The Memphis Boys triumphantly declare hits-filled legacy during Elvis Week

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Get the lowdown along with exclusive photos and videos on the Memphis Boys’ 2014 hometown concert held during Elvis Week at Graceland. The session cats and maverick producer Chips Moman revived Elvis Presley’s moribund recording career with “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” in 1969 at American Sound Studio. In the accompanying still the smoldering 33-year-old matinee idol pauses for a wardrobe fitting in character as resourceful newspaper photographer Greg Nolan between takes of director Norman Taurog’s final film, “Live a Little, Love a Little,” at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Hollywood sometime between March 13 and May 1, 1968. It is debatable whether the beard stubble is genuine, but according to For Elvis CD Collectors forum user Bripet56, the scene can be found when Presley “wakes up after having slept for three days on Bernice [Michele Carey]´s couch, and the white sport shirt is the one he wears just before singing ‘Edge of Reality.’” Image Credit: FECC messageboard / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

It was a long time coming for the Memphis Boys, the band solely responsible for resurrecting Elvis Presley’s moribund recording career in the spring of 1969 with incendiary jewels like “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Don’t Cry Daddy,” and “Kentucky Rain.”

Mere hours after basking in the limelight of a hometown ceremony bestowing historical marker status on the location where American Studios once stood before being unceremoniously torn down in 1989 and rebuilt as a Family Dollar store, pianist Bobby Wood, organist Bobby Emmons, drummer Gene Chrisman, and guitarist Reggie Young returned to the Graceland property on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, for their first concert at Presley’s beloved home since Elvis Week two years earlier. Or more precisely, the Elvis Week Main Stage was directly across Elvis Presley Boulevard from the Graceland mansion.

With all tickets reserved as general admission for $40, the rare hits-packed performance was attended by fiercely independent producer Chips Moman, who encouraged his musical comrades from the front row. Incidentally, two other renowned musicians, Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood and saxophone player Jim Horn [e.g. the Beatles, John Denver, Eric Clapton], were onstage, preferring to stay in the shadows.

The exhilarating, sold out concert in the 1,200 seat air-conditioned venue was fronted by Terry Mike Jeffrey — also supplying acoustic guitar — Scat Springs, and Jennifer Chi, who took vocal turns throughout the evening depending upon the musical genre. Springs displayed a propensity for squeezing every ounce of emotion from a soul lyric.

The Memphis Boys are capable of tackling soul, rock, pop, country, gospel, and jazz with nary a drop of perspiration, having supported such diverse artists as B.J. Thomas, Neil Diamond, The Box Tops, Billy Swan, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, James & Bobby Purify, Bobby Womack, Dobie Gray, Crystal Gayle, Dusty Springfield, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson.

All were represented in the nearly two-hour show — including intermission. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll frequently covered many of the afore-mentioned artists, so Elvis Week fans didn’t mind if the Memphis Boys casually threw in Thomas’s “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” Swan’s “I Can Help,” Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” or Nelson’s devastatingly fragile “Always on My Mind.”

It was not uncommon to spot the musicians sneaking smiles of unmitigated joy at one another as the crowd showed their appreciation in spades. Wood jumped during the introductory verse of Elvis’ “Any Day Now,” causing Emmons to playfully reciprocate. Impromptu dancing and audience sing-alongs were rampant.

“Suspicious Minds” songwriter Mark James was name-checked early in the evening by SiriusXM deejay Argo, the master of ceremonies who provided insightful commentary between most songs. During the “Suspicious Minds” finale — the ultimate show closer aside from the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” — James was invited onstage by Jeffrey. James gamely took over lead vocal duties on the final chorus and shattered fans’ perceptions with his soulful interpretation.

Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is long overdue for the Memphis Boys. Only Wood, Chrisman, and Young survive. Emmons, the band’s unsung most valuable player, lamentably passed away a mere six months after rockin’ Elvis Week of an undisclosed blood-related illness in a Nashville hospital at age 72, followed over the ensuing two years by Moman and bassist-arranger Mike Leech.

Setlist: The Memphis Boys in Concert, August 13, 2014, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

  1. Mystery Train” [Instrumental; Elvis Presley, No. 11 C&W, 1955]
  2. Wearin’ That Loved on Look” [From Elvis in Memphis, 1969]
  3. Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” [Neil Diamond, No. 22 POP, 1969]
  4. Holly Holy” [Neil Diamond, No. 6 POP, 1969]
  5. Sweet Caroline” [Neil Diamond — No. 4 POP 1969 — also covered onstage by Elvis Presley in 1970]
  6. Cry Like a Baby” [The Box Tops feat. Alex Chilton, No. 2 POP, 1968]
  7. Always on My Mind” [co-written by Mark James; recorded by Elvis Presley — No. 16 C&W 1972 — and Willie Nelson — No. 5 POP, No. 1 C&W, 1982]
  8. I Can Help” [Billy Swan, No. 1 POP, No. 1 C&W, 1974, also covered by Elvis Presley]
  9. I Gotcha” [Joe Tex, No. 2 POP, No. 1 R&B, 1972]
  10. I’m a Midnight Mover” [Wilson Pickett, No. 24 POP, No. 6 R&B, 1968]
  11. I’m in Love” [written by Bobby Womack for Wilson Pickett, No. 45 POP, No. 4 R&B, 1968]
  12. Shake a Tail Feather” [James & Bobby Purify, No. 25 POP, No. 15 R&B, 1967]
  13. Rubberneckin’” [Elvis Presley, B-side of “Don’t Cry, Daddy,” 1969, remixed by deejay Paul Oakenfold in 2003]
  14. Son of a Preacher Man” [Dusty Springfield, No. 10 POP, 1968]
  15. I Just Can’t Help Believing” [B.J. Thomas; also covered by Elvis Presley, No. 9 POP, 1970]
  16. Hooked on a Feeling” [written by Mark James for B.J. Thomas, No. 5 POP, 1968]
  17. Luckenbach, Texas” [abbreviated version; written by Chips Moman and Bobby Emmons for Waylon Jennings, No. 25 POP, No. 1 C&W, 1977]
  18. Talking in Your Sleep” [abbreviated version; co-written by Bobby Wood for Crystal Gayle, No. 18 POP, No. 1 C&W, 1978]
  19. Drift Away” [Dobie Gray, No. 5 POP, 1973]
  20. Any Day Now” [Elvis Presley and Ronnie Milsap, B-side of “In the Ghetto,” 1969]
  21. Kentucky Rain” [written by Eddie Rabbitt for Elvis Presley, No. 16 POP, 1970]
  22. In the Ghetto” [Elvis Presley, No. 3 POP, 1969]
  23. Suspicious Minds” [written by Mark James for Elvis Presley, No. 1 POP, 1969]

© Jeremy Roberts, 2014, 2018. All rights reserved. To touch base, email jeremylr@windstream.net and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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