Hancock concert organizers say Elvis lives on through his music

January 09, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Jeanne Ward will perform several songs by Elvis Presley and emcee the show at an Elvis tribute concert Saturday, Jan. 12, in Hancock.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HANCOCK — There were comedians and ventriloquists, acrobats and dancing poodles. And every Sunday evening, “The Ed Sullivan Show” escorted them into the homes of millions of Americans.

Thousands of acts appeared on Sullivan’s television variety program, which ran for two decades. But it was a performance in 1956 by a singer in blue suede shoes that would become a historic pop moment.

Swiveling his hips, playing his guitar and launching into such hits as “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender,” Elvis Presley’s appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was a ratings success, leading to two more appearances in 1957 watched by millions of his fans.

Among those fans were Charles Baum, his wife, Betty, and daughter, Jeanne, who lived in Essex, Md.

But they might have missed one of those shows entirely if not for the kindness of a policeman.

The family had been visiting a relative on a Sunday night in 1957, recalled Jeanne Ward of Fulton County, Pa., “... And my mother and I were anxious to see Elvis on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show. We were kind of hurrying Daddy up when he looked in his rear view mirror and said ‘Oh,no.’”

Ward said she turned around, saw the flashing lights, heard the siren and started to cry.

After pulling over near a shopping center, Ward’s father explained to the officer that he was trying to hurry so his daughter and wife didn’t miss Elvis on television.

“The policeman was very understanding and didn’t give my father a ticket,” she said. “He smiled and said to just be careful, slow down and enjoy the show.”

From the moment she first heard him sing, Ward said she became a huge Elvis fan.

Throughout the years, nothing has changed.

“I had the pleasure of seeing his 1977 concert in Baltimore at the Civic Center and visited Elvis’ home, Graceland, several times,” she said.

She even has an Elvis license plate displayed on her car.

A retired teacher who taught at Hancock Elementary School for 30 years, Ward said her students knew she was an Elvis fan and often gave her Elvis-related gifts for special occasions.

The King, she admitted, has been a big part of her life.

That’s why, as a member of the Hancock Arts Council, it seemed natural for her to organize an Elvis tribute show called “Elvis 2013,” which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Hancock Performing Arts Center, in Hancock Town Hall.

Ward said admission is free “but donations are welcome to help the Hancock Arts Council put on more shows.”

According to Ward, the council puts on some sort of entertainment activity each month.

“We held a well-attended Woody Guthrie tribute show in July, which honored the singer’s 100th birthday. That’s when I thought an Elvis tribute would be a good idea for January,” she said. “Elvis would have been 78 on Jan. 8 and there are so many Elvis fans, not only in our area, but everywhere.”

Ward said the show will feature nine acts performing a total of 20 Elvis songs.

There also will be a whole lot of shaking going on, when attendees are invited to participate in a Hip Shakin’ Contest.

“Since Elvis was famous for his gyrations on stage, as well as his music, I thought it would be fun for others to show off their hip-shaking talents,” Ward said. “It will take place on stage with Elvis music playing in the background. The audience will get to vote for their favorite by applause — like in the days of the old talent shows.”

Each participant will be given a token prize and the winner will receive a teddy bear.

There even will be Elvis-themed snacks, including peanut butter-and-banana cookies, pickles and pound cake.

The evening also will feature an Elvis tribute artist from Cumberland, Md.

“Lots of Elvis trivia will be shared and many of us are bringing Elvis memorabilia to display, such as pictures, posters, toys, videos, records, books and a Graceland display,” Ward said.

Ward said she will be serving as emcee of the event and also will be among the performers.

If you go ...       

WHAT: Elvis 2013, a tribute to Elvis’ 78th birthday

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12

WHERE: The Hancock Performing Arts Center, 126 W. High St., Hancock, at Hancock Town Hall

COST: Free but donations will be accepted

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