I'm back! Yes, friends and neighbors your boy is back, with my
"Legends" column. But this time it will not only cover the legends
of rock and roll, but also the legends of jazz, blues and country
music. Those of us who are fans of music realize either consciously
or unconsciously that all of these genres of music have added to
the gumbo that is popular music today. My new column will run
monthly, so I hope you all will enjoy it, and make it part of your
Being that this is my "return" or "comeback" to the friendly
confines of the Mountain Times; I'm compelled profile a couple of
the "greatest comebacks" in music history.
Elvis Presley's Comeback Special
This monumental musical event happened on December 3, 1968, and
unlike most musical events of this nature it happened on
television. This special is now known as the "Elvis Comeback
Special" but it was originally just an Elvis TV show on the NBC
network. When Elvis hit the little screen for the first time in
many years he looked young and strong, his voice in great form and
his star power apparent. The special was supposed to be a Christmas
special but the director of the show saw it as an opportunity for
Elvis to make a statement. The statement was "I'm still here, and
I'm ready to rock," and rock he did. After a few obligatory
scripted sketches Elvis showed why he was and always will be the
It happened in an ironic twist of fate. The director of the
special and network suits witnessed Elvis and his musicians jamming
some old blues and gospel tunes backstage. After some intense
convincing, and alleged financial remuneration (via Presley's
manager Colonel Tom Parker) an impromptu jam session was arranged
in the NBC studio using Elvis' original band featuring guitar god
and rockabilly foundation Scotty Moore, as well as bassist Bill
Black, and drummer DJ Fontana. Elvis was still very insecure as he
had not performed live since 1962, so the director again used his
noodle and enlisted a few of Elvis' entourage to come onstage with
him, and it worked. This show is available on DVD under the title
of, what else Elvis Presley's Comeback Special.
Louis Armstrong, Paris "Victory" Concert
Taking place at the historic Champs de Elyses only a short four
years after the devastation of World War II on November 5-6,
1949, the architect of jazz himself the great "Satchmo" put
together an all-star small group featuring legendary 20's and 30's
jazz icons like trombonist Jack Teagarden, clarinetist Barney
Bigard, drummer "Big" Sid Catlett, and pianist extraordinaire Earl
"Fatha" Hines. This band was a foreshadow to the "Louis Armstrong's
All-Stars" small group that were to be Louis' touring group after
the disbanding of Armstrong's Big Band in 1953.
The concert took on epic status as soon as the band hit the
stage due to the crowds reaction to having their heroes return
triumphantly after the Germans forbid jazz music to be played in
Paris during their occupation.
As a sidebar to that aspect of the concert, in the late forties
and early fifties "bebop" had taken over the world of jazz music.
Bebop was championed by jazz innovators Charlie Parker and Dizzy
Gillespie, as well as a very young Miles Davis. Bebop had pushed
Armstrong and his contemporaries to the rear, and they were
considered to be old school before old school was cool.
The return to the friendly confines of Europe where old jazz was
still king, was just what the players in Louis' all-star band
needed. After about a half dozen shows in Italy, the band was
ready, willing, and able to tear it up on those cool and rainy
nights in November of 1949 dans "La Ville-Lumieré.
Okay, that's it for me friends. Keep music alive, support live
music, and look for my column here in The Mountain Times.