Music stars honor Elvis Presley in NBC tribute to 1968 comeback special

NBC special includes Elvis songwriter Mac Davis among performers

Music icon Presley is saluted in NBC’s new “Elvis All-Star Tribute” Sunday.

Elvis Presley had an impact on countless people, but Mac Davis was a direct beneficiary.

The singer of such tunes as “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” and “One Hell of a Woman,” Davis also is a prolific songwriter who co-wrote (with Billy Strange) “Memories” for Presley’s 1968 comeback special. Davis performs it as that show is recalled in NBC’s new “Elvis All-Star Tribute” Sunday, Feb. 17. Blake Shelton plays host to a lineup that also includes Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Alessia Cara, Pistol Annies, Little Big Town, Josh Groban, Shawn Mendes, Darius Rucker and more.

The genial Davis says he appreciates “the respect they’re showing” to the comeback special and to Steve Binder, its director (who appears in the new program). “It was not an easy thing to do,” maintains Davis. “I was not in (Presley’s) close circle of friends, but I was around enough to know it was a difficult job to get him to do it. I’m glad he did, though.”

“Memories” came to be when Davis was asked to write something Presley could sing both before and after one segment of the 1968 show. “I never did figure out how to do that,” Davis muses, “so I just wrote a song about looking back over the years, and it really was the beginning of my career. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

Mac Davis performs in NBC’s new “Elvis All-Star Tribute” Sunday.

Presley also recorded the Davis compositions “In the Ghetto” and (also co-written with Strange) “A Little Less Conversation.” Davis modestly reasons, “I just happened to fall in there at the right time. After the comeback special had done so well, they decided to cut an album in Memphis, and they asked me if I had anything. Frankly, I sent ‘em everything I had at the time! I had a tape of 19 songs, just myself and a guitar.”

Several talents in the new special also are heard on the companion album “The Best of the ’68 Comeback Special,” principally comprised of Presley cuts – such as a rendering of “Memories” that Davis, who also has been an actor (“North Dallas Forty,” Broadway’s “The Will Rogers Follies”), is pleased to see included.

Davis recalls that at the time of his Elvis association, Presley was “upset by the fact that The Beatles had taken over at No. 1, and he wanted to start singing songs that weren’t just pulled out of his movies … not that there weren’t some good songs that came out of them, but he wanted to be more of an artist than a movie guy. So, I tried to write something good, and it turned out to be good.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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