Good interview. Thanks for posting!!
Q : Tell us about the first time you met Elvis and what was that like?
A : I met him the first time when I went to an audition to play the Las Vegas show. I didn't go the first time in 1969. But I, after that, Larry Muhoberac, playing the piano before me, for reasons of his own, didn't want to go on the road anymore. Anyway, the boys in the band leaned on me and wanted to come and do it, so I went down for a little audition. I can't remember when it was. It was in L.A. somewhere. And, I met him. It was very easy. I enjoyed his company very much. It was very easy. We just sit down and ran through a few of his old numbers and of course, I pretty well knew. Y'know. I grew up with his music like everyone else. And, we had a pretty good time. It didn't take very long. And, he knew that I was friends of all the boys in the band. And, so we auditioned for just a little while. And, he said, "Man, I really like how you play." He said "Let's go out in the hallway and make a deal." So, we stepped out in the hall and chatted for just a minute about it, about money and whatever. And, shook hands and that was it.
Q : Doing the filming of "Thats The Way It Is," was Elvis really up for that show? Tell us a little bit about the rehearsal. Tell us memories about when he goofed off.
A : Oh, he goofed off an awful lot. He enjoyed. First off, he enjoyed being together with everybody. He liked to hang out with the boys and the singers and everybody. We got a lot of work done, but we did goofed off a lot. We arm wrestled and send out for pizza. Just hang out and have a good time. It was always very easy.
Q : I heard Elvis ate pizzas without the crust? Is that right?
A : I don't remember.
Q : Elvis used to throw water on you. What started all that when you played piano for him?
A : Well, he would throw water in my direction and some time it would connect. But, the first time he did that, I brought an umbrella up to the very next show. Had it sitting right up there on the piano. And, of course, he thought that was wonderfully funny. And he didn't throw water until I didn't bring the umbrella. And, as soon as he didn't see the umbrella there again, he started throwing water again.
Q : Wasn't the intro with the piano with "I Cant Stop Loving You" and "Release Me," pretty close together?
A : Yeah, he asked for "I Cant Stop Loving You," and I played the intro to "Release Me," which is just about the same thing. And, it was just pretty funny. He made fun of me and all that.
Q : He pulled practical jokes on all the guys?
A : So many things. Y'know, when you worked with him, you had to keep your eyes on him. You had to watch him very carefully because he was all over the place. Y'know, walked over to way over to the far side of the stage. You really had to watch him or you'd miss something. Because he had a lot of body language. Y'know, and, the funny thing was if you did watch him, he was very easy to read and you'd always know what was going on.
Q : Did Elvis ever tell you what he wanted or did he just went by your playing?
A : I don't ever remember him telling me to change anything. I'm sure he would have if he wanted it different and I'd do that for him. But, he was usually just very easy. He liked the way we played and we usually just sit down and hit a groove and just do it.
Q : You made arrangements for Elvis?
A : Well, I did a lot of their orchestra stuff, mostly. Stuff like "American Trilogy," "The Wonder of You," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." A whole lot. I can't remember all of them. But, it was a lot of music.
Q : What was it like touring with Elvis?
A : It was fun. Y'know. We had a standing invitation to come up and hang out every night. On the road or in Las Vegas or to Palm Springs. We all lived in California. And, so that made it fun, always had somewhere to go and hang out. Cause everybody in town would be there, most of time, y'know. So that was fun. It was very tiring to be on tour because we never had a day off.
Q : Tell us about a typical tour. A rundown on how you prepared, got on the road, the hotels. Was it the same?
A : It was mostly the same year after year. If he was going to do some new songs we would usually get together in L.A. or somewhere and rehearse and run through them a bit. And, iron everything out. Then we had our band and singers. We had our airplane and Elvis had his. And, the colonel had his. And, of course we always were invited to ride in Elvis airplane if we wanted to and we did that quite often.
Q : You played at the Astrodome with Elvis. Tell us the logistics of the building. Did you have a tough time with the sound bouncing back?
A : It was difficult to play in the Astrodome because it was just so big, y'know. And, they had us on a silly little old flattrailer that they brought us out in the middle of the ring around and finally to a stop. Yeah, there was music coming back at us and y'know, when we'd do a song, it seemed like it would take a few seconds for the applause. You didn't know if they were reacting or not. Then, finally, you'd hear it. And, also you felt like you were sitting out there playing by yourself. Y'know, there was not any surrounding sound. So, it was really difficult to play.
Q : Did you guys ever have your monitors kicked up to hear yourselves?
A : We always had a very strange monitor set up. It was just kind of one big mix. You couldn't really get what you might want. But, I could usually make out okay. I could hear myself a little bit and I would just wing it. Y'know.
Q : Was the Aloha concert just another concert or did you have to prepare for that?
A : No, the Aloha Special was very special. We worked on a bunch of new songs for it. We actually went to Hawaii and played a few months before we did the real show. So, we had worked on it and perfected it and rehearsed a bit in Honolulu. I think we went over and had several days, maybe a week, close to a week to get ready and do it. But, everybody had a feeling that it was a very special thing y'know because it went out live to the far east. And, it was real enjoyable to do. But, y'know, we started shootin' the show at two thirty in the morning. That's kind of a strange time to start a concert. That's because it went out live to the far east.
Q : What was Elvis like in his preparation for the Hawaii show? Was he up for it?
A : Yeah, he was very much for it. He had lost a little bit of weight. He wasn't very heavy or anything but he lost a few pounds. He was very trim. And, he was in very good voice. He was feeling good and doing well.
Q : What was Elvis feelings about the show after it aired?
A : Well, I never heard him say but, I'm sure he was pleased with it. I'm pretty sure it was. I know I was. I thought it was a great show.
Q : How was the Vegas shows like? Was it tough? Was it any different?
A : Yeah. Very different. In Las Vegas, we'd do two shows a night. When we first started doing it, we'd go over there and do a whole month. Y'know, so, that was very tiring. I mean it was just such a routine we'd fall into, y'know. We stayed up all night and sleep all day. And, it gets very boring y'know. After about three days in Las Vegas, it's enough, y'know.
Q : How was the audience and Elvis? Did he have fun with his audience?
A : He did, especially in Las Vegas, he had a lot of fun with his audience because he was very close to them. They were right there in front of us. So, he would kibbitz with the audience a lot. Kiss a lot of girls. Walk up and down. He was very close to the audience there.
Q : Was it a lot looser in Las Vegas?
A : Yeah. Very loose in Las Vegas.
Q : Did a lot of people come up to his suite? Would celebrities come to hang out?
A : Yeah. A lot of people that were in town. People appearing in other places. celebrities. And, he always told us that we could bring any of our friends that we wanted to. He was very generous, y'know. He would always come over and say hello to our friends and talk to them. There was a big bar up there. He didn't drink but there was always plenty to drink up there. It was a great place to be. It was such a huge suite up there. He'd hang out until he got bored with it and he'd just go to bed but the party would just go right on, y'know. So, we'd just watch the sun come up there on the 30th floor. It's beautiful with those mountains back there y'know.
Q : I interviewed Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers and Mac Davis. Do you have any memories of them visiting Elvis?
A : Yeah, I think, I remember Mac Davis being around a time or two. I remember Kenny being around. I know all three of those guys.
Q : What would Elvis like to do in his suite? Did he sing or just like to talk?
A : A lot of both. Most of the time we like to sit around and talk and have a good time. Tell stories. Sometimes he'd talk about being in the army. I'd talk about being in the navy. Y'know, it was just one big boys club is what it was.
Q : Do you remember when three guys jumped up on stage and do you know the story? Can you tell us about that?
A : Yeah, three guys in Las Vegas, I'm not sure what that was all about. Someone said they wanted to shake his hand but I'm not sure of that. But, anyway, Red and Sonny West were spun into action really quick and took care of that matter.
Q : Did the guy take a swing at Elvis?
A : I think he kind of lunged at him or something. Maybe, he did want to just shake his hand, I don't know. But, he didn't get very far.
Q : How about the death threats against Elvis? Were you around when they did that?
A : I think there was some death threats. I'm not sure if it was a serious matter or not. I guess it's always serious when it's a death threat. It might have been somebody who wanted to be in on the party and they weren't invited. Or something, I don't know. I think the FBI was in on it. They were looking around. Seeing what was going on.
Q : Was Elvis very concerned about that.
A : He talked about it but I don't know if he was real concerned because he had a lot of security around him.
Q : In Vegas, do you remember any pranks that he pulled? He seemed to have a little more time to do something like that.
A : I can't remember, he did so many things. He would change the set list. We had always had a set list to follow but you could be sure that's not what's going to happen.
Q : What was it that Elvis would throw you off guard and do whatever song he wanted to?
A : He might just go out into it, just a capella. Y'know. We'd jump in and catch him. It might be some song he never recorded, y'know. Just some old song that he liked. And, we were very good about having it covered.
Q : Elvis really throw you off during rehearsals? I just want to cover his sense of humor and funny stuff he might have said.
A : Well, he did play "Stump the Band" all the time. But, we watched him so carefully that he really appreciated the fact that we were really hard to stump.
Q : When was the last time you saw Elvis?
A : The last live concert I did with him was New Year's Eve 1975 at Pontiac Stadium up in Michigan. But, did go to Graceland in March of 76 to make an album with him there. We recorded two albums there at different times.
Q : Tell us about the Pontiac show. Actually that was the biggest crowd Elvis ever played for?
A : I don't know, but it was a very big crowd. It was a huge place. What I remember about that Pontiac stadium was that it was so cold, I mean, it was just incredibly cold. Wish I knew how cold it was. My hands didn't work. It didn't matter because nobody elses worked either. It was just real hard to play and the audience was so far away and it seemed so unreal. And it was just painfully cold.
Q : Wasn't the band in the orchestra pit and Elvis didn't like that? I heard stories about that.
A : He was up on some kind of a riser and we were on a lower level all the way around. And, It wasn't a very comfortable set-up. Y'know. I'm sure it wasn't comfortable for him. And, it wasn't for us. It made it difficult, y'know. We needed to be right behind him and in a group. Then it's much better.
Q : Tell us about how Elvis felt about Memphis?
A : Well, I guess he loved Memphis. I guess because he always lived here, y'know. He spent a lot of time in L.A., of course. But, he spent a lot of time here. So, I'm sure he liked Memphis a lot.
Q : When was the last time you saw Elvis?
A : It would have been in March of 76 when I went to Graceland to do that album.
Q : Can you tell us how was Elvis recording at his own home?
A : He just wanted to be comfortable and they brought a recording, a mobile unit truck y'know, parked in the backyard and run the wires and microphones and things into the house. And set it up as best they could. It was a pretty good place to record. It was comfortable.
Q : Did Elvis ever change mood in the studio, different color lights, the way he dressed, police outfit, etc.?
A : Well, he did come down in a policemans uniform. I think it was that March. He showed up one night, I mean, in a complete uniform, the hat, the tie and everything. It was pretty funny. I think he showed up about four a.m. and sung til noon. And, we were wore out.
Q : Did he ever get different clothes at Graceland for you guys to wear?
A : I wasn't there when he passed out the clothes. But, he did that one night he took everybody up there and started putting clothes on them. It was pretty funny they said.
Q : Where were you when you found out Elvis passed away?
A : Actually, I was in Memphis. I was here playing a concert with Emmylou Harris and we opened for Willie Nelson. And, I came down to the coffee shop sometime in the morning. And, a friend of mine told me that and I just couldn't believe it. Y'know. I just couldn't believe it. I was dumbfounded like everyone else. I thought about it for awhile but I didn't go over to Graceland or anything because I knew that there were people from all over the world and it was just going to be a madhouse, which it was. Yknow.
Q : Thanks a lot for your memories of Elvis.
"Q : How was the audience and Elvis? Did he have fun with his audience?
A : He did, especially in Las Vegas, he had a lot of fun with his audience because he was very close to them. They were right there in front of us. So, he would kibbitz with the audience a lot. Kiss a lot of girls. Walk up and down. He was very close to the audience there. "
That is the truth! Elvis was incredibly close to us. It was so so much more personal to see him there than to see him on tour. Very very special. I know that Gail and Rosanne will back me up on this...as close as we were next to the stage... it was like Elvis being in your living room with you, especially when he would just start walking and talking... having a friendly conversation with the audience....and the sound was so amazing in that showroom. His voice, and the backups, and the instruments would just vibrate your through your whole body!
Great interview....thanks, Jen.!
I will never forget you Rosanne.
Thank you very much for sharing this interview, wonderfull and interesting to read!
Taking Care of BusinessTil we meet you again, may God bless you, Adios.
Thank you Jen. This was a great interview to read.