The adage of “never judge a man what he does in public but what he does in private” is wisdom personified.
During Elvis’ concert years (i.e. 1969 to 1977) one of the things Elvis did in private was to sing gospel songs.
In his hotel suite, many times after performing onstage having given 2 live performances, Elvis had his backup singers – invited guests – invited celebrities – etc. to gather around the piano and sing gospel songs.
Elvis loved Gospel songs.
Gospel songs were as much a part of Elvis was his unique style. Unique singing. Unique stage presence. Elvis was gospel. Elvis loved God and his beloved son Jesus. Elvis, from the time he was old enough to walk, sang and most of what he sang was gospel music.
Against the will of Ed Sullivan, whose tv show in the 1950s was the most popular TV show in the world, Elvis (whose tv appearances had made history with the largest viewing audience in the world) had made a promise to his beloved mother Gladys to sing “Peace in the valley”.
At the time of Elvis’ Ed Sullivan tv appearances Elvis was ravaged by the “elite press”. They called him a dumb hillbilly. They said he couldn’t sing but mumble. They blamed him for all of the ills of youth and delinquency. The world had never seen anything like Elvis before…or since.
Onstage, and on tv, Elvis moved with passion and purpose. He exploded. He moved to the rhythm naturally. Every fiber of his being was put into his songs and tv and stage performances.
The press had ridiculed Elvis’ tv appearances as wild and jungle music. Ed Sullivan, who previously said he would never have Elvis on his tv show, ultimately paid Elvis the highest monetary amount ever paid for an entertainer to appear on tv. As a matter of fact it was three times the amount ever paid to any entertainer but Elvis’ tv ratings were astronomical.
Elvis, who had a photograph memory and remembered who hurt him and who helped him, knew that Ed Sullivan was behind showing Elvis on tv from the “waist up” thereby denying the tv audience the full Elvis experience. Between the acts of Ed Sullivan and the unwarranted attacks along with the promise to his mother Gladys (which was ultimately important) Elvis informed a shocked Ed Sullivan that he was going to sing “Peace in the valley”. Ed Sullivan went to Colonel Parker, and Parker also remembered Ed Sullivan’s slights against Elvis, to get Elvis not to sing this gospel song.
Colonel Parker, for better or worse, told Sullivan “the boy sings what he wants when he wants” and “he was contracted for X number of appearances and X number of songs” and reminded Sullivan of the historical tv ratings and gave Sullivan the fact…Elvis would sing “Peace in the valley”.
Unlike Elvis’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, which was not hosted by Ed Sullivan who had been in a terrible auto accident but by Charles Laughton the successful actor, Sullivan was hosting and he knew the Colonel had a bona fide contract. It was a “lose lose” situation for Ed Sullivan.
Elvis’ appearances on the Ed Sullivan show have been put into many Elvis’ VHS and/or DVD documentaries. I encourage Elvis Presley fans to seek out these products as they are a must for Elvis fans.
You can see Ed Sullivan (note: this was the last appearance of Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show and it occurred on January 6, 1957 which was 2 days before Elvis’ 22nd birthday. Peace in the valley was the last song on the last appearance) onstage with a curious look on his face and told the live audience that “now he is going to sing a song to soft of in the mood he wanted to create peace in the valley” at which point Elvis comes out and sings this gospel song in a throughly meaningful way.
Besides Elvis’ promise to his beloved mother Gladys Ed Sullivan had made mention about the Hungarian relief efforts (note: Hungary declared Elvis an honary citizen of Budapest and had a city landmark named after him) as a way to transition Elvis into singing this heartfelt gospel song. It was evident, and documented, that Ed Sullivan did not want Elvis to sing a gospel song on his tv show. This was also true of RCA, who Elvis was under contract with, who didn’t want Elvis to make a gospel record let alone an album. These facts are for another day…in another blog which I hope you enjoy.
Worth noting is after Elvis sings Peace in the valley, after a short break, Ed Sullivan brings Elvis back out and pays Elvis a compliment that touched Elvis greatly and in fact was instrumental in the United States and the world changing their opinion of Elvis to reality. Elvis was always appreciative to Ed Sullivan for what he said. When you watch the footage of this you see an unsure Elvis listening to Sullivan not knowing what Sullivan was to say and then Elvis lifting his head up and shaking Sullivan’s hand while thanking him. Whatever prior resentment Elvis had against Sullivan was forgotten. The reviews of Elvis last tv appearance on the Ed Sullivan show were positive and Elvis often said “he didn’t have to do that (i.e. bring Elvis back out and compliment him)” and “I owe Ed Sullivan a lot” and “what Ed Sullivan did made a difference in people accepting me” and “I truly am thankful to Mr. Sullivan”.
The reality being that Elvis was a fine and decent young man. A man who loved his family, God, Jesus, and his country. A man who said “yes mam – no mam – yes sir – no sir”. A polite man. A humble man. A very sensitive man. A complex man. Thanks to YouTube you can watch it below.
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