2007   SEPTEMBER 4   #247

Elvis Casio and his Karaoke Hound Dog Revue

In 1992, the Casio Corporation, then a giant in the consumer electronics field, exhibited its new products at the Summer CES Convention at McCormick Place in Chicago. This was, and is, the major trade show for its industry. The company was unveiling its new portable Karaoke machine at this show, and wanted to do a major splash on it and demonstrate its capabilities to the press and public, not to mention the primary target, their accounts. The way in which they chose to do this was to place the machine on a stage on a main aisle, so passersby could be entertained by vocal performances. Two singers were hired to do shows and play MC for audience members who wanted to try singing. One was a very competent and professional female 'lounge-type' singer from the Chicago area, a logical choice. But, the second choice was a doozy.

The President of the company's son, a notorious drifter and ne'er-do-well in Dad's eyes, was hired to be an Elvis impersonator, at the President's insistence. The young man had been loafing through several menial jobs and attempts at finding a focus in life, judiciously avoiding Dad's footsteps and efforts to lure him into the business world. He had had some previous trade show experience with the company at photography and booth setup, for which he was reportedly paid enormous amounts of money for very little work. However, the young man had no experience whatsoever as a performer or a vocalist. He was thus thrust in front of thousands of people each day over a 4-day period, and not only members of the electronics trade; the final day of the show was the only time in the show's history that the public was admitted, with great anticipation. People from all over the country flocked to Chicago, knowing this might be their only chance to ever see a Consumer Electronics Show.

The actual Casio machine being showcased was in a prototype stage and not working fully, so an auxiliary cassette machine had to be used so that the singers could have their background tracks. The deck used for this was a dual deck, so the tape with the tracks could be played in the PLAY deck, and blank tapes were continually fed into the RECORD deck by another employee with great foresight, mostly to capture Elvis' performances.

01 ELVIS - Prologue 2001, Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Don't Be Cruel (10:46)
02 DEE DEE - Respect (1:23)
03 GRANT - Friends In Low Places (2:23)
04 ELVIS - Jailhouse Rock, All Shook Up, Good Luck Charm, Blue Suede Shoes, Return To Sender (11:53)
05 CAROL - Evergreen (3:27)
06 ELVIS - Teddy Bear, Hound Dog (5:21)
07 LYNETTE - Our Day Will Come (2:41)
08 ROBERT - After The Lovin' (3:36)
09 ELVIS - Jailhouse Rock, Heartbreak Hotel (4:47)
10 ELVIS - Fun Fun Fun, Get Back (2:51)
11 SCOTT - How Can We Be Lovers (3:49)
12 ELVIS - Hard Headed Woman, Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock (6:55)
13 NANCY - Save The Best For Last (3:23)

Elvis wore a cheesy rented white costume bedecked with rhinestones, with a black shock wig that looked more like Tina Turner than Elvis. Given his lack of experience, he made the perfunctory efforts to ape the King's vocal and physical gyrations, although his considerable deficiencies are exposed, notably his complete lack of any musical feeling, and seemingly even an inability to count to four. The general reaction to these performances by the show attendees was immediate fleeing from the scene, leaving a few stragglers with either mouths agape in disbelief or rolling in laughter. There were apparently many 'Elvis gifts' and mementos to be given away, but few people were found to give them to by a short time after the music started.

Granted, it is easy to pick on Karaoke tapes made by non-singers. However, this one has a little more disturbance attached to it. One, the venue was a product launch by a major company at a major trade show, with some 75,000 people in the building; and two, this singer was PAID to do this, and no small amount. It is estimated that Elvis was paid in the range of $3000 for the four days work. Also, as his proud papa strutted around the area during the performances, Elvis' recent ex-wife (hired by Dad to work the information counter, seemingly as a cruel prank) stood nearby, in full eye- and earshot of a man she was no doubt relieved to call her ex after witnessing this travesty.

The 'show' also includes some stunning performances by passers-by, who provide some welcome relief. Most provide some positive element, if nothing else unabashed glee (particularly Scott's 'How Can We Be Lovers?'), or at least the ability to laugh at themselves. Especially notable is Nancy's jarring rendition of 'Save The Best For Last', in which she displays an alarming affinity for the vocal stylings of Jandek and Robert Alberg. However, no one tops Elvis himself for sheer guile, utter incompetence, shameless posturing, and having the least fun on the stage.

- Contributed by: Hoppy Stone