DEAR JERRY: With this month being the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, now is a perfect time for a question prompted by a magazine I recently read.
With my Southwest Airlines flight on the ground at Midway waiting for takeoff, I flipped open their in-flight “Spirit” magazine.
One feature in that issue is a story written by you about some the most valuable record albums.
While most are ones not found in my meager collection, there is one I might have. I didn't take the magazine with me, but I did jot down some notes.
The title is “Stay Away, Joe,” by Elvis Presley, and you estimate its value at $25,000, or more.
Well I do have that song on an Elvis LP. It is the first track on “Let's Be Friends.”
Does this mean I can quit my day job?
Trish Gillespie, Chicago
DEAR TRISH: The March 2007 issue of “Spirit” has the story that provided your pre-flight edification.
Keeping a copy of “Spirit” is perfectly okay with Southwest, but since you didn't we'd best review the somewhat confusing details.
The album containing the song “Stay Away, Joe” is, as you know, titled “Let's Be Friends.” But it is not the valuable “Stay Away, Joe” LP.
Ironically, the big money album titled “Stay Away, Joe” does not contain that song at all because it's about the film of that title and not the song.
The complete 18-word title is “Special Location Radio Program. MGM's 'Stay Away Joe' on Location Sedona, Arizona Compliments of Elvis and the Colonel.”
It is a self-contained (runs without any interruptions) 30-minute radio program, featuring nine of Elvis' gospel tunes not unusual for small market Sunday morning programming. None of the songs have anything to do with the film.
Between the selections, KVIO announcer Joe Adams introduces the music as any dee jay might.
What is not at all ordinary, is the time spent by Adams thanking the Arizona communities of Sedona and Cottonwood for the hospitality shown the cast and crew during production of the film, “Stay Away, Joe.”
Though nearly 30 years ago, Adams, now a top-rated talk-show host in Phoenix, remembers well the event. Joe shared these thoughts in our recent phone conversation:
“I was simply given a script to read and record. There was no ad libbing. I had no idea how my tape would be used or what the finished program would be.
“After recording my lines, I shipped the tape off to an address in Los Angeles, probably to Colonel Parker's office at the MGM studios.
“I especially had no idea my voice would end up on the world's most sought-after Elvis record!
The cover is plain white and has no printing or identification at all. The track titles are typewritten on a white paper inner sleeve, along with the following statement: “For KVIO broadcast, Sunday, November 5, 1967. Property of All Star Shows. Return to Col. Parker's office after airing.”
With only one copy available, the Colonel's note reflects his determination to get the disc back after the program aired. That he did, although its existence would not be known for another 22 years and then only as part of the combined sale of items from the Presley and Parker estates.
Also included in the program is publicity for Elvis' two Inspirational albums (“His Hand in Mine” and “How Great Thou Art”) as well as promotion of the upcoming (December 3, 1967) “Special Christmas Radio Program.”
As with most RCA promotional releases in the '60s, “Stay Away, Joe” (RCA Victor UNRM-9408) has a white label with black print. This one is a single-sided disc, with side two being blank.
Unbelievable as it seems, RCA created this 12-inch album for a one-time broadcast by only one radio station: Cottonwood's own KVIO. It is a truly unique occurrence.
Ensuring the show ran exclusively on only that station is the mention by Adams during the program of the K-V-I-O call letters. This fact alone negates the need for more than one copy.
Do not confuse this LP with an acetate, factory experimental disc, transcription, or test pressing. This is a standard production disc, manufactured (i.e., stamped or pressed but not cut) exactly like any normal commercial record album.
Why they went to the time and expenditure to produce a vinyl album when the program could have easily and inexpensively been supplied on audio tape is an unsolved mystery. Unfortunately, all of those involved in that decision are no longer living.
Adding significantly to the glamour of this jewel is knowing the only known copy came directly from the personal collection of Elvis and the Colonel. What provenance!
As for early retirement, learning the “Let's Be Friends” album is valued at about $40 may not pry you away from your day job.
For more information about this treasure, including actual photos, click here.
IZ ZAT SO? Brief mention is made above about the follow-up RCA promo LP, “Special Christmas Radio Program” (UNRM-5697).
Like “Stay Away, Joe,” this is also a single-sided disc, with a white label and black print, and made for radio stations to air December 3, 1967.
The selections for this 30-minute program, hosted by Buzz Benson, are both Holiday and Inspirational.
Only a handful of these LPs are known to exist, and their value is approximately $10,000.