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It Takes All Kinds to Pay a TV 'Tribute' to Presley : Pop music: From Tony Bennett to heavy metal's Scorpions, the King's influences will be honored in a pay-per-view concert Saturday from Memphis.

October 07, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tony Bennett on the same bill as heavy metal band Scorpions? Hard-rocking L7 doing a show with Michael Bolton? Cher sharing time with Iggy Pop?

That's just some of the lineup for "Elvis: The Tribute," the concert being televised on pay-per-view from Memphis on Saturday.

And you thought the rumors about Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley singing together at the show sounded weird.

Well, the Jackson-Presleys will not be on the show, but all those others will, as will the likes of country star Travis Tritt and reggae act Chaka Demus & Pliers.

What do all of them have to do with the King of Rock 'n' Roll?

"Elvis absorbed what there was of music before him--gospel, country, blues--and hit on a synthesis that made all these streams accessible to the rest of the world," says Don Was, the musician-producer who is serving as music director for the show--the first Elvis tribute ever officially sanctioned by the Presley estate.

"I wanted to reflect how he had influenced everybody who came after, and how none of us who make a living out of music would be here today without that."

Artists who are more readily associated with the spirit of Elvis are on board--U2 will be represented in a pre-taped performance of "Can't Help Falling in Love," and there are unconfirmed reports that Bruce Springsteen will make an appearance.

But Was says no one artist captures the vast range that Presley encompassed--in fact he enlisted three different backing bands to cover all the musical bases. Presley's original partners, guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana, will back some acts, while the rock band NRBQ and a country-rock house band anchored by Was on bass will work with others.

Was--who is also producing an album from the show--had hoped to make the show even more "eclectic," but some acts just weren't available.

"Reuniting the Clash just didn't seem possible," he said.

* "Elvis: The Tribute" will be telecast pay-per-view on Saturday, 9 p.m., and is expected to run nearly three hours, with a repeat immediately afterward. (Check with your cable company for prices and availability.) A 90-minute special culled from the show will be aired by ABC-TV in December.

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