Issued a few months ago, but still pretty fresh, is the FTD book ‘Welcome Home Elvis 1960’. At first glance, there is lots of information and great pictures in the book, printed on high quality paper. There are however quite a few white pages with text only, which looks a bit cheap.
After the introduction the book starts with a letter from the Colonel, dated 9 January 1959. The Colonel urges Elvis to make tape recordings at home with only an organ or piano that would be released on single or an EP called ‘Elvis While Off Duty’. Elvis must keep this secret till a deal would have been closed. This letter may well have triggered the home recordings that were released after his death.
The book follows Elvis his activities from 3 March 1960 till 3 April 1960 in chronological order, one month in his life spelled out over 260 pages! It starts with nice pictures of an 19 year old Nancy Sinatra, as she welcomes Elvis upon his arrival in New Jersey with a message and present from her father. The original message from Frank Sinatra is printed in color, as well as a rare photograph of Elvis holding the present aboard a private railcar.
The next pages focus on the trip to Memphis by train, including newspaper articles and a nice picture of waiting fans at the Roanoke train station, as well as a quote from a Southern Railway flagman: “The largest crowd I’ve ever seen was in Knoxville, when singer Elvis Presley was returning home from Army service to Memphis. I was scared someone was going to get run over. They were swinging on the engines, never seen anything like it.” Also interesting is that Bill Burk claims that Elvis told him during this trainride, with the Colonel sitting next to him, that he would not have to do cookie-cutter films anymore after GI Blues. They would get him out of that whole routine. Well, it was just about to start in reality!
The arrival in Memphis is covered in quite some detail with beautiful pictures from the Commercial Appeal and a quote from George Klein welcoming Elvis home with the words “Graceland is going to rock tonight” at which Elvis smiled and replied “You got that right, GK”. Touching is that Elvis noticed the head of the local Elvis fanclub, the disabled Gary Pepper, sitting in a wheelchair in the crowd. Elvis asks security to wheel Pepper through the crowd to him. There are nice pictures of this moment. A picture of Elvis leaving the station in a car driven by a smiling army officer, and guarded by walking police officers, is just fantastic.
The following pictures at Graceland and from the press conference are pretty well known. There is one rare color picture though of Elvis standing in front of paintings of himself that I had never seen before. Elvis is wearing a wide-open black shirt with a golden medal, which looks stunning. There are also pictures of Elvis sitting by a present-loaded Christmas tree that has been awaiting his return at home. Elvis commented “This is my 1957 Christmas tree, my last Christmas at home”.
It is also nice to read that the next day Elvis tries to visit the SUN studios, but they have just been closed to his disappointment. At that time, Sam Philips is moving into new studios at Madison.
Apparently the following days there were big crowds at Graceland with fans wanting to meet the King as he was finally back in town. There is a nice color background picture of Elvis meeting his fans at the gate of Graceland, and also a nice story of deaf fans meeting Elvis. It is stated that contrary to popular notion deaf children love music. They dance in their stocking feet to feel the vibration of the music more keenly. Completely new info for me as well! A jukebox and several Elvis albums were donated to the Deaf school.
The recording sessions of 20 March are described in lots of detail, song by song in historical recording order, which is repeated later for the 3 April recording sessions. There is not only technical information about musicians and takes, but also quotes from people who were there, or that have a personal connection with the song. Like Anita Wood saying “He asked me to go out and buy the record, he told me he was going to make a record of it and he really did. He made a record of Soldier Boy later”.
Next is the trip to Miami by train and it is interesting to learn that this trip was as chaotic as the trip from New Jersey to Memphis. Extra police was send to train stations in Alabama where crowds of 2,000 gathered, and even 5,000 fans were waiting at the train station in Miami. Great pictures and newspaper articles of the event are included. There is a fantastic picture of Elvis posing with fists like a boxer and a hat on, giving him somewhat of a mobster look. There is also a detailed explanation how they sneaked Elvis past the crowd that is very entertaining to read. A beautiful color picture of excited fans climbing the train demonstrates this was out of pure necessity!
This treat is followed by other great pictures of Elvis at the Fontaineblue Hotel explaining how his hair was cut in the army and pointing at a mark near his left eye that was caused by an incident at a Memphis roller rink. Elvis tells the press “I was blocked by one fellow and, as I jumped over him, another one sailed into me with his shoulder first… Wham! … Racked me up pretty good”. One can only imagine the terror that the Colonel must have felt with important business deals coming up!
There are really great pictures of Elvis meeting a six-year old girl in private, as well as an injured fan from a car accident. Elvis invited them both based on sad stories in Miami newspapers, including a picture of the little girl in tears after waiting for hours in vain at the train station. Elvis also gave them a personalized guitar and there are nice pictures of this in the book.
Of course the Frank Sinatra Timex Show is well covered, starting with the rehearsals of which there are really great pictures from ABC. It is interesting to read that originally a scene was included in which Elvis shot Sammy, who died in agony in the best B-grade movie fashion. This was cut out for the show. Also interesting is that Elvis was not happy with the show because he did not feel comfortable with singing ‘Stuck on You’ and ‘Fame and Fortune’ live on stage. I guess a tuxedo was also not his favorite wear!
A touching detail is that Nancy Sinatra tells that her father called her immediately when Elvis died, as she liked him very much, being a warm and compassionate friend for many years. Frank Sinatra told Nancy not to worry, “Elvis will be getting a great reward today”.
All technical detail on the show itself is shared such as location, duration, musicians, full program detail, etc. There is a really great color picture of Elvis and Sinatra here, and of course plenty of newspaper articles of the event. It is remarkable that the press is not enthusiastic about Elvis his performance, and I must actually confess that I do not like this TV show very much either. Time Magazine opens even with “One of the worst” and concludes “As this sat on the shelf for seven weeks, some network employee – with guts and a Zippo lighter – could have sacrificed his job for the sake of the industry”. Ouch.
The book closes with the April recording sessions and it is interesting to read that Elvis actively asked for new English lyrics on ‘O Sole Mio’. Elvis told Aaron Schroeder that he was aware of the ‘There’s No Tomorrow’ lyrics, but that it wasn’t the kind of lyrics he could sing. Executives urged Elvis during the session to change his style on ‘It’s now or never’, as otherwise