Promoting the ’68 TV Special
By Bob Pakes
Parker, as well as the Singer Company and RCA Records, knew Elvis’ first TV appearance since the Sinatra show in 1960 was bound to be something very special, and plenty of advertising was done prior to the screening of this landmark show on DECEMBER 3rd 1968.
In this article we’ll present a collection of promotion material from late 1968. We’ll also take a look at AUGUST 17, 1969, when NBC aired the show for a second time.
“WELCOME TO THE NBC
AND THE ELVIS PRESLEY SPECIAL!”
This BANNER/POSTER measures 29.5″ x 15.5″.
Here we have one of only a few surviving RADIO SPOT records.
This nowadays extremely rare item was sent to Radio Stations across the USA and the commercial that promoted the TV Special was heard nationwide shortly before the Special aired.
Once the Special had been aired, the Radio Spot did not make sense anymore, so most of these records were destroyed.
Please click the PLAY button to listen to this rare Radio Spot:
The extremely rare 22″ x 28″ STANDEE to the right was on display in Singer stores. According to the Auction House that sold this beauty (for $ 1900,-), only two of these are known to still exist today.
This design was also used as a MAGAZINE ADVERTISEMENT, an example of which we see below.
SINGER PRESENTS ELVIS SINGING FLAMING STAR AND OTHERS
The phrase “Singer Presents Elvis” was used on each and every promotional item brought forward by the Singer Company. So it made sense that the title of the budget LP would also contain this phrase.
Released in October 1968, this compilation of mainly forgettable filmsongs, also contained the first ever release of a song recorded for the TV Special. TIGER MAN gave the fans a sneek peek at what was to come in December. It must have been a thrill to hear the rawness in Elvis’ voice for the very first time!
Click the PLAY button to listen to a SINGER COMMERCIAL for this LP:
When this album was re-released by RCA on their CAMDEN label five months later, “Singer Presents” was dropped from the cover. Below we see the BONUS PHOTO that came with the purchase of this LP. Unlike all later prints, only the first edition contained a reference to The Singer Co. and the air date on the back.
From LIFE magazine, a DOUBLE-PAGE AD.
(November 29, 1968)
Left we have a (low rez) NEWSPAPER AD from a few days before the airing.
And to the right a FULL-PAGE ADVERTISEMENT that is almost identical to the one Singer used (as the right page of their two-page ad) in LIFE. The only exception is that Elvis can now be seen in lower left corner.
To the right a FULL-PAGE ADVERTISMENT for the Show from TV Guide (November 30, 1968).
(Not Elvis but) Ann-Margret was on the cover of this weeks edition of TV Guide.
And below we have the listing in that same TV Guide on the day of the broadcast.
This is the official PROMOTIONAL BOOKLET.
It measures 4″ x 9″, consists of 32 pages, and it features the famous image of Elvis in his Gold Suit on the frontcover.
To the right we have the center-spread of this booklet.
This is a FULL-PAGE ADVERTISEMENT that not just mentions the air-date of the TV Special and Elvis’ latest album (the NBC soundtrack), but (of course!) also a ton of other irrelevant RCA stuff has been cramped into this ad. It’s nothing less but a miracle they didn’t pop his latest movie + it’s companion record-release somewhere in there as well …
(Billboard, November 30, 1968)
Notice that RCA and The Colonel did not use the image of the ‘new Elvis’ that can be seen on nearly all of the Promotional items that were produced with regard to the TV Special. No, they used the 12 year old image of the wellknown Elvis in his Gold Suit in order to bring this ad to the attention of the public. An ad likes this makes it painfully clear that Parker and RCA had missed the boat somewhere in the 60’s and they were still marketing Elvis in the same way they did back in 1956 …
Here we have the final entry of the December 1968 Promotional campaign for the NBC TV Special.
This is a FULL-PAGE ADVERTISEMENT from the Singer Company in Billboard, from a few days after the special had aired.
(December 7, 1968)
But wait! RCA has also bought itself a few inches of advertising space in this Singer ad. And yes, there is also the reference to go see Elvis in his latest MGM movie. Phew, what a relieve!
“WELCOME TO THE NBC
AND (the re-run of) THE ELVIS PRESLEY SPECIAL!”
The NBC show aired for a second time on August 17, 1969 and once again some interesting material was produced to promote the Show.
First up is a very rare TABLETOP STANDEE used in Singer stores. This item measures 22″ x 28″.
A Singer NEWSPAPER-ADVERTISEMENT simultaneously promoting the re-run of The Special and Singer’s Flaming Star album (now even cheaper than the first time around). By this time RCA had also released this album on the Camden label.
Below we have a FLYER from August 1969.
And here we have a promotional POSTCARD that was presented as a give-away at Singer Centers. The card shows up on auction sites from time to time, so we can assume it has been printed in a (relative) large quantity.
The postcard (measuring 3.5″ x 5.5″) promotes both the second showing of the TV Special as well as Elvis’ first season in Las Vegas.
To conclude our trip back in time to 1968/69, here are some interesting documents:
BELOW: a letter from Singer to the Colonel concerning the promotion for the Show.
TO THE RIGHT: Greil Marcus’ review of the album from Rolling Stone magazine. The most eyecatching quotes:
” … unless one is a collector of Presley memorabilia, this record is really not worth buying.”
” … just like when Ed Sullivan dressed him up in a tuxedo …”
From Billboard (December 21, 1968), a report from Canada stating that the TV Special has caused a renewed interest in Elvis’ music and Rock ‘n’ Roll music (“oldies”) altogether. According the article:
“The soundtrack is a real monster”.
From the same edition of Billboard, a short review of the LP: “This should be his biggest LP in some time”.
My sincere thanks to DENNIS BERRY for his help in putting this article together.
Also thanks to CAYETANO for supplying a scan of the Flaming Star bonus photo.
And (as always!) my thanks to GER RIJFF for his help.
Do yourself a huge favour and follow Ger on FACEBOOK