After the success of his 1968 TV special,
Elvis decided to stop making movies and to go back to live entertaining as soon
as his movie contracts were up. He hadn't toured in years. By that time, his
bassist from the 50's, Bill Black, had passed away. His lead guitar player,
Scotty Moore, and his drummer, D.J. Fontana, were busy with session work. Before
he could begin to tour again he needed to recruit, along with back-up singers
and other show members, a new core rhythm group. The new players would
eventually become known at The TCB Band, a nod to the "Takin' Care of Business"
slogan and logo Elvis would adopt for his personal and professional life.
Elvis' first live concert engagement was to be a four-week run at the new International Hotel in Las Vegas beginning on July 31, 1969. By mid-July he and his new band began rehearsals for the show. The group consisted of: James Burton (lead guitar), Larry Muhoberac (piano), Jerry Scheff (bass), Ronnie Tutt (drums) and John Wilkinson (rhythm guitar). Various gentleman players came and went from the band over the years. Following is the first of two installments of brief bios on these artists:
James Burton played lead guitar. James was born in 1939 in Louisiana and as a teen appeared on "The Louisiana Hayride". He eventually worked for Ricky Nelson, including appearing with him on the Nelson family's "Ozzie & Harriet" TV series. He also became well known for his session work with such greats as The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys, and Sonny and Cher. Elvis had gotten in touch with him about being part of the 1968 TV special, but he was unavailable. Elvis recruited him as lead guitarist for his new band in 1969, a position he would keep until Elvis' death in 1977. After that, James continued with session work and toured with other stars such as Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield, Emmylou Harris and John Denver. James Burton is a well respected guitarist in the rock and country music industries and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 19, 2001.
John Wilkinson played rhythm guitar in the band from 1969 until Elvis' last show in 1977. Born in Washington, DC in 1945, John moved with his family to Springfield, Missouri. His father, a professor of psychology, was very talented musically and was a big influence. John began playing guitar at age five and banjo at age six. He also played trumpet. He first met Elvis in 1956 when he was able to see him backstage at an Elvis concert in Springfield. His early musical influences were folk singers like Peter, Paul and Mary, Gordon Lightfoot and The Kingston Trio. He was able to join The Kingston Trio at one point, a dream come true. After Elvis' death, John worked for an aircraft company. While working there he suffered a severe stroke in 1989. No longer able to continue working in that field or to play the guitar he returned to performing as a vocalist.
Jerry Scheff played bass guitar. Jerry grew up in San Francisco and moved to Sacramento at age 14. He played the tuba in grammar school took up the bass in seventh grade. He played classical and jazz music on the string bass. He served in the Navy, ending up in San Diego when he was discharged in 1961. He moved to Los Angles, where he began session work. His first hit song to play on was "Along Comes Mary" by The Association. He played for Johnny Mathis, Johnny Rivers, Neil Diamond, Nancy Sinatra, Pat Boone, Sammy Davis Jr., Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand and Linda Ronstadt to name a few. He played bass for Elvis' concerts from 1969 to 1977 except for a two-year period, 1973 - 1975, while he was going through a divorce. After Elvis' death he toured with Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, John Denver and Elvis Costello.
During the two-year absence of Jerry Scheff, Emory Gordy Jr. and Duke Bardwell each took a turn as bass player for Elvis' band.
Emory Gordy Jr. had done session work for Elvis, sitting in for Jerry on the March 1972 session that produced recordings such as "Separate Ways", "Burning Love" and "Always On My Mind". When Elvis needed to replace Jerry in the concert lineup in April 1973, he was already familiar with Emory's work. He toured with Elvis from then until September 1973, performing in 113 live shows with Elvis. Emory has worked on albums with such artists as Alabama, The Bellamy Brothers, Jimmy Buffett, Rosanne Cash, Billy Joel, Wynonna Judd and many others. He has also produced soundtracks for films such as "The Tin Cup", "Switchback", and "The Kings of New York" among others. He is married to country singing star Patty Loveless.
Duke Bardwell replaced Emory Gordy Jr. in 1974. He had met Ronnie Tutt on a session for Jose Feliciano and it was Ronnie who suggested him to Elvis. He would play bass in the band until Jerry Scheff returned in 1975. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1943, Bardwell is part of a family of nine who, including his parents Stanford and Loyola, were all named after major universities. He began his musical career at age five when his mother gave him a ukulele. He has played for artists such as Tom Rush, Emmylou Harris and Kenny Loggins. He recently released his first CD.
Ronnie Tutt played drums for Elvis from 1969 to 1977. Ronnie is from Dallas, Texas. As a very young child his mother put him in dance class. He also began playing musical instruments, starting at age three with a ukelele, then guitar, violin and trumpet. He didn't start playing the drums until his late teens. His experience in dance gave him a sense of rhythm that wasn't satisfied by other instruments. The first band he played with was a western-swing band. His friend Larry Muhoberac, a keyboard player, put in a good word for him and he was granted an audition as Elvis' drummer in 1969. In an interview he once said the reason he thought Elvis gave him the job was..."I emulated and accented everything that he did just instinctively. Every move, almost like a glorified stripper! And he loved that." Ronnie has also worked with Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, The Carpenters and Neil Diamond among others.
Over the years, other drummers substituted for Ronnie in Elvis' show when scheduling conflicts arose. Bob Lanning played the drums for shows in early 1970. Jerome "Stump" Monroe, who was the regular drummer for The Sweet Inspirations, sat in on a couple of shows. Session drummer Larry Londin, who had worked with Elvis at RCA's Studio B in 1971, filled in for Ronnie for eight performances in March 1976 and again in June 1977 for Elvis' last two shows. Londin also worked with numerous other artists including Rosanne Cash, Randy Travis, David Frizzell, Rodney Crowell, Aaron Tippin, George Strait and Al Green. He died in Nashville on August 24, 1992.
When Elvis returned to live performing in 1969, leaving his Hollywood movie career behind, he recruited players for his new band. They were: James Burton (lead guitar), Larry Muhoberac (piano), Jerry Scheff (bass), Ronnie Tutt (drums), and John Wilkinson (rhythm guitar). Various other gentlemen players came and went from the band over the years until Elvis' final concert in 1977. We profiled several of them in last week's Elvis Fact of the Week. Following are the rest of our brief bios:
Larry Muhoberac grew up in Louisiana and began playing accordion and piano at age 5. He toured Europe with the Woody Herman band at age of 20. He moved to Memphis in 1959. Formerly known as Larry Owens, he and his band performed at Elvis' two Memphis-area charity concerts in 1961. He became a session player in California and worked on several soundtrack recording sessions with Elvis, including "Frankie & Johnny", "Paradise Hawaiian Style" and "Speedway". He played the first Elvis engagement at the International Hotel in 1969. He went on to play for such artists as Neil Diamond, Al Martino, Tina Turner and Ray Charles among others. In 1986, he emigrated to Australia, where music still keeps him very busy today.
Glenn D Hardin replaced Larry Muhoberac on piano. Glen D. is from Texas and began playing piano at age 8. He hadn't thought about playing professionally until he got a job a nightclub in San Diego, California while he was in the U.S. Navy. After leaving the Navy he moved to Los Angeles and started doing session work. He has worked with artists such as Buddy Holly's former group The Crickets, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Nelson, Travis Tritt, Roy Orbison and John Denver among many others. He played piano in Elvis' concerts from 1970 to early 1976.
Shane Keister played piano for eight shows in early 1976 until Tony Brown was hired to replace Glenn D. Hardin. Tony Brown is the son of a preacher and secular music was discouraged in his youth. Gospel music was his early inspiration. He played and toured with The Oak Ridge boys. After working with Elvis he began working in Nashville in the recording business. Today, he's an influential record producer and recording industry executive.
David Briggs played keyboards for Elvis's shows from 1976 until the end of February 1977. His work with Elvis dates back to 1966, when he was called in to substitute for pianist Floyd Cramer, who was late for one of the recording sessions for the "How Great Thou Art" album. Briggs played piano in Cramer's place for the song "Love Letters", one of the non-gospel songs recorded in those same sessions. Cramer then arrived to take over on piano, but Elvis liked Briggs and kept him on for the rest of those sessions to play organ. He continued to record with Elvis through to his last recording session in 1976. David is from Alabama and the famous music of the Muscle Shoals area. His first recording session was at age 14. He has recorded with artists such as Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Mark Chestnut, Barbara Mandrell and many others. He has also worked in Nashville as a songwriter, a producer and a music director for television specials.
Throughout the 1970's, these musicians toured and played with Elvis Presley in over 1,000 shows across the United States. Many of them still look back over that experience with fondness and pride. In 1997, on the 20th anniversary of Elvis' death, a concert was held in Memphis reuniting many of these musicians and many of the vocalists who had worked with Elvis as part of his concert tours. The 1997concert starred the real Elvis Presley, via video with all sound removed from the footage but his voice, with his former colleagues performing live on stage. This big production served as the prototype for a smaller road-show size production, Elvis-The Concert, which has been touring around the world since 1998. Another major reunion production was held in Memphis on the 25th anniversary in 2002. The road show, Elvis-The Concert, just finished its fourth tour of Europe last week. The show has received tremendous acclaim and in 1998 was designated a Guinness World Record as "The first live tour headlined by a performer who is no longer living."
On his web site, bassist Jerry Scheff wrote about his experience with the 1997 reunion concert: "There were times I forgot that his physical body was not with us. At the end of the show, when we were all lined up on stage, and you, the audience, were all on your feet, I was looking at your faces, and I thought I could see the same emotions going through you that I was feeling. They were mixed feelings of elation, sadness, and a sense that we had experienced something entirely different than we had experienced before. Then again, it all had to do with Elvis. What did we expect?"