Waiting For Elvis - something very special and unique this month. I got a call from Tony Brown, MCA Records chief and one of Nashville's and country's most illustrious producer (and a TEC Award nominee again this year). Before Brown achieved all of the above positions, he was the piano player in a band that backed a small-time lounge singer named Elvis Presley. It seems that Elvis was booked for a session in Nash-ville, at Creative Workshop Studios in 1976, and not uncharacteristically, The King never showed up. The assem-bled band, including Brown, James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, David Briggs and background singers the Sweet Inspirations, showed up night after night, learning songs and waiting for Elvis, who was holed up in the Sheraton Hotel on Harding Place, where the staff had walled off the entire top floor for him and his entourage. Elvis, however, kept finding excuses not to make it to the sessions, the main one of which was the inability to find a particular microphone he wanted, an EV RE-15.
One was finally located, at Quad Studios, and brought over. On the fourth night, the band assembled once again and began running down a song in preparation for Presley's arrival after a call telling them that Elvis has left the hotel and was on his way. Then another phone call: The King had indeed left the building, and he just kept on going, all the way to the airport and on to Memphis and Graceland.
Joe Gregg was then the studio manager at Quad and something of a legend himself in the Nashville music industry as a publisher for Warner Bros. Music. He decided that the entire episode needed to be memorialized somehow and penned a poem. While it's not "Paradise Lost," it managed to capture a moment in Nashville's history with a sense of the playfulness and inventiveness. And it's perhaps the only piece of literature in poetic history told from the perspective of a microphone.
Tony faxed over a copy of the poem, still on the Creative Workshop stationery it was written on, from a scan done by steel player and photographer Hank DeVito. It had been framed on the wall at Quad until the studio was sold the first time in 1980. So, here it is, for the first time in print. (English majors note: Annotations follow, and the spelling and punctuation are original...to say the least.)
A POEM BY IRVIN EVI was born, as you can see, a simple-minded RE-15
And as I rolled down that old assembly line
Visions of grandeur flowed thru my mind.
Ronstadt, James Taylor, a group called Orleans
Or with a little luck, maybe even the "King".
But where have I been for the last several years?
In a hot, sweaty bass drum stuffed up to my ears
With pillows and blankets and all kinds of crap.
I've been thumped to and fro and sometimes slapped!
But the other night a glimmer of hope I could see
As a hot, sweaty hand plucked me free And out of Quad and to the Work shop I flew
With whispers of "it's goin' to be Elvis and you"
My elements quivered, my windscreen fluttered
If I could speak, I would surely have stuttered.
So up on a new shiny stand I arose, ready to rock, ready to roll.
But for four lonely days, and four lonely nights
I didn't do shit and got extremely up tight
So take me back to Quad, my dear old home
And bring on Londin, Buttrey, Carrigan and Malone
And to hell with those stars, singers and clowns
`Cause I'll still be thumpin' when they're not around.
Annotations:Title: "Irvin" is the nickname given to the EV microphone.
Line 4: Refers to the new wave of country-rock artists which clustered around Norbert Putnam and David Briggs' Quad Recording in the 1970s, providing a somewhat more fresh-faced counterbalance to the Outlaw movement of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings a block away on Music Row.
Lines 4 and 5: In country music, "Orleans" and "King" are considered a valid rhyme.
Line 21: Refers to the main session drummers in Nashville at the time: Larry Londin, Kenny Buttrey, Jerry Carrigan and Kenny Malone.
Line 23: As far as we know, the microphone did indeed outlive Elvis Presley.