1966-1969: Page 3
July - August 1968
Elvis records the theme and does filming for his 29th movie, “Charro!,” a dramatic western. Elvis grows a beard for this. The theme song will be heard over the opening credits, but there will be no other Elvis songs used. This will be the first and only film in which Elvis does not sing on camera.
October - December 1968
Elvis records the soundtrack and does filming for his 30th movie, “The Trouble with Girls.” He sings in this one, but in very natural situations for a change. It is yet another film quite different from the typical Elvis films.
“Live A Little, Love A Little” opens.
“If I Can Dream” ships and hits #12. “Elvis” LP is ships and hits #8.
December 3, 1968
“Elvis,” the 1968 TV special, airs on NBC-TV and is one of the biggest television hits of the year, receiving 40% of the viewing audience, rave reviews from the public, and the critics alike. The soundtrack album goes to #8 on the pop chart.
Reviewing the show, rock writer John Landau says, “There is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home...He sang with the kind of power people no longer expect from rock ‘n’ roll singers.”
Years later, rock writer Greil Marcus remembers it by saying, “It was the finest music of his life. If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it.”
"Elvis," the 1968 TV special, is to become widely regarded as one of the truly great television moments in pop/rock music history. After this show, everything changes for Elvis. He pours renewed creative energy into his recording work, is soon to wrap up his movie contract obligations and to return full-time to the concert stage, beginning a new and exciting era of his career. His superstardom is yet to reach its height.
Elvis wraps shooting on “The Trouble With Girls” December 18. The International Hotel deal is accepted on December 19. This will be Lisa's first Christmas and Vernon will dress up as Santa.
Elvis has been doing all of his recording work in Nashville or Hollywood since signing with RCA. Now however he records in Memphis again for the first time since 1955. He has all-night marathon sessions at American Sound Studio. His work here will become regarded as some of the finest music of his career, his best work since the innovative days at Sun and the exciting early days at RCA before he went into the Army. Elvis has excellent material to choose from and pours his heart and soul into the sessions. He works with a lot of top-notch Memphis musicians. The sound is fresh and gutsy. On every track, one can sense his creative excitement and energy. This is joyful work after years of movie boredom. Two albums will result from these sessions. The sessions will also yield four hit singles to be released starting later this year and going into 1970: "In the Ghetto," "Suspicious Minds," "Don’t Cry, Daddy" and "Kentucky Rain."
February 1, 1969
They spend Lisa's first birthday in Aspen, Colorado.
Elvis returns to Hollywood to film and record the soundtrack music for his 31st, and what will turn out to be his last, acting role in a motion picture. It is “Change of Habit,” co-starring Mary Tyler Moore. Elvis plays a hip ghetto doctor in a Northern city, having come from Tennessee. Mary Tyler Moore and two others play nuns who go “undercover” into the ghetto to assist with health and societal troubles in the community. The theme, though serious and timely, is not particularly well carried out by the script in the opinion of many, and the title is frivolous. Elvis however looks magnificent and gives a natural, easy, understated performance that is a refreshing pleasure to see after the silliness he endured in his films through most of the sixties. The few songs in the movie are good and they’re performed in natural, rather than the usual badly contrived, situations.
“Charro!” opens in theaters and doesn’t do much at the box office.