Some thoughts on Jimmy Dean’s “worst interview”

Elvis Australia today featured a couple of great pictures of Elvis on the WMAL-TV show Town and Country Time. Hosted by future “sausage king” Jimmy Dean, Elvis’ appearance on the Washington, D.C., show took place on March 23, 1956.

When Dean passed away last June, one of his oft-repeated canards made the rounds again. “I had the excruciating task of conducting the interview with Elvis, possibly the worst I’ve ever done. […] ‘Yep,’ ‘nope,’ and that’s all he would say,” alleged Dean of Elvis (1).

“Years later, when we were both playing in Las Vegas, Elvis would apologize profusely for leaving me hanging on that interview. He told me, ‘You know, Jimmy, I was so sorry about that but I was scared to death.’ It’s hard to believe that Elvis could be shy or afraid of anything, but I guess even ‘The King’ had those days in the beginning,” Dean said (2).

Unfortunately, no audio evidence has yet surfaced to prove or disprove Dean’s story about that day in 1956. My personal opinion is that it is questionable. Why? Other interviews from around this same time prove that Elvis was indeed talkative.

For example, Robert Carlton Brown conducted an extensive interview with Elvis the very next day at the Warwick Hotel in New York. He even talked about the demo he paid to record at the Memphis Recording Service in 1953.

“In fact, we still got the record at home. It’s so thin we can’t play it, but the record I made was ‘My Happiness,’ and then one of the Ink Spots’ numbers,” said Elvis, who went on to deny the myth that he made the record for his mother’s birthday (3).

Could the TV cameras have thrown Elvis off? Possibly, but it’s not like he had never been on television before. He had already appeared on the nationally televised Stage Show several times by this point. Would a local show like Dean’s have really scared him so much?

I’d like to leave the final word on this subject to Elvis himself. Here is an excerpt from his August 6, 1956, interview with Paul Wilder for TV Guide (one of Elvis’ best and most unguarded interviews): “There’s a rumor has gotten out that I don’t have time . . . no time for reporters; that I just answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and it’s very untrue,” said Elvis. “I’ve always stayed and talked to ’em as long as they wanted to talk.” (4)

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(1) “Jimmy Dean Remembers Elvis” — Elvis Australia
(2) “Jimmy Dean Remembers Elvis” — Elvis Australia
(3) Elvis: Word For Word by Jerry Osborne, Harmony Books, New York, 2000, p. 10.
(4) Osborne, p. 54.