For most entertainers, when the show ends it means they’re done singing for the day, but not for Elvis. When Elvis was on the road, it was his time. At a moment’s notice, we would be required to sing for a guest and sometimes merely for his entertainment. One of his favorite gospel songs was “I, John.” He would often spontaneously start singing and we would have to immediately jump in with our part. He expected nothing less.
For celebrities he invited backstage, he routinely asked us to sing specific songs. If I started listing all the people he invited backstage, I would no doubt miss someone. Elvis took immense pleasure performing for his guests. However, it was not all ego, but genuine pride in his entire band. He so loved to brag on us. Every performance, whether in concert or backstage, was a unique and fulfilling experience.
I will always remember my first time on stage with Elvis. There’s no way to explain the energy in the air as he made his entrance. Imagine standing in pitch darkness peppered by white strobe lights among the deafening roar of fans. Then a low, deep rumble would fill the hall from the powerful sound system. With the opening notes of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the orchestra would begin. First the trumpets, then drums, with all the instruments getting louder and louder. With the crowd progressively getting louder and reaching a peak, Elvis would then walk onto the stage. When Elvis would grab the mic, we would all start.
Elvis was generous to his audiences. He gave 100 percent to each one, and we were to do the same. He was also generous to his band members. It did not matter to him who was in the spotlight. He might focus everyone’s attention on us or the guys in the TCB band. What mattered to him was the music and that every member was acknowledged for doing their part.
(Property off Elvis & Hollywood Legends Museum, 2530 Parkway Suite 4, Pigeon Forge, TN.)