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BBC Radio 2 commemorates Elvis’s 75th birthday with a series of insightful documentaries


BBC Radio 2 marks what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday with a season of revelatory documentaries, from 26 December 2009-8 January 2010. Including programmes presented by Suzi Quatro, Jerry Hall and Rob Brydon, the season encompasses everything about “the King of Rock ’n’ Roll”, the music, the films, the brand and his personal life.

Lewis Carnie, Head of Programmes, Radio 2, says: “From expert opinion, to Elvis through the eyes of his fans, Radio 2’s season of documentaries provides a fascinating insight into Elvis the man, his music, his influence and his enduring legacy as the undisputed King of Rock ’n’ Roll.”

Jerry Hall kicks off the season on 26 December with Elvis – Gospel According To The King (at 10pm), as she explores the importance of gospel music in Elvis Presley’s life. Travelling back to his early influences, and featuring contributions from The Jordanaires, DJ Fontana, James Burton and Jerry Scheff, the programme also explains how Elvis incorporated gospel songs into his on-stage repertoire and his movie soundtracks.

Jerry comments: “Although Elvis was The King of Rock ’n’ Roll, his roots were the gospel music that he had grown up listening to while still a small boy when his momma took him to the Baptist churches in rural Tennessee.”

Between 1956 and 1969, despite having no training as an actor, Elvis made 31 films. Elvis – Movie King Or Celluloid Sellout (Part 1 can be heard on 28 December at 11.30pm and Part 2 on 29 December at 11.30pm), presented by Paul Morley, investigates the movie career of the singer, revisiting the songs and exploring the stories from GI Blues, Blue Hawaii and King Creole, to Girls Girls Girls, Flaming Star and Kissin’ Cousins.

Also on 29 December, Paul Gambaccini presents Elvis – Elvis & Dewey, at 10.30pm, the fascinating story of a pioneering DJ who played a part in the birth of rock ’n’ roll in Memphis and the start of Elvis’s career.

Dewey was the first DJ to introduce an Elvis record on the radio in July 1954. The programme includes extracts from Dewey’s radio and TV programmes and interviews from Louis Cantor, classmates of the entertainer and the late Memphis musician and producer, Jim Dickinson.

Don’t Start Me Taking About... Elvis (on 1 January at 7pm) tells the story of Elvis in the words of his fans. Offering a unique insight, the programme investigates the way The King impacted on everyday life and the commonplace.

Rob Brydon’s World Of Elvis – The Las Vegas Years (2 January at 10pm) explores the relationship that the singer forged with the fascinating city. Focusing on his seven-year run between 1969 and 1976, Brydon explores his Las Vegas legacy in a programme that revisits a golden period in his remarkable career.

On 4 and 5 January, Paul Gambaccini tells the story of brilliant reinvention and cultural obsession of what is arguably the most influential celebrity brand in history. Elvis – The Brand (Part 1/Part 2 at 11.30pm), sidelines the singer’s musical fame and highlights his power and influence as an American icon.

Paul comments: “I am delighted to be involved in Radio 2’s Elvis season. Elvis & Dewey spotlights the very first DJ to play a Presley record. At the other end of the time span, The Brand is right up to date in its analysis of Elvis as both cultural icon and commercial goldmine.”

Elvis – When The King Met The President (on 5 January at 10.30pm) is the story of when The King of Rock ’n’ Roll met the President of the United States to offer his services and help in the fight against drug abuse and Communist brainwashing.

Exploring the meeting between the two individuals, the programme includes accounts from President Nixon’s aides, who were present on the day, and Jerry Schilling, who reveals how the relationship continued after their meeting.

In a Memphis hotel room back in 1974, American singer-songwriter Suzi Quatro declined an invitation by The King himself to visit him in Graceland. Thirty-five years later, Radio 2 sends her there to explore her life-long obsession with Elvis, the connection she feels with him and his influence on her career.

Graceland (on 7 January at 10pm) follows Suzi on this amazing journey as she visits Elvis’s birthplace, meets his childhood friends and heads to Memphis to his first recording haven - Sun Studios.

Life-long friend George Klein offers a personal insight, before Suzi makes the long-awaited and highly emotional visit to Graceland itself.

Suzi comments: “To finally be going to Graceland after all these years ... wow – what a journey. It was ... very, very emotional. I was in tears many times as I traced the footsteps of Elvis Presley who was, and is, the reason I do what I do.”

Following his previous series profiling Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, Michael Freedland marks The King’s life with a six-part series on what would have been Elvis’s actual 75th birthday. Part one of The Elvis Trail (on 8 January at 7pm) begins in Tupelo, Mississippi, on 8 January 1935. Shortly before dawn, Gladys Presley gives birth to twins – Jessie Garon is born dead, but Elvis Aaron is alive and healthy.

This series looks at the incredible journey of Elvis’s life, ending with his untimely death on 16 August 1977.


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