Friday, April 27, 2018

Elvis - The King of Hollywood Part One

                              Part One
                          by Don Wilson

Being a legend like Elvis Presley, the looks, the hits, and his image - it's easy to overlook his movies. Elvis made thirty-one feature films and two documentaries. Elvis wanted to be a film actor as much as he wanted to be a performer. Elvis grew increasingly upset as the years rolled along and an endless cookie-cutter mentality was created after the success of his biggest picture, "Blue Hawaii" in 1961. 

Elvis looking perplexed on the set of "Blue Hawaii".

Paramount Pictures' legendary Hal Wallis and Elvis' manager Colonel Tom Parker were behind these cookie cutters. One of the first films to try and duplicate the success was "Girls! Girls! Girls!"  Elvis said to co-star Stella Stevens " Why knock success?" In 1962, Elvis could say that, but he hoped for better projects. At the time, according to Stevens, Elvis seemed upset at her for the suggestion of doing stage plays and honing his acting chops. 
Actress Stella Stevens with Elvis in a promo poses in 1962.

Let's go back to 1956, the beginning of Elvis' dream of being a good actor, he had said "I wouldn't care for singing in the movies." He took an acting test as well as another test filmed in color performing "Blue Suede Shoes" with a prop guitar - no strings. He passed the audition. Elvis was first offered a part in "The Rainmaker" with Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn, but to the promising star's dismay, Paramount loaned him out to 20th Century Fox to film "The Reno Brothers". 
Elvis in a publicity pose for "Love Me Tender".

A Civil War tune called "Aura Lee" was transformed by songwriter Vera Matson with original lyrics - it became the title song of the movie. Producers were so elated by the song that they renamed the movie "Love Me Tender" and added three more songs., "Let Me", "We're Gonna Move" and "Poor Boy", complete with some gyrations on a couple of them. Yet, Elvis pulled it off.

The film co-starred Debra Paget, whom Elvis fell for. At the time, Paget was dating Howard Hughes. Cliff Gleaves witnessed  Hughes following Elvis as he tried to win Debra's heart, but her mother would have no part of it. In the end, Elvis gave up. They did appear on "The Milton Berle Show" together. The film actually starred Richard Egan and the supporting cast included William Campbell and James Drury, who in a few years became TV's "The Virginian".

Elvis gave a good acting job in "Love Me Tender". Actually, if the three songs weren't included, it may have been a different beginning for Elvis. Ray Manzarek, the founder of The Doors cited "Love Me Tender" as his favorite film and told me that it was also Jim Morrison's favorite picture.

Elvis performs "Mean Woman Blues" in "Loving You", 1957.

The second film was for Paramount, "Loving You" tailor-made for Elvis by writer Hal Kanter. Kanter followed elvis around on tour and back to his home in Memphis to get a feel of Elvis' life. This is a fun gem and a classic picture. A great supporting cast for Elvis here, Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey, James Gleason, and the lovely Dolores Hart. Some good tunes and a hit album. The hit songs "Teddy Bear" and "Loving You" are featured as well as the unforgettable "Mean Woman Blues". A lot of exuberance in this picture, even with the extras.

"Loving You" is a must for Elvis fans and those who have an interest in Elvis' life, though fiction, it mirrors some aspects of his life, such as his personality and good nature. It also captures the rebel Elvis and features Elvis' parents Vernon and Gladys Presley in the final song, they are in the audience cheering him on. 

Elvis with co-star Judy Tyler, who didn't live long enough to see the picture released.

The third picture is for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, the title was "Jailhouse Rock". Elvis' pal George Klein told me that it was really the big time at MGM, Elvis had Clark Gable's dressing room. George spotted some Western stars there like Glenn Strange and Bob Steele, Elvis held up shooting for a bit so he could talk with them.

The formula at this time seemed good, a handful of songs, instead of a dozen and a good story. Again, Elvis had a good supporting cast and classic songs, the title song and "Baby, I Don't Care". By the way, that's Elvis doing the bass runs on that recording.  The beautiful song "Young and Beautiful" was sung to Elvis' leading lady, Judy Tyler. Tragically, Judy Tyler was killed on her honeymoon in a car crash. 

According to George Klein, Elvis came to his house and told Klein's mother that he had to talk with George. When he came to the door, Elvis was quiet. Klein asked what was wrong. Elvis said, G.K., Let's go for a ride. After a few moments, Elvis said "Judy Tyler got killed on her honeymoon." Elvis was very distraught, he liked Tyler very much, and then she was gone. They just drove around Memphis together so Elvis could wrap his head around the reality.

George Klein, a close friend to Elvis, pictured with him, in 1957.

"Jailhouse Rock" is a true classic and is enshrined in the Library of Congress to be preserved as a significant element of our cultural history. It's a must for any Elvis fan and film collector alike. Elvis does an impressive job. Alex Romero choreographed the dance number of the title song after Elvis showed him his moves. Romero incorporated it and it was easy for Elvis. essentially, it is the very first music video - long before MTV.

Elvis in a promo still for "King Creole" in 1958.
Elvis was drafted to the U.S. Army and asked for a deferment for making his fourth movie, "King Creole". The part was intended for James Dean, as a boxer. Of course, Dean was killed in a traffic accident in 1955. It was a custom fit for Elvis as a singer in New Orleans. "King Creole" is the best of the Presley canon. Not only that, it was the only film that Elvis would really talk about, he was proud of the film, and justly so.

Without getting very much into the storyline, it is simply the film, if you would have any film to show Elvis' acting ability and great musical performances, this movie gives it. Top actors and actresses complement each other and, of course, Elvis: Walter Matthau, Carolyn Jones, Dolores Hart (once again) Vic Morrow, Jan Shepard, Dean Jagger and Raymond Bailey (the future 'Mr. Drysdale' on "The Beverly Hillbillies".

The grit and atmosphere of New Orleans, the music, the underbelly crime element of the city, the good and the bad, it's all here. The critics loved it and if Elvis would have stayed on this path, the road to his films would have been different. The film yielded two memorable hits "Trouble" and the hit "Hard Headed Woman"

Elvis poses for RCA in 1961.

There are many reasons to call Elvis, The King of Hollywood. Of course, Clark Gable was The King, and sadly he passed away in 1960, as The Rock and Roll King came back to Hollywood. Elvis admired Gable very much and according to Cliff Gleaves, Elvis called him a "Man's Man". As the saying goes, "The King is Dead, Long live the King." 

No one but Elvis could have pulled off the future weak scripts and still come away from success. In the mid-sixties, Elvis told his friend Larry Geller that he wanted to give it all up at one point, the movies and his career. Larry talked Elvis out of it. By this time he was deeper in his spiritual quest. something that Colonel Parker was threatened by, but that is another story in this series.

I hope you enjoyed the first story in this series, I won't touch on all of his movies, but the very best to be noticed and seen once again with fresh eyes. Glen Campbell told me in 2001: "When Elvis was making those movies in the '60s, I thought they were pretty hokey. But now, when I see them on TV, they're really cool!"

It's reassessment time, a time to look back and see some hidden gems and learn some rarely known instances and facts concerning Elvis' film career.  When many film stars were going on location in other parts of the world, Elvis kept working in Hollywood, and not only that, he kept many others working there at the same time.

In Part Two, I will explore the early 60's and Elvis finding his place in that new world. The quiet times and the times when Elvis knocked the door down yet again, to an unsuspecting public.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Elvis - The Searcher (Review)


                        by Don Wilson

***1/2 stars out of 5
I just watched the premiere of Elvis Presley: The Searcher on HBO. The production was very good, although it is not "definitive" as Priscilla Presley was quoted as saying. The title throws me, Elvis was a searcher but spiritually. There was a lot left out of Elvis' story, however it is a nice enhancement for a fans collection.
Priscilla Presley spoke well and hit the mark on certain areas of Elvis' life. Jerry Schilling was heard throughout the special as were some Sony producers and writers who did not know Elvis. A great surprise was Red West, very close to Elvis for many years, he was never before included on a EPE production past Elvis' death.
The producers should have included George Klein, Patsy Presley, Richard Davis and other pals, a co-star here and there. I commend the producers for using interviews of Sam Phillips, Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, Tony Brown and Ronnie Tutt. No mention of Joe Esposito or archival interview. It can't be definitive without other voices close to Elvis.
Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty did well, but I would have also liked to have heard more voices of those close to the subject, more of Elvis' words as well. Steve Binder, Chris Beard and Bones Howe were very important to this special presentation, as was Mike Stoller.
The special promised never before seen footage. There were some photos, a handful that I never saw. The footage of Elvis shot by Joe Esposito was used before except some clips here and there.
Footage of Elvis on the train in 1960, on movie sets and American Sound Studios were good. The footage of Elvis performing "Burning Love" for MGM's cameras was a standout. Which reminds me of the hours of MGM footage that has not been released as of yet from "Elvis: That's The Way It Is" and "Elvis On Tour" ?
When will MGM and EPE release this footage? There is definitely a market for it! The 50's footage of Elvis at Magnolia Gardens in Houston was used before, as was June Juanico's home movies, as well as Eddie Fadal's.
The footage of Elvis on the set of "Viva Las Vegas" I saw before as well as the clips from Long Beach in 1964. However, it is good to have all of these clips together and some 70's footage of "An American Trilogy".
The special is very good, but it could have been better and even 30 minutes longer with rare concert footage. That's why I gave three and a half stars. For the novice fan, it's a good introduction of Elvis, to the long time fan, it leaves you wanting more.
Towards the end of the program Priscilla spoke of Elvis searching for answers. A interview with close friend Larry Geller who assisted Elvis on his spiritual quest should have been inserted.
Perhaps, it this is a great success, which I wish for projects on Elvis, more footage of the man himself will be released to the public and original fans who have been waiting.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Burt Reynolds in The Last Movie Star

I just screened "The Last Movie Star" starring Burt Reynolds. In many ways Burt is just that. Sure, there are other legends of the Silver Screen, like Clint Eastwood, but, he is behind the cameras now. Before I tell you of the screening, I will give you some background why this film was emotional to me.

Growing up, I had three movie heroes Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. I didn't meet The Duke, I missed him by 15 minutes in 1976. I did meet Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood. Those film stars I hoped to meet when I moved to Hollywood twenty-five years ago.
Meeting Burt was something people always hope to do when they go to Hollywood. In my case, it was 1998, I went to Beverly Hills. I had just done a Hollywood Show at the Beverly Garland Hotel and left early. I wanted to pick up two new VHS releases, one being a widescreen copy of "Deliverance" and "Some Like It Hot". Little did I know, when I drove down Wilshire Boulevard that day, I would meet my movie hero.

My former wife was with me and our three year old son. Across the street from the Hollywood Video store is the El Rey Theatre and in big letters on the marquee it read "Starring Burt Reynolds". I found out later that Burt was there to shoot a Kodak commercial.

As I drove into the back parking lot, I noticed a guy that looked like Burt Reynolds - it was Burt Reynolds. He had posed in a group shot with the employees of the video store and he was walking to his limo, when I jumped out of my car and shouted "Hey Burt!". He turned around and walked towards us. He was chewing gum like he did dozens of times in his films.

Burt said "Yeah, what's up?" I mentioned how much we admired him and loved his films. He was pleased and smiled. He said"Even this little guy?" We assured him that he did. I asked him to pose for some photos. He said "Sure!" He posed with my wife and son. Burt then posed with me.

Burt asked where we were from. I said "We live here." He said, "But, you're not from here." I told him of my aspirations of working in the film business. He warned me that this town could build you up and then chew you up and spit you out.

I asked Burt advice for a actor. He said "Never give up! I went to 499 auditions and they turned me down flat. I got my first job after all those tries. Clint Eastwood and I were fired they same day. They said Clint's Adam's Apple was too big and they told me 'You can't act!' I told Clint, 'I can always learn to act, but you can't get rid of that Adam's Apple!'

I told Burt that I believed that he was going to win the Golden Globe the next day, he didn't seem to believe he would. He did. He hadn't even seen the film "Boogie Nights" and didn't want to do it. we talked about quite a few things that afternoon, including the South,"Smokey And The Bandit" and Elvis.

I met a lot of stars in Hollywood, but Burt Reynolds was the most down to earth. Burt took time for us, something not many stars these days would do. He alluded to offers that he turned down, some mistakes. He wished us well and wished me luck with my career. He said to me that once I was done, find a place of quiet and go back to the South.

This brings me to "The Last Movie Star". I viewed the film with my girlfriend on our big screen, we popped the popcorn and settled back. I don't want to give away everything, so I will just touch on it, here and there.Burt conveyed how it feels to grow older and look back on your life. His character, 'Vic Edwards' seems lonely. He is still young at heart, but visibly older and he uses a cane. He plays a character much like himself, a one time major star, someone many still feel is a living legend. The younger crowd just doesn't seem to get it.

He's invited to an awards show/film festival in Nashville, but doesn't want to go, but his pal, Chevy Chase talks him into it. It's not what he expected, from there on, it becomes a visit to his past and also a self realization of himself. The characters that the actors and actresses portray will touch you. The film was exceptionally cast. You will laugh and you will cry. It is a must for film lovers and fans of Mr. Reynolds.

The film is available on Direct TV Cinema, on Blu-ray and will be released in theaters on March 30. Catch it, you will be glad that you did. Burt Reynolds should be nominated for an Oscar - and win it!
- Don Wilson

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Remembering Joe Esposito

Remembering My Friend Joe Esposito:     Elvis' Foreman Of The Memphis Mafia

by Don Wilson

HOLLYWOOD,CA.:November 29, 2016 -- It was just the day before Thanksgiving, like any other day really. That morning, my friend Joe Esposito crossed my mind and I hoped he was doing okay. I thought "It would be good to see him and talk with him." I last saw Joe in Las Vegas this past April. I had seen some rumors online that Joe had passed away, I called Shirley Dieu immediately, but I couldn't get through, so I sent her a text. Shirley replied "Joe has left us."

Joe had passed away that morning. I contacted Larry Geller, Mindi Miller and Patsy Andersen-Presley. We could all relate to the loss of our mutual friend. It reminded me of another day, when Elvis passed away. It's been almost a week now and it's difficult to wrap around my head that I won't be able to talk and see him again.

Joe Esposito and Elvis Presley in  1970.
I first met Joe in 1970, Colonel Tom Parker had made arrangements for my dad and I to see Elvis for a few moments during his engagement at the Astrodome. I was 9-years-old at the time. To meet with Elvis in many cases, you first met Joe Esposito. Joe was a longtime friend that Elvis had met while they both were in the Army. Elvis offered Joe a job with him, instead of Esposito returning to his home town of Chicago. Joe accepted and became the foreman of the fabled Memphis Mafia and later Elvis' road manager from 1969-1977.

Little did I know at that first meeting how important Joe Esposito would be in my life and what a good friend he would be to me in my life. I saw Joe quite a few times after that meeting. Joe escorted me to see Elvis a few months after my parents and sister were killed in a train accident. He was there as Elvis told me, trying to console me, saying: "A great philosopher once said: 'To live in the hearts that we leave behind - is not to die."

Don Wilson and Joe Esposito at the Memphis Airport.

I have a flood of memories of Joe Esposito, lots of serious moments, some funny stories and memories of Elvis that he sahred, that I will never tell, because they are private. 

I also remember the business side of Joe and how intense and protective of Elvis he was. Some days I though he was tough, but he was looking out for Elvis. He may say "No pictures today." Joe Esposito did a fantastic job for Elvis, his loyalty lasted until he last day.  

Joe Esposito, Don Wilson and Charlie Hodge in Nashville, Tennessee in 2001.

In 2000, I was working on a documentary series called "The Definitive Elvis", what was to be 16 episodes. I was setting up and conducting interviews and doing good. I had gone to see Custom Car builder George Barris and he said "You should come around in a couple of days, Joe Esposito will be here."

I did talk with Joe and I told him what I was doing, I suggested that he come on board with the project. Joe did come down to the office and he met the CEO that afternoon. He agreed to participate. We were now both Production Consultants for the series and I saw him on a day to day basis until 2002.

Don Wilson and Joe Esposito atop the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas in 2001.

It was work and it was fun, he's say: "Who did you get for an interview?" I replied "Glen Campbell." He'd say "I got "Mac Davis." It was a friendly competition of sorts. Once he said "I got Kenny Rogers, we meet him at the Hilton in Vegas. Who'd you get this time?" I said "Eddy Arnold, when we go to Nashville." Joe was stunned. He said "You got Eddy Arnold, he won't talk about The Colonel! Joe came by Eddy's office when I did the interview and then he said: "He talked about The Colonel. How did you do that?" I loved to surprise him.

Joe Esposito and Mac Davis in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Don Wilson

Whoever came down for an interview, whether he set it up or I did, I noticed one thing: Everybody loved Joe and being around him. So did I. I wore a gold shirt and a gold tie before we went to Cassandra Peterson's house and Joe asked "Where's the show?" I said "I gotta look good for Elvira!"

Cassandra Peterson and Joe Esposito in Hollywood in 2001. Photo: Don Wilson

Joe would put everyone at ease if they were nervous. One young lady who was nervous was Joe's daughter, Cindy Esposito. At the time, she had never been in front of a camera. She spoke of playing with Lisa Marie Presley when they were both little. We never used the interview, but I still have it.

We'd leave each other notes, he's fax information and his schedules that he set up for interviews and I did the same. I kept them all. Over 200 interviews were done, I conducted most of them and then I said "Joe, You ask some questions too. He was reluctant at first, then he began to enjoy it!"

Mindi Miller and Joe Esposito in 2001. Photo: Don Wilson

Joe didn't like to pose for a lot of pictures, I kept a camera on hand and I talked to him saying: "Joe, You haven't seen this person for a long time, lets' get a shot." He'd never ask for a photo, I would ask for one with me and with Joe and he's say "Okay." Thankfully, I did that because a lot of photographs with Joe and friends exist now, that didn't before.

Jerry Weintraub and Joe Esposito. Photo: Don Wilson

One poignant interview was with Jerry Weintraub, a concert promoter for Elvis. We met at Weintraub's Warner Brothers office and went over the years he had working with Elvis, Colonel Parker and of course, Joe. When the subject of Elvis' death came up, we all went back and we were all in tears.

I remember Joe was on a diet and he said "You are going to help me!" I said, "But, Joe I don't need to lose weight." Joe continued, wherever we go and whatever we order, you eat half and I will eat half. It will work!" That's what we did and it did work! Once we went to a 7-11 store and he got a Popsicle and broke off half and gave it to me. Joe looked and me and said: "Half of everything!"

 I remember we ate at a lot of Italian restaurants and he loved seafood too. He did pick on me, once when we were in Nashville, Joe found a seafood place. "It's the best in town! he said. I ordered a steak. He said "This is the best seafood place in town and you order a steak!" He shook his head and smiled.

Joe and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville the next day. I noticed a lot of photos with Elvis and Joe on display with some artifacts. I sat down to order. The waitress took my order first. I said "You have a lot of photos of Elvis with his road manager, Joe Esposito." Joe kicked me under the table, he didn't want attention. I said "Meet my friend his name is Joe too, he met Elvis once!" She smiled and say "Oh, really? What was he like?" Joe answered "Oh, he was nice..." She said "Oh, that's great! I will go get your orders." Joe said "Don, I'm gonna get you for that!" I said "Joe, That was funny! Little did she know." Jo said "yeah, it was kinda funny..."

Folsom Prison close to Sacramento, California.

One time when we went to Joe's house in El Dorado Hills, California we were eating breakfast and he said "You want to go to Folsom Prison? You like Johnny Cash, let's go there. It's just up the road from here." So, we went to Folsom Prison. Joe said "We can't go in, I'm sure we really don't want to go in!" We stood there awhile and then he said "Okay, let's go!" We went to Joe's house and he gave me a tour. He pulled out a jacket from 1969 and said "This is what I wore when Elvis came back to Vegas. Can you believe I wore that? I couldn't now. Maybe I can if this diet works!"

It seems we were always on the go, Nashville, Memphis, Las Vegas - wherever they was a story or an interview to do. I would have my cell phone near me at all times and I would hear that familiar voice: "Hello Don, This is Joe. Are you up? Meet me downstairs and we will have breakfast. We have work to do!"

Joe Esposito, Niecy Green, Don Wilson and Shirley Dieu in Las Vegas.

I last saw Joe Esposito this past April in Las Vegas. I had been talking with Shirley Dieu, his former girlfriend during Joe's days with Elvis. Shirley stayed a close friend until the end. My girlfriend and I visited Shirley at her home and she said "I will call you in the morning if you can have breakfast with Joe and I."

I received a call from Shirley and we went to the restaurant and shortly thereafter they both pulled up and we had a nice breakfast. I told my usual jokes and Joe would laugh and say "Now, that's funny!" He had lost a lot of weight and wasn't feeling too good, but he had that spark in his eyes, as he always had. I am glad I was able to see Joe that last time. Thanks Shirley.

It hasn't sunk in just yet. Joe told me that after Elvis died that it didn't sink in until much later. He was doing some paperwork and it just hit him. I hope that you have enjoyed some of my personal memories of Joe. I had to wait a bit before I could write about them. I could write a book here, but I will close. My hope is that you could see a bit of the Joe that I knew. He was a helluva guy, respectful, a trusted friend, a problem solver, he looked after his friends. He was the epitome of a good friend and he had a big heart. We miss him and we love him. The world won't be the same without him. Thank God we have the memories. Elvis used to say "There is a reason for everything." So, maybe there is a reason I have written this piece about Joe.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Clint Eastwood - The Grand Marshal

       Clint Eastwood Rides Shotgun In Parade!

          by Don Wilson

Clint Eastwood riding shotgun on a Wells Fargo Stagecoach in the Carmel Centennial Parade. Photo: Don Wilson 

HOLLYWOOD, CA: November 1, 2016 -- Clint Eastwood, 86, the movie icon and legend made a rare appearance on Saturday in Carmel By The Sea. Eastwood has made Carmel his home for decades and served as the town's mayor for one term from 1986-1988. Eastwood, the Grand Marshal, was riding shotgun atop a Wells Fargo Stagecoach and rode down the city streets ending on San Carlos. The event was the Centennial Celebration of Carmel By The Sea.

Clint Eastwood's attire was iconic in itself:  The hat from "Unforgiven", the poncho from the Man With No Name trilogy: "A Fistful Of Dollars", "For A Few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly". The boots and spurs?  Eastwood wasn't sure, but guessed they were from his time on the TV series "Rawhide". When asked what he was looking forward to, he replied "Lunch!"

                           Video: Clint Eastwood rides the Carmel By The Sea Centennial Parade

The following video footage is of Clint Eastwood climbing down from the Wells Fargo Stagecoach at the end of the parade, on San Carlos. Eastwood graciously met with fans and began signing autographs. Fans began to push forward and security around the legend escorted him away. This raw footage was as close as possible. Apologies that the video began shooting vertically, then horizontally to achieve widescreen. It didn't work. However a corrected widescreen video is posted below the original video here:

                                                                   Original Video

                                                              Corrected Widescreen


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Rolling Stones in Vegas (Review)

The Rolling Stones Rock Las Vegas!

Mick Jagger Christens It The "Rat Pack Tour!"

by Don Wilson

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Review Journal

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: October 23, 2016 -- The Rolling Stones took to the stage last night at T-Mobile Arena here in Sin City. They arrived on stage around 8:20 p.m. The lights went down and cheering and screams immediately erupted. A disembodied voice strongly proclaimed "Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones!" Keith Richards took center stage and picked out the familiar strains of a Rock Anthem - "Jumpin' Jack Flash" Mick Jagger was in fine voice. The band played with such vigor, it was if this standard was a new song!

The Rolling Stones performing a rousing "Jumpin' Jack Flash".

Jagger greeted the crowd saying: "Hi Las Vegas! It's nice to be back here after all this time. It's great to be playing this brand new arena! It's sort of like our Rat Pack tour, playing Palm Spring and Vegas! Then the band tore into "It's Only Rock And Roll"

Hit after hit that became classic Rock and Roll Standards. Here The Stones perform "Tumbling Dice":

The Rolling Stones were scheduled to perform on Wednesday night, the same night as the presidential debate, also held in Las Vegas. The Stones cancelled with an announcement that Jagger had come down with laryngitis. Jagger apologized to the fans for the Wednesday night cancellation in the following video:

Mick Jagger: "I'm really sorry we had to cancel Wednesday's show. I want to apologize to anyone who had to change their plans. But, I guess there was another show in town on Wednesday. Was it a comedy or a tragedy? Anyway, we went into the studio recently and cut a few blues tunes. This is one of them, from our new album, Blue And Lonesome."

The Rolling Stones performed "Ride 'Em On Down" and then Mick spoke about new teams rumored to be coming to the Las Vegas area. Jagger joked around some to a very receptive crowd and then Keith Richards started picked out a classic from the psychedelic era fifty years ago. The Stones' 1966 hit, "Paint It Black". A woman standing yelled "That's my favorite fucking song!"

The Rolling Stones "Paint It Black"!

The Stones went into "Honky Tonk Women" and the crowd went back to 1969. It's amazing how the band can stay fresh and play with such enthusiasm. Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood traded more guitar licks with much fervor. The Stones jammed out with longer solos than they have done in the past. It is clearly evident to this writer that The Rolling Stones are the greatest and truest Rock And Roll band touring today!

A sea of fans wearing  Rolling Stones shirts filled the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas!

Jagger spoke to the fans again saying: "Thank you so much! Fantastic! Is everyone having a great time in Vegas? I went to see David Copperfield, he made me disappear for the whole of Wednesday! Ronnie took the twins on the Big Apple Coaster, and they were sick all over him. Charlie went to see the Midnight idol, Wayne Newton, and sold him a horse!"

Introductions by Mick Jagger.

Mick introduced the band and Keith Richards performed three songs starting with "Slipping Away" and then went straight into this favorite Richards tune.

                       "Little T And A".

The Stones performed"Happy" Richards on lead vocal, put his hand over his heart and said he loved the audience. 

Mick took a break and came back performing the best rendition of "Midnight Rambler" that I have ever seen. With harmonica in hand Jagger jammed with the band. The guitar licks tore through you and that steady beat of Charlie Watts made the performance mesmerizing as you can see in the following video:

                                                      Mick and The Stones tell you about the Midnight Rambler"!

Jagger asked the crowd if they'd like to sing a bit and their response proved they did on the 1978 hit "Miss You". The Stones were giving their fans what they wanted and what they paid for. They obviously still love what they do.

                              "Miss You"

Singer Sasha Allen joined Mick on vocals for the memorable "Gimme Shelter" the crowd gave her rousing applause and she sang with great emotion as did Jagger. One went back to The Rolling Stones film and the events that transpired there at Altamont Speedway Free Festival in December 1969. The film "Gimme Shelter" a documentary about the event was released in 1970. The performance in Vegas almost had a religious feeling to it.

                           "Gimme Shelter!"

The legendary band went into "Start Me Up" that had the audience on their feet with a trip back to the early 80's. The lights turned red and then began a lavish production of "Sympathy Of The Devil" that was very  effective. 

                                                               Mick Jagger pleads for "Sympathy For The Devil".

The Rolling Stones closed with "Brown Sugar" and left the stage. The crowd stomped and clapped and called their names and after a few moments the lights hit upon a choir. Soon the familiar strains of  "You Can't Always Get What You Want" filled the air.

           "You Can't Always Get What Want"

"I Can't Get No Satisfaction" The Stones' Finale.

A reviewer is to be unbiased and critical, but I just brought to you some of my thoughts and some footage of this event. You can judge for yourself, but after a half century and counting these guys are still at the top of the heap and in the game. You can't see a better Rock And Roll show than The Rolling Stones!

Add caption

Sales were brisk for Official Rolling Stones Merchandise.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dolly Parton Shines at The Hollywood Bowl

Dolly Parton Shines At The Hollywood Bowl!

by Don Wilson

Photo Credit: Billboard
HOLLYWOOD,CA.: -- October 2, 2016
Dolly Parton did not disappoint her fans in Hollywood on Saturday night. Dolly's appearance at the famed Hollywood Bowl thrilled fans at the sold out performance. Parton is enjoying success with her latest album "Pure & Simple", which recently hit number one on the charts. The tour is named after the album title.

The marquee at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo: Don Wilson

I moseyed back to the Artist's Entrance and watched the VIP's make their way back to see Parton before her performance. Some didn't make it, as she noted later during the show. They were stuck somewhere or another.

The Artist Entrance at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo: Don Wilson

The concert scheduled at 8:00 p.m. was delayed for a few minutes. So many fans were either milling around outside the Bowl or caught up with incredibly long lines. Roughly everyone was in their seats around 8: 30 p.m. I was anticipating seeing Dolly in person, I have been an admirer of hers since I was a kid watching "The Porter Wagoner Show" on Saturday night Televison.

I saw Dolly's first appearance on Wagoner's show nearly 50 years ago and I remember it like yesterday. Porter's program was one of my favorites when I was growing up, it featured his band The Wagon Masters and Musician/Comedian Speck Rhodes. I had been upset that Wagoner announced that his singing partner Norma Jean was leaving the show, but that quickly was put by the wayside. 

                                        Dolly Parton performs "Mule Skinner Blues" in 1970.

I recall my grandmother was watching the show with me. She said "I don't know if I should send you to the other room D." She said "You are watching her for her singing?"
I asked "What else?" and she said "That hair and those boobs!" At the time, I really was oblivious to what she was saying, I just liked Dolly and all that went with her. That's never changed throughout the years.

Parton came out like gangbusters to a cheering crowd performing the rousing "Train, Train". It set the mood for the nights performance. Parton spoke a lot during her show, she was very frank, funny and always entertaining, sometimes even surprising for her fans. Some highlights from different sources are featured in this article for your enjoyment. Here is an example of Dolly and her rapport with her audience:

Parton told of a woman that influenced her and her image in her hometown. She will portray that woman in the new NBC-TV movie "Christmas Of Many Colors" set to air on November 30. The film is a follow-up to the well received film "Coat Of Many Colors" that aired last year on the same network. The original cast will return in their roles. I will note that the cast was in attendance at Parton's show.

Dolly Parton performed so many songs that I can't list them here. The first leg of the performance lasted 90 minutes, there was a 20 minute intermission and a finale. In this next clip Parton performs "Little Sparrow" which I overheard members of the audience say "That's so sad" and "Wow,that's eerie sounding..." No matter, you could hear a pin drop during the performance, except a couple of fans who yelled or screamed in appreciation.

Dolly changed the mood in one section of her performance. She sat down on a small platform that doubled for her sitting on a porch in her Tennessee mountain home. She wanted to convey that feeling to her audience and it seemed to work. She started by performing "Precious Memories" an old time spiritual.

Next, Parton sang her iconic song "Coat Of Many Colors" and told the story behind her mother making the fabled coat. The song was a major hit when it was first released in 1971 and is closely associated with the music legend which is Dolly Parton.

Dolly picked up the pace and told the story of her monster hit "Jolene". The beauty worked at a bank where her husband Carl Dean frequented and Parton became adamant to leave her alone. She told her husband to "Deal with some hairy legged boys with your business, instead of some long legged beauty!"

Parton picked up a banjo and continued to draw from her well of memories with a song based her her childhood friend Jackson Taylor. Taylor was known as "Apple Jack" to her and the community. Continuing with her banjo Parton took us up to "Rocky Top" and then switched to the fiddle. Her cowboy stagehand  handed her a saxophone and she tore into "Yakety Sax" and then she played it backwards as you can see in this clip:

Parton played the dulcimer as she sang another mega hit from 1973, "My Tennessee Mountain Home", she did seem to transport the Hollywood fans to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I noted some fans tearing up and reaching for tissues.

This writer was hoping she would have performed "Joshua", one of her early hits or "Mule Skinner Blues" even earlier. She didn't, but enough gems were still left to be sung. Dolly did a Gospel medley that ended with "I'll Fly Away" and then there was a 20 minute intermission.

When Parton came back on the stage to perform the second half, she performed "Baby, "Im Burning" and went into "Two Doors Down".

Parton said she was battling a cold, but the audience would never have known. She said twice "It's getting cold!" and it was I felt it too. Nothing would have kept me from this show. The hits kept coming with her first million seller
"Here You Come Again":

I heard the strains of "Islands In The Stream" start up and I heard "Is Kenny Rogers here?" He wasn't, it would have been fun, but Parton held her own as she performed the song.

Parton told the audience how blessed she truly has been. Not only did her dreams come true by making records, singing for crowds and being a member of the Grand Ole Opry - she made movies. She touched on her co-stars and the films like "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas", "Steel Magnolias" and "Joyful Noise". Dolly had fans on their feet for the title song from her hit movie "9 To 5". She thanked her fans for "putting food on the table and rhinestones on my back!"

Parton and her band went into a medley of 60's and 70's standards like "American Pie", "Blowing In The Wind", "If I Had A Hammer" and "The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down". I heard the capacity crowd of the Hollywood Bowl sing along and have a great time.

Parton closed with her classic 1974 hit single "I Will Always Love You". A song originally written as recorded as Dolly was leaving her singing partner Porter Wagoner. The song became the one she usually closes shows with - for her fans. Despite the monster hit recording by Whitney Houston, Dolly's version is my all-time favorite recording.

Yes, I love Dolly Parton and her music. I have met many performers over the years, maybe one day I will meet Ms. Parton. I have mutual friends who know her and adore her.

I could tell you a lot more about the show, but catch Dolly for yourself. Here is her schedule for the remaining dates on this leg of her "Pure & Simple" Tour:

November 15: Pigeon Forge,TN
November 16: Huntsville, AL
November 18: North Charleston, SC
November 19: Charlotte, NC
November 26: Tampa, FL
November 27: Sunrise, FL
November 29: Pensacola, FL
November 30: New Orleans, LA
December 2: Corpus Christi, TX
December 3: Grand Prairie, TX
December 5: Houston,TX

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