from burbank to graceland to facebook

WELL, BLESS MY SOUL, what’s wrong with me? As a writer (someone who writes), I’ve been itchin’ like a man on a fuzzy tree for some time, hence my compulsive posting in my three blogs. I have posted 800,000 words in just three years on my three sites: Neal Umphred Dot Com, Rather Rare Records, and Elvis – A Touch Of Gold. That’s the equivalent of ten reasonable sized novels.

BCB merges superior rock journalism with the vitality of the digital age to explore rock music culture and the business of music.

But as an ‘author’ (a writer paid to publish his work), well, the itchin’ hasn’t been on the fuzzy tree level. A few friends and family members (Hi, Maryboo!) have been attempting to motivate my authorial juices to get me to submit some of my articles to magazines and websites other than my own blogs. 1

Professional websites attract a much bigger readership, some of whom could come to my sites and subscribe, gathering me new, regular readers. Plus, of course, they actually pay for what they publish!

So I did: I wrote and submitted a short article.

And it was accepted.

And I was paid.

And now I have published my first “professional” article in almost twenty years.

And you wanna guess who it’s about?

Burbank to Graceland: cropped photo of Elvis during the 'stand-up sessions' for the NBC-TV Special on June 29, 1968.

From Burbank to Graceland

The article is titled “Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback: Burbank to Graceland.” It appears on the Best Classic Bands website, where my old editor and friend Jeff Tamarkin runs the show. BCB is a fairly new site, coming online in June 2015. Here is how they describe themselves:

“We merge the best aspects of superior rock journalism with the vitality of the digital age to provide a comprehensive and authoritative online resource, news hub and lifestyle destination for followers of the golden age of rock and new acts that continue the style, sound and spirit today.

We feature artist profiles and interviews alongside reviews of albums as well as live shows, books, and films/DVDs, all with an accent on bands and solo acts that are launching tours and currently on the road. And also explore many aspects of rock music culture and history, the business of music, musical artistry and much more, all within a multimedia context that features videos, music, mixes, song and video premieres, and free song downloads.”

Front cover of Paul Simon's GRACELAND album.

From Graceland to Internet

For this article, Best Classic bands was working with Graceland. I was requested to work Elvis’s house into the article. I had no problem with that. 2

Today, Graceland is a household name: almost every person in the literate Western world knows it as the house and home of Elvis Presley.

So I tied the legendary ’68 comeback with mythologizing that Graceland has received in the intervening years:

“After establishing herself as a successful actress, Priscilla [Presley] became the guiding force in establishing Graceland as one of this country’s most visited places. Under her eye and hand, the name ‘Graceland’ began to take on cultural meaning—metaphorical if not almost spiritual meaning—beyond merely being the home of a star. The most famous use of Graceland as metaphor is Paul Simon’s brilliant album of the same name, Graceland.”

“It’s about a trip [to Graceland] with a father and his 9-year-old son, trying to find some kind of solace from a loss of love.” (Paul Simon)

Front cover of the box for the DVD version of FINDING GRACELAND.

Finding Graceland

I made a second reference to Graceland by briefly calling attention to David Winkler’s lovely 1998 film, Finding Graceland. An indie project, it stars Harvey Keitel as the unlikeliest ‘Elvis’ any movie-maker ever envisioned!

And he is totally convincing and that’s all I’m going to say, just see the movie because I should write a separate piece on it and then I can discuss Bridget Fonda as an equally effective Marilyn Monroe: her onstage number of You’d Be Surprised had Berni and me discussing her doing another movie about a professional Marilyn impersonator.

The movie also costars Johnathon Schaech as the lost soul who gives ‘Elvis’ a ride back to Memphis, and Gretchen Mol as his wife.

Burbank to Graceland: photo of Elvis and Shelly Fabares from the 1965 movie GIRL HAPPY.

Little Known Elvis Factoid: No one actually ever got around to inventing a dance step called the ‘Clam’ for Girl Happy, so Elvis just spent the time slicin’ sand. Here he is demonstrating how to really slice it up to the movie’s dancers using costar Shelly Fabares as his partner. 3

But I couldn’t do the clam!

Graceland requested a few minor modifications in my text. As they were reasonable and really had no impact on anything I was saying that was germane, I acquiesced.

There was one instance where I thought my humor was effective, even if it poked fun at Elvis. Here is the seventh paragraph as it appears in print on the BCB site:

“In the 1950s, Elvis had been the personification of rock and roll; it often seemed that he had singlehandedly established the genre as the most popular music in the world. By 1968, though, rock and roll had moved from the British Invasion through folk-rock into psychedelia and progressive rock—and all of that in just the past four years! By 1968, Elvis Presley recognized that he needed a return to relevance.”

Here is the original paragraph as I wrote it and submitted it for approval:

“In the 1950s, Elvis had been the personification of rock and roll; it often seemed that he had singlehandedly established the genre as the most popular music in the world. By 1968, though, rock and roll had moved from the British Invasion through folk-rock into psychedelia and progressive rock—and all of that in just the past four years! During this heady time of eclectic creativity and boundless energy, Elvis had been doin’ the clam with kissin’ cousins, and spinnin’ out with long-legged girls!”

My observation about the era (1965-1968) was accurate, while my observation about Elvis being silly during that time was clever and affectionate.

Elvis spinnin’ out with that long-legged girl with the short dress on, gorgeous Susan Henning. This photo is from one of the scenes from the original ‘story’ shot for the 1968 NBC-TV Special where Ms Henning was one of the main players. This story concept was jettisoned, but portions were included in the final cut of the show broadcast in December 1968. 

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, if you have something substantial and factual to add to the article, please make it on the Best Classic Bands site below my article, “Burbank to Graceland.” One reader already took me to task for not mentioning Bones Howe.

Should you want to make general comments regarding my article, you can to go directly to the Best Classic Bands Facebook page with my Elvis article and post it there. This ensures a much wider exposure for both BCB and for my article. Plus there is already a few posts to join. 4

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken on June 29, 1968, at NBC’s studio in Burbank, California. Elvis did two shows of sixty minutes each where he sang and talked while standing and prowling about the tiny stage. These two shows are generally referred to as the ‘stand-up sessions’ for the ’68 NBC TV Special. (This fab photo was provided to Best Classic Bands by Graceland.)



1   My definitions of writer and author are simplistic. If you think them at all weird, type “author vs writer” into Google and check out all the crazy definitions and essays that other authors are holding and don’t mind sharing!

2   At some point sociologists, anthropologists, etc., are going to have to make reference to a point in time where America’s young people rejected literacy and articulateness (sic) and embraced aliteracy, speaking in mass-produced exclamations (“Yo!”) and faux street lingo (where we’re all homies) and mass stupidity. This will be the post-literate America.

“We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.” (Ray Williams, Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of America“)

3   Hah! Prove me wrong . . .

4   Jeff hopes that my article being on Facebook will attract the attention of at least one of my two regular readers. Mom? Dad? If you’re reading these teeny-weeny footnotes, that means you . . .


10 Replies to “from burbank to graceland to facebook”

      1. Graceland needs to install you Neal Umphred as their staff writer, you could make everyone’s visit to Graceland more interesting with your writings. you could do several different stages, one for the novice visitor, one for the mid level enthusiast that wants to learn more about E and best of all you have the expertise to write articles for the hard core devoted type E fan that thinks they know everything about their hero. your writings would increase the interest in this rapidly growing american tourist attraction that is becoming a destination for fans from all over the world.

    1. STEPH

      Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t consider being published online as being “in print.” In fact, I don’t even think the word “publish” should be used for aline articles. In fact, I think I’ll write a short piece on the topic and post it on me other site! Thanks for the inspiration!! No wonder your husband loves you!!!


      PS: Tell Eric and Ashley that Berni and Gerbilman said “Hello!”

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