EP'S MEMPHIS WAS MURDERED!
Round up the usual suspects . . . they've gone and done it again . . . This
was inevitable. When you try to be all things to all people, you're guaranteed
to fail. ELVIS was always ELVIS regardless of outside opinion. EP'S MEMPHIS
should have followed this ELVISIAN standard . . . I know I do . . . .
The club was doomed on opening night when rather than having an ELVIS theme
or bringing in the legends of Memphis Rock, Blues, and Soul, or fittingly
Ronnie, Scottie, and D.J (as everyone had hoped,) to perform, E.P.E brought
in the Pop diva Jewel in an attempt to show the world that they were going
to pander to a more sophisticated crowd than ELVIS fans . . . an insult to
the very fans that have built an entertainment empire that rivals a pharaoh's
dynasty. The basement wine cellar with the formal dining room was unimpressive
image polishing and went unused. The downstairs should've been a video bar
to hold ELVIS- specific functions. They could've used that room to invite
the many fabulous authors of ELVIS books to have book signings. I'm sure many
fans would've arranged their schedules to go there and have a Greil Marcus
or Dave Marsh sign their books. The management should've reached out to ELVIS
insiders and family members, former costars, his stage performers, E.P.E execs
and Fan Club Presidents to be on hand as greeters. The club was never really
accessible and didn't extend itself to be a bastion to the fans . . . it wasn't
warm and fuzzy on the inside like Graceland, it was snooty like Priscilla.
No one wants to party in a showroom . . . They positioned themselves to attract
a select clientele of wealthy tourists rather than ELVIS fans or partygoers,
not realizing until it was too late that about the only tourists in Memphis
from all over the planet are ELVIS fans . . . the rest are Fed Ex pilots.
But mainly the club never grew. They should've rotated display pieces and
recorded a new tape of music during their 6 year run. They had the DJ booth
upstairs, but no one was there and the same tape just played over and over.
Of all the ELVIS songs to choose from not only did it have "Dixieland
Rock," it had it on their twice!!!!
Since the image of ELVIS couldn't do live performances anymore, E.P.E brought
in the foremost Rockabilly band in the land to pay homage to the raucous spirit
of the Hillbilly Cat and the Blue Moon Boys. They are the only true TRIBUTE
ARTISTS known to me. Their love for ELVIS inspired them to walk a mile in
their own blue suede shoes rather than donning jumpsuits and dying their hair
black to impersonate him. They immediately built up a loyal following of fans
inside and outside of ELVIS world. It was kismet. The classiest joint on Beale
Street with the perfect band for the room was a formula for success that every
club dreams of having; the ambiance was right. Even the reports here in Memphis
noted how the place did well when the Dempseys were there all the time . .
. and how it foundered without them . . . But low and behold, amid the thousands
that loved them were a vocal group of watchdogs who felt that their rambunctious
style was not a befittin' memory to THE KING and evoked the standards of Christian
decency. And you know that I know only too well how much rancor that causes.
These folks didn't like having someone walk across the table tops playing
their glasses and plates, and mounting their instruments, and any of the other
101 different things that they do to entertain audiences from all over the
world and keep the place packed. So rather than leave and let the multitude
enjoy themselves, the few complained to E.P.E in the name of the memory of
ELVIS and the many suffered. E.P.E made a fatal genuflect decision and began
fading them off the stage then and reduced them from "house band"
to "feature group." That's when their heartaches began. As we all
know, if the Dempseys aren't at E.P's we walk out . . . The club lost its
following and the pale comparisons were not a draw. No disrespect to the hard
working bands that played there also, but the place was gutted without The
The Beale Street experience is about free flowing alcohol, large baskets of
food---barbequed--- and edgy live bands playing the hell out of their music
. . . like it was when ELVIS became enthralled with it. The counter conservative
three star approach didn't work---nor did the Bible brunches. Clubs down there
survive on their personalities. Silky Sullivan is at his place slapping backs
and buying drinks and everyone loves him, so we stop by his bar. They don't
play Grunge music at Have A Nice Day Disco '70s and they don't play Soul at
the Hard Rock Cafe. Without the Dempseys the club lost its live identity---
which is death for any Beale Street club.
Here's a story for contrast. Our Vice President, Karen Abelsett was with Isaac
Hayes at "Da Blues Restaurant" in the Memphis International Airport,
(where Ben Collie, the only surviving member of Otis Reading's plane crash
plays) and he was complaining loudly to everyone that the food at his place
was terrible, the service was lousy, the decor was all bad and the band stunk!
So he closed his doors this week, but only to renovate the place and completely
overhaul the menu, before reopening October 15. He has fired most of staff
and extended an open invitation to the friendly people from EP'S Memphis to
come work there for him.
Inside the massive double doors of the double decker brick house that ELVIS
built, many people were intimidated and felt out of their element . . . and
way beyond their means. For a person on vacation budgeting to buy souvenirs
and make it home, $12.00 for a cheeseburger, fries and a Pepsi is PRICEY.
The $299.00 coats and $40.00 tshirts were a bit of a GOUGE----not to mention
the $250.00 a game pool table where ELVIS scratched against the Beatles. Who
was this place built to service? Most ELVIS fans toured it like a museum and
got out of there without leaving behind a dime. What do you think ELVIS would've
thought of what they had done in his name to his favorite spot in the world?
Would he have been satisfied at the service and treatment his fans were given?
This was a man who often flew into rages when promoters raised the prices
of his tickets a few measly bucks . . . Too bad he's not around to fix EP's,
because only ELVIS knew how to give his fans what they wanted and make new
fans along the way . . . E.P.E has not learned this . . . it almost makes
you miss having the Colonel running things . . .
E.P.E has been spoiled by the fans and it has ruined any hope of them accruing
the necessary business skills to do justice to the name and image of ELVIS
PRESLEY. They are used to doing the bare minimum and making an unbelievable
fortune. They opened the front door of Graceland and patted themselves on
the back for being ingenious enough to lure 15,000,000 fans through the turnstiles----they
became arrogant. For the last 20 years all they have had to do was set up
a money management network for all the dough rolling in and they mistook it
for corporate acumen. The only thing that E.P.E has ever been able to successfully
market is the music and likeness of ELVIS. And that's because of ELVIS &
the Colonel and in spite of E.P.E. Every business venture---from Bis &
Beau's to ELVIS cologne and others----tanked. There's not a lot of creativity
at the top and they refuse to follow the lead given by the fans.
Since they deem the theme to be a failure, rather than their own poor concept
of their customer base, these countries that have been patiently gathering
for their branch location to open will go without and E..P.E once again markets
itself out of a fortune.
To close his high visibility namesake club because of their inability to market
umbrellas in a rainstorm reflects badly on ELVIS. (You know, running a business
at a loss or for promotion is the first thing they teach at empire school.)
Since they went about grandly detailing their plans for a worldwide chain,
ELVIS has egg on his face and his fans have to listen to his millions of detractors
say that ELVIS is on the decline despite his posthumous chart topping reign
over the last 2 years. Every time you see a story about Graceland it's about
how their laying off people and of how the tour is in dramatic decline. E.P.E
mournfully blames it on 9/11 and the dwindling travel industry. Well when
I was doing my holiday shows in 2001, Marlowe's was packed with people from
all over the world. People still fly off for vacation, they're just not flying
here to see Graceland again, because E.P.E doesn't have anything going to
inspire people to return. For many, a trip to Graceland is a once in a lifetime
event. E.P.E markets to families and provide nothing for children to do and
nowhere for the elderly to sit . . . hell they only provide one restroom per
sex for thousands of fans. The tour of Graceland pulls a fraction of its potential,
because they have no scheme. Once you've walked through the house there's
no where to go and nothing to do. They need to devise a plan to bring fringe
fans back year after year by providing an entertainment complex. ELVIS world
is not seasonal and must learn how to compete for year round tourist dollars.
If the Japanese conglomerate bought the mansion for $800,000.00 when it was
for sale in 1980, today there would be an amusement park over in the acres
north and south of the mansion, rather than a low rent industrial complex
that stays boarded up like most small business are in this town. I mean especially
with the whole Lilo & Stitch tie in it's a no brainer to erect a theme
carnival. For the first time in 45 years it's the kids dragging their parents
off to see ELVIS and buy his music, so E.P.E must cater to their fan base
and stop making the same mistakes twice or the next thing we'll be reading
about is that E.P.E is closing Graceland to the public, because the tour is
I'll remember EP's Memphis fondly and with pride. I was fortunate to have
appeared on stage there through the graces of The Dempseys, and I appreciate
them for the memories I'll have of their unbelievable talent . . . unless
the place has an ELVIS theme, I'll never step foot in the place . . .
Hope to spoo dee da with you real soon,