Elvis Presley had enjoyed unprecedented success in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but by 1968 his career was on the wane. He had released his last studio album in 1962 and since then he had concentrated on movie soundtracks; however, sales of these were also declining: the soundtrack for Speedway only reached number 82 in the US album charts. He had also not topped the Billboard Singles Chart since “Good Luck Charm” in 1962.

Elvis’ manager, “Colonel” Parker, signed a deal with NBC for one of television special. Parker intended that the show have a Christmas theme with Elvis singing carols; however, the show’s director and co-producer, Steve Binder, had other ideas. Binder proposed that the show involve extravagant choreographed versions of Elvis’ hits. The singer agreed and filming of the big production numbers took place between June 20th and 23rd at Western Recorders in Hollywood.

After filming the staged songs, Elvis and his band would wind down with improvised performances of old blues and rock’n’roll songs. Seeing this, Binder suggested that they include intimate live footage in the special. Elvis was a nervous about this at first (he had not performed live since 1961) but with Binder’s support and encouragement he performed four shows to small audiences on June 27th and 29th at NBC’s Burbank studios accompanied by musicians including the surviving members of his original backing band.

The finished show, simply called Elvis, aired on the NBC network on 3rd December 1968 attracting 42% of the viewing audience. It received favourable reviews and resulted in a number 12 hit single “If I had a dream”, which was specially written for the show, and the soundtrack of the show peaked at number 8 in the album charts. Buoyed by the success of the special, over the next few years, Elvis returned to the studio to record a series of acclaimed albums and resumed performing live, including a four week stint at the new International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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