Elvis In Vegas
2012 Overlook Duckworth Peter Mayer Publishing
It seems that Elvis is slipping off the radar of pop culture recently, so, it is fitting that a new book about his life and times is released.
This book chronicles in photographs and anecdotes the milestones in the life of Elvis Presley during arguably the height of his stardom focusing on his association with Sin City. Though this period primarily encompasses his many appearances at the Hilton International Hotel during the 70’s, the details also include appearances in 1956 at the Frontier Hotel as well as his later tour appearances.
This book speaks more to the fan of everything Elvis than those only interested in his music and contribution to early rock and roll, but it’s important to remember that that is what he had become...a superstar known for more than his music. It stands then that in most of the book, music is secondary to Elvis as a superstar or movie star. All of these elements are essential to understanding the tragic and heroic life of The King.
The fan of the music may find details of the bands in Vegas interesting. James Burton, featured prominently in the performances was originally asked to play the ’68 Comeback Special, but couldn’t due to his commitment with Frank Sinatra. Longtime Elvis fan John Wilkinson signed on as rhythm guitarist, Ronnie Tutt (later replaced by Bob Lanning) on drums, Larry Muhoberac (later replaced by Glen Hardin) on piano completed the rhythm section for most of the Vegas engagements. Recordings of this group reveal a unique sound created by seasoned musicians that was the perfect foil for Elvis’ Vegas period.
A large part of the photos are live shots and behind the scenes from the Vegas shows. Fans of his costumes will find these detailed with outfit names. It is interesting to trace the development of the outfits over the years as it is to note the use of the cape on some to compete the ensemble. Their flamboyance becomes suitable of any mega-star musician from the 1970’s. It is also interesting to see that they become a little more subdued (if only slightly) towards the end of his career. The book reveals a little known fact that the jumpsuits were modeled after a karate Gi and initially designed by Priscilla.
In the text, we find details of a generous and kind person who always put the music and the fans first. You can easily take from this that that is a key to his success. You also find an individual who was trapped in the enormous pressures of super-stardom and was capable of reacting unpleasantly when these pressures became to great or things didn’t go his way. The book is unflinching in reflecting both sides and only strays from it’s focus on Vegas to provide some context to the last period of Elvis life.