another mess of blues with wikipedia and elvis

Es­ti­mated reading time is 11 minutes.

A MESS OF BLUES seems to be the song that sums up many of the en­tries on Wikipedia for rock & roll in gen­eral and Elvis Presley in par­tic­ular. Their ar­ticle on the sound­track album for the 1968 NBC-TV Spe­cial ELVIS is so error-ridden as to be not only not useful, but to be down­right harmful! It’s yet an­other mess of blues about Elvis on Wiki.

And it’s amazing how much mis­in­for­ma­tion the Wiki writers can slip into a few para­graphs about a topic that in­volves pop­ular music of the past sixty years.

In many fields, Wiki is often spot on with their facts and data, such as sci­ence and tech­nology. I as­sume that is be­cause those con­trib­u­tors ac­tu­ally know what they are talking about.

Whereas topics in­volving pop­ular culture—such as music, movies, and books—are fields where everyone thinks he and she is an expert!


This isn’t the first time I’ve had to cor­rect a fac­tu­ally chal­lenged entry on Presley on Wikipedia—and it won’t be the last.


With pop cul­ture en­tries, ac­tual dyed-in-the-wool id­jits be­lieve they know what they are talking about! Hence, these topics at­tract “writers” who are de­fined by two characteristics:

1. They don’t know the ac­tual facts, ei­ther not having lived through them or having lived through them obliv­i­ously. 1

2. They don’t know that all writing—and that in­cludes the flim­siest fiction—requires re­search. Lots of research.

Or they do know that re­search is re­quired, they just don’t know how to do that re­search. Just be­cause a source has a rep­u­ta­tion doesn’t mean it’s nec­es­sarily a good source for re­li­able data. 2


Another Mess Of Blues: front cover of ELVIS, the soundtrack album to the 1968 NBC-TV Special.

This striking cover for ELVIS (LPM-4088) was com­pletely at odds with the seem­ingly end­less line of bland photos of a testos­terone­less Elvis that had made up the unimag­i­na­tive cover art of Elvis al­bums for years.

Another mess of blues

For ex­ample, I re­cently wrote an ar­ticle that re­quired my re­searching the 1968 NBC-TV spe­cial Elvis. I turned to Wiki to see if there was any per­ti­nent data there. In­stead, I found that the Wiki con­trib­u­tors had messed up yet an­other Elvis entry.

The entry was full of the things I now ex­pect from Wiki en­tries on pop­ular music:

•  er­ro­neous con­clu­sions based on a lack of un­der­standing of the subject;
•  simple fac­tual er­rors; and
•  misuse of words.

I say “yet an­other” be­cause this seems to have be­come the usual ex­pe­ri­ence I have with Wikipedia: plain old er­rors com­bined with things that look like they’re “facts” un­less you ac­tu­ally un­der­stand the back­ground in­for­ma­tion. 3

So here I cor­rect the in­cor­rect data in the Wikipedia entry “Elvis (NBC TV Spe­cial),” which ad­dresses the 1968 LP album ELVIS. This is the sound­track to the NBC-TV tele­vi­sion spe­cial show Elvis. 4

Be­tween the hor­i­zontal lines below, find the Wikipedia text as it ex­ists on De­cember 15, 2016. I have set it in san serif Arial type­face, or font in Internetspeak.

Within the Wiki text I have at­tached num­bers in paren­theses and set off in bold brown print. These num­bers follow state­ments that re­quire ad­dressing or cor­recting. The cor­rec­tions follow the text.


Another Mess Of Blues: photo (1) of Elvis making the NBC-TV Special on June 29, 1968.

This is a photo of Elvis during the ‘stand-up ses­sions’ of June 29, 1968, at NBC Studio in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia. It was used as a black & white bonus photo an is­sued with orig­inal press­ings of FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS in 1969. 5


WIKIPEDIA: Elvis (NBC-TV Special)

Prior to the video­taping of the Singer Christmas Spe­cial, (1) a sound­track album to be re­leased be­fore the De­cember 3 broad­cast was recorded. (2) Sev­eral ini­tial con­tract stip­u­la­tions were ob­vi­ated by Presley and pro­gram pro­ducer Steve Binder, (3) no­tably the one against having a live au­di­ence present, but album pro­ducer Bones Howe was un­able to req­ui­si­tion proper recording equip­ment, get­ting the sound feed from the single-channel mi­cro­phones on the video cameras.

Hence, the album was re­leased in mono only, at a time when the recording in­dustry was switching over to stereo­phonic records ex­clu­sively for both al­bums and sin­gles. (4)

Un­like the drudgery of the fea­ture film sound­track record­ings, Presley was gen­uinely ex­cited by the project. For the album, the mu­sical format pre­sented Presley in three dif­ferent set­tings: pro­duc­tion num­bers fea­turing med­leys of his ma­te­rial; an in­formal small band fea­turing med­leys in front of a live au­di­ence; (5) and the two orig­inal num­bers with Presley backed by an or­chestra in front of a live au­di­ence. (6)

The two ballad tracks from this album were is­sued as sin­gles. (7) If I Can Dream being re­leased ear­lier in the month, backed on the B-side with a song from his movie in the­aters at the time, Live a Little, Love a Little, making it a double pro­mo­tion on one record. It peaked at #12 on the Bill­board Hot 100, his highest charting single since 1965. (8)

Mem­o­ries was re­leased over two months after the broad­cast, backed with the title song to his next film, Charro! (9)

By making it to the top ten on the album chart after his pre­vious album had charted at a dismal #82, (10) this LP re­sus­ci­tated his recording ca­reer at a time when it seemed prac­ti­cally mori­bund. (11)


Another Mess Of Blues: cardboard standee used to promote the NBC-TV Special in Singer Stores in 1968.

This is a 22 x 28-inch card­board ‘standee’ that could be found on dis­play in Singer stores across the country in the weeks prior to the show’s broad­cast date. This is one of many pro­mo­tional items that have con­fused col­lec­tors into thinking the title of the spe­cial was “Singer Presents Elvis.”

My corrections

Re­turning to a ser­ifed type­face (the equally uni­versal Georgia), please find here my cor­rec­tions to the Wiki state­ments above.

(1) Wikipedia cap­i­tal­izes “Singer Christmas Spe­cial,” and as we all know, caps are used to set off proper names. So cap­ping these three words in­vites readers to infer that there was a show ti­tled “Singer Christmas Special.”

There was not.

The ads that ran prior to its being broad­cast un­der­stand­ably played up the sponsor of the show, and con­se­quently it has been called the Singer Presents Elvis spe­cial. That also is in­cor­rect: the name of the show was al­ways just one word, Elvis.


There never was a tele­vi­sion show called “Singer Presents Elvis” or the “Elvis NBC-TV Special”—it was al­ways ti­tled simply “Elvis.”


(2) The use of the word ob­viate is odd at best: it’s rarely used in modern lan­guage and its meaning is un­fa­miliar to most readers. I cer­tainly had to look it up (but then I look up al­most everything).

Ac­cording to Merriam-Webster, ob­viate means “to an­tic­i­pate and pre­vent as a sit­u­a­tion, or make un­nec­es­sary as an ac­tion.” It would ap­pear to be in­cor­rect usage and re­ally does not be­long in the sen­tence above.

A cor­rect use of the word in a sen­tence might be, “Wikipedia could ob­viate the need for Neal Umphred to write these cor­rec­tive ar­ti­cles by ap­pointing Umphred as ed­itor of all en­tries on Elvis.”

(3) Wiki states that a “Prior to the video­taping of the Singer Christmas Spe­cial, a sound­track album to be re­leased be­fore the De­cember 3 broad­cast was recorded.” Huh? How could they record the live sound­track album of the show be­fore the live show was videotaped?

The sound­track album was taken from the show that was taped and recorded and edited! The “sound­track album” and the “Singer Christmas Spe­cial” are es­sen­tially the same thing.



Another Mess Of Blues: photo (1) of Elvis making the NBC-TV Special on June 27, 1968.

This is a photo of Elvis during the sit-down ses­sions of June 27, 1968, at NBC Studio in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia. It was used as a black & white bonus photo an is­sued with orig­inal press­ings of FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS in 1969. 5

(4) The sound­track album ELVIS (RCA Victor LPM-4088) con­sists of twenty-three in­di­vidual songs, some of which are com­plete songs, some of which are parts of a medley. Of these, twelve songs are in mono and eleven are in stereo.

Put an­other way, twenty-seven min­utes of the record are mono­phonic, while al­most eigh­teen min­utes are stereophonic.

That is, ap­prox­i­mately two-thirds of the con­tent of the record are mono while al­most one-third of the con­tent is stereo.

So the record was hardly “mono only.”

RCA could have as­signed the album a stan­dard mono prefix (LPM), or a stan­dard stereo prefix (LSP), or they could have given it a unique prefix. They opted for the mono prefix.

I am left to infer that no one in­volved with writing or editing the Wikipedia ar­ticle both­ered to read the back cover of the album jacket (LP or CD), or the record la­bels, both of which state that tracks are in stereo.

I am also left to infer that no one at Wiki both­ered to listen to the record.


Another Mess Of Blues: photo (2) of Elvis making the NBC-TV Special on June 27, 1968.

This is a photo of Elvis during the sit-down ses­sions of June 27, 1968, at NBC Studio in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia. It was used as a black & white bonus photo an is­sued with orig­inal press­ings of FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS in 1969. 5

(5) The “in­formal small band” portions—long known as the Bur­bank “sit-down sessions”—consisted mostly of full ren­di­tions of older songs; there were very no medleys.

(6) There were three orig­inal num­bers written for the show, not two: Mem­o­ries and Noth­ingville (Billy Strange and Mac Davis) and If I Can Dream (Walter Earl Brown).

(7) The choice of words here can be con­fusing: if ballad means ‘slow ro­mantic song,’ then there are more than two on the album. And no matter how one de­fines ballad, it seems in­ap­pro­priate for a song like If I Can Dream. 6

(8) If I Can Dream did reach #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but it peaked in the US at #9 on Cash Box’s Top 100. This was Pres­ley’s first Top 10 hit since I’m Yours had reached #9 on Cash Box in late 1965 (and it, too, failed to reach Bill­board’s Top 10). 7

(9) Mem­o­ries peaked at #24 on Cash Box but only reaching #35 on Bill­board. It was still moving up the Cash Box chart (from #38 to #30 to #25 to #24 to gone) when it was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously re­moved from Top 40 ro­ta­tion in favor of the new single, In The Ghetto. So it could have been a bigger hit of RCA and the Colonel had a bit of patience.

(10) The pre­vious album had been the (lack­luster) sound­track SPEEDWAY, which in­deed had pe­tered out after reaching #82 on the Bill­board LP survey.


Another Mess Of Blues: photo of Elvis making the NBC-TV Special in early June 1968.

This is a photo of Elvis during the pro­duc­tion ses­sions of June 20-23, 1968, at NBC Studio in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia. It was used as a black & white bonus photo an is­sued with orig­inal press­ings of FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS in 1969. 4

(11) I infer that the choice of the word mori­bund by the Wiki writer is his way of showing his smarts—except it’s a poorly chosen word for what he is trying to com­mu­ni­cate. Ac­cording to Merriam-Webster, mori­bund means “being in the state of dying, ap­proaching death” and “being in a state of in­ac­tivity or obsolescence.”

Presley’s recording ca­reer was hardly near death: in the twelve months prior to recording the ma­te­rial for the NBC-TV Spe­cial, Elvis had cut more than two dozen tracks, in­cluding some gen­uinely ex­citing music.

His non-soundtrack sin­gles (Big Boss Man, Guitar Man, and U.S. Male) had re­ceived con­sid­er­ably more radio at­ten­tion than his movie songs. Two sin­gles (U.S. Male and Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet, Baby) had ac­tu­ally been minor hits on the country & western charts, his first in years!

It is fair to say that sales of his movie-related records had gone from merely stag­nating to ac­tu­ally diminishing.

It is fair to say that had Presley not taken a chance on a game where the stakes were high—and not suc­ceeded at that game–he faced pos­sible and im­mi­nent obsolescence.

But such records as the afore­men­tioned sin­gles along with tracks like High Heel Sneakers and Too Much Monkey Busi­ness and even movie songs like Let Your­self Go and A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion in­di­cated there was still life in Pres­ley’s old bones.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to cor­rect a fac­tu­ally chal­lenged entry on Elvis Presley on Wikipedia Click To Tweet

Elvis 68 NBC standup 1 800

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken at NBC’s sound­stage in their studio in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia, on June 29, 1968. There were two shows on this day, in each Elvis stood in front of an au­di­ence of a few hun­dred people and sang to pre­re­corded tracks fea­turing a band and an or­chestra. These are known as the Bur­bank “stand-up sessions.”


ATOG Postscript Image

POST­SCRIP­TU­ALLY, we have to ask why was an en­tire show (the script with the bor­dello se­quence) shot and then half the scenes dumped prior to final editing? Could the fact that the newly mar­ried leading man knew the lovely leading lady Susan Hen­ning as more than a leading lady have had any­thing to do with it?



1   “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel cer­tainty are stupid, and those with any imag­i­na­tion and un­der­standing are filled with doubt and in­de­ci­sion.” (Bertrand Rus­sell, The Tri­umph Of Stu­pidity). For the in­ter­ested reader given to looking things up, check out the Dunning-Kruger Ef­fect, after which so so so many things will make sense.

2   For ex­ample, al­most every book on rock and soul and pop music pub­lished prior to the In­ternet de­pended on the memory of the writer. The most common source was in­ter­viewing mu­si­cians, meaning the writer de­pended on the memory of the band mem­bers. Con­se­quently, ar­ti­cles and books from the early days of rock­writing are often rife with fac­tual errors.

So a writer in 2016 ref­er­encing such an il­lus­trious tome as The Rolling Stone Il­lus­trated His­tory Of Rock & Roll needs to know a hel­lu­valot to know when not to trust a “fact” in that book. This point de­serves more ex­plo­ration and fur­ther ex­trap­o­la­tion; don’t be sur­prised it it’s the topic of an­other ar­ticle here on A Touch Of Gold in the not too dis­tant future.

3   This is not my first post on one of my web­site where I cor­rect Wikipedia; check out “Rock And Rollin’ With Fats Domino” and “50,000,000 Wikipedia Con­trib­u­tors Can’t Be Wrong.”

4   Oddly, the Wikipedia entry for the tele­vi­sion show it­self, “Elvis (1968 TV Pro­gram),” is rea­son­ably accurate—aside from being written in a stiff, un­inviting manner, of course.

5   Orig­inal press­ings of FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS (RCA Victor LSP-6020) is­sued in No­vember 1969 in­cluded two bonus photos tucked in­side the shrinkwrapped jacket. There were four dif­ferent photos: each was 8 x 10 inches with a white border and a stamped greeting and sig­na­ture on the front. The back had a list of al­bums avail­able as 8-track and cas­sette tapes.

6   Merriam-Webster de­fines a ballad as “a slow pop­ular song that is typ­i­cally about love,” but also gives a fuller de­f­i­n­i­tion: “a nar­ra­tive com­po­si­tion in rhythmic verse suit­able for singing.”

7   As the Cash Box survey re­flected ac­tual sales, it was a much more re­li­able chart than Bill­board’s, which fac­tored air­play and jukebox plays into their po­si­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, Cash Box is rarely ref­er­enced by modern jour­nal­ists and his­to­rians. Which leads to an in­ter­esting ques­tion: Do most modern pop music “jour­nal­ists” even know that Cash Box mag­a­zine existed?


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