"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






EIN Interview with Greg Page

By Piers Beagley

Greg Page talked to EIN in 2005 about working with Elvis' TCB Band and 'Taking Care of Country'

Greg Page is well known for his role as lead singer in The Wiggles (Greg is the yellow Wiggle).

He is also a country music fan, an avid Elvis fan and has recorded five solo CDs, the most recent one featuring Elvis' TCB Band.

EIN - It's very exciting that you are bringing both James Burton & Glen D Hardin back to tour country Australia with you. How on earth did a Yellow Wiggle manage to get together with these legendary musicians?

GP - It was one of those happy coincidences! In 2002 I was in the States and I thought it would be great to do a show over there because the solo CDs that I have recorded do sell to fans in the US. I thought that rather than bring over an Australian band, why not go for the very best & so I aimed for the top. I didn't seriously think that I'd end up being able to sing with the TCB guys but I e-mailed the band and just by luck Ronnie Tutt knew who The Wiggles were.

EIN - How did you explain to them that a yellow Wiggle was serious about performing Elvis' songs?

GP - I told Ronnie that I already performed solo concerts and had recorded & produced several CDs of my own. I also gave him my website (www.gregpage.com) so that he could see that I was serious and he wrote back saying he knew who I was and had been watching a Wiggles video that very morning! Just to get an e-mail from Ronnie was a real buzz and then I also started chatting with Glen D.

EIN - How did the early concerts with the TCB Band in Nashville & Vegas come about?

GP - After talking with the whole band, we did some rehearsals in Vegas before playing there in 2003 and then last year we played in Nashville in July. People flew from all over America which amazed me. I know that fans in the States are different and really embrace The Wiggle shows but it really warmed my heart how keen fans were to hear my solo shows. I had also missed playing with a live band & really missed the spontaneity & the sound of a live band playing behind you with the feel changing on different songs each night.

EIN - What was it like as an unknown Australian artist playing Country music in the very home of country?

GP - It was very scary, almost intimidating. I had to explain at the media interviews beforehand that the style I do wasn't contemporary Country & that I don't bung on that fake "country accent". After all, when Elvis did his later country songs it was more "country" rather than Country & Western. However to walk onto that stage in Nashville was very daunting, especially as I knew that industry people were coming to the show. But once on stage you kind of forget all that & realise that you're there to put on a good show and anyway, I had one of the best bands in the world playing with me!

EIN - I believe you even had both guitarists Reggie Young and James Burton playing for you there - that's some band!

GP - When I recorded the CD in Nashville, Ronnie Tutt knew that Reggie Young was available and we managed to get both him and James Burton together, it was incredible. Sitting around with these 5 guys talking about who they'd played with was unbelievable. There was Elvis of course, different record producers, and even Reggie Young's tour with The Beatles when he was in The Bill Black Combo. I was just in awe. In the Nashville concert last year we played both 'In The Ghetto' and 'Suspicious Minds.' Now Reggie Young had recorded the famous studio session of those with Elvis - it's his amazing guitar work on 'In The Ghetto' - but James Burton had always played the live Elvis versions. Both of the arrangements are so different that it was fascinating to see these guitar maestros working out how they would play these famous songs together in the group. It could even have been the first time they had played these songs alive on stage together, I never asked!

EIN - How did you & Mick Gerace discover the same interest in Elvis?

GP - Mick & my children actually went to the same school and that's how we met & discovered the mutual interest. In fact my appreciation of Elvis started because Antony Field, the blue Wiggle, was a big Elvis fan and he would always play Elvis in the Tarago while we were on tour. I was just immersed in Elvis' music and grew to love it that way. The whole blend of the TCB musicians, the orchestra & Elvis' astounding voice just amazed me. That is what really grabbed me and I love Elvis' grandiose seventies stuff!

EIN - Was there any chance of Ronnie Tutt or Jerry Scheff coming out with you on this tour?

GP - Ronnie will actually be in Australia touring with Neil Diamond at the same time. I was hoping that he might get a couple of nights off to join up with us but unfortunately his schedule is too hectic. Jerry Scheff has now moved to live in Scotland which unfortunately made it logistically too difficult to get him along. Instead of Ronnie I'm using Mick's drummer, Mike Hague, who is an excellent replacement as you know, plus we have a horn section and over twenty people on the road with us - it will sound great.

EIN - Your CD 'Taking Care of Country' kicks off with Burning Love which is a powerful statement. How did you decide what songs to record?

GP - I felt that 'Burning Love' was a really strong intro track. Initially I thought about 'She Thinks I still Care' as the first track, as the feel of the take was so beautiful, but it didn't quite have the power of an opening track. 'Burning Love' was so identifiably Elvis - and I have never said that I am an "Elvis singer" or that I sound like him - but here is the TCB Band doing what they do best and you can so admire their brilliant work. I also really wanted to try & reflect a) the greatness of these guys as a band that had played with Elvis and b) the greatness & skill of these musicians as they are individually, aside from their Elvis work.

EIN - Did the band suggest numbers or arrangements for you?

GP - Previous to the session I worked with Glenn D on chord charts and string arrangements and he suggested that we could do things a little different to the known Elvis versions. For instance 'Loving Arms' is very different to Elvis' and it was more or less the band members that wanted to do something extra. 'Mary in the Morning' for instance was really inspired by James Burton's little guitar riff he did in the studio, his work is so beautiful.

EIN - What about the non Elvis songs?

GP - Songs like 'Deep Water' & 'Time Changes Everything' are Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys western-swing songs. Both Glen D Hardin and Ronnie Tutt originally lived in Texas and these were tunes that they grew up with - and I also wanted to see how the band enjoyed playing together on songs that they hadn't recorded before. In the studio Ronnie kind of steers the band & the session as he can often identify the kind of thing that will shift a song and take it to a higher level. He is so brilliant to work with that you can see why Neil Diamond always tours with him. Ronnie's a real leader; after all he majored in music at University.

EIN - Have you heard any of the Elvis FTD Fan Club CDs that are now being released?

GP - I bought several when I was in Graceland last year. What I love about them is where they have alternate takes with the music stripped back, so that you can hear where the concepts all arrived from musically. 'Nashville Marathon' is a great insight into his country recordings and I really enjoyed the recent 'Closing Night' live CD as it was so different.

EIN - The tour you are doing covers an extraordinary area of NSW. What do James Burton & Glen D Hardin think of travelling such country areas of Australia?

GP - The great thing about it is that both James & Glen are keen to see the countryside of Australia. They see it as the working holiday in Australia that they have never had. I do think that some of the towns will more interesting than others but Glen in particular was keen to do it since he will get to see parts of Australia that he has never seen before. The scenery of the outback is beautiful and we are travelling to both coastal towns & inland. Part of the philosophy of this tour is to take these amazing musicians to people in the country who wouldn't normally get the chance to see them or to sample their talents. This also fits in with the Taking Care of Country charity fund that I am setting up.

EIN - Fans have been asking us if you will possibly add concerts in Canberra or Melbourne?

GP - Unfortunately we were trying for dates in both those cites, and Mick Gerace was also helping me there, but the scheduling just wouldn't come off. It's a shame, but there's nothing we could arrange in the time.

EIN - What about other dates in Sydney itself?

GP - The Hills Centre will be the only date so that's why Mick and I have decided to combine forces to make it a dynamic finish for everyone.

EIN - Are there any surprises in store? Any rare songs?

GP - I'll be doing songs from the new CD 'Taking Care of Country' as well as the follow up that will be coming out next year.

EIN - There is already a follow up!

GP - We actually recorded another CD of material last year in Nashville but it still needs some final production work with orchestra & overdubbing that I will be doing here in Australia. I am very pleased to say that 'Taking Care of Country' has been picked up by the ABC as part of a three album deal which is fantastic. Elvis songs such as 'Take Good Care of Her' & 'Faded Love' will be on the new album and The Rolling Stones' 'Honky Tonk Women' is there too which really helps highlight the guys versatility - you'll be surprised by our version!

EIN - I hear rumours that your interest in Elvis extends to your purchase of a Cadillac, is this true?

GP - I have been buying a lot of Elvis' collectible things and stuff that he owned. I even bought the TV from his bedroom but the best thing I have bought is the last Cadillac that Elvis owned in 1977 which is about to be shipped out to me. I am trying to put together something like a travelling Elvis museum that I hope will be a kind of 'Australian man's Graceland' so that people who can't get to the states can still get a chance to see & appreciate more of the story of Elvis. I'm gathering quite a collection of things. I've also got Elvis' red shirt from Kissing Cousins, a band member's jumpsuit and even a diamond TCB necklace that belonged to Tom Hullett. I am hoping to connect it somehow to Elvis' anniversary in August next year, perhaps put on a show in Sydney.

EIN - It's been great talking with you and I can't wait to see you in concert next month.

GP - I hope that everyone enjoys the shows as much as we do performing them. I have been so fortunate in my life. I am very blessed and so grateful to have had the opportunities I have had and to work with these amazing musicians.

*Greg Page talked to EIN's Piers Beagley February 15th 2005*

Visit the Greg Page website

Click for details of the Taking Care of Country Tour

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