Laughing with Elvis

Elvis Presley fans tend to take a moment to remember him on January 8, for today would have been his 82nd birthday.

I was 9 years old when I first became aware of Elvis’ birthday. Either the weekend before or after January 8, 1985, local radio station AM 1140 WRVA hosted guest DJ Steve Christopher to play an entire show of Elvis songs, in celebration of what would have been the singer’s 50th birthday.

I recorded about 60 minutes of the show on cassette tape, diligently pausing it between songs to get rid of the annoying talking and commercials. I still have it around here somewhere. In retrospect I wish I had recorded the commercials and talking, too, because that would be a lot of fun to hear 32 years later.

The big set-up of Christopher’s Elvis show was that at various intervals, a designated caller could request an Elvis song live on the air in the hopes that Christopher did not have it. If he failed to play the song, then the caller would win a new car.

At the time, I could not conceive of someone having every Elvis song. Christopher probably had every song officially released to that point, though, so there was little to no chance of someone actually winning.

Essentially, the only chance of winning, probably, was if Christopher forgot to bring one of his records along to the studio and you happened to ask for a song from that exact record which was not present on any other record Christopher had brought with him.

Not to mention that the people who managed to participate in the contest always asked for famous songs, rather than obscure ones. The final contest caller, for instance, was convinced Christopher did not have “My Way” because he had never honored the request during the non-contest portions of the show.

WRVA itself probably had “My Way” in its own archives at that time, without even having to resort to Christopher’s collection even if the DJ had somehow forgotten to bring any copies of the tune along to the station that day.

It was definitely a neat idea for a contest. The only trouble I could see would be if a caller asked for a song that had, in fact, never been released by Elvis, such as “Not Fade Away.” An advantage we have in 2017 over 1985 is that it would be fairly easy to fact check something like that, though.

Like most AM stations, 1140 WRVA unfortunately no longer plays music. Instead, it long ago converted to the “talk radio” format, which I can no longer stomach to hear.

Though his website appears not to have been updated in 17 years, Steve Christopher might still be around. I tried emailing him a few years ago for a story on The Mystery Train Blog, but never heard back. If you ever get the chance to stump him, though, please don’t request “My Way.”

Elvis Presley in 1969

Elvis Presley in 1969

In any event, the reason Christopher’s Elvis show is so memorable to me is not the car contest. Instead, it marked the first time I heard the “laughing” version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight.”

I have to say, my life was just a little bit better after that. Anytime I have needed a lift since then, that song is there.

After nearly wearing the cassette tape out, it took me years to find a legitimate copy of the performance – which I finally achieved when I bought Collectors Gold in 1991 – my first of (too) many Elvis boxed sets.

My family was actually visiting friends in Pittsburgh when I found the CD set at a shopping mall there that summer. The only CD player I had was at home, 350 miles away. Though I had my Walkman with me, it only played cassettes. Needless to say, I was ready for the trip to be over at that point.

Fortunately, the family friend had a CD player and recorded parts of the set for me on cassette to tide me over. I can remember playing the song over and over that night, listening on headphones.

The song is a live version, recorded at a 1969 Midnight Show in Las Vegas. It can also be found on the Elvis Aron Presley boxed set, A Legendary Performer: Volume 4, and the All Shook Up: Recorded Live In Las Vegas, August 26, 1969 FTD CD. All four releases are unfortunately out of print, though.

I hope the laughing version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” shows up again in some future Legacy release, because these days, we all could use the laugh.

Before I sign off and get back to the winter wonderland that arrived here in RVA this weekend, I first want to direct you to a few other blogs with Elvis posts.

Up first is The Sheila Variations, a site that covers a wide spectrum of topics.

Sheila is one of my favorite writers, and I consider myself fortunate that one of her recurring topics happens to be Elvis Presley. Today, she has reposted a few of her past entries. All of her Elvis Essays are worth a read, though.

Wellsy, a frequent commenter here, has written a 7-part series on Elvis over at his Soulride blog. Be sure to check it out.

Finally, my friend Thomas over at the Elvis Today Blog recently wrote his first post in nearly two years, covering The World of FTD – a new book set from Elvis expert Keith Flynn. It’s always great to read a new post from Thomas.

That’s it. Thanks for the laughs, Elvis!

2 thoughts on “Laughing with Elvis

  1. As a post-script, here are the Elvis songs I listened to on “Elvis Day” this year. Most of these were random through a series of smart playlists on my iPod. A few, such as the closing number, were direct plays.

    1. Sweet Caroline (Live-1970) – That’s The Way It Is (2014 Deluxe Edition), CD 2
    2. My Way (Live-1977) – Elvis In Concert
    3. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road (Rehearsal-1972) – 3000 South Paradise Road: The August 1972 Las Vegas Season
    4. Early Morning Rain (Re-recording-1973) – Mahalo From Elvis
    5. How Great Thou Art (2015) – If I Can Dream (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
    6. It’s A Sin (1961) – Something For Everybody
    7. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago (1970) – Elvis Now
    8. Anyplace Is Paradise (1956) – Elvis
    9. Pledging My Love (1976) – Our Memories Of Elvis: Volumes 1, 2 & 3 – The Pure Elvis Sound
    10. Girl Of Mine (Alternate-1973) – Raised On Rock (2007 FTD Edition)
    11. Kissin’ Cousins (1963) – Kissin’ Cousins
    12. Amazing Grace (Alternate-1971) – Walk A Mile In My Shoes
    13. I’m Leavin’ (Live-1971) – Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden
    14. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (Live-1969) – Elvis At The International
    15. King Of The Whole Wide World (Alternate-1961) – Return Of The Rocker
    16. Hawaiian Sunset (Alternate-1961) – Close Up
    17. Flaming Star (Alternate-1960) – Today, Tomorrow & Forever
    18. Just Pretend (Live-1975) – Fashion For A King
    19. I Was The One (Live-1956) – A Golden Celebration, CD 1
    20. Clean Up Your Own Backyard (Remix-1980) – Guitar Man
    21. It’s Different Now (Rehearsal-1973) – Walk A Mile In My Shoes
    22. Cross My Heart And Hope To Die (1964) – Girl Happy
    23. Gentle On My Mind (1969) – The Memphis Record
    24. Beginner’s Luck (Alternate-1965) – Double Features: Frankie And Johnny/Paradise, Hawaiian Style
    25. Funny How Time Slips Away (Alternate-1970) – Elvis Country: I’m 10,000 Years Old (2008 FTD Edition), CD 2
    26. Something (Live-1970) – That’s The Way It Is (2014 Deluxe Edition), CD 3
    27. Beyond The Reef (Alternate-1966) – From Nashville To Memphis
    28. Something (Live-1970) – Walk A Mile In My Shoes
    29. Where Do I Go From Here (1972) – Elvis (Fool)
    30. Money Honey (Live-1956) – A Golden Celebration, CD 1
    31. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child/Where Could I Go But To The Lord/Up Above My Head/I Found That Light/Saved (1968) – Memories (with Darlene Love)
    32. I Got Lucky (1961) – I Got Lucky
    33. Hurt (Live-1977) – Elvis In Concert
    34. Echoes Of Love (Alternate-1963) – Elvis Sings Memphis, Tennessee, CD 1
    35. Until It’s Time For You To Go (Alternate-1971) – Elvis Now (2010 FTD Edition), CD 2
    36. Polk Salad Annie (Live-1970) – The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970, CD 1
    37. Can’t Help Falling In Love (Live-1970) – That’s The Way It Is (2014 Deluxe Edition), CD 6
    38. Jailhouse Rock/Don’t Be Cruel (Live-1969) – The Return To Vegas
    39. There Goes My Everything (Live-1970) – That’s The Way It Is (2014 Deluxe Edition), CD 6
    40. I Got A Woman (Rehearsal-1968) – A Life In Music
    41. Three Corn Patches (1973) – Raised On Rock
    42. Patch It Up (Alternate-1970) – That’s The Way It Is (2014 Deluxe Edition)
    43. I Want You With Me (1961) – Something For Everybody
    44. Can’t Help Falling In Love (Live-1970) – The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970, CD 2
    45. Separate Ways (Re-recording-1972) – Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals
    46. I’ll Remember You (Live-1973) – Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite
    47. Johnny B. Goode (Live-1974) – Forty-Eight Hours To Memphis
    48. Inherit The Wind (Alternate-1969) – Back In Memphis (2012 FTD Edition), CD 1
    49. Kentucky Rain (Alternate-1969) – From Elvis At American Sound Studio, CD 2
    50. Hound Dog (Live-1973) – Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite
    51. Moody Blue (Alternate-1976) – Made In Memphis
    52. Are You Laughing Tonight (Live-1969) – Elvis Aron Presley

    Definitely a lot of fantastic music and a fun listening experience.

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