Elvis Presley And Politicians, And Jungle Room Music!

On August 16, 1977 Elvis died at Graceland.

To honor the greatest showman and entertainer I present photos, with Elvis and President Nixon, President Carter and Rosalyn, and from 1971 Elvis with Congressman George H.W. Bush.

It should be noted that each year it can be said, as it was in this quote from 2015…”Of all the millions of historical photographs held by the US National Archives, the photo (the formal posing of EP and RN ) is the single most requested. It was captured in the Oval Office on December 21, 1970, and shows Elvis Presley meeting then US President Richard Nixon.”

The music lives on, and it is best turned up high on the stereo! Over the many years…decades, actually…the Graceland Sessions have truly provided for me the professional range and diversity of Elvis from the 1970’s. In the recent past the raw recordings from the Jungle Room (at the mansion) with various takes, and banter of EP and the band was released. Truly awesome material.

Roger Mudd Dies, Stalwart News Reporter

I would be most remiss if not posting about the death of Roger Mudd, a stalwart news reporter and famed journalist. He was from the respected old-school of news gathering, writing, and reporting. In short, the kind that dominated my growing-up years.

He, perhaps better than any other example I can think of, demonstrated a classic case of a reporter asking the obvious question. At the same time came perhaps the classic example of why a candidate needs to be ready for the obvious question from a reporter. I recall watching this interview in my Hancock home.

Mr. Mudd is perhaps best remembered for the CBS interview with Senator Kennedy on Nov. 4, 1979, days before the senator began his campaign to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from the incumbent, Jimmy Carter. Mr. Kennedy, heir to the political legacies of his assassinated brothers, had a 2-to-1 lead in the polls when he faced Mr. Mudd and a prime-time national audience.

“Why do you want to be president?” Mr. Mudd began.

Mr. Kennedy hesitated, apparently caught off guard.

“Well, I’m — were I to — to make the, the announcement and to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country,”

He stammered.It got worse. He twitched and squirmed, conveying self-doubt and flawed preparation, and stumbled through questions for an hour.

Mudd has been mentioned in posts over the years on Caffeinated Politics, such as with the way he reported the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. I wrote the following in 2009.

Back in Hancock, Wisconsin in 1977 I was 15 years old and eating supper (dinner) with my mom and dad when the phone rang.  I recall that mom got up from the table and answered it.  Aunt Evie from across the road had called after hearing the news  of Elvis Presley’s death on the national evening TV broadcast.  At once our set was on, and tuned to CBS.   The broadcast was well underway, and we were sure we had missed the story.  But then Roger Mudd, who was sitting in for the vacationing Walter Cronkite reported the shocking news from Memphis.  (Mudd would later try and defend his editorial judgement for not placing the story at the top of the broadcast.  Mudd felt that entertainment type news stories were not hard-top-of-the fold type stories, and as such he made news himself in the handling of  Elvis’ death.  In spite of that day I always felt Mudd to be one of the finest reporters in the country.  I have every reason to think that my Aunt had been watching the NBC News program with David Brinkley and John Chancellor, thereby hearing the story at the top of the news.)

While I differed on the significance of the death of Presley, in relation to the placement in his newscast, I very much agree with Mudd’s over-all desire to not have info-tainment news reporting. We see almost daily what that means for the integrity of news programming and the short-changing for other actual news stories to be presented to the public.

Mudd proved to be the epitome of a newsman and journalist. He was able to see a story and make an instant call about what had just happened. When President Nixon left the White House in 1974 it was Mudd who told Walter Cronkite that Nixon did not address the issue of accountability for Watergate. Nixon had just given his farewell address to the nation before leaving on a helicopter from the White House lawn. It was a spot-on analysis that did not waver for any other consideration than the facts which were presented to the viewing public.

Mudd was an example of the kind of reliable journalist with bedrock principles that allow us to fondly remember him at this time. It’s sad that his caliber is harder now to find.

And so it goes.

Elvis Presley In WSJ Recalled For Polio Vaccination, National Influencer

Among the newspaper stories today ranging from calls for New York Governor Mario Cuomo to resign, the vaccine rollout in Alaska, and destruction from a series of blasts in Equatorial Guinea there was something most unexpected on page A6 of The Wall Street Journal.

After briefly waiting in line, William Schaffner and his father joined six million people in greater New York who were vaccinated in just over three weeks, a logistical feat made possible by seamless cooperation between local and federal authorities.

This was in 1947.

Dr. Schaffner, now professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, says the high-speed vaccination campaign that ended an outbreak of smallpox was in many ways more successful than this year’s delay-ridden immunization campaign against Covid-19.

It wasn’t a one-off either. In 1954, Dr. Schaffner became one of the so-called Polio Pioneers who volunteered for the trial of a new vaccine that was then swiftly rolled out across the U.S., reaching tens of millions of people with the help of influencers such as Elvis Presley and without many of the challenges facing today’s campaign.

The fact that Elvis remains a touchstone to our lives and the events we are dealing with as a nation does allow us all to smile today. While there are serious and troubling headlines about Russian attempts to undermine the integrity of COVID vaccines there is that splash of a photo with the lifted pompadour and even without the sly grin (though we all see it in our mind) the assurance on his face of helping a nation by proving the polio vaccine was safe.

He was termed an influencer in 1956 for his efforts with getting a nation vaccinated. When I saw his face in one of the major national newspapers (!) and placed that photo in the context when it made headlines, and then given what we have experienced with fear and angst this past year, it is easy to understand how his vaccination allowed for some reassurance.

Being an Elvis fan I can add the shot was administered backstage at CBS Studio 50, before an October 1956 airing of The Ed Sullivan Show. It was after that vaccination he went before the audience and made music that still enthralls the world.

This all does make for a good way to start the week. Now let’s make sure we get the COVID vaccine and do our part in 2021 to combat this pandemic.

And as Elvis would say, “Thank you, thank you very much.”

Elvis Would Not Want You To Get Married In Las Vegas, During Pandmeic

In nearly thirty movies during the ‘Hollywood years’ Elvis Presley always ended the film ‘with the girl’. Some might then reason with all the plots and uneven odds he faced that the pandemic should not now slow down love, romance, and marriages. Throw in a glitzy city that reeks of up-ended marriages, along with ‘The King” being involved with the vow-making, and what do we have?

Las Vegas.

Do not get me wrong. Vegas has a lot to offer for a fast weekend and a few shows. But to get married there is just not what I sense is the start of a serious lifetime together. But if you really need to cheapen the vows by taking them in such a place, at least make it better by adding some of the King’s music. Steve Connolly, who’s donned the King’s jumpsuit for 25 years, is just the person to see if this is truly what you desire in starting a life together.

I was reading GQ this weekend and stumbled upon this way to wed during COVID in Vegas.

You can’t come into the chapel without a mask. I have to be performing while you’re six feet away. We’re conforming to that, and thankfully we haven’t had anybody come down with COVID. This year, everybody’s wearing masks in their wedding album. Most of the weddings we’re doing tend to be Southern states or states that are right next to us: Colorado, Arizona, California. And I just married a crazy, drunken group from Florida. The couple was talking about how they’ve been married before, with these huge weddings, and they got divorced and here they are.

A Vegas Elvis Impersonator on a Year of Pandemic Weddings
Courtesy of Steve Connolly

The Elvis thing started as a fluke. I was in a band in Boston. I always did a couple of Elvis songs because my mother always said, “You got to do an Elvis song.” A guy who saw that said, “You do Elvis better than anything else. Just do Elvis.” That particular guy did produce six shows for me; then he got arrested for forgery. I took on the show and went to Vegas, where I started doing weddings back in 1996.

My last nightly show was on March 14. Plenty of times I said I could quit working and just make a living doing weddings 100%. I was in a good mood. Then the next day, boom, no weddings. When the pandemic hit in March, I lost 37 weddings. The chapel stayed shut down until June 1. It was devastating for me. Without my show, the only thing I have is being an officiant.

I do place Elvis at the top of the entertainment world. As such, I just am not so sure this is what he would want his name attached to in Vegas. Colonel Tom Parker, however, would be hustling merchandise and finding new ways to profit from such marriages. But then again, it was Parker who torpedoed Elvis’ musical career in the 1960s to make a seemingly endless stream of sub-par movies–simply because they always made money.

And so it goes.

43 Years After Death Elvis Never Stops Mesmerizing Fans Worldwide

In 1977, forty-three years ago on August 16th, Aunt Evie called our home and told us the news that Elvis had died.   The news was of that enormity—one had to relay it to someone else.  One had to share it with another and commiserate.


Decades later the music still connects with new generations of fans while those of us who always knew the magic relive it on our turntables and CDs.   We know the best way to hear Elvis is with the volume, higher and higher.

Lately, I have been really enjoying the Jungle Room recordings from Graceland.  In 1976  RCA recording trailers were outside as the machinery was brought into his home and now we have these audio recordings.


The power and punch of Elvis come through with his concert material.  The way he controls a massive arena and makes it his own never fails to amaze me.


Only five years after his death I felt a sort of tightness in my chest, an anxiety that had accompanied me that entire day when I went on the radio as an announcer for the first time. I parked my marineblue Chevette in the parking lot of the small cinder block-constructed station house, got out, dusted myself off, and prepared to go inside. Upon entering the somewhat cluttered WDOR studio in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin that day, I went immediately to the record stacks. Rows and rows of vinyl records were all alphabetized according to the artists’ names and were situated behind the console where I would sit to do my job. I scanned the collection quickly and settled on a recording by ‘The King’.

I placed the record on the turntable, and spoke authoritatively to the station’s listeners, my soon-to-be friends. I informed everybody listening in radioland that Elvis, ‘The King’, would “take us to news time at the top of the hour.” The song ended. I gave the call letters for the station per the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC’s requirements, and hit the button for ABC News. I breathed a sigh of relief.

So began my years in radio.



Elvis Presley’s Grandson Dead At Age 27

Elvis Presley’s grandson, and Lisa Marie Presley’s son, Benjamin Keough, has died. He was 27 and died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Tragic in so many ways.




Elvis Presley Gets Prime Placement In The Economist

It is always the little things that make for the biggest smiles.

In the first Leaders column in the latest edition of The Economist, dealing with how Joe Biden can use his centrist leanings to not only help elect a Democratic Senate but also help bring forth meaningful legislative changes, came this mention of Elvis Presley.

You can hear Elvis say, ‘Thanka ya. Thanka ya.”



Treasured Autographs Of JD Sumner And The Stamps Quartet

Country music and southern gospel were the sounds I grew up with as a boy in Hancock, Wisconsin.  As a young man and radio broadcaster at WDOR, I was able to turn Sunday mornings from the slow pace of George Beverly Shea type music–which had been aired before my being hired–to the upbeat and infectious harmony of the Speer Family, Blackwood Brothers, and of course, JD Sumner And The Stamps Quartet which I played.

Do not get me wrong.  Shea has a most amazing voice, but when it comes to waking up a radio audience and helping them along as they make coffee and breakfast the Imperials do a far better job.

This past week something most remarkable landed at my home.  A bevy of albums from the legendary gospel groups that once were played at the home of my Aunt Evie and Bob were passed along to me.  Over the decades I have kept updating my turntable and still play the vinyl which has that warm feel to the music that is lacking in other recordings.  The entertainment system almost turned itself on to get started spinning the discs.

So late Sunday night as James and I were putting the new arrivals into piles and making plans on incorporating them into our assortment of music I found something that made me look twice, three times, and then smile broadly.

JD Sumner And The Stamps Quartet are not only among the finest of the gospel music groups to have ever recorded, but also have a close connection to Elvis.  They were the first professional quartet to sing worldwide on Elvis’ famous, “Aloha From Hawaii” concert.  So when I flipped over this album…..


…notice this includes lead vocalist Ed Enoch who had perhaps the best voice ever to sing this genre of music….


and this…


After a trying week, this find was a tonic for the soul.  Why is that so?  Take a listen to what I mean.

And this from the early 1970s.

Music is always the mixture of sounds and words that lifts and comforts, inspires and soothes.  That mixture was enhanced in our home with these albums.   May it always be so.