Elvis special production assistance: Judi Bentley, Casey Clare, Jane Swartley, Bill Urban, and Jerry Wilhite
The early years: 1953 to 1957, with glances at future years thanks to hindsight.
Elvis Presley held a press conference before his second Vancouver Concert on August 31, 1957. Discussion of the Elvis career starts with the number one song during the first week 1957. On January 6 of that year, he made his third and final guest shot on the Ed Sullivan Show. Movies were his emphasis that year following his first movie, LOVE ME TENDER. Most of Elvis 's movies were filmed at Paramount Studios and/or released by them; but not Jailhouse Rock, his third movie, which was shot on the Culver City, California lot of MGM.
In 1961, Elvis said his favorite song was “It's Now or Never.” His biggest seller, as of this press conference, was “Don’t Be Cruel,” And, his first gold record was, “Heartbreak Hotel,” here presented as the live performance of this song that was recorded at Madison Square Garden. Credits: all songs RCA, BMI.
The ELVIS PRESLEY press conference presented below and provided by listener and Elvis fan Bill Urban, was held in Memphis, Tennessee on February 25, 1961. Elvis had appeared at a luncheon in his honor that day. At this luncheon, numerous awards Elvis had received were shown to those attending, including the press. After this, a press conference followed.
There is a recording of this press conference, but the quality was very bad with a hum caused by a miss-match in the connection with the PA system and the tape recorder at the news conference. Jane Swartley transcribed the material from this noisy recording and we owe her a debt of gratitude for her patience and dedication. The transcription of the press conference follows below.
Following this press conference, Elvis appeared at afternoon and evening shows at Ellis Auditorium to benefit 38 Memphis area charities. Other than the Sinatra TV show, this was the only "Live" performance since his Army discharge.
The following month, on March 25, 1961, Elvis arrived in Hawaii for another press conference. I (Bill Urban) don't have any record of this press conference, and I don't know if one exists. Elvis then gives an evening concert at Bloch Arena at Pearl Harbor. This is done to help fund the building of the USS Arizona Memorial. The show raises around $65,000 for the memorial and helps bring publicity, public awareness and support to the project.
Up to that point, from what is understand, fund raising efforts for the most part had been difficult. After the concert, the rest of the needed funds are soon raised and the memorial is completed a year later. Elvis received numerous official honors in appreciation for this benefit. This turned out to be Elvis' LAST, live, non-movie performance, until his 1968 television special.
2/25/61 PRESS CONFERENCE
E is Elvis_______________Q is Questioner
Moderator (the Colonel?): This is a recording session if you want to ask questions.
Elvis: Okay, shoot.
E: Yes sir.
Q: I’ll kick it off and apologize to you for the first question, but everybody wants to know, “How’s your love life?”
E: Well, it’s ah…it hasn’t progressed any…it’s about like it was…nothin’ serious…I’ll let you know if anything comes up…couldn’t hide it anyway.
Q: Do you think your career may make you wind up bein’ a bachelor at 70?
E: It’s hard to say really…I wouldn’t think so…it’s just that ah…I’m not ready for marriage yet, that’s all. And until I am, I’m not gonna attempt it. But it wouldn’t be because of a career…it’s just that I just…I’m not ready for it and I haven’t found anybody that I care that much about, really.
Q: Do you think that your own personal taste in music has changed from what we call rock & roll to “better music.” Do you think your own personal taste is changing?
E: (laughs)…oh no, that hasn’t changed…I’ve always liked all kinds of music…I mean, I don’t just like rock & roll…I appreciate all types of music really…but I have to do what I can do best…and so I do the rock…
Q: Elvis, what could you tell us about the mysterious death of your cousin who died in bed?
E: Nobody knows.
Q: No one knows?
Q: Are you planning on going back to Hollywood soon?
E: Well I got another picture starting…about the 25th of March.
Q: What type of picture is it?
E: It’s a kind of a drama. It’s called, ah…”Blue Hawaii” and that’s all I know about it right now.
Q: What is your favorite record?
E: I think that my favorite record, of the ones I recorded is, “Now or Never.” It’s sold more than anything else…uh next to, “Don’t Be Cruel.” “Don’t Be Cruel” is still my biggest seller, to date.
Q: (How many of “Now or Never” have been sold?)
E: It’s sold a little over 4 million, I think.
Q: How many has “Don’t Be Cruel” sold?
E: Around 6 million.
Q: I understand you’ve sold 75 million records. Has this set some sort of a record for the record business?
E: I wouldn’t know really…uh, I think that includes everything…all the albums…everything combined.
Q: Is that also RCA Victor?
E: Right…but I don’t know anything about its setting any kind of record.
Q: What type role do you enjoy playing………what type do you enjoy….(?)
E: Well, I would like to play a dramatic role, but I don’t ah…I’m not ready for that either really. I haven’t had enough experience in acting and again, until I’m ready for it, it would be…it would be foolish to undertake something very dramatic.
Q: What about your musicals like…….that was one of my favorites…..
E: Well probably so, I mean…it’s left up to the studio mostly…. but you can rest assured that there’ll be music in almost all of them. There has to be.
Q: When will “Wild in the Country” be released?
E: May or June, I think.
Q: Elvis, have you filled out your income tax?
E: I think my accountant has…Mr. Fisher…he takes care of that.
Q: Have your eating habits changed since you went into the Army…
E: No ma’am, I …
Q: Since you came back are you eating starches and fatty foods as you did before?
E: I still eat pretty much the same thing. Kinda got used to it…it’s hard to change over now.
Q: What record are you planning on releasing next?
E: I haven’t made it yet…I haven’t recorded it yet…I couldn’t tell you.
Q: How come (or I was told) they haven’t released the sound track on “Flaming Star” either on the EPs or on singles…
E: I don’t know, I think they thought that it wasn’t quite commercial enough to release. I don’t know really…it’s left up to RCA Victor.
Q: Elvis, are you going to move to Hollywood eventually or are you going to stay here?
E: No sir, I’ll stay here. I’ve got a house leased out there, but it’s just…it’d be back and forth really. But I’ll always keep my home here, as long as I can.
Q: Elvis are there any new enthusiasms? The last time we talked, you were very excited about karate.
E: I still practice it quite a bit.
Q: Any other…
E: No sir, nothing new has come along…I don’t have much time really for other things…
Q: You think that your own personal pleasures have changed at all in the last few years…are you still skating and doing that sort of thing as much, or are you slowing down a little bit on that type of thing?
E: Well we still skate a little…break boards…
Q: How about ice-skating, have you ever tried ice-skating?
E: No ma’am, I never tried ice-skating. But I still do pretty much the same thing…I don’t do it as much, because since I’ve been out of the Army, I haven’t had much time…you know, I’ve been pretty busy. Been going from picture to picture.
Q: You been to the place on the lake that your father has…you planning on spend any time there?
E: Well, I’d like to…we’re thinking about either building a little cabin up there or getting a house trailer. One of the two. I’m not sure which one yet.
Q: Which one of your movies do you think you did the best job of acting in?
E: “King Creole,” I think.
E: “King Creole.”
Q: Elvis, why aren’t you on TV more?
E: Well, because of the movie contracts that I have…I’m pretty well tied up in movies right now and uh…too much television kinda hurts movies a little…
Q: Do you like personal appearances, movies, or TV best?
E: Well, I like personal appearances best, although I don’t know about today, because I haven’t been on stage in a little over three years and I’ve almost forgotten a lot of the words to the songs I used to do.
Q: Have you …
E: And I haven’t had much chance to rehearse with the band.
Q: You go from here out to Hawaii in March to do the picture and also a benefit of some sort?
E: Right…we’re doing a benefit for the Battleship Arizona.
Q: You haven’t been on stage in 3 years, are you a little bit nervous?
E: Yes sir…I don’t mind admittin’ I am. But when I did the Frank Sinatra show in Florida, I wasn’t nervous, I was petrified…I was scared stiff.
Q: When you released your first record, did you think you would have such a successful career as you’ve had?
E: No, I don’t think anybody did, did we, Mr. Phillips? I don’t think so. Nobody had any idea, really.
Q: Did the Frank Sinatra…get back to that… did those people on Frank Sinatra Productions, did they give you an ample opportunity to perform that evening?
E: Oh yeah, sure…but the moving and the shaking I did on that show wasn’t from music, it was from bein’ scared. But they gave me plenty of time, you know…yes sir, it was very nice.
Q: You don’t think you needed more than six minutes in an hour show?
E: Well, it would have been alright with me if I had just walked out and walked off.
Is there anything else I can’t answer?
Q: What about your cheeseburgers?
E: I don’t eat many cheeseburgers any more.
Q: Elvis do you smoke yet, regular….
Q: Don’t smoke?
E: I smoke a cigar every once in a while.
Q: How about (your drink?)
E: No. …..No. That is, when the Colonel gives me a cigar, and it’s very unusual…
Q: How long will you be in Memphis?
E: We’ll be leaving sometime around the 18th of March, Mr. Johnson…as far as I know.
Q: How many gold records have you received in all?
E: I’ve got ah…34. 34 gold records.
Q: That’s (a lot more than) your nearest rival…does it make you happy that you’ve got more gold records than anybody else?
E: Yeah, it makes me and the government very happy.
Q: Elvis, since I’ve been following your career since its inception, I wondered do you have in your mind some enthusiasm for a particular form or kind of music that you haven’t yet recorded that you have a lot of enthusiasm and ambition to do?
E: Well, uh….
Q: Is there something special in your mind that you want to do yet, with everything you’ve done…
E: Well it definitely is, but I don’t like to press my luck too far…I don’t like to take chances, you know…as long as I‘m doing okay now I don’t want to … I mean why change it, you know, until I got reason to change it? If what I’m doing now, if nobody …if it doesn’t go over any more, then I’ll have to change and do something.
There’s a break in the tape here, for several seconds…
Q: Are you hard to please? In making the selection of your wardrobe?
E: Not especially…not especially because I don’t know that much about clothes. It doesn’t make any difference really.
Q: Now Elvis, you have become a little bit more conservative.
E: Well,.. gettin’ a little older, you know. That’s like the sideburns. They were okay for a while but you outgrow it.
Q: Don’t you miss ‘em?
E: Sideburns? Not especially, no. The Army took care of those.
Q: (NOTE FROM JANE: I absolutely could not decipher any part of this question)
E: Now if I answered that, I’d lose a lot of friends.
Q: How about the rumor about Nancy (Sharp…?)
E: …No, I don’t know…it was just one of those deals, you know…I just dated her for a few times. It’s kind of funny, you go out with a girl and ah…a couple of times and it’s a big romance, you know…they had me married a couple of times.
I was down on Wilshire Boulevard one night and I was in the lobby of a theater…some people said, “I thought you were in Mexico City on your honeymoon.” And come to find out there was, in a Mexican paper, that I was eloped and was coming there to get married. And they had a hotel suite reserved and all that stuff. I didn’t even know the girl I was supposed to be married to. Things like that happen.
Q: Elvis, most show people have superstitions. Do you have any particular superstitions?
E: Well I’m pretty superstitious about certain…are you talking about black cats and things like that?
Q: I was just wondering if you had any particular (superstitions)…
E: No, just little things, like breaking mirrors, things like that…photographers… who said that?…that’s your line…
Q: Elvis, do you still consider (Anita Wood?) just a friend?
E: Well, yeah. I mean I see her quite a bit, but it’s nothing really…really serious. I see a lot of people quite a bit.
The photographers are taking pictures of each other now.
Q: Elvis, do you do much thinking ahead …
E: Quite a bit …
Q: …or do you let things take their course? What do you see as your place in the world ten years from now?
E: Well ah, I’ll tell you Mr. Johnson, I wouldn’t say, because the entertainment world is so unpredictable and people change and times change…it would be hard to say really…I wouldn’t try to answer that, because… The only thing I can say is that I’m trying to make it acting, you know, and it takes a long time and a lot of work and a lot of experience…but I’m trying to make it that way and if I can get established that way, I’m okay…but I don’t know how long the music end of it will last. I don’t know how long I’ll last…I got no idea, really.
Q: Now you only have two personal (appearances…concerts?) planned. Do you plan to go barnstorming again in the future?
E: Well, the Colonel could probably answer that better than I…there’s nothing planned right now…I know that eventually we’ve got to do a European tour, to all these countries like…that presented these awards and things, you know…but I don’t know exactly…
Are we going to be doing any…
Q: We’re waiting for….(?)
E: He said that. I didn’t say that.
Q: What’s your weight now, Elvis?
Q: What were you when you came out of the Army?
E: 175, when I came out. I’ve gained about 5 pounds.
Q: Elvis, you lead such a hectic life, I imagine. Do you ever wish you could just take your money and get away from it all?
E: The devil won’t let me take my money. No, I enjoy it…anytime I want to be alone, I can be…you know.
Q: Well I know it must be pretty hectic…
E: But these are the type things that you take advantage of while they last..you know, you take advantage of it because you might not have it later, and you’ll miss it…you know…you miss the people, you miss all the razzle-dazzle and so forth…but I have a pretty good time…so far.
Q: Always feel like home when you get back to Memphis?
E: Yes sir it does. It sure does. That’s one reason that I’ll keep a home here, because…I mean I like California…I like to work there. When a picture’s over it’s…I look forward to gettin’ out of there and coming back home. And also I’m right near Tupelo and I know a lot of people down there…the same old crowd that I was raised up with still live there in the same houses. I was down there about 3 weeks ago and the wind had blown the sign down..they got, where that youth center is being built…they got a big sign up, and the wind had blown it down and we tried to put it back up and it fell on us, there was 3 of us trying to lift it back up and the sign fell on us.
Q: When do you anticipate the youth center being built?
E: I couldn’t tell you…it’s going to take a lot of money…but it will be, eventually…I couldn’t say when.
Q: …the population is increasing…
E: Well we got a couple of little mules.
Q: How about ….. ( ? )
E: He’s still there.
Q: ….( question about the bassett hound which appeared on TV with Elvis)
E: No ah, that was Frank Sinatra’s dog. He’s givin’ me answers…no
Q: How many cars you got, Elvis?
E: I have four. Two of ‘em are new…two of ‘em are…one of ‘em, the pink car was the one that my mother liked, you know, above all so that’s why I kept it and another one…
Q: Is that a Cadillac?
E: Yes sir…it’s the first one I ever owned.
Q: Elvis, do you still like sports cars?
E: No sir…not especially. I had one in Germany and they can get you in a lot of trouble……especially if you’re in the Army.
You running out of tape?
Q: How many songs you going to sing this afternoon?
E: I believe around 20…yes…I just do the biggest ones, you know…the older ones…if I can remember the words to ‘em.
Q: What’s been your greatest thrill in show business, Elvis?
E: Well, it’s hard to say, ah…I’ve had quite a few things happen, but I can’t name any one instance that stands out really.
I would imagine, when I got the first gold record…because that’s something I never thought would ever happen.
Q: What was it?
E: “Heartbreak Hotel.” Yes.
THERE'S MORE TO COME SOON.