Friday, July 23, 2010

A Frankfurt Special: Bill Haley and Elvis Presley meeting in Germany and The Pied Piper of Cleveland.

An early break from Bad Nauheim came on October 23 when Elvis attended a concert given in a Frankfurt cinema by Bill Haley and his Comets,  the very first "white" rock and roll band and then the only serious competitor to Elvis. Haley's European tour had been disrupted by a number of riots at his concerts with seats often smashed, slashed with knive, or thrown across the auditorium. It was felt that Elvis presence in the audience at Frankfurt could have encouraged even more hysteria and it was therefore suggested that he avoid the show and limit himself to visit Haley in his dressing room. This he did and he also paid Haley a similar visit during that latter's Mannheim concert on the October 29. 

Contrary to popular belief, though showbiz rivals at the time, Elvis and Haley were friendly. They had met before during the making of the only movie Elvis was ever to appear in as a "guest" star. Entiteled The Pied Piper of Cleveland, the movie was produced by disc jockey Bill Randal in 1955. Randal wanted to make a film about a day in the life of a famous disc jockey and invited Elvis to Cleveland to perform a few songs for inclusion in the film. Colonel Parker agreed and they signed a contract. Unfortunately Parker also signed a contract with 20th Century Fox for the first full-lenght Elvis movie, which would lead to problems.

Bill Haley and the Comets were featured in The Pied Piper of Cleveland as where the Four Lads and Elvis Presley. Elvis sang five songs - That's All Right, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Good Rockin' Tonight, Mystery Train, I Forget To Remember To Forget - accompanied by Scotty Moore and Bill Black. The movie was made in color and broadcast on local TV in Cleveland, in 1956. At only thirty-five minutes long, it had been intended that it be shown as a "shor" before the main feature when it went on general release to the cinemas. Unfortunately, the movie had been made by Universal, direct rivals to 20th Century Fox with whom Colonel Parker had signed a binding exlusive movie deal for Elvis's first films. The threat of a legal battle prevented the Pied Piper of Cleveland from ever being seen by the public again.

Meeting Bill Haley during his visit to Germany was undoubtely as poignant reminder to Elvis of the life he had left behind in the United States. There could be no greater contrast with the frenetic atmosphere of a rock and roll show than that of the Army life at Ray Barracks, consisted of little more than long rows of bleak brick buildings that had once housed Hitler's SS troops and was now the unwelcoming home of the Third Armored Division. 

Source: Elvis in Germany - The Missing Years. Schröer, Hentschel, Knorr.