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AP: Elvis backup band reunites at the Rock 'N' Bowl in New Orleans

Associated Press
Posted May 2 2003, 3:24 PM EDT

NEW ORLEANS -- Absent Elivs, All the King's men are back.

Elvis' longtime musicians got together in a down-home bowling alley/music hall this week as part of the Ponderosa Stomp, a fringe festival that has sprung up around the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

It was a who's who of the guys who backed Elvis Presley throughout his turbulent and revolutionary career from the gig circuit in Memphis in 1950s to worldwide fame.

Wednesday night, the King's guitar players Scotty Moore and James Burton -- legends in their own right -- and longtime Elvis drummer D.J. Fontana played Elvis classics, assisted by Paul Burlison, Kim Curtis and others.

Standing in on vocals for the ducktailed boy from Tupelo was Big Sandy, a Southern California singer whose Fly-Rite Boys travel the country in a yellow school bus playing rockabilly, Western swing and mariachi classics.

It was the closest that 700 mortals, packed into the Mid-City Bowling Lanes, a music hall known as Rock 'N' Bowl, could get to witnessing the smoldering volcano of rock's revolution.

``If someone had told me that tonight, or anytime, that I would end up with Elvis' guitar players and drummer on stage, I wouldn't have believed it in a million years,'' said Big Sandy, who was asked out of the blue to accompany the aging legends on vocals.

``In a way it's like a family reunion,'' said Moore, 71, who has also been a successful music producer in Nashville.

In the summer of 1954, Moore met Elvis, an aspiring singer, and the two unknowingly changed the course of music history when they and bassist Bill Black recorded Elvis' first hit, the blues song ``That's All Right Mama,'' in the studio of Sun records in Memphis.

``He's as popular being dead 25 years as he was when he was alive. Explain that to me?'' Moore said.

``I go to Europe and in the autograph lines there are grandparents, people my age, with their grandchildren, and they'll have an Elvis record under their arm wanting to be signed,'' Moore said.

Moore was recently inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and he has a Gibson guitar named after him, modeled after the original ES-295 that he played in the old days.

The festival, organized by an anonymous group called the Mystic Knights of Mau Mau, is in its second year as a public event and is dedicated to giving a stage to pioneering musicians _ from original rhythm and blues, blues, swamp pop, soul and rockabilly musicians.

``I'm happy the focus and recognition is on the musicians,'' said festival organizer Dr. Ike, who likes to remain anonymous. A third festival is planned, but the organizers will need to figure out how to keep the show from outgrowing the intimate atmosphere that has characterized it so far, Dr. Ike said.

But the musicians, many of them now in precarious health, want to keep rocking and bebopping as long as they can, at the Ponderosa Stomp if it keeps on going.

``If they keep me alive, I'll be here,'' said Earl Palmer, a New Orleans drummer who backed up Fats Domino, the Beach Boys and Ray Charles.

And for music lovers, the Ponderosa Stomp was yet another highlight of a new trend: Rediscovering American roots in music.

``So much of the airwaves are controlled by business, you don't hear anything but packaged music. You don't hear American music _ only the Top 10 songs,'' said Margaret White, 52, who traveled with her husband from Detroit for the Ponderosa Stomp.

``We were thinking of moving to Florida,'' said Roger White, a retired engineer with General Motors. ``But we might move down here now! You've got better radio stations.'

(Mau Mau note: Deke Dickerson was the crack house band for the entire rockabilly show- the entire band was oustanding - especially for the Elvis/Scotty Moore tribute.)
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