Shane Brown - author of "Reconsider Baby: Elvis: A Listener's Guide" - investigates.
Acknowledgements: This research was done over the summer and autumn of 2017, and some of the preliminary findings were posted on the FECC and Phoenix forums. I would like to thank everyone on those forums who provided extra information and quotations, who took part in the discussions, and who asked pertinent questions that made me go and scurry around in places I had not already searched for evidence. I would especially like to thank Marcel Riesco for allowing me to incorporate his work here. The Authorized Roy Orbison, discussed in the following article, is now available.
SEE BELOW for newly added in-depth discussion and readers feedback
TRYING TO GET TO YOU: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE ELVIS AND ROY ORBISON SHOW RUMOURS.
Sometimes when you’re doing research, you come across something that sends you off on a tangent that has very little to do with the piece of work you are meant to be doing. This happened to me a while back (to be fair, it happens to me quite often!) while doing some work on Elvis’s reception in the press in 1956. I was wading through an online archive and came across an article in a newspaper called The Odessa American, dated December 30, 1955. It was about the forthcoming first broadcast of a new regional TV station, KOSA-TV, which was due to take place on January 1, 1956. KOSA-TV rang a bell in my somewhat addled brain, and I soon remembered it was in connection with Elvis’s supposed appearance on The Roy Orbison Show.
For those that don’t know the story, here it is as told on the official Roy Orbison website:
Orbison enrolled at Odessa Junior College in the fall of 1955 wanting to major in Geology but then changed to History and English. Soon, the band moved in together to a duplex in Walnut Street in Odessa. With a couple of new members, they renamed themselves “The Teen Kings” as they were playing more and more Rock and Roll. They got a second weekly local TV show on Saturdays from 4:30 to 5 PM on KOSA-TV, Odessa, Channel 7, which was part of the national CBS network. Johnny Cash and also Elvis Presley came in town to perform around this time and appeared on Roy’s TV show. Roy asked Johnny for advice on how to get a record released and Cash gave him Sam Phillips telephone number in Memphis. He called Mr. Phillips who hung up the phone saying, “Johnny Cash doesn’t run my record company”.
It was quite clear to me after finding the Odessa newspaper article that the story, as it has been told, could not be true. After all, KOSA-TV didn’t even exist in the fall of 1955. However, some more digging saw the myth start to crumble even more.
I started looking at TV listings from the period, starting with KOSA-TV in the first months of 1956. It soon became apparent that Orbison did indeed have a series on the channel, but it wasn’t called The Roy Orbison Show (as so many sources tell us) but was, instead, named after Orbison’s group, The Teen Kings. But could it have been that it was just the dates on the Orbison website that were wrong, and that Elvis actually appeared on the show in 1956 after all?
Elvis' 1956 TV appearances such as June 16, with Wink Martindale are all well documented
This suggestion is problematic. There are enough gaps in our knowledge during the 1954-1955 period to allow for the idea that Elvis dropped into a TV studio with little fanfare and without any record of his appearance surviving today. But could that really happen in 1956 – a year so well documented and mapped out for us in various well-respected tomes that there is hardly a visit to the bathroom that is not noted down somewhere, let alone a visit to a TV studio. And any appearance by him on a local TV station in 1956 would, at the very least, have made local news. And yet, despite Elvis being a national star by this point, there is no sign of it in newspapers from the period. We also have to wonder whether Parker, so controlling of Elvis’s TV appearances, was going to let Elvis appear on a two-bit local station. But, surely this story about Elvis on the Orbison show couldn’t have come out of nowhere, and so more digging was clearly necessary – but the more I searched for some answers, the more it felt like chasing a ghost.
| Elvis, Scotty & Bill on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, 17th March 1956
Let’s return to the Orbison website, and go back to 1955 when Roy’s group was known as the Wink Westerners:
During the summer of ’55 the Wink Westerners regrouped back in West Texas. When not appearing at local clubs, they would play at the Saturday Night Jamboree in Jal, New Mexico. The band somehow managed to appear, along with other local Country and Western bands, on a Saturday afternoon television show on KMID-TV Channel 2, out of Midland. In addition to their regular repertoire, they began to play some Rock and Roll numbers including “That’s All Right Mama”, “Rock Around the Clock” and of course, “Ooby Dooby”. They were an instant success and as a result were given their own thirty-minute show on Friday nights on KMID.
Ooby Dooby by Roy Orbison and The Teen Kings was released on SUN#242
The problem here is that a thorough search of the TV listings for KMID in 1955 show no sign of the Wink Westerners having a thirty-minute show on a Friday (or any other) night. At this point, it was brought to my attention that a CD had been released back in 1995 containing some of the Teen Kings performances on their KOSA-TV show from 1956. I was provided with some of Mick Perry’s liner notes from this release. They read as follows – note how closely they resemble the above section from the Orbison website and must have provided the basis for it:
Summer 1955: The band somehow managed to appear, along with other local C&W bands, on a Saturday afternoon television show on KMID-TV (Channel 2), out of Midland, Texas. This was televised 'live' from an aircraft hangar near the Odessa-Midland airport. In addition to featuring their regular country songs the band also began playing some of the new Rock 'n' Roll songs including "That's All Right", "Rock Around the Clock", "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and of course, "Ooby Dooby". They were an instant success especially among the West Texas teens. As a result, they were soon given their own thirty-minute television show on Friday nights on KMID which was sponsored in the main by the Pioneer Furniture Co. of Odessa.
This last line grabbed my attention as, during my examination of TV schedules, I had come across a programme on KMID called Pioneer Playboys. Could this be the elusive Orbison show which was, so we are told, sponsored by the Pioneer Furniture Co? I thought that, perhaps, we might be getting somewhere. At first, I thought the Pioneer Playboys was a show sponsored by Pioneer, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, it turned out that the Pioneer Playboys were a western group…but then I read in a newspaper article that their lead singer was called Roy! Perhaps this was yet another name-change for Roy Orbison’s group? Alas not, some more digging allowed me to find out that the Roy at the head of this group was Roy Terry and not Roy Orbison! Another dead end.
The problem at this stage was not that Elvis couldn’t have had moments in his schedule when he could have appeared on a 1955 TV show, but that the TV show didn’t seem to have ever existed! What also seemed impossible to trace is just where and how these rumours started. The earliest book I have where the story is told is the 1990 edition of Elvis: His Life from A to Z – although I admit that my collection of Elvis books is not substantial, so perhaps someone out there can trace it back earlier than this. In the book, we find the familiar story of Elvis appearing on the Orbison show with Johnny Cash. Worth and Tamerius even narrow down the possible dates for this as April 1, May 31, July 22, October 12, and October 14 1955. These dates seem based on Elvis’s appearances in either Odessa or Midland during that year, which seems a sensible way of whittling down the possibilities, especially given there were no online newspaper archives to search back in the late 1980s. However, they can be searched now, and I can confirm that the TV schedules for those dates do not contain any suggestion of a TV show that Orbison might have been a part of.
Roy Orbison with Johnny Cash in the Sun Studios period.
Sadly there are no photos of Elvis with Roy Orbison that we know of.
What seems certain is that the rumours about Elvis’s appearance on the Orbison TV show started before the Worth and Tamerius book came out. In all likelihood, long before. And, at some point, the rumour became fact, no doubt because it was repeated so many times – but each time another error was added into the mix. For example, in 1992, Colin Escott wrote in his book Good Rockin’ Tonight that there was rumoured to be a kinescope of Elvis on the KOSA-TV show in 1955 (the year before the station started broadcasting). Meanwhile, John Kruth in Rhapsody in Black, a biography of Orbison, says the Teen Kings TV show was on from 4.30-5.00 in the afternoon when it was actually half an hour later. The Handbook of Texas Music, published by the Texas State Historical Association, lists the KOSA-TV show as the fall of 1955. Twist and Shout by Lee Cotton has the KOSA show as being in 1954! None of the above can be possibly true.
The problem that all of these publications had is access to information. The face of archival research has changed so much in just the last few years. Five years ago, anyone wanting to find the TV schedules needed for this article would have had to have found a physical archive which housed the newspapers in question, and then go issue by issue, page by page, through them. This, in all likelihood would have required travelling a great distance and, in my case, halfway across the world. All of that has changed with the remarkable online newspaper archives that have appeared in the last three or four years. The material we want can be called up quickly and easily if you have access. And, while it allows someone like me to investigate a story like this, it is also literally changing the history of both music and film in the 20th century, as we find out what really occurred rather than having to believe the ever-more embellished rumour mill that provides us with stories of TV shows that don’t exist on TV channels that weren’t broadcasting.
So, where does this leave us? Well, when I started writing this article about two days ago, it would have left us all rather deflated at not getting to the bottom of anything despite so much digging around. And then, finally, some more information. I was directed by a relatively new member on the Phoenix forum to a new biography of Orbison written by Roy Jr, Alex, and Wesley Orbison. That new member was the book’s researcher, Marcel Riesco, and it is his work and not mine that we have to thank for finally providing us with some answers to this decades-old mystery. The Authorized Roy Orbison tells us that the KMID TV series was not in 1955 after all, but in the beginning of 1956, and that it was called Jamboree and went out at 7pm on Friday. Why hadn’t I found that out before? Well, because all accounts previously have told us that the TV series was called The Roy Orbison Show (or, at the very least, named after his group) and was broadcast in autumn of 1955! Archive work is great, but only if you’re searching for the right thing! Elvis wouldn’t visit Texas on tour in 1956 until April, but Jamboree was still running at that point. Is that when Elvis was on the show? No, probably not. That would be far too simple!
| Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison with Narvel Felts + Johnny Cash with Elvis Presley, the Hayride, 31 March 1956
The new biography provides us with an essential nugget of information that is given almost in passing in the text of the book and probably without any realisation that it solves a mystery that has been discussed in the Elvis world for decades. It reads:
A few weeks later, in mid-June, Roy and the Teen Kings appeared on KCMC-TV in Texarkana, Texas, where the host, Cowboy John, interviewed Roy and Johnny Cash. Though the event does provide us with the earliest known photo of the friends and labelmates, Roy and Johnny were disappointed that Elvis, who had been expected to join them, was a no-show.
The show in question was called Afternoon Theater, and aired every weekday afternoon, normally for ninety minutes. Despite its title, which suggests a drama production, this appears to have included elements of a magazine show if the local press from the period are anything to go by.
Finally, everything comes together and makes sense. It brings Johnny Cash into the picture – and most accounts of the story of Elvis’s appearance have included him on the same TV show. Plus, it finally links Elvis with a Roy Orbison TV appearance, albeit one that didn’t occur for reasons unknown. The fact that Elvis was due to appear on the show also tells us how the story started – Roy, Johnny Cash and Elvis on the same TV show as we have been told so many times over the years. The fact that there is also a photograph of Roy and Johnny together on the show wraps things up nicely.
It is perhaps true that there is no smoke without fire – in other words, the rumours about the Elvis TV appearance on the Orbison show wouldn’t have started if there wasn’t some basis in fact – but a great deal of burnt out rubble had to be shifted to get to the truth. For decades, the stories have told us that Elvis appeared on Orbison’s own show on either KMID or KOSA-TV, and at least I managed to show through archival work that this was not true. But it took Marcel’s work to tell us that Elvis (had he shown up) was not going to appear on Orbison’s own show at all, but on a programme they were both to be guests on, and that the channel was neither KMID or KOSA, but KCMC.
My last paragraph was, until a few days ago, going to sum up that, however much we want a story to be true, eventually we have to come to terms with the evidence that is out there, even if it doesn’t provide us with definite answers. Now, thanks to the work of Marcel, we have a definite answer, even if it is rather heart-breaking how close Orbison, Cash and Elvis actually came to working together on the same TV show.
More Follow-Up Discussion
A. As several EIN readers pointed out - in his detailed interview with EIN super-collector Paul Dowling discussed the Roy Orbison / Elvis Kinescope noting..
-- "In 1985 Danny Mayo called and said he had a kinescope of Elvis on the ROY ORBISON TV SHOW from Odessa / Midland Texas in 1954 or 1955 and was asking $5000 for it and of course I agreed right away. However, my regret was that I didn't send him the money immediately but instead waited until that weekend to meet him in person and buy it as he was scheduled to be in Baltimore to show his collection of his Elvis memorabilia to fans and I figured why fly to see him when I could meet him in my home town 3-4 days later.
Little did I know that in the meantime he was told that the film was worth $100,000 which of course took me out of that deal."
EIN and Shane Brown do not disagree with the statement and do believe Paul Dowling however we point out that
1. All we have is hearsay about a piece of film no-one has ever seen or even seen a photo from.
Roy's TV show was 1956, that has been proved beyond doubt. The KMID TV show which started in January 1956 was sponsored by the furniture shop that was mentioned
2. It is perfectly possible that Danny Mayo was mistaken about what he had on those tapes. Yet in the three decades since then nobody has seen that footage, or knows where it is.
Perhaps increasing the price was Mayo's way of saving face when he realised the footage wasn't actually what he thought it was.
Putting the price up to $100K effectively took them off the market so no-one would ever know his mistake.
B. There is also the confirmation from Elvis historian Ernst Jorgensen..
When Ernst met Roy Orbison's wife and asked her to confirm the myth about Elvis appearing on Orbison's TV show he noted.
"The Roy Orbison (Elvis Kinescope) is funny in a way that you know about it, I know about it and this friend of ours knows about it.. The problem is that none of us have ever heard it.
Barbara Orbison, an extraordinary lady, said that there were so many things that Roy was proud of. He mentioned who had been on his TV show from the older days and you know his favorite moments with this and that and he loved Elvis Presley.
She talked about how they had been talking about motor cycles and all that.
She says that, my whole problem with this whole story is that, Roy loved Elvis so much that she cannot understand that if Elvis had been on Roy's T.V. show that he never ever mentioned it."
EIN notes that Roy Orbison and Elvis were SUN artists and that Roy would definitely have thought it worth mentioning in 19 years of marriage to Barbara, with both of them being focussed on the music.
Barbara Orbison was Roy's manager, not a stay-at-home wife.
IF ELVIS had appeared on Roy's TV Show she would have known about it, and Roy would have talked about it in interviews.
He never mentioned Elvis being on his TV show, even as a guest who never turned up. This in itself would have been a great story.
C. Back in the 1980s the Roy / Elvis kinescope was a regular discussion point at Elvis Week gatherings in Memphis.
It was seriously discussed with GREAT EXCITEMENT every year and EIN's Nigel Patterson was there at the time.
BUT the actual video was never ever seen.
Having so many serious collectors talk about it every year no doubt helped perpetuate the myth.
In comparison the talked about 'Little Mama' was known to exist but was in private hands. We even knew who had it, Sherif Hanna.
However despite rumours and myths, no one has ever seen this Roy Elvis kinescope.
In the above article by Shane Brown, a perfectly logical conclusion to the story has been found, based on evidence that is real and tangible, not hearsay.
And hearsay is all the fantasists have, stacked up against one hell of a lot of evidence.
Perhaps rather sadly another Elvis myth is busted. It would have been such great footage to see if it was real.
Spotlight by Shane Brown
-Copyright EIN November 2017. Do Not reprint or republish without permission.
Click here to comment on this article
The new biography 'The Authorized Roy Orbison' by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley Orbison, Alex Orbison and Jeff Slate helps solve a mystery that has been discussed in the Elvis world for decades.
For the first time, legendary performer Roy Orbison's story as one of the most beloved rock legends will be revealed through family accounts and records.
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Other EIN Reader Feedback
From Barry S
Great article, thanks for a lengthy investigation that corrects another Elvis urban myth
More articles like this your detailed FTD reviews and that look at Las Vegas Hilton in 2017
Excellent work,Shane. Your research is of a calibre that is rarely seen in the Elvis world these days.
Thank you for sharing your findings with us.
From Alison K
I am also an Roy Orbison fan as well as Elvis and how funny they both have RPO albums out at the same time.
A coincidence that this article came out the same month. A good story and excellent research.
Thank you very much Shane, you have finally cracked it. For decades this was one of those long lingering mystery shows that was mentioned time and time again but no-one really had one shred of evidence it ever happened.
You have once and for all proven this never happened so we can take it off the fantasy list of footage that is supposedly out there.
You are a real asset and deliver professional journalism where you put your investigation first, with facts, facts and more facts.
Book Review "Reconsider Baby: Elvis: A Listener's Guide": Elvis Presley made over 700 recordings during his life. This book by author Shane Brown examines all of them. Session by session, song by song, Reconsider Baby takes the reader on a journey from Elvis’s first recordings in 1953 through to his last performances in 1977.
This significantly expanded and revised edition of 2014’s Elvis Presley: A Listener’s Guide provides a commentary on Elvis’s vast and varied body of work, while also examining in detail how Elvis and his recordings and performances were discussed in newspapers, magazines, and trade publications from the 1950s through to the 1970s.
The text draws on over 500 contemporary articles and reviews, telling for the first time the story of how Elvis and his career played out in the printed media, and often forcing us to question our understanding of how Elvis’s work was received at the time of release.
Can another detailed examination into Elvis' musical legacy really be worth buying? (Hint, the answer is a big YES!)
Go here as EIN's Piers Beagley reviews the newly expanded look into Elvis' musical legacy, including some choice book extracts...
(Book Reviews, Source,ElvisInformationNetwork)
"Reconsider Baby: Elvis: A Listener's Guide" 2017- Shane Brown Interview : Since Elvis's Since Elvis' death in 1977, thousands of books have been written about Presley, but very few concentrate on the most important thing: the music.
Shane Brown's 2014 'Elvis Presley: A Listener's Guide' was a first in its very detailed look into the remarkable and yet often frustrating musical legacy that Elvis left behind.
Now in 2017 Shane Brown has revisited his original Elvis guide expanding it to include even more detailed insights - as well as including a large number of recently unearthed contemporary reviews from the time.
EIN was fascinated by the idea of an even bigger examination of Elvis' musical legacy and Shane Brown kindly agreed to be tell us all about his new expanded look at Elvis' music -
Questions we ask include..
- What expanded insights does this new edition provide?
- Why do a second edition?
- How many contemporary reviews from the time have you unearthed?
- Do you think that the Media understood Elvis' musical ambitions?
|Did Elvis Record 'Tiger Man' At Sun?: A question that has puzzled Elvis fans through the years is whether he actually recorded the song ‘Tiger Man’ during his years at SUN studios.
The basic question is why did Elvis refer to 'Tiger man' several times in concert as “The second song that I ever recorded, not too many people heard it”?
And if Elvis DID record it, then why hasn’t any reference to it at SUN or proof of its existence been found?
Elvis would first perform ‘Tiger Man’ in concert at his first 1969 Las Vegas International season and would continue playing it through the years – usually in a medley with Mystery Train - until his last performance at Saginaw on May 3 1977. He would sing it over 150 times on stage!
The thought that there might be an acetate or undiscovered tape of Elvis at SUN singing ‘Tiger Man’ is a mouth-watering concept - but is it an unlikely fantasy or strong possibility?
Go here to our detailed 'TIGER MAN' spotlight as EIN's Piers Beagley puts in the hard yards to check the facts from the fantasy .