Interview with Joe Tunzi

By: For Elvis CD Collectors
Source: FECC
August 11, 2004

Sessions III
Sessions III
Joe Tunzi is well known in the Elvis World as he published no less than 20 books, two DVDs and three BMG Special Products CDs since the early nineties. The quality of his photo books with unreleased pictures has made the joy of many fans around the world. However the first two 'Recording Sessions' books are certainly notorious for their wealth of information and amongst fans' favourite books.

I guess most fans thought that 'Sessions II' would be his last work on that subject, but apparently it isn't the case since 'Sessions III' is now advertised and will be published within the next few months. He's also working at the present time on a photo book titled 'Rock'n' Nassau' on some of the shows Elvis performed at the Nassau Coliseum in June 1973.

Given the above Mr. Tunzi kindly accepted to make an interview about 'Sessions III' and related matters.

First Joe, the first Recording Sessions book already contained a lot of information when published in 1993, the revised and expanded edition (Sessions II) published three years later contained indeed more details. Now six years later you are about to published a third book on this subject so could you explain to us briefly why you decided to go on with this 'Sessions III' book?

JOE : I'd like to thank you and the FECC team for doing a great job. I know for a fact that your messageboard is read by many key figures in the Elvis world but to get back to your first question, I feel the time is right for this 3rd edition. There has been a lot of releases by RCA and a lot of new information in the last 6 years. I think the book will prove to be very exciting and not quite look like the last two editions, and be pretty definitive.

I understand that 'Sessions III' will contain a lot unpublished of photographs as well and many in colours. Is it the case and does the book will have the same format as the previous recording sessions books ?

Joe:There will be a lot of photos, many unpublished, and some will be in color. The format has changed to be an easier and more comprehensive read, but we don't lose sight of how our original books were layed out.

In the six years since the publication of 'Sessions II,' what is the most exciting Elvis session detail you've uncovered?

Joe: I think there are several interesting details in the sessions listed, but I think if I had one particular section of the book that is most exciting it would be the filming of the RCA rehearsals for Elvis On Tour for MGM. We go into a detailed account and it's a fans dream. Also, there may be a few songs nobody knows about, but I am not going to promise this yet as the jury is still out on these.

March 30th 1972 Rehearsal
March 30th 1972 Rehearsal
Click here for a larger view of image - March 30th 1972 Rehearsal J.A.T. Publishing

Ernst Jorgensen says you list unheard material -- such as 1970s rehearsals -- in 'Sessions II.' Will all the music in 'Sessions III' be verifiable?

Joe: I believe that what I put in both sessions books from 1992 has been verified by what has been released in the last 9 years. Can you think of anyone else who has listed the amount of unreleased audio and video as I did that has surfaced. It's interesting but so far any information that I've listed or information on people who possessed tapes have proven to be very successful even some people who doubted me are coming around to realize I know what I am talking about. You'll see in the future that more will be right on.

'Sessions II' contains a lot of information on the filming and recording for the movie 'That's The Way It Is' and 'Elvis On Tour'. You had more details about the 'That's The Way it Is' movie when compared to 'Elvis On Tour'. Can we expect a lot of new details on the filming and recording of 'Elvis On Tour'?

Joe: There will be more definitive detail on Elvis On Tour. It's a section of the book that we worked very hard on.

When Warner Bros. released 'That's The Way It Is - Special Edition' in 2001 the fans were really excited with this project, and possibly even more when they've heard there would be an extra hour on the DVD. We learned rather quickly afterwards this extra hour wouldn't be there, and ironically the first DVD copies to show up on the market had the extra songs mentioned. As you know all the fans were quite disappointed by this turn around from Warner Bros., and also by the fact that nothing has been done with 'Elvis On Tour' the following year. Now two years later do you think we can expect in the near future this extra footage from ' That's The Way It Is ' and also a major project concerning 'Elvis On Tour' ?

Joe: I can tell you very simply that the extra hour for That's The Way It Is will be released ,it's just a question as to how there going to market it. My theory is that it will be presented either as part of a box set or coupled with The Lost Performances .Elvis On Tour will also eventually happen they simply should clean up the original and do an hour of unreleased outtakes . This would be a way to justify the cost and could give us 6 dvds relating to the documentaries with most of the best material included. So as I said before be patient it's eventually coming...

Did you find or have a lead on some fifties live recordings such as the May 1956 Little Rock show or the two Memphis '61 shows ?

Joe: I know of one complete performance of an early 1955 show that we listed in the book that I can verify and logic tells me that some other shows were recorded like Little Rock in 1956.

On page 133 of Sean O'Neal's book 'EP Memorabilia' is a June 9, 1954 receipt for a two-sided acetate recorded Saturday, June 5 at the Memphis Recording Service -- what do you know about this?

Joe: I don't think this has anything to do with Elvis. I believe it pertains to another artist.

A DVD titled 'The New Gladiators' was recently released by 'Rising Sun Productions' and contains material financed by Elvis in 1974. We know the film was never finished and released. This DVD doesn't contain any footage of Elvis but they have found a 32 minutes 16mm color film of Elvis performing different karate techniques. Do you know if the footage found is the same you wanted to use on your own DVD 'New Gladiators' project ?

Joe: I really don't know. I can only say I think the estate has a lot of this material and could put out a great DVD. That I am sure could run a few hours with a fair amount of Elvis included with sound.

We know that Elvis started to talk a lot about Karate on stage at the end of the August '74 Vegas Season. He also put on his Karate Gi and went into some demonstrations on stage. We know that Elvis invited his producer (George Waite) in Las Vegas, knowing this do you think it was planned to film Elvis in Vegas for inclusion in his documentary about Karate ? If yes, do you think some films were actually done in Las Vegas for this purpose ?

Joe: I don't think so, but he could have been in the audience to get a sneak peak at the power of Elvis on stage as well as the martial arts that he described and incorporated in his show.

August 10th 1970 opening show
August 10th 1970 opening show
Click here for a larger view of image - August 10th 1970 opening show J.A.T. Publishing �

Apart for the rehearsals recorded for 'That's The Way It Is' and 'Elvis On Tour', do you know if many rehearsals were recorded?

Joe: I believe that several rehearsals were recorded. Maybe every one. It's hard to say. Time will tell if more of these recordings turn up. I know some people who have a few more, but so far they are not interested in selling. You can say they don't need the money and feel that the recordings shouldn't be out there because it shows Elvis singing in more or less a private environment.

The book 'Day By Day' by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen mentions on page 263 that ' Elvis flies to Nashville with Charlie Hodge to add vocal overdubs and make repairs on several songs '. Elvis arrived to Nashville on September 25th and returned to Memphis on the 27th. Do you have some details on this short session and what songs were overdubbed and/or repaired ?

Joe: We have updated this and everything will be included that I am aware of. We even have a great photo of Elvis after the June 23rd session he did in Nashville in 1970.

After the publication of 'Rock'n' Nassau' will you continue with Elvis-themed books in the future? If yes, then do you still plan to publish one on ' That's The Way It Is ' & ' Elvis On Tour ', and another one with photographs of Elvis performing at the Omni in Atlanta ?

Joe: Elvis once said referring to his movies,'We're going to keep doing it until it stops being fun.' I feel that we may have a few good ones left and I really enjoy researching and finding photos, so I will keep doing it for a while.

The book 'America The Beautiful' and a few others came with a promo CD from BMG Special Products, do you intend to repeat this experience in the future?

Joe: If the theme of the book called for it I would repeat it, but this isn't something that you have complete control of.

We know that some professional footage was done at the opening show of Madison Square Garden on June 9th 1972. Some portions of this footage has been used on different projects but always heavily edited and without Elvis' vocal. Three years ago Dateline NBC used a short sequence for the first time with the original sound of Elvis performing 'Polk Salad Annie'. According to the different footages partly used on different projects and/or on T.V., they have filmed at least the following: the crowd before the show starts, The Sweet Inspirations, Elvis entering the stage, That's All Right, Proud Mary, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling and Polk Salad Annie. Do you know if the show was filmed from beginning to end with matching sound ? If not, do you know how much was actually filmed and who possibly owns that footage ?

Joe: .It sounds like you have been doing your homework. This is exactly correct. I think there may be around 30 or 40 minutes of the show with matching sound. The sound quality is not the greatest but is passable. I really can't comment on who owns it.

In your excellent book 'Elvis- Encore Performance II' on page 73 we can see a camera on the stage mounted on a tripod. Do you know if this camera could be related in some manners to the previous question on the footage filmed at the opening show at Madison Square Garden ?

Joe: I believe that camera was for security purposes so they could monitor the show. It isn't related at all to the aforementioned footage.

We have all heard about those rumours on a third sit-down show in 1968 with Elvis wearing the Blue denim. Several pictures are clearly showing the set up is basically the same as both sit-down shows. On the 'Definitive Elvis' 8 DVDs box-set Charlie Hodge mentions that for the first sit-down show the fans were too far (about 10 yards ) from the stage and Elvis didn't like it. If Charlie Hodge's story about the first sit-down show is correct, then it would be very strange since we know the fans were very closed to the stage at both known sit-down shows. Is it possible that the first sit-down show would be in fact the one with Elvis wearing the Blue denim attire with some fans chose at random nearby, and too far from the stage (according to Charlie Hodge) for being featured in the different pictures seen until now ? Have you ever seen more pictures that would possibly shed some lights once and for all on this matter?

Joe: I always thought and still do that Elvis is really performing in those pictures. but I think he is performing for a still camera possibly for publicity stills. I know of no audio or video of this performance.

Do you still plan to produce other DVDs in the near future ? If yes , do you still plan to release 'Hot Shots And Cool Clips vol.2' and is it possible to have a little teaser on what we could expect ?

Joe: Hot Shots and Cool Clips, Vol. 2 will be done this year it may include some great footage from Tupelo '56 and the opening show at Madison Square Garden.

Joe: We are working very hard to get the book out as fast as possible, but there are so many unexpected things that occur in a book like this. The book is not cheap and I want everyone to get more then there moneys worth. This will happen, but I ask for patience. I will update you and your website soon to give you the release date.

Russ Howe and Tom Salva's, Rock 'N' Nassau book will follow soon after and let me say they have some great photos in here.

Extra note : Joe has just informed us that the release date of Sessions III should be known within the next two weeks or so.

On behalf of all our readers we would like to thank you very much for your kindness and for having took the time to do this interview with us. We know that 'Sessions III' will be a success, but still we would like to wish you all the best of luck with this project and the other ones in the future.

- Buy Sessions III
- Read our Sessions III book Review

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