CRAVEN LOVELACE: So a funny thing happened to me on the way to my column …
Free Press Music Columnist
When last Craven dallied here in the pages of the Grand Junction Free Press, he was in the midst of a multi-part series on some of the greatest mysteries of pop music. But then circumstances conspired to end Craven’s 13-year stint at KAFM. I won’t delve into that particular “mystery” here (you can read about it elsewhere), but suffice to say Craven owes a great debt to two people for being back in this spot this week (and for the foreseeable future): Free Press editor Tracy Dvorak, whose encouragement and flexibility has always made Craven feel very much at home in the Free Press, and local Realtor Tina Harbin of Real Estate West. Tina’s decades of experience have well established her real estate prowess, but she is also a person dedicated to enriching the Grand Valley’s cultural heritage (and herself a long-time KAFM programmer and former board member), and Craven is deeply indebted to her for her sponsorship.
So where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?
Ah, that’s right — mysteries. Next week, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled look at the bizarre disappearance of a popular British singer and the sitcom star whose intimate peccadillos were made public in a number one single nearly 20 years ago, but while Craven’s mind has been occupied with his coming back to these pages, it has led him to consider what may be the most famous comeback in musical history — Elvis Presley’s justly storied return to superstardom in 1968. While it was radio that made Elvis a phenomenon in the first place, he owed his star’s second ascent to television.
It was on Dec. 3, 1968, that NBC aired a special originally titled simply “Elvis,” but which would come to be known as “The ’68 Comeback Special.” It’s strange to think now that Elvis Presley’s career had essentially dogged by that time. He hadn’t landed a Top Ten hit in three years, and in the wake of British invasion bands, the rise of acid rock and a string of dubious film projects, Elvis was seen by many as a very un-hip has-been. When his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, signed with NBC for the 1968 special, it was expected that Elvis would just sing Christmas carols — but after producer Steve Binder sat in on a recording session with Presley, and watched his easy manner with his fellow musicians, he got the idea to have Elvis perform for a small, live audience with a group of old friends accompanying him.
Elvis hadn’t played live since 1961, and was very nervous — but despite his misgivings, it was the live performance portion of the special that reignited his career. “Elvis” scored huge ratings, and the next year saw Presley return to a hugely successful touring career and Billboard’s Top Ten with his cover of Mac Davis’ “In the Ghetto.”
Craven will “comeback” to the topic of “Pop Music’s Unsolved Mysteries” next Friday. Until then — nice to see you again!
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog and also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog at http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog/. You can also find him on Facebook.
Notes is made possible by Tina Harbin of Real Estate West, the premier resource for all real estate information and services on the Western Slope.
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