number of years, I think 10 years. So I was just hoping that, I had butterflies for him and was I surprised.
Q : Tell us about the relationship between Elvis and his audience?
A : He was very playful with the audience and I think he really cared about his fans. He wanted to give them a good show. But he sometimes got upset because I know the show was loud. And sometimes you'd see people their fingers in their ears and he'd get upset about that, saying, 'They just have old ears'. Because for us on stage, we have monitors, we hear something completely different from what the audience hears. But I know it's loud, but that's what rock 'n' roll supposed to be.
Q : The first performances outside was the Houston Astrodome. There was a story behind that.
A : Well, Elvis -- the Rodeo didn't want us to come. There was a message sent to leave the black girls, they didn't need the black girls. And so Elvis responded with, 'Well if they don't come, I don't come'. But he was really upset about it. There was one person in particular who had sent the message. So when we got there, we were greeted by this little blonde in a convertible and she had to drive us around and she was his daughter. So Elvis always made sure he got even. I'm sure he said, 'And I want your daughter to drive them'. But, when it was happening we didn't know. We learned that later.
Q : Tell us about Elvis generosity?
A : To a fault. Elvis was generous to a fault, I think. He gave away most of his fortune, y'know, when he was alive. He rewarded you because it made him feel good. And if he had something, he wanted to share it with you. And you could eat dinner at his house. Even if he stayed upstairs, y'know, dinner was still served at Graceland. And, then you could just sit around and wait for him to come downstairs and we'd go to the movies. And, he just gave us jewelry all the time, big rings that covered half my knuckle. And, he gave me an El Dorado. And he's given a lot of people that he didn't even know lots of things.
Q : Do you have specific gift that is special?
A : I have a gold purse. It's a little square gold purse that he gave me. And when he gave it to me it was full of silver dollars and he signed it inside, Love Elvis. That's pretty dear to me. And, well the reason he gave me the car, the car was dear to me, I just didn't feel that he had to do it. But he did. He felt that he had to do it because there was a little misunderstanding.
And some of the girls walked off stage. Well all of the girls walked off stage, Kathy, Estelle and Sylvia. But I was privy to information that they were not because I had been with Kathy the night before, so I knew what was going on. And the other, Sylvia and Estelle didn't. And, you never try to upset Elvis before a show and he was told not to introduce Kathy in a manner that would embarrass her. And so he introduced all of us in a manner that embarrassed us. So the girls walked off and I stayed and he put a ring on my finger and we talked tussled. Finally, I just kept it because it was holding up the show with him pushing it on my finger and me pulling it off. And then I was on the plane with him and Lisa Marie and, because I was with Jerry Schilling at the time. And, I took off the ring and I said I like the way this looks on you, and I put it on his finger. And he had the most hurt look in his eyes because if he gave you a gift, he didn't want you to return it. Because he didn't know how to say I'm sorry about anything. It's hard for him to say 'You know what, I'm really sorry I did that'. But he gave all the girls gifts, y'know, a couple of nights later because they missed a couple of nights. And, the next night he took that ring, threw it in the audience.
And a couple of weeks later I guess it was, I was at the house and he'd bought all these cars. I think 11, 12, 14 cars for the guys and all and himself. And I heard him ask Jerry 'Come -- Jerry, I want to ask you a question?' Jerry went. And the question that he wanted to ask Jerry was 'Is it all right if I buy Myrna a car?' And Jerry said sure. But he didn't tell me. He asked me if I would go with him to the Cadillac dealer to pick out a car for his dad because he's forgotten to buy his dad a car. I said sure. So I go and we pick. I pick out this brown, I don't know what it was, but a nice brown big Cadillac for his dad. And, it's nighttime. The place is closed. We're in the lot. Takes his flashlight out and goes looking, asks me what my favorite color was first. And goes looking around til he found a blue El Dorado and said, 'There's your car'. And, y'know, how do you respond. You're like What? What? But it was because he had to give me something. If I didn't accept the ring, I had to accept the car, y'know, or he would have just kept doing something like that. But I really appreciated it.
'The Sweet Inspirations', four girls from New York, are in Britain to promote their latest recording hit, What the World Needs Now.
They are, left to right: Cissy Drinkard Houston, Myrna Smith, Sylvia Shemwell and Estelle Brown.
Q : Elvis did have a tender heart?
A : Very. He was easily embarrassed and easily hurt and very forgiving because I've seen people do things to him and -- y'know, he'd be angry at first, really angry. Then he'd calm down gradually and then he'd show them nothing but love. Buy 'em some incredible house or whatever.
Q : Can you explain Elvis sense of humor?
A : Sick. We used to call him squirrelly. Cause he knew we didn't like guns and he loved them. And every night he would come into our dressing room because we were right across from him. After he changed clothes from his show clothes, he'd come into our dressing room, especially if he had a new outfit he wanted us to see. And, he would always take out the gun just because we were scared of it, and start laughing. But, he liked to play with water guns. Y'know, he'd shoot us onstage. We got water guns. He'd come with bigger - with machine water guns. So he was very playful.
Q : Were there a lot of hijinks backstage?
A : Not before show. Mostly it was, he would do it onstage. He would do things onstage. But we would do things to him too, like take black tape and put it on our teeth and then when he looked over we'd smile. Do things to crack him up. But he was so nervous before a show that he wasn't ready to play around.
Q : Can you think of one practical joke on the girls?
A : Oh, on us? Elvis really cared about our feelings a lot and he never let anybody disrespect us except for him. Y'know, but he did it playfully. I can't think of any practical joke that he played on me, but yeah, I can. I don't know if it was a joke or not. He took me for a ride in his, let's see, it was a yellow Pantera. He had this little sports car and he asked me if I would take a ride with him. He was so proud of this little car. It was a two-seater. And so I got in the car with him and we'd go down -- leave Graceland, go through the gates and he must have been doing 130 miles an hour. And I knew he was trying to frighten me so I'm just sitting there, y'know, trying to be cool, just sweating. But he kept looking over at me. As we got back, he pulls up to the front. I got out and he said, 'How do you like it?' I said, 'Oh, it's O.K'. And because he didn't frighten me, he took a gun and he shot the car! He just shot the dashboard. And I think that's a pretty expensive car, isn't it?
Q : Oh yeah.
A : But I remember, it was Vale, Colorado. And, we couldn't go out during the day so we would go out at night. And all the guys were there and their girlfriends. We'd go out at night, but we wouldn't ski. We would take little, like garbage can tops, just little things, and go down, slide down the hill or he had a ski bike like, and the police came, y'know, security or whatever, came and because they had all ready smoothed out the slopes for the next morning and we were messing it all up. And Elvis has on this ski hat, it was covering this part of his face and his whole head and they said 'You guys, y'know, you can't do this. You have to leave'. And Elvis walks up and says 'Don't you know who I am?' Guy says, 'No, I don't know who you are, I'm Elvis Presley. Sure!' And he shows him his face and says, 'Oh, we'll have fun'. So he takes me up on one of those bikes. I'm sitting on the back and he's driving and we just tumble all in the snow and tear it up. But it was fun. None of us got hurt. He was a daredevil. He drove fast. But he's a very good driver. He'd take out his little siren and put it up there. Stop people if they were speeding. Walk up to their car. But can you imagine being pulled over and Elvis Presley walks up to your car and says I want you to slow down. He didn't give you a ticket.
Q : Tell us about rehearsals with Joe Guercio.
A : When Joe Guercio became conductor for the orchestra at the Hilton and we had to open the show. We did like 20, 22 minutes before the comedian. Before Joe we kinda put our show together ourselves and Joe thought that we could be more Vegas, more slick. And so he put together with our input, and sometimes his ideas overpowered ours because they were better, he'd come up with three or four songs that we should do in our set. And then he would rehearse us. He would have our charts done and he would rehearse us with Ron Feur whose a great audio player. And then we'd have, I mean, the whole orchestra would have parts. And we had our own rhythm section that we took with us. And he'd make sure that our rhythm section couldn't read music, they just played. So he'd make sure that they knew what they were doing. So I think our show really improved when Joe became conductor.
And a lot of times people aren't given credit. But I'd just like to give Joe credit because, y'know, he's put together lots of things for lots of entertainers. He's worked for Gladys Knight. He put together things for her that he's never gotten credit for. He worked with Natalie Cole. And, you know the thing that David Foster with her and her dad? Well, Joe's never been given credit for that. But that was Joe's idea. Y'know, he just wants the credit. And I hope that this stays in so he'll get credit for that. Because he did it long before David Foster ever put it on a record. He's a wonderful man and Elvis loved him because he's a jokester. I hated Joe when I first met him.
Q : Why's that?
A : Because he just walked up to me and just pinched me on the butt! I went like 'How dare you?' and he laughed. I said this is a crude man. But then his wife was around, he did it around his wife. So I said 'Oh, that's just Joe'.
Q : How did you prepare for the Aloha concert?
A : Well actually we didn't have to do any more preparation than normal. That was all in the hands of directors and producers and the Colonel. Elvis had to look gorgeous and he did. He looked absolutely stunning on that show. He was down to a good weight. He was down to the weight that he was when I first met him in 1969. And when he came on that stage he had on a chocolate brown suit and no shirt and he was dark, tan and most gorgeous man I've ever seen. And, he wanted to look good for the Hawaii thing. But actually, I don't think we really knew what was going on. They said satellite, y'know. And it didn't click with me. It was just a TV show as far as I was concerned. I think we were informed that it was gonna be satellite, but that was so new to me, and I'm not technical at all. So I didn't know that it was going to be shown the way it was.
Q : Why did Elvis want to record at Graceland only?
A : Well, I only remember one time that he recorded at Graceland. That was the last album, cause I was there on that one. But, I remember going to sessions at RCA when he was recording. And, we were supposed to do a session on Nashville that I was at, but he didn't make it to that one. He cancelled at the last minute and we all had to go home, but he paid us. But he didn't feel, that's when he was not feeling very sure of himself. And he was tired of doing the same thing. He wanted to start branching out and doing other things. He wanted to act really badly, but not the kind of movies he was acting in. He wanted to be a dramatic actor. And, he was very hurt when a couple of things that were offered him he couldn't do because of, y'know, ego problems.
Q : Like 'A Star is Born', for example?
A : Yeah. Well, Colonel Parker told him that it would be a problem because, there would be a problem with billing because who was gonna get top billing? Elvis or Barbra Streisand? And, of course, Barbra Streisand had brought the idea to Elvis. She and Jon Peters came to the dressing room one night and they were down there until about 5 o'clock in the morning and they were talking to Elvis and he was so excited. They explained the concept. So excited. And then, next night he came down to do the show and it was just like somebody had pulled the rug from under him. He was just real down because the Colonel had talked him out of it for professional reasons. And, Elvis really wanted to do it and he would have been great in it.
Q : Is there a story about Priscilla and Elvis?
A : A story about Elvis and Priscilla. Just that they were great parents. And they both have hearts of gold. Elvis had a heart of gold. Priscilla has a heart of gold still. I mean, I had some personal problems and recently, and I get a phone call and she says, 'Myrna, you know, if there's anything you need, you can call me'. And I know she means that, y'know? And her mom was trying to help me with my house. Y'know, I was trying to buy this house that I already bought and I was having some problems and her mom is in real estate. She was helping me. Priscilla was helping me. Her sister, Michelle, Gary. I mean, they just, it's a wonderful family.
Q : How was he the last couple of years?
A : I don't know what they saw, but he wasn't depressed when he was around us because we kept him laughing. When I would be around him when the other girls were not, he didn't seem to be, I mean he would have days when he wasn't up to par, just like the rest of us. But I had no idea that, I mean I'd seen him in the hospital with liver problems, with sleep problems and just staying awake for weeks without sleep. And he was all turned around. Like I am, y'know. I go to bed at five o'clock in the morning. Sometimes, y'know. But, I can't go to sleep before three because it's just from the lifestyle. But I've learned not to take anything to come. I go to sleep when my body finally gets tired because, y'know, taking medication to make you go to sleep means you're gonna have to take medication to wake you up. And then you have to take medication to keep you even. So, if I don't sleep, I just don't sleep.
Q : There was no air-conditioning in Rapid City?
A : I don't remember it, no air conditioning?
Q : There was a new building.
A : Oh yeah!
Q : Elvis make-up looked smeared.
A : Well he didn't actually wear that -- oh well, because they were filming, yeah. Yeah. When they did that special I thought Elvis looked great. When you're around somebody a lot, you don't notice that they've put on weight. Plus I had seen him heavy before and he lost it. But, he had been so much heavier before that, so when I saw him I thought he looked fabulous. Jerry called me after we had done the taping and said, 'Well how did Elvis look?' I said, 'He looked great'. And then when I saw the show after Elvis died, I went like 'Oh, my God. He didn't look like that to me'. But, y'know, when you love somebody I guess, you know, you want them to look good, so they do.
Q : Were you on the way to Portland when you found out he passed away?
A : Yeah, we were in the air. And, I guess the pilot got information for us to turn around and go back to Burbank, because we were on the show plane. And, we thought probably we had left somebody and so we landed so we could tell them to tell the person we left to take a commercial flight, or whatever. And to find out what was wrong. And I don't remember where we landed. I think it was Utah. I'm not sure. Because, Marty Harrell is the one that went into -- it seemed like a small airfield, but I didn't get off the plane cause -- everybody got off and I was just sick of it, y'know? And Marty came back on the plane and said 'Myrna, why don't you get off because what I have to say I can only say one time'. So I get off and Marty had called, I don't know if he talked to Joe Esposito or Colonel Parker. But, he found out that something had happened and he got us all in a circle, the TCB Band, the ones from California and the singers that were from California because we were the ones taking that plane. And when he said, 'Alex says Elvis is dead'. And it's like, 'Elvis!' You didn't expect him to -- you never thought about death with him, that it would happen to him. It just seemed like he was immune to it. Y'know, because he had been sick. He'd been through a lot and he was crazy. So you don't expect it to happen -- it's like thinking about, Oh my goodness. What's gonna happen when I die? And you don't really think about something like that. Where am I gonna go when I die? And what's in gonna be like? I didn't want to think about stuff like that. So, I just, I lost it. And, they had to sedate me. But I had enough sense, as soon as the plane landed back in Burbank and I got home, I immediately got on the phone and made a plane reservation. And it's lucky that I did because an hour later I couldn't have gotten one. I forgot to make a hotel reservation, but I made a plane reservation. So, I flew out and I was there for the funeral.
Q : Do you have special memory of Elvis?
A : Yeah, it's kinda corny, but one night we were all in the penthouse. This is when we first met him, y'know. He had us up at the penthouse and he was playing 45s. We were having a little party, a little get-together, drinks at the bar and stuff. And, Elvis came up to me and said 'Do you wanna dance?' It was a slow record. So I said, 'O.K'. And I don't think that Elvis had ever danced with a black woman before because he started dancing with me, his whole body, I felt like just grabbing him and holding him cause his whole body was trembling. And, but he was, y'know, he was shy anyway. But all these girls, y'know, that he'd been around and he's this macho lover, whatever, and he was just a little boy then. But that's what he was, y'know. I looked upon him, a part of my family, like. My mother, when he died and I was screaming, my mother said, 'He's not in the family. What are you cry, what are you breaking up?' Because I love him, he's like a brother. You already got a brother. She didn't understand then, but she does now.
Q : Tell us about 'Elvis the Concert'.
A : Oh, it's a fabulous show, I wish it could go on forever. The concept is there is a screen on the stage with Elvis image with certain parts of the concerts that he's done and his voice. And the band, the TCB Band, is taken out. The voices are taken out and the orchestra is taken out. So all that's on that screen is Elvis image and his voice. So, everybody else, the TCB Band, Sweet Inspirations, the Stamps and Imperials, Joe Guercio and Ron Fuhrer were all people that played with Elvis when he was alive. And there's a click track that Joe Guercio listens to, and Ronnie Tutt, so they can make sure that everything goes -- so Elvis is not in one place and we're in another, cause that has happened a couple of times. But, it is fabulous. Audiences actually scream, they take pictures, it's like he's there. But if you've never seen Elvis in person, y'know, when he was alive. I mean I get excited every night about it. I have fun. First it was kinda eerie for me, but now, we work harder on this show than we did when he was alive. Because we know he's not really there, y'know. So, cause when he was there we pulled for him and he looked at us for support. Y'know, he was always looking over. If he hit a run, a really nice note or something, he'd look at us, y'know. We'd give him the high sign. But, without him there, y'know, you have to put a little more energy into the show. But audiences, especially in Europe, I don't know why it's not such a big thing in the United States. But I don't think they grasped the concept. They think that we're gonna have an Elvis impersonator I think, because the promoters don't really sell the show.
The good thing about Elvis, the Concert is, I mean, I don't know if it's good or not. They had footage of us in the 70s which they'd show on the side screen and sometimes in the middle. And then they have us, they'll show like, the cameraman will have a camera on me and then you'll see me in the 70s. And people go like, you can see 'em going, like that, I believe, that's her. That's her. And one guy said to me, cause I had a big afro then. He said, 'You look exactly like your mother'. I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'In that film, is that your mother?' I said, 'No, it's me'. But, it's a lot of fun.
Q : What is the most popular country that 'Elvis the Concert' has played?
A : Let's see, most popular. We've been to England a lot. We've been to Germany. We did a lot of shows in Germany. Scotland. The most popular? Japan, maybe. Cause, y'know, Japanese audiences are very quiet and the women are very, y'know, coy. But they just got up and started screaming. I worked for Tom Jones from 82 to 84 and, y'know, he interacts with his audience like Elvis did. And, when I was in Japan with him, the Japanese women will come up to the stage and as Tom would bend down to give 'em a kiss, they'd back away. And so, well in 82 -- they've changed a little now. But in the 80s, Japanese women were more reserved than they are now. But, when we were there with the concert, they were screaming. I mean it's a new thing with Japanese now. They're more loose, y'know.
Q : Any instances that came in mind, fans made him things.
A : Yeah. They would give him gifts. They liked to give him crowns because they thought of him as the King of Rock n' Roll. And he didn't like that title because, y'know, a spiritual thing. He felt there's only one king. But he would graciously take the gifts, but, as he said, he would tell us, y'know, there's only one king. But he didn't adopt that name himself, y'know.
And he gave Sammy Davis Jr. a black pearl. One time he gave this other man, this man kept saying Elvis, gimme that ring. Gimme that ring. And he was annoying us because he was sitting on the side. And we were looking at Elvis like 'You better not give him that ring'. And, the guy kept asking for it. Elvis goes over there, gives the man the ring. And we was just so mad at him that when he got changed out of his show clothes into his white velvet suit and came into our dressing room, we just jumped on him, knocked him on the floor. It was carpeted. And we just jumped up and started punching him. Come to find out this guy was a millionaire who let Elvis later use his plane. But he just laughed when we beat him up. We didn't hurt him.
Q : Elvis used Hugh Hefner's plane, the Big Bunny?
A : Oh yeah, the Playboy Bunny plane.
Q : Do you have any memories of that?
A : Oh, you don't want to hear those. You don't want to hear, but when you talk to Jerry Schilling ask him about it. No. Jerry liked one of the flight attendants when he was my boyfriend. But I found out about it.
Q : We'll talk to Jerry about that. How about Elvis at Graceland?
A : Yeah. He had one of first big screen televisions, but it wasn't a screen. It was like -- you know how you show home movies on those kinds of screens, it was something like that. And he was proud of that. That was in the Jungle Room.
And, on his 40th birthday, we were somewhere where there was snow. I think it was Vale. And he didn't want to celebrate his birthday. At first he did. Y'know, we thought he was gonna celebrate his birthday. Linda was gonna make a cake and everything. And I guess he started thinking about turning 40, so he told the guys nobody come over, just he didn't want to be bothered, didn't want to celebrate his birthday. So Jerry and I, we had, all of us had condos, y'know, and we get this call from Elvis and he asks if Jerry and I would come over to the house where he was staying. And so, we go over, he's there and Linda's there and it's his birthday. And, so he had decided he wanted to spend it with some people, but it was just the four of us. And, he started telling me stories. He asked me if I had ever seen a movie called 'Across 110th Street', which I hadn't seen and he'd seen probably 50 times. And I remember I told him no, he proceeded to narrate all of the dialogue. It took him as long to tell me the story as the movie was. And, but we had a lot of fun. And he laughed a lot that night and I figured it took his mind off of, I don't think he cared so much about getting older as he cared about -- why I guess when you're a sex symbol it must matter to you. Because when you lose that what do you have, y'know? But he had a lot more going for him than that. But we had a ball that night. Linda did bake the cake and I think he had a happy birthday on his 40th birthday. That's the last one I remember celebrating with him.
Q : Was the Indianapolis show the last time you saw Elvis?
A : Yeah.
Q : Was he still joking around a lot?
A : Anytime I saw him, with me around, I don't know how people, other people reacted to him, but with me around he was on an even keel most of the time. If he didn't feel like talking, he would talk to me. When I used to stay at his house in Beverly Hills, he would come down, he would get dressed, come down. He didn't smoke or drink, but he would, when he did smoke, he smoked the same brand that I did, Tarryton. And, he could smoke that whole pack in an hour and then if he poured himself a drink, he could drink that whole bottle. Because that's why I guess he didn't drink, because he had that kind of personality. That once he starts, y'know, that addictive personality. That take one drink. So then he didn't drink at all. Y'know, he wasn't a drinker. And he liked to smoke cigars, but he didn't smoke cigarettes, but he didn't care if you did around him. Y'know, he wasn't one of those fussy people.
Q : He liked his meat well done.
A : Elvis hardly ever ate around anyone. Cause I guess he was so used to eating alone that he was unsure of his table manners, y'know. So, he hardly ate around anybody. But he liked his food, well done. Burnt.
Q : Joe Esposito, what did his duties entail?
A : Joe Esposito, he was road manager. But he was more like a personal assistant to Elvis because Joe carried the checkbook. And, sometimes Elvis would feel generous and he'd tell Joe. Elvis didn't carry any money. I remember one time he asked me for a dime. A dime! And then he'd tell Joe, 'Go get the checkbook'. And Joe would get the checkbook and he'd tell Joe, 'Write the girls checks for a thousand dollars'. Y'know, he just was like that. Joe would make sure that things, his schedule was kept, that he was where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there. Because the Colonel managed him, but Joe made sure, y'know, he coordinated with the Colonel to make sure that Elvis did things when they were supposed to be done. Cause Elvis liked to sleep until just about showtime! So, sometimes when he was on his way downstairs, a show, he wasn't quite awake yet, y'know. So, but Joe had gotten him up and down there. He had a lot of duties, Joe did.
Q : What are your memories of Colonel Parker?
A : I remember Colonel Parker. I didn't like him at first because I'd go to the dressing room early and he would already be in Elvis dressing room and nobody else would be downstairs. So as he was coming out of the dressing room, he'd leave before Elvis got there, I would say, 'Good Evening,' and he'd walk right past me without saying anything. So he must not have heard me. So, I tried this a couple of more times, I'd pass him in the hallway, 'Hello Colonel'. Oh, he's doing that deliberately. He liked to make you the under. I've seen him make people bark like a dog on the floor. I said, I'm not going for this. Next time I walk pass him, I'm not gonna say anything. So after about four times, he looks at me to see if I'm gonna say hello and I walk past him like I don't see him. And I guess he got the message because next time, about third of fourth time I'm walking past him down in the dressing room area and I turned my head, he says, 'Good evening!' And I make believe I don't hear him. He says, 'Good evening!' 'Good evening, Colonel'. From that time on, he spoke and then after, y'know.
After Elvis died, he and his lady would call Jerry and me. We'd go to dinner with them, go up to his suite, his penthouse up on Wilshire. And I started working for Tom Jones. He'd call me as soon as I got to Vegas. He'd come to Tom Jones show and take me out to dinner. And I found that he was, all that stuff was just, y'know, bluff. He liked to bluff people, see how scared you'd be of him. But then when you weren't, then, y'know, he'd say 'Oh well, this is one that won't take my bluff'.
Q : What are your memories of Linda Thompson & Elvis?
A : Oh, Linda's a great person. She was very good for Elvis. She kept him, y'know, up, his spirits up because she's a Gemini like I am. Full of energy, intelligent, we were both English majors and, so we had a lot to talk about. She's intelligent. She's beautiful. She cared about Elvis. She'd make sure that he didn't fall asleep and, y'know, not wake up. She made sure of that. And, because that was the first time that Elvis, y'know, had an accident, fallen or something like, but she would make sure he would recover. And, she's just a wonderful person. I saw her not too long ago. We promised we'd keep in touch. I'm supposed to call her. She's great.
Q : Do you think Elvis was serious about Ginger Alden?
A : No, not according to what he told me, but I'm not gonna say. He was just, no, he wasn't serious about her. But, his ego was bruised when she didn't do what he wanted her to because he was so used to, if he told you, 'I'd like you to come to Nashville with me,' then you went to Nashville with him. And so when she refused to do that, it was more, it wasn't like he was crushed because it was love, it was just 'How dare you tell me no'. He was so used to having people say yes all the time. 'Yes, yes Elvis. You want this, you want that'. I'll laugh at your jokes even if they're not funny. He was used to that.
Q : Do you think she was too young and naive?
A : No, she wasn't naive at all. She may have been young, but she wasn't naive.
Q : Why do you think Elvis is so popular now?
A : I don't know about the people that were not around when he was alive. But I know that when my son was five years old, or younger than that because I started working with Elvis when my son was six months old. So my son had a white jumpsuit, guitar. And he has the TCB Elvis gave him, a real gold one. It was a little teeny one, still has that. And I think that the people -- the children today, 'cause we get kids in the audience six years old and they're out there dancing, doing, imitating Elvis and they didn't know, I mean they don't know what he was like. But their parents have played the music and he's just a phenomenon, that's all. There is no way to explain it except that he was one of a kind. And I don't know if he'll live forever, but it seems so to me.
Q : Would it surprise him?
A : He'd be embarrassed probably. I think he'd be proud to know that he left his mark on the world, y'know.
***image6***Initially created from the ranks of a group of 60s female background session singers that at one time included Dionne Warwick, her sister Dee Dee, adopted sister Judy Clay and Just One Look singer Doris Troy, The Sweet Inspirations became an official Atlantic recording artist after being the label s go-to studio backup vocal group for many of the label s primary artists including Aretha Franklin (with whom they toured in 1967 and 1968), Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, The Drifters and Esther Phillips among others.
Consisting of Emily Cissy Houston (who took Dee Dee Warwick's place when she launched her own solo career in 1965), Sylvia Shemwell (sister of Judy Clay), and gospel singers Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith (who knew Dionne and Dee Dee during their teen years at New Hope Baptist Church), The Sweet Inspirations enjoyed their first hit single in 1967 with their interpretation of The Staples Singers Why (Am I Treated So Bad). The song was written for them by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, who played on a number of the group's Memphis sessions.
In 1969, the group was hired by Elvis Presley as his vocal backup group and spent a number of years on the road with him. Cissy Houston left the group in 1970 to pursue a solo career; Estelle, Sylvia and Myrna continued recording as a trio with Stax Records and RSO Records.
Now, Real Gone Music/SoulMusic Records is proud to present The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus, the largest collection of the work of The Sweet Inspirations ever compiled, drawn from their tenure with Atlantic Records from 1967 to 1971. Included in the 37 tracks are the A and B sides of the group s 18 singles (with the 1970 hit, (Gotta Find) A Brand New Lover, originally released as Pt. 1 & 2, combined into one track), one cut unearthed from the Atlantic vaults in 2004 and previously only available on an out-of-print US compilation, and three previously unreleased sides (including a six-minute-plus medley of Little Green Apples, Aretha Franklin s Think and The Beatles Something ). The 2-CD set includes photos and notes by SoulMusic Records David Nathan, with remastering by Mike Milchner of SonicVision. With all the recent (and long overdue) attention paid backup singers via 20 Feet from Stardom, this release which features quite possibly the greatest backup vocal group of them all is timely indeed.
1. Why (Am I Treated So Bad)
2. I Don't Want To Go On Without You
3. Let It Be Me
4. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
5. That S How Strong My Love Is
6. I've Been Loving You Too Long
7. Oh! What A Fool I've Been
8. Don't Fight It
9. Do Right Woman--do Right Man
10. Reach Out For Me
11. Sweet Inspiration
12. I M Blue
13. To Love Somebody
14. Where Did It Go
15. Unchained Melody
16. Am I Ever Gonna See My Baby Again
17. What The World Needs Now Is Love
18. You Really Didn't Mean It
1. Crying In 'the Rain
2. Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday
3. Sweets For My Sweet
4. Get A Little Order
5. Don't Go
7. (Gotta Find) A Brand New Lover, Pts. 1 & 2
8. At Last I've Found A Love
9. That S The Way My Baby Is
10. Them Boys
11. Flash In'the Pan
12. This World
13. Light Sings
15. Change Me Not
16. Ain't Nothing Gonna Change Me
17. I've Been Inspired To Love You (Unreleased)
18. Little Green Apples/think/something (Unreleased)
19. Make It Easy On Yourself (Unreleased)
Interview with Larry Muhoberac
Interview with Michael Jarrett, songwriter, I'm Leavin'
Interview with James Burton
Interview with James Burton Sydney Australia 2006
James Burton : First Call For The Royalty Of Rockabilly
Interview with Ronnie Tutt
Interview with Ronnie Tutt #2
Interview with Jerry Scheff
Interview with Glen D. Hardin
Interview with Sherrill Nielsen
Interview with Terry Blackwood & Jim Murray
Interview with Tony Brown
Interview with Scotty Moore
Interview with D.J. Fontana
Interview with Charlie Hodge
Interview with Ernst Jorgensen
Elvis Presley & the TCB Band
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.