Stars unite in a magic musical tribute to Elvis

More than 20 of the world’s top rock stars gathered in the Midlands for a two-hour TV special to mark the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Evening Mail pop write Paul Cole took a look behind the scenes during the recording of Central TV’s rock spectacular ‘Love me Tender’.

It was like a record store magically brought to life. You couldn’t walk along a single corridor without bumping into a rock legend or a pop star. Turn a corner and you were chatting to Boy George; a few steps further and you met mighty Meat Loaf; a stroll back and there was jovial Jaki Graham.

They came from all round the world to gather at the giant Studio 7 in Central Television’s Nottingham headquarters. They came to pay tribute to the King.

Nona Hendryx, Ben E. King, Meat Loaf, Duane Eddy and Carl Perkins jetted in from the States; Dr. Robert rushed from Paris, and Jaki Graham dashed from Malta.

Glimpse of the stars

Another limousine drew up outside to offer up Elvis’ original backing band – James Burton, Glen Harding, Jerry Scheff and Ronnie Tutt – direct from America. The foursome were teamed up again for the first time since they worked with Elvis and later stormed through a set with former Who star Roger Daltrey.

(…) KIm Wilde, Elkie Brooks, Dave Edmunds, Kiki Dee, Ben E. King, Cozy Powell, P P Arnold and a star-studded supporting cast. The week began quietly enough, but gather the momentum of an express train. As the news spread the fans began to arrive on the doorstep to catch a glimpse of the stars. Curiously, Boy George fans clutching teddy bears far outnumbered the expected army of teddy boys. “We love you George!” they shouted. “You’re the King for us!” Perhaps inspired by the fans George later went on to add a version of ‘Teddy Bear’ to his planned recording of ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’.

Inside the recently-built Studio 7 complex the stars were hard at work rehearsing. Birmingham soul queen Ruby Turner summed up the effort: “We all know Elvis songs – but how many people know the third or fourth verses?” Jaki Graham – Ruby’s close friend and former partner – added: “All the hook-lines are there in your memory – but half the songs have to be learned all over again!”

In the dressing rooms there was organised chaos as the army of Central TV support staff looked after the needs of the superstar fan club. One make-up girl was dashing between two rooms to meet the very different demands her “charges” – blonde bombshell Kim Wilde and black beauty Ruby Turner.

As recording began there was a “family” feel about the studios. In each corner clusters of stars gathered, chatting about the old days and renewing friendships.

Memorable performances

“Remember the day we went to Graceland?” Boy George asked Ruby. “It was while we were on the Culture Club tour in the States. We went down there on the bus! It was nice to look round the place, but it was sad at the same time. I don’t know how Elvis would have felt about it being turned into a museum.”

Kim Wilde was talking family with guitar legend Duane Eddy. “I know your dad’s work real well”, said Duane, referring to British rock legend Marty Wilde. “You could say that rock and roll runs in my family”, replied Kim. “I’ve always been a great fan of Presley music. He really was the King of rock and roll”.

Carl Perkins told friends: “Elvis and I went back a long way. We were poor boys together. He was a phenomenal guy – nobody swung guitar like him!”

The performances were all memorable – with Kim Wilde’s ‘One night’, Elkie Brooks’s ‘Love letters’ and Ben E King’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ particularly touching.

Roger Daltry sang with Carl Perkins ‘Hound Dog’, and Ruby Turner, Jaki Graham and Nona Hendryx teamed up for a version of  ‘The Wonder Of You’. And the Pet Shop Boys star Neil Tennant, may go on to record one of his songs as a result. After recording ‘Always On My Mind’ he said: “We may release it as a future B-side.”

Equally moved was Meat Loaf after his emotional re-work of ‘American Trilogy’. “I may just record this for a single”, he said, “I’d forgotten how good it was!”

Historic occasion

Show director Jon Scoffield said: “Other people are doing Elvis documentaries using archive film – Elvis in the army; Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. But surely showbiz is about the show going on, and the songs still being sung. If Elvis were still here, he’d still be singing. I think he’d be pleased with the show.”

As the final sessions drew to a close at the end of the week it was left to Roger Daltrey to sum up the historic occasion. “Quite simply, Elvis was the person who inspired me to become a rock star”, he said. As you looked round famous faces were all nodding in agreement.