Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Comeback Special

(Gibson) On this day in 1968, Elvis Presley appeared on an NBC show that was billed as his "comeback special." The show featured the king performing on a small, square stage, surrounded by a mostly female audience. Presley was outfitted in black leather and performed many of his early hits. Gibson takes a look back:

As the '60s rolled in, Elvis Presley was still The King, but there were chinks beginning to appear in his armor. His music was still topping the charts, but a lot of that music most of it, actually came from the soundtracks of the profitable, yet cheesy, Hollywood films he was churning out. That's not to say that the music was lacking; some of his career-best songs came from that era, including "Can't Help Falling in Love" (1961) and "Return to Sender" (1962). Also, three of his movie soundtrack albums climbed to #1 in the first half of the decade. By anyone's standards, those are solid achievements. But Elvis wasn't just anyone.

Things were not as they used to be, and Elvis' slide into commercial mediocrity, if not downright obscurity, seemed to happen almost as quickly as his meteoric rise to superstardom a decade earlier. It didn't help that his core fan base was now a number of years older. They were getting married, having babies growing up. Couple that with the overnight ascension of a certain mop-topped quartet from Liverpool, and just like that, the King of Rock and Roll was all but relegated to the "where are they now" file.

From 1964 through 1968, Elvis saw only one of his singles crack the top 10 and that was the 1965's "Crying in the Chapel," which was actually recorded five years earlier. After the release of his '62 album Pot Luck, Elvis didn't put out another new studio album (not counting movie soundtracks) until 1967's gospel album How Great Thou Art, which brought him his first Grammy (for Best Sacred Performance).

Elvis seemed to hit rock bottom with the release of his 1967 Clambake movie soundtrack, which resulted in record-low sales. As historians Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx noted, "Elvis was viewed as a joke by serious music lovers and a has-been to all but his most loyal fans." Elvis' films were moving in the wrong financial direction, too, and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was finding it increasingly difficult to secure his usual million-dollar per film fee.

So, Parker turned to NBC and struck a $1.25 million deal for both a movie (Change of Habit) and TV special. more on this story

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Copyright Gibson.com - Excerpted here with permission.

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