JOE KREIN: BILL TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF , WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND RAISED?
BILL BAISE : I GREW UP IN EVANSVILLE INDIANA , I Left THERE TO THE EARLY 1960'S. WENT TO WORK WITH a group called the smitty gatlin trio out in fort worth Texas. then i came back to Nashville and sung with the hal kennedy trio. they broke up so i went to a university for three years .just before graduation i got the opportunity to try out for the stamps. i was with the stamps june 1971 and graduated the same year. they would fly me out to there dates and then in June i went full time with the stamps.
is that what you always wanted to do?
yes i wanted to sing in a gospel quartet. i didn't have aspirations of singing with elvis . but i did want to sing gospel . i had just started with the stamps when the imperials got a call from jimmy dean . they decided to sing with jimmy dean instead of elvis . elvis called the stamps because he new jd sumner real well. this was all worked out with charlie hodge , he asked jd if he new of a group that could sing backup for elvis. jd said well mabe my group could do it. so jd sent them one of our albums. elvis really like it , so he asked jd if they would be interested in doing it . jd said said we would , and the rest is history.
what year did the stamps start with elvis?
in 1971 , i joined the stamps in February and we went to do the elvis show in November 1971.
were you an elvis fan?
i was when i was very young , when i was a teenager and so was elvis . i was about 15 when i first heard elvis . elvis was 20 years old . i remember listening to his first hits , i enjoyed the EARLY SONGS , BUT DURING HIS MOVIE YEARS . I LOST TRACK OF HIM , I DIDN'T GO TO THE MOVIE'S VERY MUCH. BUT WHEN I SAW HIM ON HIS 69 SPECIAL , I WATCHED THAT . I BECAME A FAN ALL OVER AGAIN.
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU MET ELVIS ?
NOVEMBER 1971 WE WERE SUPPOSE TO START A TOUR WITH HIM IN INDIANAPOLIS MINNESOTA . WE FLEW TO THE HOTEL WHERE WE WERE SUPPOSE TO STAY , WE CHECKED IN AND THEN LATER WE MET IN ONE OF THERE MEETING ROOMS TO HAVE A REHEARSAL. WE WERE ALL WARMING UP WAITING ON ELVIS TO ARRIVE , THATS THE WAY IT WAS ALWAYS DONE. WE WOULD GET THERE WAY BEFORE ELVIS SO WE WERE READY WHEN HE GOT THERE. I WASN'T USED TO WAITING ON SOMEBODY LIKE THAT (LAUGHING) WE WAITE A LONG TIME , THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN THEY POUR INTO THE ROOM . RED , SONNY ,ALL THE GUYS WERE THERE. ELVIS WALKED OVER AND INTRODUCED HIMSELF TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF US. LIKE WE DID,NT KNOW WHO HE WAS . (LAUGHING) I TOLD MY NAME WAS BILL BAISE , HE SAID YEAH I KNOW WHO YOU ARE . THAT WAS REALLY NEAT THAT HE NEW ME . SO I WAS IN AWE BY THEN . THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN HE BACKED UP , AND I NOTICED THAT HE HAD A LOT OF BLACK HAIR . HE HAD A CANE , HE JUST USED IT FOR THE LOOK . HE DID'NT NEED TO US IT . HE HAD HIS GLASSES ON AND HE WORE A CAPE. SO HE BACKED UP AND GRABBED THE TOP OF HIS HEAD ,AND HE PULLED A WIG OFF AND THREW IT AT SYLVIA . SYLVIA FROM THE SWEETS FELL ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING. EVERYONE IN THE ROOM WAS LAUGHING SO HARD. I WILL NEVER FORGET IT . ELVIS DID THIS JUST TO BREAK THE ICE. THAT WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH ELVIS PRESLEY .I SAID TO MYSELF . THIS GUY IS REALLY GOING TO BE FUN.
DID HE DO THAT A LOT BILL ? FOOLING AROUND , PLAYING JOKES AND PRANKS?
HE DID THAT A LOT , WOULD TEASE AND PULL PRANKS ON PEOPLE. WE WERE TOLD A STORY ABOUT ONE PRANK THAT ELVIS DID ON ONE OF HIS MOVIE SETS . HE WAS OUT WEST DOING ONE OF HIS , WELL LETS CALL IT WESTERNS. HE HAD THIS MAKE UP MAN THAT WAS TERRIFIED OF SNAKES . SO ELVIS SENDS RED AND SONNY OUT TO GET A GARTER SNAKE. SO HE TAKES THIS SNAKE AND THROWS IT IN THIS MAKE UP GUYS TRAILER AND LOCKS THE DOOR. THIS GUYS WAS IN THE TRAILER JUST YELLING . ELVIS AND THE GUYS WERE OUTSIDE THE TRAILERS JUST LAUGHING IT UP. LAUGHING)
ANOTHER TIME HE WAS THROWING A LOT OF WATER ON RED AND SONNY , SO THEY WANTED TO GET ELVIS BACK . SO ELVIS IS IN THIS TRAILER FOR 4 HOURS GETTING HIS MAKE UP ON FOR THE NEXT SCENE. SO THEY GET UP ON THIS TRAILER WITH A BUCKET OF WATER. AS SOON AS HE STEPPED OUT OF THAT TRAILER THEY DUMPED IT ON HIM .
THEN ANOTHER TIME JD CARRIED A WATER PISTOL UP ON THE STAGE, THIS WAS IN VEGAS AT THE HILTON . ELVIS WOULD INTRODUCE US AND THE REST OF THE BAND. HE WOULD ALWAYS HAVE THESE SMALL CUPS OF WATER, HE WOULD TAKE THEM AND TAKE A SIP . THEN HE WOULD THROW THE REST ON JD. stuff like that went on a lot .
how was it working at the International ,Hilton and the Sahara Tahoe?
my experience of all three was ,they were all very exciting and enjoyable for me to work . just being a part of the elvis presley show was such an exciting thing for me. i had no idea that it would happen to me when i first started with the stamps. i figured we would be singing gospel music and doing concerts in small venue's. like a place that would sit 5000 people, small audiences . but the crowds that came in for the show was incredible.
Sahara tahoe was exciting but to me , i liked working Vegas better , that was just my personal experience. i just felt that the crowds was a little more excited at vegas then at tahoe.
i know you did a lot of shows , but is there one that sticks in your mind?
yes there is , madison square garden in new york city , that was very exciting because we were taping the show live to be released as an lp . the show turned out to be a near perfect show. normally you would have to go back and redo a track because of something not being quite right . but that didn't happen with that show .they had that album out in one weeks time. that was the most exciting thing i have ever been apart of , ive been in show business since i was seven years old . ive been in for many years and that was just so over whelming to me .
did you get a long with colonel parker?
the colonel didn't hang with us. we would see him at all the shows , but he didn't speak to many of the cast members.
a lot of people i have interviewed say that.
i would go and watch the colonel in Vegas when he was at the tables gambling. i liked to watch him play , i never gambled myself. he would recognize us and say hello.
bill was there talk about doing a gospel tour?
there was talk of a gospel tour , elvis had talked about doing a gospel show. there was even talk about getting a recording effort out of motown and putting together a gospel television special. but sadly that didn't materialize. that show would have evolved the stamps and the sweets and the other singers that were evolved with the show.
he seemed to light up when he sang gospel.
oh he certainly did . he was a big gospel fan.
now i've been told you would get done with the show and then have to stay up and sing with elvis most of the night.
it just got to be that we expected that ,especially at the hotel in Vegas. almost every night we would go up to hi suite and sing gospel music. he would have a lot of different guests ,movie stars and big time singers. they would first come to his show and he would invite them up to the suite. they would sit around and chat for a while and we would entertain them , that was our job. he would sing with us some times or he would ask us to sing certain tunes. there was one song that he asked for a lot was one that i would sing ."when its my time" he asked for that one a lot. vernon knew this and when elvis passed ,he asked me to sing it at his funeral.
that must have been very hard for you?
it was difficult ,very hard. but show business is all about doing hard things. a lot of people don't realize that . but you have to do it when you can do it , and do it when you can't. you do it when you feel bad and you have to do it when you feel good.
how did you hear that elvis had passed away?
very strange , i was here at my home . i had walked in . i had just come back from the post office . the minute i walked in i got a phone call from one of my wife's best friends , she said i heard that elvis had died . do you know anything about it? i said surly not , i didn't know anything about it .that's has to be just a story someone is telling you . i wouldn't worry about it if i was you. i hung up the phone and went to turn on the tv and there it was . he had died. i had to call her back and tell her i was sorry but it must be true.
it must have been very hard on everybody especially vernon.
we were standing in back of the casket so i didn't get to see mr. vernon very much. as soon as we sang we came out and talked a little while , but i don't remember talking to mr. vernon.
it must have been very warm with all of those people in that little house.
it was plenty warm , but i didn't notice that very much. one thing i did notice , i went to the casket and i did see that it was elvis in the casket and that elvis was dead. all these people that try to say that he is still alive , he has already gone to heaven . he passed away, i saw him there i know that. ive heard so many people say well you know he still alive . well i know that's not true.
what are you doing now?
i'm kind of semi retired .i work occasionally . i will be in memphis this august the whole week of elvis week . sunday night ,ed hill donnie sumner ,larry strickland and i will be doing a concert at one of the clubs down town. then on tuesday we will be in concert with the sweets . and the imperials and former members of the stamps. that will be on the lawn of graceland. Thursday we do the big show at the auditorium there at the fed ex center. that will be with elvis on the screen.
i almost forgot to ask you , your the man who does the ahhhhhh in burning love.
yes i do that high thing on the end of burning love , is that what your talking about? (laughing)
do you want to know how that happened?
we were in the studio doing our first album with him in hollywood . at the rca victor studios. i was so new , we had done one tour with him and went directly into the studio. we had done a bunch of songs and it was like 2 o'clock in the morning. he brought this song out and started singing it . Charlie hodge had told us if elvis looks at you and points , it means he wants you to do something special for him. so if it was burtain it was a guitar lead or ronnie on the drums , maybe a little extra beat . so he was singing that sung alone and he had the microphone in his hand ,normally people recording don't do. but he liked to do it that way . he is almost in a karate stance and he's singing 'hunka hunka burning love and he poinbted at me! i didn't know what to do so i just went ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (laughing) trying to break the ice . i just couldn't beleive he pointed at me. so when i did , he did it once himself and he liked it. so they said lets put that on the record. it took us about 3 hours to get that perfected on the record the way he wanted it ,by the time we got it done i could hardly talk. it was about six when we finally got it done.
did you ever get to go to graceland before he passed away?
yes i did many times , we recorded way down and moody blue in the jungle room at graceland. plus when we were coming thru memphis we would call elvis and stop for a visit with him. we did a lot of gospel touring as well as touring with elvis.
what did you think of graceland?
i thought it was awesome. the pool room was my favorite room in graceland. the room with all the draperies , and the room next to that with the three tvs. those rooms i thought was amazing for thre time. i enjoyed playing pool down there with james burton or red and sonny west or john Wilkinson. we had a lot of fun with that table.
did you put the hole in the top of that table?
no i didn't , i'm not a very good pool player but i didn't put the hole in the top. (laughing)
when he was getting on in years , did you see that elvis wasn't doing well?
i left a year before he died ,i was called into the ministry. so i left in june 1976 , and he was in perfect health and seemed to be doing well. that year and a half after i left he seemed to go down hill very suddenly. i don't know what caused that . the last show i did with him was at the omni in Atlanta Georgia , he did great ,he looked at acted great .
did you ever talk to elvis about religion?
i didn't personally , i didn't really have the opportunity to talk to him one on one , he talked to the whole group at times about his feelings and what he believed.
it seemed like he was searching for something at the end of his life? he was reading all these different religious books.
he did mention some of those books to us on occasions , but not very much . i'm a Christian and a minister for the last 30 years . i don't tolerate other forms of religion very well. i respect the people that believe in those things but i don't talk to them about it. when elvis did i just stayed out of the conversation , i let him say what he felt . he would say things but i believe in his heart elvis was a Christian . i will always believe that , and he just read to enhance his education .
what do you think of the everlasting popularity of elvis presley?
i think it marvelous and i think it should be and i'm glad that i have the opportunity to share it . i didn't in vision it , when i was very young . its just unbelievable to me .
well mr. baise i thank you very much for doing this for me sir.
well your welcome and i hope that you have a great day and your site stays doing well.
ILL TELL M