- Tiger Man
The King of Rock & Roll’s 1968 Christmas television special and corresponding LP needed no other title than ELVIS (emblazoned in letters as tall as the record itself), but it became enshrined as “The ’68 Comeback Special.” During the late ’60s, several years removed from live performance of any kind, Elvis had become something previously unimaginable: safe. His recorded output and material were strictly controlled to maximize profits, his appearances were limited to movie theaters, and only his friends saw the uninhibited rebel that had shocked America during the mid-’50s. But when Presley and Colonel Tom Parker agreed to record a Christmas television special to be directed and co-produced by Steve Binder, it became the catalyst for a comeback. Binder’s previous involvement in television (the widely respected T.A.M.I. Show and Hullabaloo) had proved that he understood the best way to present rock music in a television context. On the eve of recording, Binder and his tested crew were on track to produce an excellent show (with dramatic and thematic set pieces tied to Elvis’ performances), but it was Binder’s chance witnessing of an informal after-hours jam in Elvis’ dressing room that transformed a sturdy television vehicle into one of the signal moments in Elvis’ career. Binder proposed that Elvis perform part of his special in an informal sit-down jam session, spending time reflecting on the Elvis sensation of the late ’50s while he performed some of his old favorites with a group of friends. Although initial reception to the idea was lukewarm (from the Colonel especially), Elvis finally agreed and, with only a few days before taping, invited two of his earliest bandmates, Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana, to join him.