Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Elvis Show Must Go On!

Saturday, January 7th, 2006. By the time the curtain dropped on Elvis Show IX in 1998, we had done just about everything. We had singing dentists and insurance agents. We had a kid bring down the house. We had an actual replica of Elvis and Priscilla's wedding cake on stage. I had been brought on stage on a surfboard. There was an Elvis poet who recited poems specially written for the show. We had performed such chartbusters as "Do The Clam" and "Yoga Is As Yoga Does." The last three years were sold-out performances in a 600 seat theater. And then it all ended.

The reasons were many. First there was greed. The owner of the IMAC theater in Huntington had charged us $2500 to rent the room for the past three years. I was lucky enough to find a sponsor every year to cover this cost, so we could donate all of the proceeds to charity. I made my annual call and was told that the fee was going to be double - $5000 - due in part to "trouble he had with a Zen Tricksters show." What that had to do with my show I will never know. But that was just too much money to ask anybody to pony up and I had to find a room that would accomodate what had become a pretty huge undertaking with over 20 musicians and 40 plus singers taking part.

Then a death in the family took a lot of the wind out of our sails. That, combined with some fragile relationships between core band members led to my decision to call it off for that year. Which then turned into an eight year layoff. Thing is it was a lot like hitting your head against the wall - you don't realize how good it feels to stop! Not that it wasn't always a great event - with great people, but it was a lot of work. And when it slipped away, it was easier to let it go then to reel it back in.

Well, it's back.

After getting the call from Scotto I wasn't quite sure that I could put anything together in a week. My current band, The Blaggards, were on a hiatus so that wasn't going to work. Then Scott told me that Mike Bifulco said he was "ready to anything I needed." If that was the case, then what had to be done was obvious - I had to put together the old band - and with a few phone calls, The Purple Gang was set to ride again.

I knew that there would be no problem getting singers involved. Because this happened with such short notice - I only had a week before the gig - I couldn't have an open call like past Elvis shows. So I sent out a few emails to the guys who had been there from the beginning - Tom Ciorciari, Tom Pfeifer, Roy Wilson, Jon Geffner, Mike Drance and Tom Gould. Drance and Geffner called with regrets, but I was glad to get a call from Gary Jude Anderson and Pete Ludivicio, both long time Elvis Show performers. To round it out and continue the Elvis Show tradition, we had a couple of newbies - Bill Walsh and Keith Hille.

We decided that since this was a comeback of sorts, we would pay tribute to the '68 Comeback Special and open the show with an acoustic session. We had two rehersals, one with the band and the singers and one for the acoustic set. Then it was showtime!

The bar, a joint called Drew's in Centerport was small. Really, really small. I was told that it was small, but I had no idea. We set up best we could and hit the stage. The opening set was a blast. We went around trading songs with Memphis Mike slapping away on a Rendezvous ribs box. Then after a short break the band took the stage. It didn't feel like 8 years since I had last played with these guys - and, if I say so myself, it didn't sound like either. We ran through the 30-plus song set without stopping, bringing up each singer with great support from the crowd, which was flowing out through the door. It was fun to watch the expression on some of the regulars who came in wondering what the hell was going on! There were girls dancing on the bar, a rockin' band and great hair everywhere you looked. This was no ordinary Saturday night in Centerport!

Everybody rocked. Gary Jude, recovering from a stroke and walking with a cane, still had boundless energy. New comers Bill Walsh and Keith Hille fit right in and are welcome back anytime. All the regulars - Tom C, Tom P, Tom G, Roy Wilson, Pete - delivered as they always do. Even Scotto got in the act as a guitar was passed around during Little Sister for solos.

I have to really hand it off to the band - Mike Bifulco, who is as good as it gets on guitar; Sean O'Neil, just the go-to guy for something like this; and, of course, Memphis Mike who's love for the music makes everything real. The crowd was great, too. I don't know what it is about the Elvis Show audience, but they just get it. They support everybody who steps on that stage, giving big cheers to all. However I think that the biggest cheer of the night came when I announced that after the eight year layoff, we would be doing the show again on a yearly basis. I'm not saying that it is going to be on the level of the last few Elvis shows, but we'll see what happens.

You can see a clip from this year's show here.

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