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When the Voice Met the King

Marking his first televised appearance following his discharge from the military, Elvis Presley joined Frank Sinatra in the 1960 special “Welcome Home Elvis”. Sponsored by Timex, it was the fourth and final time Sinatra appeared on the programme.

The special’s official title was “It’s Nice to Go Traveling”. It also featured the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Josey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Nancy Sinatra, who later appeared in Presley’s 1968 film Speedway.

Although the programme was bringing together two of the world’s biggest stars, working with Elvis was a source of contention for Sinatra. The media at the time also attempted to instigate a rivalry among the two, finding an article Sinatra had written three years earlier for French magazine “Western World”. Sinatra reportedly wrote that rock ‘n’ roll music “was sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons, it manages to be the martial music of every side burned delinquent on the face of the earth”. Elvis allegedly replied: “He has a right to his opinion, but I can’t see him knocking it for no good reason. I admire him as a performer and an actor but I think he’s badly mistaken about this. If I remember correctly, he was also part of a trend.”

Putting their musical differences aside, the pair put on a united front in a well-rehearsed meeting that was photographed for the press release. The programme was filmed on March 26th at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami, causing panic and nerves among Presley’s staff. The artist’s team became considerably nervous about how he would be received on the programme after three years away.

In the end, Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker felt this was an opportunity to expose Elvis to an older audience, while Sinatra hoped it introduced him to a younger crowd. The venue was filled with both Presley and Sinatra fans. It is undoubtedly clear who the favourite was with the screams of Presley’s fans dominating the recording.

Donning a tuxedo to fit into Sinatra’s Rat Pack persona, Elvis performed “Stuck on You” and “Fame and Fortune”, which earned him a record $125,000 – a sum that soured Sinatra who was earning far less for the programme. Following Presley’s solo act, the stars joined together in a duet, which could be considered to be not only the most memorable moment of the programme, but also an important point in music history. The duet features Sinatra singing “Love Me Tender” and Presley covering “Witchcraft”, backed by a swing composition, a style favoured by Sinatra. Throughout the performance, Presley brought his signature dance moves to the screen while Sinatra laughed and played along.

The programme showed that fans were happy to welcome Presley back. Viewing figures for the show were high as expected, topping Sinatra’s previous three tapings. However, the media responded to Presley’s performance with a great deal of criticism, ultimately favouring Sinatra. While the special was the first and only time the two famous voices worked together, the pair went on to develop a friendship.

Watch the duet performance below:


Madison Pearce is a journalist, vinyl collector and Starbucks enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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