April 14 - C(KX)ommitted To Whitehaven & Idols

Graceland's corporate owner was in Memphis on Wednesday bearing assurances that he's committed to a massive redevelopment of the area surrounding Elvis Presley's iconic home.

Emerging from a City Hall meeting with City Council, Greater Memphis Chamber and Graceland officials, Robert F.X. Sillerman, chairman and CEO of CKx Inc., had some advice for Memphians:

"They should get out of their chairs and go to Graceland five or six times now and five or six times again during the year so they can say they remember it before we turned it into the spectacular that it is going to be."

Sillerman, whose entertainment company added Graceland to its portfolio in 2004, and his legal team met with council chairman Harold Collins, chamber president John Moore and Elvis Presley Enterprises CEO Jack Soden.

Collins said discussion included the status of plans to improve Elvis Presley Boulevard and importance of a top-quality redevelopment for residents of long-established Whitehaven neighborhoods that border the site. Public improvements and the creation of a tourist-development zone are among incentives that city government has put on the table.

"There was some discussion about timetables, but there was nothing definite except for Mr. Sillerman making a commitment that they were willing to do the development," Collins said.

This is a project that's going to be a massive undertaking. It's important that before it's unveiled, the community gets to share in the presentation of the project," Collins added. "It's important that Mr. Sillerman understands this is a high level of people he's going to be talking to when he unveils his plan."

City engineers have scheduled a meeting to present preliminary information about the road project and get residents' input from 6 to 8 p.m. April 26 at Whitehaven Community Center, 4318 Graceland.

The revamp of Whitehaven's main street will start at the Brooks Road intersection and extend perhaps as far south as Shelby Drive, with state of Tennessee approval necessary since it's also U.S. 51.

Collins said Sillerman didn't give details of the development master plan, which CKX said in its annual report last month was being reconfigured after original designs were discarded.

"He did not talk specifics of what the design would be or what it would look like, and I did not press him on that," Collins said. Chamber officials wouldn't comment, citing confidentiality of pending development matters.

CKX confirmed sale rumors last month after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company might be sold to a private-equity division of JP Morgan Chase. CKX spokesman Ed Tagliaferri said Wednesday that there was nothing new on the potential sale.

10 Elvis Presley songs that deserved a closer look for Idols

USA Today published 10 Elvis Presley songs that deserved a closer look. The problem with Tuesday's American Idol wasn't so much the performances themselves -- even Andrew Garcia and Aaron Kelly didn't do a horrible job singing -- it was with the choices of material. For every Katie Stevens, who had a very clear message to send by covering Jimmy Reed's Baby What You Want Me to Do, there was an Andrew, who clearly missed the boat with Hound Dog.

And here's the problem with Hound Dog: That song didn't make any sense even when Elvis did it -- one of the reasons Steve Allen made him sing the song to a basset hound back in 1956. For one thing, it's a woman's song, which Elvis would have learned from Big Mama Thornton's R&B hit. Elvis' record got over because it sounded great and because it was freaking Elvis Presley singing it. Those are precisely the wrong reasons to pick a song on American Idol.

Here are 10 other songs from the King's catalog that the Idols should have listened to at least once more before making their choices for last night.

  1. I Need Somebody to Lean On: This torchy ballad from Viva Las Vegas is one of the great hidden treasures of the Presley catalog
  2. Mystery Train: Elvis' early rockabilly reworking of Junior Parker's tune mixes grief and fear with swagger and nervous energy. Plenty of other artists -- like The Band and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals -- have taken this song in different directions, giving the Idols lots of options for inspiration.
  3. Kentucky Rain: Not sure who from this season's cast could have pulled off this tune, which is pretty rangy, but it has always been one of my favorite Elvis hits.
  4. Love Letters: This beautiful waltz ballad might have been a better option for Andrew -- or even Aaron, if he hadn't been so ballad-heavy this season already.
  5. Surrender: This song, a revamping of the Italian standard Come Back to Sorrento, has a big melody and Latin rhythm that would have made it a much better choice for Siobhan Magnus than Suspicious Minds.
  6. Guitar Man: Probably the only guy who could've pulled off this Jerry Reed song would have been Casey James, but it couldn't have gotten him any worse comments from the judges than Lawdy Miss Clawdy did.
  7. Long Black Limousine: Somber, yes -- it's about a funeral procession, after all -- but I would have liked to see Andrew Garcia try his hand at this relative obscurity from the same sessions that produced Suspicious Minds.
  8. Stranger in My Own Home Town: Another great blues tune from Elvis' late-'60s Memphis recordings, this one written by Percy Mayfield.
  9. I'll Remember You: Another good ballad option.
  10. Clean Up Your Own Backyard: The message from this bluesy country tune (from one of Elvis' worst movies, The Trouble With Girls) might have been a little too pointed for any of this year's contestants to get away with. Actually, it's the tune I would have picked for Adam Lambert if they'd had an Elvis night last year.

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