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The Time Elvis Bombed in Las Vegas

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Getty Images

Almost no city celebrates an entertainer the way Las Vegas celebrates Elvis Presley, and his 1964 MGM musical Viva Las Vegas helped define the city’s mid-century image. During his jumpsuit days, the King had several weeks-long residencies at Vegas venues, generating millions of dollars in ticket sales. According to the Las Vegas Sun, when Elvis was in town, one out of two city visitors caught his act. A statue of him now stands in the Hilton, and Vegas has a hearty population of Elvis impersonators—many of whom perform marriages.

However, Elvis’s first Vegas residency was a disaster, one of the first failures in a career that was otherwise taking off.

In 1956, after the 21-year-old’s “Heartbreak Hotel” rose to number one and hundreds of young fans screamed for him at packed shows across the U.S., Elvis got a two-week stint at a Las Vegas nightspot. It was booked by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, an old-school music promoter who saw the city as an important stepping stone. The New Frontier Hotel would pay Elvis $7500 a week to play two shows a night.

On April 23, he took the stage for the first night with his usual three-man backing band and a set list of rhythm and blues numbers. The reviews were not kind. In a piece headlined “Hillbilly on a Pedestal,” a writer for Newsweek compared the Southern-born singer to “a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party” and observed that the audience “sat through Presley as if he were a clinical experiment.” Bill Willard of the Las Vegas Sun wrote, “For the teen-agers, the long, tall Memphis lad is a whiz. For the average Vegas spender or show-goer, a bore. His musical sound with a combo of three is uncouth, matching to a great extent the lyric content of his nonsensical songs.” According to Willard, the audience delivered only polite applause.

Back then, a Las Vegas audience was mostly middle-aged, and it’s easy to see why Elvis didn’t fit in. Also appearing at the New Frontier that night were bandleader Freddy Martin and his orchestra performing songs from the musical Oklahoma!, and Borscht Belt comedian Shecky Greene.

After just one week of the scheduled two-week stint, the New Frontier asked Elvis to leave the building.

The canceled 1956 visit wasn’t a total loss: During their off-hours, Elvis and his band visited the Sahara Lounge to see Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. Elvis was impressed by their performance of a song called “Hound Dog,” and asked permission to record it in their style, which they granted.

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Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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iStock

The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
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Henson Company

More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

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