After seven years of solely making Hollywood movies, Elvis Presley made a big music comeback with his 1968 television special. Filmed in June that year in Burbank, California, the show wasn’t aired until December 3. And despite pressure from his manager Colonel Parker to have Christmas songs, The King ignored him and made a back to his roots TV event that would resurrect his career. However, he’d have to wait half a year to find out how it went down.
Speaking previously at Elvis’ 85th birthday celebrations at Graceland, Priscilla Presley spoke of watching the 1968 special with The King live that Winter.
His ex-wife recalled: “I was sitting with him in our living room [and] we were watching the show. It was Sonny West, myself and Charlie Hodge [with Elvis]. And it was so intense…you couldn’t hear a pin drop. He was literally stuck to that TV and we didn’t say anything. [He] watched the whole entire thing with such intensity, I could feel his nervousness watching it that night. He didn’t say a word. Nothing, until after it was over. I could see him a little bit perspiring. And all of a sudden the phone started ringing and it was all like magic.”
Priscilla enthused: “They were all saying, ‘Oh my god, Elvis was really great…what a night!’ When it came out in the papers it told all the ratings of how well the show did and it was like a big sigh of relief [for him]. But, y’know he was nervous.”
During another Q&A at the 85th birthday celebrations, Priscilla and Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling shared Elvis’ backstage tensions before a show. Commenting on footage of The King getting ready to perform, Jerry said: “You can tell by the tension backstage that Elvis felt… we picked up on it.”
Priscilla continued: “He was nervous. You never approached him before a show. He was in his dressing room by himself, because he had to psych himself out. Right now [referring to the footage] he’s psyching himself out. Head down, getting himself ready, taking deep breaths. And people were wondering, ‘Oh my god, why would he be nervous?’ Because you get nervous.”
Priscilla added: “He always said, ‘You get a different crowd’, you never know, you get people drinking – this is Vegas. He said ‘Every show’s different. You start seeing somebody yawning or looking at their watch, you’d better do a better job.’ He was this way before every show. Always in quietness. He’d think about what he was going to do. And whether it was Vegas or on the road or wherever, that’s how he’d psych himself up.”
Elvis Presley’s 1968 Comeback Special aired on NBC 54 years ago today. The King’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley shared “you couldn’t hear a pin drop” when they watched the show together for the very first time.