Christmas With Elvis : A Cool Yule
Video : Christmas At Graceland (01:31)
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Although Elvis loved to receive gifts, his favourite Christmas activity was giving.
His friends normally got cash bonuses. The presents for family members ranged from jewellery to new cars. Elvis loved their reactions to his extravagances. After most of the quest went to bed or went home, Elvis and a few of the guys would bring out Lisa Marie's presents and put them under the tree. The early morning hours of Christmas day were often the best times at Graceland. Elvis would talk about his mother and about the Christmases of his childhood. He would often say something like: 'I wonder what all the poor folks are doing tonight. I wish I could feed all the poor kids and give them presents'. He would reflect on how grateful he was for his success. Then he would wait with the eagerness of a child for Lisa to awaken and find her presents under the tree.
When it came to Christmas, Elvis never grew up. The holiday season made him unabashedly sentimental. Purchasing Graceland gave him the opportunity to celebrate the holiday in style. The driveways and the main house were lined with blue lights, and in front were six 8 foot Christmas trees decorated in multi colour lights. Inside, his mansion was completely decked out for the season, with the focus on a huge Christmas tree in the dining room. After dinner, everyone would gather around the piano to sing Christmas carols.
'It really is the best season of the year. The Christmas carols, trees and lights just grab you. There's something about Christmas and being home that I just can't explain. Maybe it's being with the family and with friends, time to read and to study. And of course, there are the snowball fights and sleigh rides and, yes. just home'. Elvis' heartfelt words about the holidays were revealed in the Memphis Press Scimitar, in 1966.
During his career, Elvis recorded several Christmas albums. His most sought after album is the November 19th, 1957, release of Elvis' Christmas album. At the time of the album's initial release, Elvis was still generating controversy with his live performances, and many in the press and industry felt that it was in bad taste for a rock 'n' roller to cut a Christmas album. Several disc jockeys refused to play any cuts from the album. At station KEX in Portland, Oregon, deejay Al Priddy was fired for playing Elvis' rendition of 'White Christmas'. Some radio stations banned the album outright, while WCFL of Chicago got carried away and banned all records by Elvis.
Elvis never forgot where he came from and what it was to be poor. He was always looking in the papers, wherever he was, and when he would see there was someone in trouble with no way out, nine times out of then he would send something to help out. He awes like that. It was his upbringing. During his career, he did two complete albums of Christmas material. Because of production schedules and lead times, most Christmas albums had to be recorded months in advance – often in the waning days of Summer. To help get everyone in the mood, producer Sholes paid to have a Christmas tree set up in the studio, replete with real gifts. It is easy to give money when you are rich. but Elvis gave money to charity when he was also poor. He rarely said 'no' to a plea from the heart.
If Every Day Was Like Christmas
Red West went back a long way with Elvis Presley: he had pulled bullies off him in high school, partied with him at Graceland, consoled him during his army stint in Germany, worked as his bodyguard and helped choose to go in his films. But on his day, June 10, 1966, Elvis was making a request that even Red was having trouble with. It was studio time again, and Elvis was planning on recording a song Red had written.
The title of the song was; 'If Everyday Was Like Christmas'. 'I just sensed that he didn't want to do the recording session,' recalled Red. 'and it was right'. Elvis called Red from his hotel and said, 'You go down and cut the tracks. You sing with the orchestra. I'll dub it in later'. Red drove over to RCA's Nashville Studio B, where the usual gang of ace studio musicians was waiting; Scotty Moore on guitar, as well as D.J. Fontana on drums, Peter Drake on steel and no fewer than three sets of vocalists. 'I was high and I was nervous, 'remembers Red, 'but these guys made me feel at ease'. Singing his best imitation of Elvis, Red pulled it off, and the background tracks were laid down. It was only later that Elvis came to the studio alone and recorded his part for 'If Everyday Was Like Christmas'. The result was one of his best singles and one of his more moving performances.
Colonel (Santa) Parker and Elvis Presley.
It was also representative of one of Elvis' most successful genres; the Christmas song. Like gospel music, it was a body of material that spoke directly to Elvis' roots, and one he enjoyed celebrating. He was taught ... 'When you do something the lord requires of you, do not boast of it but do it humbly and with gratitude'.
And for most of his life, Elvis Presley tried to live up to this strict rule of Southern faith. But when fame intruded upon his private life, even his attempts to give charity quietly and sincerely were suddenly drenched with the cold glare of the public spotlight. At first he shrank from this exposure. But, he soon realized that it could become a double blessing in disguise. There was so much more to do than he could do.
And, if the world knew what needed to be done and through his fame, this knowledge could be brought home to one and all, then there would indeed be a purpose to it all. So, Elvis began his public life of charity.
Elvis at Graceland, Christmas 1957.
When the time came for the introduction of the Salk vaccine as a weapon against one of mankind's most dreadful diseases, polio, Elvis rushed to do what he could to tell parents about this safeguard for their children. He was in the Army at the time; serving overseas in Germany. But, he took time out from a leave he'd been patiently waiting for to pose with a child who had been crippled with polio and to speak to reporters and newsreel photographers about the vaccine. He also volunteered to be among the first public figures to take the shots and so dispel the fears of many about them. More recently, after a flood struck in the Southern part of the country, and wiped out farms and homesteads and shattered the lives of so many people. Elvis arranged for a special concert to be given and every penny raised that was not spent on necessary expenses was given back to the people whose dreams had become a nightmare in one dark night. Elvis took nothing for himself . But, he did tell friends; 'I feel rich tonight. I feel really rich'. 'Hey, he says, money's meant to be spread around. The more happiness it helps create, the more it's worth. It's worthless as old cut up paper if it just lies in a bank and grows there without ever having been used to help a body'.
We wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and much more Elvis in 2014!
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
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.
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.