Although less than 150 pages, this is a great book that was just released a few months ago that I knew nothing about until my friend thankfully brought it to my attention. If I am not mistaken, this is really the only book that is just about the TCB band telling their stories from touring with Elvis in the 1970s. On Stage with Elvis was born from Stig Edgren, who created and produced Elvis – The Concert (you know the one with Elvis singing on the big screen as the TCB band plays live on stage), asking Stuart Coupe, an Australian journalist, to join the Elvis – The Concert 1999 Australian tour. During those three weeks on tour, Coupe interviewed James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, Glen D. Hardin, Jerry Scheff and Joe Guercio separately then brought them all together to compare notes. It was never explained why it took 20 years for this book to be published, just that it had. There is a nice Forward by Jerry Schilling, which of course I love! Besides that, I highly recommend this book because there are many great first-hand stories (and perspectives) from the members of the TCB Band about their time touring with Elvis in the 1970s that are new to me. If you plan on reading this book, you might want to stop reading now as I am going to mention just a few of those stories now.
Being an I Love Lucy fan, I found it funny that at one of the post concert parties Lucille Ball wanted to take Ronnie Tutt home telling him “You know I’m partial to drummers.” (Me too Lucy, me too!) Another time in Vegas, John Wayne called to offer Elvis a part in his movie. Elvis was excited and called the Colonel, but of course he said no because it would not be top billing for Elvis. I think Elvis was probably offered more movie roles than just A Star is Born. Always bothers me he was never given a real chance to realize his dream of becoming a serious actor.
I found it interesting none of the guys were not particularly Elvis fans (except maybe James Burton) so they were not all that excited to meet him, nor did they have high expectations for Elvis’ music prior to auditioning then touring with him. They just accepted it as another job, but that all changed the second they met Elvis. Each of them said Elvis was electric, charismatic and special saying he was different than any other star they had worked with before.
I did not know that originally the Colonel wanted the Vegas shows to be an extension of the ’68 Comeback Special with dancers and choreographed numbers. But Elvis had a dream of doing a live concert with himself singing on stage in front of rock band with a white male gospel quartet on one side and a black female soul group on the other and an orchestra in the background. Elvis called the Colonel in the middle of the night and told him they were doing Vegas his way just as his dream was, or they were not going to do it at all. A rare time that Elvis stood up to the Colonel.
I had no idea it was Joe Guercio’s wife who gave him the idea to have Elvis enter the stage to the “Theme from 2001 – A Space Odyssey” when she leaned over to her husband while watching the movie and said, “You’d think Elvis was about to enter.” There is much debate on who actually recommended James Burton to Elvis to form his band. Although both Red West and Charlie Hodge took credit for it, it seems that Felton Jarvis was the one who pointed Elvis toward James Burton (even though he knew about him through Ricky Nelson).
I did not realize the guys from the TCB Band were not fans of the Memphis Mafia especially Lamar Fike, Sonny West and Red West. They mentioned how the Memphis Mafia guys prevented them from seeing Elvis before the shows. When Elvis found out about this, he was furious and they were allowed entrance once again. Also, none of the guys in the TCB Band had much respect for Charlie Hodge as a musician. They would turn off his microphone and unplug his guitar.
I don’t think I have ever heard or read that Elvis recorded in the Jungle Room while wearing his Denver Policeman’s Captain’s uniform. I did not know both James Burton and Jerry Scheff played on Elvis movie soundtracks. James played guitar on tracks from Girls Girls Girls and Viva Las Vegas, while Jerry played trumpet and bass on two different Elvis movie soundtracks. Also, I didn’t realize Jerry Scheff’s son, Jason, replaced Peter Cetero’s in the band Chicago.
There are many more interesting stories and facts in this great book, but I will just leave you with this beautiful quote about Elvis from Myrna Smith, “He had so much energy. His voice was a lot more remarkable that it ever came off on record … He was just a much better singer than could ever be captured … Some great singers’ voices are just too big. Elvis’ was like that.”