"When he left the building, most nights, Elvis wanted nothing more than to go somewhere with a few friends and a piano, a place they could gather to sing and listen to the gospel music that nourished the heart and soul of this American musical and cultural icon." --Joe Moscheo, from the introduction
"Adored by millions, but known only to a few," writes Elvis friend and Imperials bandmember Joe Moscheo in his new book The Gospel Side of Elvis (Center Street, August 2007) on the true Elvis Presley. First meeting Elvis backstage at a gospel concert at which he was playing with his group The Harmoneers, Moscheo was stunned to find the star was acquainted with his work. Later, with the group The Imperials, Moscheo became Elvis' band member for a time and remained a friend until the artist's death. Sharing a rarely known side of Elvis glimpsed only by close friends, Moscheo highlights the icon's near-addiction to gospel and how it influenced his music as well as his life.
Breaking his silence now, after thirty years, Moscheo shares the story of the Elvis he knew because, as he writes, " ...you can't love the man as he really was until you've seen the gospel side of Elvis."
Of the over 1,000 books written about Elvis, none explore in depth the legend's inspiration from, and devotion to, gospel music. In The Gospel Side of Elvis, Moscheo reveals intimate, never-before-published details of Elvis' life--including a host of documents and photos--allowing readers to experience the artist from inside the inner realm of friends with whom Elvis encircled himself. Rather than repeat well-known stories or dwell on Elvis' failings, Moscheo instead focuses on the singer's positive traits including intimate moments and occurrences known only to a few which makes this book a must-have for fans.
Moscheo's view of Elvis begins, and ends, with the influence of gospel on the King and his transferrance of the medium to millions of fans worldwide--a number which grows every year even though the artist himself is gone. Elvis' life-long desire to be a gospel singer prompted him to audition for a spot with gospel group The Songfellows in 1954. Destiny intervened, propelled by his first recording at Sun Records, which instead launched his solo career.
Despite Elvis' global success through his signature-style of rock music which today, 30 years after his death, surpasses most other recording acts in earnings, the star never forgot the gospel music which inspired him, and gospel never forgot him. He was inducted posthumously into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Throughout his life, Elvis stayed faithful to the gospel music he loved, even to the irritation of tv studios, movie producers, and record executives.
Defying the all-powerful Ed Sullivan, Elvis performed "Peace in the Valley" instead of a non-gospel number during his last appearance. During rehearsals for "Jailhouse Rock," Elvis would spend time by gathering the Jordainaires and signing gospel songs that were certainly not in the script--and walked out when studio executives tried to refocus him. RCA records at times urged Elvis to record something more mainstream but the entertainer insisted on recording the gospel music he loved.
Describing Elvis' affection for gospel as an "addiction," Moscheo says the fondness also directly affected all the other band members who, he says, "discovered that performing for two audiences per night--starting at eight o'clock and midnight--was only one part of our job description."
" 'We did two shows a night for five weeks,' Elvis once recalled in an interview," writes the author. 'Lots of times, we'd go upstairs and sing until daylight--gospel songs...' Indeed, most nights, at some point, Elvis would make it a point to ask us if we were coming to his suite after the midnight show."
Moscheo and Elvis' other chosen few never turned down the King's requests, knowing how much comfort their friend derived from the sessions.Moscheo details Elvis' deep faith and personal convictions in the book, including two spiritual experiences which profoundly affected the star. First, upon hearing of a band member's cancer, Elvis stopped everything and summoned everyone to pray for her. Amazingly, the next day the doctors could find no sign of the malignancy. Second, Elvis' favorite minister, Rex Humbard, visited the performer during a performance in Alabama in 1975 and prayed with Elvis which elicited a ground-shaking response from the singer, outwardly transforming him--if only for a short time.
Of discerning Elvis' true beliefs, Moscheo writes, "Of all the records by Elvis Presley, the only three Grammy awards he ever won were for gospel music. He recorded more gospel and inspirational songs than any pop performer before or since. Could these details possibly be due to mere coincidence, or is there a deeper reason, one that tells us something about the deepest motivations and interests of the man beneath the legend?"
Moscheo contends that Elvis the performer was just one facet of Elvis the man, and the man he knew--failings and all--was an admired and trusted friend. Through his words, Moscheo writes that he hopes readers "may come to see, as I did, that there was more than one side to this man who was adored by millions but known by only a few...Let me try and reveal to you the gospel side of Elvis."