Elvis Birthday Bash - 2008

Dave Clarke Photo Gallery

Russell Scott & The Redhots: fever - Elvis's Birthday Bash 08

For the best music roundup, see Jenny Angel’s summary http://duskdevils.blogspot.com/2008/01/elvis-birthday-bash-2008.html

The Elvis Show and My Narrowcast Life

I’ve nearly always traveled in small circles. I was with the crowd in the 60s with Dylan and Creedence and the Beatles, but never for a minute losing hope that actual rock & roll would come back. In the 70s when I got free records as a writer I’d find stuff that nobody else knew about, and as time passed realized that that list outnumbered the popular ones. That was when I began to sense I was separated from the mainstream.

Starting in 1984 I ran Rockabilly Wednesdays at Club Lingerie in Hollywood. There was a surge in interest in rockabilly here, much of it from Orange County where the children of farmers donned their parents’ old heavy blue jeans with foot-high cuffs, gingham dresses and poodle skirts and took to the sounds of the 50s. Like the punk rock that preceded it locally, a rockabilly resurgence rose.

But it disappeared quickly. By 1987 my jam-packed rockabilly shows were dwindling. Apparently the revolution I perceived was a phase for kids rounding 20. When jobs and marriage and other musics came into play they took off, leaving me with unfulfilled dreams of a Rockabilly Empire. I’d be at the Club L watching the Paladins play to a small crowd and wonder “What is the matter with the world? This is the greatest music on earth. Why aren’t there more of us?”

It was to be my lot in life. Take the Elvis birthday shows. The first one was run by Ronnie Mack & James Intveld on Jan 8, 1987 at a club in Pasadena. The next year I joined them and took it to the Music Machine in West L.A. where Dwight Yoakam and other local favorites jammed in. The show bounced from there to the Palomino and to Club Lingerie, always doing turnaway business. How sadly I remember rainy January nights when a long line waited outside the Club L while 300 people inside watched the greatest show on earth. So when the new House Of Blues called in 1995, I leapt at it. Our initial show, a few weeks into the club’s existence, drew 1100 people - on a Sunday night. We were the Golden Kids.

That went well til our Jan 8th hit a Saturday night in 2001. “We want that night for ourselves” said the club. “You take January 10th.” Well January 10th is not January 8th. Not all the Elvis-goers were plugged into the Hollywood info-line. Many came from out of town knowing by tradition where to go Jan 8th. When they were turned away that night, we lost a lot of them. They felt betrayed. We kept on OK, but after Sept 11, club business was off everywhere, and our attendance dropped below 500. Not a bad crowd, but difficult to make one’s ‘nut’ as I kept the price low at $15 and the club took the first $7500.

Regular attendance never regained its former size. In 2005, the club got a new booking agent and nobody told him to save the night for us. When I called routinely in early November he said “Sorry, that night’s taken.” Like the people outside Club Lingerie, I was out in the cold.

City councilman Tom Labonge, always a fan of the show (he sometimes sang an Elvis song), helped me grab the old Hollywood Palace for the night for nothing, but it was with two weeks notice and with no advertising. The L.A. Times and Weekly ran little squibs about the sudden change, but few people saw it. It drew small numbers to see the 30 acts.

And this is where the narrowcasting comes in. That show was as good as any we had. Frigging ecstasy. Great wonderful bands and soloists doing Elvis songs in so many glorious ways, everyone happy, everyone rockin’ - but it was just us, not the world at large. In 2006 we accepted the Music Box’s offer to host us, and have been there for three years.

Irrespective of the numbers (we had 250 people) this most recent Elvis show was a spectacular blast. Everyone there had a smile plastered on their face, buoyed and bounced by 35 different Elvis interpreters, from the joyously insane (Johnny Legend) to the wonderfully reverent (Jimmy Angel) to the flash of James Intveld to the rock-solid madness of the Blasters, this was a lollapalooza of joy. Everyone said “This was the best one yet.” Harmony and happiness reigned.

And still I wondered, Where were all the other people? This year we got tv coverage on three local tv stations, but unfortunately two of them ran at 11 pm, a little late to draw people. But loyalists come every year and as newcomers are dazzled they’ll join the converted and it will grow with them. (More than one person has told me the Elvis show is the only reason they live in L.A.) And if it doesn’t, it will survive anyway, fueled by my infernal need to do the show: I can’t find this level of wonderfulness anywhere else. It’s good to be King.