'68 Comeback Special
referred to as "The '68 Special" or "The '68 Comeback",
the actual name of this landmark television special was
"Elvis". Taped in June 1968, it first aired the
following December 3rd on NBC-TV. It stands as one of
the great television moments in rock music history and a
stunningly brilliant milestone in Elvis Presley's
The voice. The
energy. The moves. The look. The charisma. The attitude.
To many, this show represents Elvis Presley at his very
best. After this triumph Elvis poured renewed creative
vigor into his recording work, wrapped up his movie
contract obligations and returned full-time to the
concert stage, beginning a new and exciting era of his
Elvis's manager Colonel Tom Parker began negotiations
with NBC in October of 1967 to produce an Elvis movie
and a Christmas TV special slated for the 1968 Christmas
season. The agreement was announced by NBC
vice-president Tom Sarnoff on January 12, 1968. Elvis's
first television appearance in more than eight years
would be a Christmas special for which NBC would pay
$250,000 and they would pay $850,000 to produce an Elvis
movie and an additional $25,000 for the film's music.
The movie "Change of Habit" was a product of this
agreement as well as the TV special "Elvis", also known
as the "'68 Comeback Special."
Bob Finkel was
the executive producer of the special. He had produced
the successful variety series "The Andy Williams Show"
for which he had Emmy nominated three years in a row. He
won two - one in 1966 and one in 1967.
Howe was the musical producer, an area he specializes
in. Having been a recording engineer at Radio Recorders
in Los Angles, Mr. Howe had worked with Elvis before.
When he first found out that NBC wanted Steve Binder to
direct the project, it was Howe who told him he would
hit it off well with Elvis. Bones Howe has since worked
on such projects as "Back To the Future", "National
Lampoon's Vegas Vacation" and "A Walk On the Moon" among
On June 3, 1968
Elvis began working with Binder and Howe at their
offices. As they got to know Elvis better and saw how
deeply he was affected by the June 6th death of Robert
Kennedy, Steve Binder was inspired to ask songwriter
Earl brown, who was writing arrangements for the show,
to write an inspirational song for the finale. That song
would become the much loved "If I Can Dream." ("...if I
can dream of a better land where all my brothers walk
hand in hand....").
In 1968 Elvis
Presley was breathtakingly handsome and his vocal
style was honed to perfection. It was the task of art
director Eugene "Gene" McAvoy to design the showcase
that would frame Elvis visually for the audience. From
the opening scene of Elvis and the 89 guitar men in
silhouette (or 89 boys as they were called in the
script) to the finale with Elvis standing in front of
his name in lights, Mr. McAvoy provided sets that
complimented the star and the story. He continued
designing for TV specials and received an Emmy
nomination in 1976 for his work on Mary Tyler Moore's
"Mary's Incredible Dream."