'Yeah, it's true, I'm afraid', Hardin said. 'He used to play around on the piano a bit at home, but he wasn't that good, really'
Hardin would know. He was Elvis' piano player from 1970 to 1976 - the big touring years - and arranged extravaganzas such as The Wonder Of You, 'Let It Be Me' and 'I Just Can't help Believin'.
He played with many other stars including Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, the Everly Brothers, John Denver and the Crickets (After Buddy Holly). But most people still associate Hardin with Elvis.
TCB - named after the rather ambiguous Elvis motto 'Takin' Care Of Business' - has been touring the world performing hits such as 'Suspicious Minds', 'In The Ghetto', Burning Love' and 'The Wonder Of You', with Elvis' recorded voice and video image on a giant screen.
In Australia the band will perform for the first time with another singer doing the Elvis songs, Australia's Mick Gerace.
Why? 'Well, he sent us a tape and we just decided to give it a go', Hardin said. 'He is a great singer and I suspect that if things work out well, he will join us on the road outside Australia'.
Hardin started working with Elvis Presley in 1970 and was instantly impressed by the King's friendliness and ability to work hard. 'He seemed like an ordinary fellow,' he said. 'I have many great memories from that period. I remember the session when we recorded 'Burning Love' and it was great fun, although I can't recall whether I knew at the time what a big hit it would be. At the time you just get on with your job and have a lot of fun'.
'I also remember the Madison Square Garden live sessions we did. Boy, there were a bunch of hits from that period and Elvis was singing the best I'd heard him'
If the sessions were good, sometimes the resulting recordings were not.
'Yeah, a lot of the old Elvis records lack a bit in sound quality'. Hardin said. 'We did some songs in one or two takes and they sounded great at the time, but then the records came out and they weren't as good. I don't know why'. 'But then again, the old style of recording had it's good sides. I don't care if the drum parts aren't as tight as a drum machine or even if the drummer drops on of his sticks midway. You sometimes get a better overall feel in the old ways of recording'.
Hardin spent hours chatting about music and life with Elvis, but is reluctant to discuss that today. Some thing's he says are better left in the past.
By 1976, Hardin was playing with both Elvis' and Emmylou Harris's bands. The work load was heavy and he had to drop out of one band. He chose to stay with Harris because the situation with Elvis was 'getting kinder sad'.
Elvis died about a year latter. Hardin then travelling with Willie Nelson, was saddened by the news. Now he prefers to remember the good days.
'I don't know if you can speculate about what would have happened if Elvis had lived, but I tend to think that he might have concentrated on singing and recording gospel music'. he said. 'That was his great love, always.
'But who knows? he could have ended up anywhere if he'd lived'
Written by Brian Patterson for The Sunday Herald Sun Melbourne Australia. Transferred to text for Elvis.com.au by David Troedson December 7, 2003
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