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|PERFORMERS LIGHT CANDLES FOR ELVIS
January 05, 2016 L.A. Times / Elvis Express Radio
Legend holds that the night of Elvis Presley's birth, the skies over Tupelo, Miss. were ablaze with strange, flashing blue lights, an appropriate launch for one of the most high-impact
American lives of the 20th century. Almost 40 years after his death, Elvis' voodoo-like thrall is nearly as strong as ever, and come Sunday afternoon at Pickwick Bowl, a small army
of Elvis worshippers will break out their guitars to perpetrate an orgiastic marathon of his songs.
It's an annual ritual overseen by Hollywood rock 'n' roll zeitgeist Art Fein, the infamous author-journalist-promoter-manager who has been presenting these annual Elvis Presley
birthday shows for three decades. Each one has been a memorable riot of unpredictable, passionate musical veneration, with all net proceeds going to a worthy charitable cause.
"Elvis was powerful force for pop music change. A sociological force, too," Fein said. "Rock 'n' roll, for the masses, was launched by him, capping the efforts of many predecessors.
His retreat to movies in the '60s — he still had hit records — was a practical move, as musical taste, like society, was heaving up. His return in the '70s was mammoth, but his
mammoth responsibilities did him in."
The affair began on a small scale, but over the years, took on a life of its own.
"My friends Ronnie Mack and James Intveld did an Elvis birthday show in Pasadena in 1986, and since I was booking nights at Club Lingerie in Hollywood, I suggested we expand it
there for 1987," Fein said. "Other venues — the Palomino, Music Machine — offered space and we took it. The lineup grew, and when the new House of Blues took us in we
prospered — or the charities did. We have given to many charities over the years, and this year it goes to the Union Rescue Mission downtown."
The show's roaring mid-to-late '90s peak at House of Blues saw capacity crowds, often featuring Presley contemporaries like teen idol Tommy Sands, Los Angeles-based rockabilly
originators Glenn Glen and Ray Campi, along with big name guest stars. "Dwight Yoakam was on the first one, and a couple others," Fein said. "Dave Edmunds. Johnny Rivers, and
a lot more. I'd have to look it up."
Another notable participant has been comedian Fred Willard. "Fred watched my public access TV show — "Art Fein's Poker Party" — and has always been a supporter." Fein said.
"He has appeared at several of the Elvis shows. He's a good singer and a mid-'50s rock 'n' roll enthusiast. He has been at several shows, but is not a 'regular.'"
History finally conspired against Fein's momentum. "9-11 put the kibosh on our 2001 show, low attendance, and a new booker gave away the night in 2002," Fein said. "Since then
we have wandered the club-fields of L.A., the Palace, the Fonda Theatre, the Echo, seven or eight different venues altogether."
This year's lineup includes legendary Sunset Strip lounge singer Troy Walker (whose mid-'60s shows Presley used to attend when he was in town making movies), '50s bop cat
Jimmy Angel, sultry country jazz singer Lisa Finnie and about 20 other acts. The two-songs-apiece revue format, with a full back line of amplifiers for groups and a house band to
accompany solo singers, is a fast moving, kaleidoscopic barrage of nonstop Presleyana. It's a thrill-a-minute presentation showcasing the remarkably broad spectrum of Elvis'
repertoire, and each musician puts their own unique stamp on the material.
The logistics involved — avoiding song repetition and attempting to wrangle a horde of rock 'n' roll types into a cohesive, on-schedule troupe — are as daunting as any in show
business. But Fein wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's my party! If people attend, all the better," he said. "I regret that I have only one life to give to Elvis."
What: Art Fein presents the annual Elvis Presley Birthday Show with Ronnie Mack, Troy Walker, Jimmy Angel, Stardust Ramblers, the Honey Lulus, South Bay Surfers, Lisa Finnie,
Groovy Rednecks, Michael Ann, Joe Finkle, Christopher Lockett, Skip Heller, Talking Treason, Brian Whelan, Alias Means, Mister Morrison, Merle Jagger, Count Smokula, Rip
Masters, Steve Stanley, Justin Curtis, Joe Finkle, more.
Where: Riverside Concert Hall at Pickwick Bowl, 921 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank
When: Sunday, Jan. 10, 3 to 9 p.m.
More info: (818) 848-8810, pickwickbowl.com