|mid February 2008
- Mazza has a burning love for Elvis
By Mark S. Jordan
(mountvernonnews.com, February 14, 2008)
It all started as a joke.
Hundreds of shows and a number of jumpsuits later, Mike Mazza's portrayal of the late, great American entertainer Elvis Presley has become a major, time-consuming hobby and part-time second career.
Michael J. Mazza's primary career is as the latest generation to run the longtime Mount Vernon fixture, Mazzašs Restaurant. But one fateful day about 10 years ago, Mazza's mother, Dana, overheard him singing Presley's "Suspicious Minds," and said he sounded good. As a joke, she bought him an Elvis jumpsuit and said he should perform the song for the family's upcoming Christmas party.
Mazza said he'd do it. He performed for the party with a karaoke machine for accompaniment. Slowly but surely, word of that show led to requests to perform as Elvis at other parties. Then, six years ago, fate gave the act a boost. Mazza's father had planned for a typical Valentine's Day at the restaurant, with live music provided by a keyboard player. Unfortunately, he forgot to book the keyboardist, and found himself with a number of irate diners.
Mike, who was bussing tables that evening, saw this as an opportunity to save the day. He suggested that he don his jumpsuit and perform a handful of songs to entertain the diners. At first, Mazza Sr. - who was no Elvis fan - was resistant. But as complaints continued to funnel in about the lack of music, he decided to give his son a shot.
"I got at least lukewarm applause," Mazza laughed as he recalled the event. But it was enough to suggest doing a whole Valentine's Day show the following year. Again, Mike Sr. was dubious, but he relented when Mike Jr. said he'd reimburse him for the cost of the advertisement in the paper if the show didn't do well. The show did do well. In fact, it did very well. Mike Mazza Sr. suddenly became an Elvis fan as he watched his dining room fill up. Subsequent years have seen the Valentinešs Day event expand to several shows, many of which sell out. ...
- Good Rockin' With Wanda Jackson
By CURTIS ROSS
(Tampa Tribune / Tampa Bay Online, February 14, 2008)
The Queen of Rockabilly got rock 'n' roll lessons from The King himself. Wanda Jackson was a young country singer when she met Elvis Presley on a 1955 package tour. Presley sensed Jackson was a burgeoning rocker and encouraged the singer to move in that direction.
Jackson pays tribute to her tutor - and one-time boyfriend - on her most recent album, 2006's "I Remember Elvis." The album features Jackson's takes on 13 Presley tunes plus one new number, "I Wore Elvis' Ring," as well as Jackson's recollections about Presley.
The project seems like a no-brainer but Jackson had her doubts. "I was leery about - or just afraid of - doing his material," Jackson says by telephone from her home in Oklahoma. But wasn't her first hit, "Let's Have a Party," an Elvis remake? "I didn't really know he had done the song," Jackson says. "I learned it from The Collins Kids' version." Presley's version was tucked away on the soundtrack of 1957's "Loving You." The song barely made it onto Jackson's eponymous 1958 album. "It was a spur of the moment decision," Jackson recalls. "I was doing a country album. I needed one more song and I'd been opening my shows with 'Let's Have a Party,' so we put that one on."
There's no mistaking whose songs make up "I Remember Elvis." The track selection focuses on the earliest part of Presley's career - the Sun Records singles and the early RCA sessions, spanning the years 1954-'56. "Those are the ones he was singing night after night on our tours," Jackson says.
Jackson and producer-guitarist Danny B. Harvey kept the sessions simple, in the spirit of the original recordings Presley made with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black. "We wanted to keep the feel of the original songs as far as instrumentation and things like that but didn't want to copy it per se," Jackson says. "Danny doesn't copy Scotty's licks but he does some interesting things on his own." Bassist Razor X, pianist Don Randi and Blondie drummer Clem Burke make up the rest of the "I Remember Elvis" band. ...
- Singing telegram gets all shook up: Local Elvis 'performer' will sing to your sweetheart
By MARTIN DeANGELIS
(pressofatlanticcity.com, February 14, 2008)
A local economy built on service and entertainment finally has an entertainment service available to fill a little-known void in the area's offerings.
Call it Dial An Elvis. Ted Prior, of Galloway Township, a veteran of the area Elvis industry, is taking calls to deliver singing telegrams, performing in the full persona of the late King of Rock 'n' Roll.
Prior did his first public Dial-An-Elvis bit the other night at a Mays Landing restaurant, but he expects a rush of Valentine's Day sentiments to keep him, and his persona, busy through the next few days.
"Have The King sing to your queen," is Prior's preferred pitch for the act. But his manager, Neil Regina, who came up with the idea of mixing Elvis Presley with a singing telegram, likes to put it a different way: "Elvis at your service."
Prior may have been working on his Elvis act for more than 50 years, but he still knows The King isn't for everybody - which is why he made sure to apologize to everybody else in the Red Lobster at the Hamilton Mall when he strolled in to serenade Eleanor Dickson during a family dinner a few nights before Valentine's Day.
But if everyone who sees one of these Elvis-grams reacts the way people in this restaurant did, then Prior doesn't have much to worry about.
Dickson, a Mays Landing resident whose niece set up the surprise - Marie Moya is Prior's friend and sometimes assistant at his shows - was almost in tears as Prior crooned his way through "The Wonder of You" with his leg up on the seat next to her.
"It was just like having him right here," said Dickson, a major Elvis fan who admits she still misses having The King here today, more than 30 years after he left his last building.
"When he died, I didn't think I'd ever get over it," she continued, when the serenade was over. "Now, any time Elvis is on TV ... I'm not going anywhere. I just stay home and watch."
But on this night, Elvis came to her, live, and he brought a red rose and a Valentine's-style scarf, complete with hearts. And although she was just hearing from the next table, and not the object of Elvis' attention, Chris Williams of Galloway Township clapped along with almost everybody else in the Red Lobster when the love song was over.
Williams sounded sold on the possibilities of Dial-An-Elvis becoming The King's next greatest hit.
"Whoever thought of it, I think it was wonderful to come up with an idea like that," she said.
Even her husband, Tom - who didn't think to have somebody show up and sing to his wife - didn't mind being there to see Dial An Elvis in action. And for the record, Tom he said he wasn't at all worried about the pressure of keeping up with the expression of affection that his wife had just seen someone else get.
"It's not Valentine's Day yet," he said, through a sly grin.
Plus Tom admitted that for at least part of the song, his mind was taking him far beyond the walls of the Red Lobster. "I felt like I was in Las Vegas for a little while," he said. "Because there's like 900 of them out there." But Prior, who does about 30 full-scale Elvis performances a year - he calls his act El-Live, and he is considered the official Elvis act of Ocean City - draws a sharp distinction between himself and the masses of Elvis impersonators around these days.
For one thing, he insists that he's an "Elvis performer," not an impersonator. And for another, he's proud to point out that he is not some kind of Elvis-come-lately.
Prior did his first public Elvis singing in 1957, when he was a freshman at Atlantic City High School. He was at a party, he was armed with a guitar his aunt and uncle had given him, and he had his eyes opened when a friend told him he sounded just like Elvis -who was then near the height of his musical hotness.
"I didn't just do it after (Elvis) died," Prior said Tuesday. "I was doing it well before he died." He's trying to do his singing-telegram performances just around Atlantic and Cape May counties, but he already has one scheduled Saturday in Newfield, off the edge of Vineland in Gloucester County.
He offers packages that run from $75 - for one song and a red rose from Bayside Floral in Somers Point - to $175 for two songs, a dozen roses, a compact disc of Prior singing Elvis love songs and one of his specially created Valentine's scarves.
Still, Prior hated to but had to turn down one early-arriving Dial-An-Elvis engagement, because he couldn't figure out how he could charge enough to make the trip worth his while.
"I got one call from Bergen County - all the way up by New York," he says. "That's two or three hours. I couldn't believe I was getting calls from that far away. I just had to tell them, 'There must be some boys up there who do Elvis.'"
- The Elvis Cruise Announces the Final Line-Up for the 2008 Sailing
(centredaily.com, February 12, 2008)
Ruby Wilson, The Dempseys
Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Winners Shawn Klush & Joseph Hall
"I am very pleased and proud that we have this caliber of talent
on our cruise, many of who sailed with us last year," said Jerry
Schilling, Host & Producer of The Elvis Cruise. "I have known all of
these artists for many years and they represent the best of the artist
in the Elvis world. The fans always love them," added Schilling.
These artists will perform in four nightly "Vegas" style shows
each centered on a phase of Elvis' musical career. "We are adding the
King Creole theme to the show since we now sail from New Orleans,"
said Joe Guercio, Musical Director of the Cruise.
Schilling and Guercio bring decades of professional and personal
experience with Elvis Presley to the Cruise's unique program. In his
role as the Cruise's Host & Producer, Schilling, a friend of Elvis for
years, is dedicated to making this Elvis experience as authentic and
as rich as possible. Guercio, who also was an Elvis close friend and
collaborator, will be providing cruisers with the very best in musical
"Our goal is to provide Elvis fans with the best entertainment
experience possible," said Michael McKay, Executive Producer of the
The Elvis Cruise, which will embark August 28, 2008, from New
Orleans, includes four nightly main shows and daily live onboard
entertainment, with each night dedicated to one of the truly
spectacular phases of Elvis' life and career, one afternoon in the
Cozumel port of call and many opportunities to interact closely with
Elvis' original cast musical artists.
For more details about the cruise, please visit
www.theelviscruise.com, or call 1-800-704-3034.
About The Elvis Cruise
The Elvis Cruise is the only EPE approved and licensed cruise in
the world. It is dedicated to the life, times and music of Elvis
Presley. The inaugural sailing of The Elvis Cruise was in August,
2007. It is a full ship charter in partnership with Carnival Cruise
About Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. (EPE) is based in Memphis,
Tennessee with additional offices in Los Angeles, California. In
addition to Graceland and its related attractions in Memphis,
including the Heartbreak Hotel, EPE is aggressively involved in a
worldwide licensing program, merchandising, music publishing, and
television, film, video and Internet projects. For more information on
EPE and Graceland, visit www.Elvis.com. EPE is a subsidiary of CKX,
Inc. (www.CKX.com), a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ
National Market(R) under the ticker symbol "CKXE.
- Vegas lounge rocker Freddie Bell, inspired Elvis, dead at 76
(Yahoo! Canada News / Associated Press, February 12, 2008)
Freddie Bell, a forerunner in the 1950s rock 'n' roll era whose toe-tapping versions of "Giddy Up A Ding Dong" and "Hound Dog" inspired Elvis Presley to cover the songs, has died. He was 76.
... Bell was performing at the Sands casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in the mid-1950s when Presley was just an opening act across the street at the New Frontier. Bell's upbeat covers and perhaps his knee-wiggling dance moves inspired Presley, Johnson said. "He loved Freddie's version," Johnson said. "He added new words and a better beat."
Bell went to Las Vegas in 1953 from his hometown Philadelphia and was considered one of the great lounge acts of the time, alongside the trio of Sam Butera, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Johnson said. He was good friends with some of the most popular performers of the era. "They remained friends throughout Elvis' lifetime," Johnson said. ...
- Obituaries in the news: Freddie Bell
(Kansas City Star / Associated Press, February 11, 2008)
Freddie Bell, a forerunner in the 1950s rock 'n' roll era whose toe-tapping versions of "Giddy Up A Ding Dong" and "Hound Dog" inspired Elvis Presley to cover the songs, has died. He was 76. ... [As above]
The Real Grammys, After the Grammys
By Roger Friedman
(foxnews.com, February 11, 2008)
If you liked Alicia Keys (and her amazing duet with Frank Sinatra, her poised intro to the show), the spectacular Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Little Richard during the Grammy show, you shoulda seen the shows after the show. That's because the real Grammys took place right after the cameras and lights went off. Everyone who was anyone headed over to the Convention Center next door for the amazing salute to Berry Gordy, founder of Motown.
Motown, like the Grammys, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. So Stevie Wonder - with Herbie Hancock and Ne-Yo, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie and the gifted "younger generation" star Jill Scott performed for an exclusive invited crowd of about 300 people, catered by Wolfgang Puck and organized by Gordy's life long protege/famous movie and TV producer, Suzanne dePasse.
All the Gordy family was there, a lot of Stevie's, plus the writers who made Motown such a stunning success, like Valerie Simpson and Nik Ashford, Eddie Holland as well as Sam "Soul Man" Moore, Gayle King and a host of other record company legends like Mo Ostin of the real, late and lamented Warner Bros. Records, Doug Morris and Sylvia Rhone of Universal, A&M Records founder Jerry Moss, Quincy Jones, producer Jimmy Jam Harris, Evander Holyfield, Barry Bonds and famed Elvis Presley engineer Mike Moran and wife Linda, who heads up the Songwriters Hall of Fame. ...
- Russia becomes 'spam superpower': survey
(Yahoo! News / AFP, February 11, 2008)
Russia has become a a "superpower" of spam e-mail, becoming the second most prolific country after the United States in producing junk emails, a computer security firm said Monday.
"The country has stormed into second place, accounting for 8.3 percent of the world's spam, or one in 12 junk mails seen in inboxes," according to security firm Sophos in its quarterly update on spam email.
Between October and December 2007, the United States remained the spam leader, accounting for 21 percent of these emails, which contained unsolicited marketing pitches and sometimes viruses or other malicious software.
... In one of the latest efforts to bypass spam filters, Sophos said cybercriminals sent out their messages with supposed music files from stars such as Elvis Presley, Fergie and Carrie Underwood attached to the messages.
The files actually contained a monotone voice encouraging people to buy shares in a little-known company.
- Cyrus Chesnut: Expounding on Elvis
By R.J. DeLuke
(allaboutjazz.com, February 11, 2008)
When the bespectacled man with the boyish round face sits down at the grand piano to play these days, listeners can still expect to hear the rich tone, jazz inflected with not only the influences of Fats Waller or McCoy Tyner, but also with a soulful element that comes from church roots. But some of the tunes that float through the room may harken back to another part of the listener's past. The music is jazz, but the familiar memories are coming from rock n' roll radio.
That would be Elvis. Not the Elvis (Costello) who has flirted with jazz melodies and married one of the foremost jazz chanteuses. Back even further. THE Elvis. The King. From Memphis.
Cyrus Chestnut is playing Elvis Presley these days in the wake of his latest recording, pointedly named Cyrus Plays Elvis, released last October on Koch records. It's primarily piano trio music, with Dezron L. Douglas on bass and Neal Smith on drums, though Mark Gross plays sax on two numbers. It might seem a long way from his apprenticeships with Jon Hendricks and Betty Carter, and his work with Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Scott, Kevin Mahogany, James Carter and many others. But it's not unusual for jazz musicians to interpret music from other genres, and here Chestnut has laid out versions of well-known songs like "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Love Me Tender" and more.
But Chestnut doesn't reproduce what's already been done. And that's a good thing. Presley fans already consider those classic works. (Although they don't seem to mind when people dress exactly like him and sing the songs, note for note, including attempts to replicate - for better or worse - voice inflection and facial expression).
"It was work," he says succinctly. 'The thing about all the stuff Elvis did is it's so well loved. He is so well loved. If somebody's going to come in and do an interpretation of it, especially if you're going to bring it into the jazz world, the project couldn't be so space age - throwing in the kitchen sink, so to speak - putting in everything and trying to be just so hip that nobody actually really recognized what it was. On the flip side, it couldn't be just a basic cover, because it would just be corny and that wouldn't work either. So I had to find a happy medium."
"Hound Dog" kicks off the album in buoyant, swinging fashion, showing Chestnut's ease with bebop flavorings. It's a nice ride. Everything one would expect from a jazz trio: improvisational and spirited. "Love Me Tender' has a waltz feel, and Chestnut gets to express his gospel influences on "In The Ghetto" and certainly "How Great Thou Art," a solo piece.
Chestnut, 45, remembers seeing Elvis on television and knew some of the music. But it wasn't really part of his upbringing in his native Baltimore. Raised in a strong church-influenced household, the first music he heard in his home was gospel. But he did his research. The idea came to him at a recording session where he was doing a version of "Love Me Tender" with a singer a couple years ago. "In those moments of recording, it dawned on me. Has there ever been anyone who's done a [jazz] record of music that Elvis Presley has done? The idea was so strong that I went out and got a collection of Elvis Presley music. I started researching him on the Internet, got his biographical material. I even got a song lyric book to really look at the lyrics and start listening to the music and checking it out," says the pianist.
Chestnut worked on the material for much of 2006, experimenting with ideas, changing things here and there, trying out different things in front of audiences. "Some things worked and some things didn't work. For me, music always evolves. Even though it's recorded one way, by the time you continuously play it, it's going to keep growing. That's what's supposed to happen. So we just kept working at it and - boom - there you go. We go a record entitled Cyrus Plays Elvis. It goes in interesting directions. It was honest." ...
- Death Of The Polaroid
By Brian McIver
(Daily Record, February 11, 2008)
ITS fans have included Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley, while it was immortalised in song by rappers OutKast. But the Polaroid camera has just become a thing of the past, after it was announced that production of its special film has been cancelled.
The camera, which was launched in the Forties, has been declining in sales over the last 10 years, after being made obsolete by the widespread use of digital pictures, camera phones and home printing.
The American firm announced the closure of production plants in Massachusetts, Mexico and Holland as they prepare to concentrate on digital technology. Hundreds of jobs had been previously lost at the firm's Scots plant in Dunbartonshire in 2001.
Current film supplies are expected to last another year, but collectors and enthusiasts have already started stocking up on Polaroid memorabilia.
... Andy Warhol is the camera's most famous fan, and he was well known for snapping thousands of images in the Sixties and Seventies. Elvis Presley was also said to be a fan of the instant camera, and was regularly seen taking snaps.
- HILTON FINDS LOVE WITH MOVIE CO-STAR
(contactmusic.com, February 11, 2008)
Rocker/actor TYLER HILTON found love playing the school bully in new movie CHARLIE BARTLETT. The star, who played Elvis Presley in Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, was filming a romantic scene with actress Megan Park on day one of the shoot - and they fell in love for real. ...
- Liberace gets re-glitzed: the musician and his pop-culture kitsch are resurrected for a new audience
By Ashley Powers
(Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2008)
Liberace -- he of pink-feathered cape and "Beer Barrel Polka" fame -- hasn't attracted too many fans among a generation weaned on pop-music tarts and gangster-rap thugs. His legacy's caretakers can't stomach the idea of the pianist becoming a footnote. (He died in 1987.) But if his devotees have learned anything from a man who branded himself Mr. Showmanship, it's how to fine-tune an image.
They haven't focused on his music, which he took very seriously, but on his legendary flamboyance: They've retooled him as the originator of ostentation and trademarked him as the King -- and Queen -- of Bling. For the Liberace Foundation's sake, he needs to wow a new audience. In recent years, the number of visitors to the Liberace Museum off the Strip has dropped by half, to about 50,000 annually. Surveys say many of them are Midwesterners old enough to remember hearing Liberace perform -- as a young man.
... A few years ago, Karan Feder, a former costume designer who moved to Vegas from Calabasas, visited the museum. She planned to gawk at Liberace's get-ups, including a mink cape with 40,000 crystals and the 200-pound "King Neptune" outfit. But trolling through the gift shop, she noticed the museum had barely capitalized on Liberace's camp
"He was a very dead celebrity," Feder says. She and her husband, Michael, who run licensing company Fame Farm, noticed how other icons had been successfully reborn as pitchmen. Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley are among those who racked up millions of dollars in product and licensing fees last year. Since Liberace was the man who suggested Elvis glitz up his stage garb, it was only appropriate that Mr. Showmanship sell his own trinkets -- with an arched eyebrow. ...