from burbank to graceland to facebook

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

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.

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?


Elvis Henning dance600

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. 

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. Today, Grace­land is a house­hold name: al­most every person in the lit­erate Western world knows it as the house and home of Elvis Presley. 2

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.”


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.


Elvis68 BCB 900 2

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.)


Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000

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 are al­ready a few posts to join. 4



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, which is now ac­cessed only via sub­scrip­tion to Psy­chology Today)

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 thoughts on “from burbank to graceland to facebook”

      • 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.

    • J

      If the US gov­ern­ment spent a frac­tion of the money it spends pro­moting Amer­ican cig­a­rettes over­seas on pro­moting places like Grace­land, tourism would skyrocket!


    • 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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