50th anniversary of ‘Comeback Special, ’ new gospel album highlight celebrations for Elvis Week 2018
Full calendar of events planned to commemorate the death of ‘ the King’
Elvis Week 2018 will kick off with the release of a new Gospel album featuring a duet with the singer’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley, and include a special celebration and showing to mark the 50th anniversary of the famous 1968 Comeback Special, plus several new exhibits on the life of Elvis Presley and musical concerts.
“We’re expecting this year’s Elvis Week to be the biggest one yet,” said Graceland spokeswoman Ashleigh Gallant. “The concert series and panels are definitely the most ambitious we’ve ever done.”
Lisa Marie Presley will be on hand for the official release day of “Elvis Presley: Where No One Stands Alone” a new album by RCA Legacy Recordings celebrating Elvis’ love of Gospel music.
The album features 14 original Gospel songs with newly recorded instrumentation and backing vocals by Darlene Love, Cissy Houston, The Imperials, and the Stamps, who performed with Elvis on stage and in the studio.
“Lisa Marie is the executive producer and also performs a duet with Elvis on this album,” Gallant said. ‘So you can get a live listen to it with Lisa Marie.”
A special 50th year celebration of the ‘68 Comeback Special which re-launched Elvis’ career will feature a panel discussion at 10 a.m. on Thursday, August 16, with the show’s producer, Steve Binder, musical director Billy Goldberg, and writer Allen Blye.
“Steve will tell some stories about how the show came together live and in person,” Gallant said. “ This is the show that really re-launched Elvis’ career. Elvis hasn’t performed on stage in nearly ten years. Steve said that Elvis was really nervous to get back on stage because Rock ‘n’ Roll had really changed with the British Invasion and the Beatles, and he wasn’t sure how people would welcome him again. So this special helped him get back in to the groove of things and find his musical voice.”
Later that evening at 7 p.m. fans can watch a showing of the NBC television special that aired in December 1968. The show will feature an advanced screening of the show along with live music and special guest performers.
“They’re playing the Comeback Special in theaters on the 16th and 20th. But you can only catch the ‘68 Comeback in Memphis on Thursday here,” Gallant said. “So this is a great opportunity for people to come and see it live with all those guest appearances.”
Gallant said there are also three new exhibits at Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex this year. The 200,000 square foot $45 million complex opened last year and is full of new and exciting things to see for visitors who have never been to Graceland before and for those who haven’t been back in many years.
“We tell people that if you haven’t been to Graceland within the last year, then you haven’t been to Graceland,” Gallant said. “In the last year we opened Elvis Presley’s Memphis and it’s a huge entertainment complex. It has really allowed us to re-think how we display things. If you were here five years ago you might remember the trophy room. We had some of his jumpsuits and gold records there in a smaller space. Now, we get to exhibit a lot more of his personal items in this space. It’s a whole new experience for the fans.”
Among the new exhibits is “Growing Up Presley,” a look at Lisa Marie’s life at Graceland, and an expanded “Private Presley” exhibit detailing Elvis’ time in the Army.
Visitors will also get to see “Hollywood Backlot,” which has the sets and items from the 8 episode short-lived 2017 TV series on CMT.
The exhibit re-creates Sun studio, Sam Phillips’ office, the staircase from the Hotel Chisca, and the WHBQ radio studio.
“The network donated these sets to us,” Gallant said. “CMT did a great job recreating the look and feel of the studio. When you walk through here, it’s a blast from the past. They paid great attention to every detail, and it is a really great look behind the scenes of how the show was made.”
And if you think you’ve seen everything there is to see inside Graceland, think again. Visitors to the mansion will get to see the original white Kenabe piano which was returned to Graceland 60 years after it was purchased.
Elvis bought the white baby grand piano with gold accents in 1957. The piano was originally used at Ellis Auditorium from the 1930s to 1957 where all of Elvis’ favorite Gospel and Blues players used at shows he attended. The piano was put in storage in 1968 then sold in 1976 where it changed hands several times.
Gallant said it is the most significant original piece of furniture to return to Graceland since the home opened in 1982.
“The white Kenabe is back,” Gallant said. “And the music room is now the same as it looked in the 1960s.”
And as in past years, there will also be an auction of original Elvis memorabilia, panels featuring musical guests and movie co-stars, little seen artifacts from inside the archives, and of course, the candlelight vigil which starts at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday August 15, where fans carry a candle are invited to walk up to the gravesite in quiet remembrance.
“This started with the fans,” Gallant said. “They came out in 1977 and they have come again and again and again. So this is a night for the fans to pay their respects and show their love for Elvis.”
Gallant said this year’s event also features an unprecedented ten concerts. Fans can attend shows ranging from this year’s crop of Elvis Tribute artists singing their favorite Elvis songs while they battle to take home the top recognition; Darlene Love, who is making her first ever Elvis Week appearance, will sing on Monday, August 13. Love is one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and lead singer of The Blossoms, who sang with Elvis in the “68 Comeback Special;” Rockabilly and Outlaw Country music legend Dale Watson will perform a Musical Salute to Elvis on Wednesday, August 15, before the candlelight vigil; and Elvis friend TG Sheppard and Kelly Lang will appear in concert on Saturday, August 18.
“We have an unprecedented ten concerts this year,” Gallant said. “Every single night you get a musical element.”
For more information on the event schedule and ticket prices visit www.graceland. com/elvisweek/schedule
2018 – GRACE I, AND
By Mark Randall