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New Elvis Presley Doc Will Look at His Evolution as an Artist

'Elvis Presley: The Searcher'. Image via HBO

Coming in April 2018, HBO will be airing a new documentary on the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley. Titled Elvis Presley: The Searcher the three hour two-film presentation will look at the musician’s artistic journey, as opposed to his legacy as a cultural icon.

It will cover a large part of Elvis’ life and career, starting with his childhood and going right up until his final recording sessions which took place in the Jungle Room, a studio in Elvis’ former home, Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Recordings from those sessions, and outtakes, were released in 2016 as Way Down in the Jungle Room.

Along with including footage shot inside Graceland, the films will also feature interviews with people who knew and were affected by Elvis and his music. These include friends, session musicians, producers, engineers and artists like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Scotty Moore, Red West, and Priscilla Presley. Along with this it will also include never-before-seen photos and footage which has been sourced from private collections.

Elvis Presley combing his hair in the men's room at the Mosque Theatre in Richmond, Virginia in 1956. © Alfred Wertheimer

The film will be directed and produced by Thom Zimny and will look how, as a boy growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis was captivated by the gospel music he saw and heard there—along with the blues and r’n’b of Memphis.

It will also follow his early recording career, when he got a break with Sun Studio and producer Sam Phillips, and how he grew as an artist from those early days of “That’s All Right” to joining the army and his musical education while serving in Germany. It will then follow his artistic ups and downs of the 1960s, his legendary ‘68 special and his performances in the early 1970s.

To compliment his evolution as an artist the films will feature a score composed by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.

Elvis Presley performing in his legendary '68 Comeback Special. Screenshot via YouTube / JeanNo Moral

“The producers came to HBO and Sony with the idea for a film drawing upon very rare footage that captures Elvis' musicianship in a new and exciting way," said Kary Antholis, president of HBO miniseries. "The artistry on display in that footage reminded us of the great work by Jon Landau and Thom Zimny on HBO films documenting the studio artistry of Bruce Springsteen, and we are thrilled to have them at the helm to lend their unique cinematic perspectives to this iconic, complex and singular artist."

Also recently announced was the news that HBO will release a soundtrack to accompany the films, which will come out on RCA/Legacy Recording on April 6. The release will include a single CD, a double LP vinyl and, for Elvis fans no doubt the most exciting version, a three-CD deluxe box set.

Elvis Presley taking a nap in July 1956 on the Southern Railroad between Chattanooga, heading towards Memphis, Tennessee, his home. © Alfred Wertheimer

The deluxe edition will not only feature The King’s hits and McCready’s score, but also some rarities and early recordings from Sun Studio. It will also feature gospel, country and R&B songs that inspired Elvis and cover versions by other musicians, including the late Tom Petty who has said about Elvis, “You know, God bless him. He was a light for all of us. We all owe him for going first into battle. He had no road map and he forged a path of what to do and what not to do. And we shouldn't make the mistake of writing off a great artist because of all the clatter that came later. We should dwell in what he did that was so beautiful and everlasting, which was that great, great music."

Cover for the soundtrack that will accompany "Elvis Presley: The Searcher. Image courtesy RCA/Legacy Recordings

The Searcher’s director Zimny told Rolling Stone the following about the deluxe version of the soundtrack, "From day one I had a soundtrack in mind; one that would cover Elvis in a new way and go deep into the vault. Thanks to the help of Sony Legacy and the efforts of Ernst Jorgensen [record executive], I was able to pore over thousands of recordings and Elvis Presley outtakes. I also wanted the film's soundtrack to pay tribute to the many artists who influenced Elvis, and to incorporate their music to create a sonic landscape that I hoped would give the viewer the experiences Elvis had absorbing the many genres he was exposed to and influenced by – from gospel, to R&B, to country."

Check out Elvis singing his first ever record release, “That’s All Right”, in his ‘68 Comeback Special, below.

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to some of these Elvis Presley images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.