When Blake Shelton was asked to host a program celebrating Elvis Presley’s iconic ” ’68 Comeback” television special, the country star was a little shook up.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” Shelton said last year. “And then after that it was like, ‘Oooh, what am I doing? Are you sure I’m the guy?’ But now that we’re in the middle of shooting it, it’s one of the more magical things that I’ve ever been a part of in music.”
NBC’s “Elvis All-Star Tribute” — which aired Sunday, Feb. 17 — featured a ton of Nashville artists. Shelton and Carrie Underwood are joined by Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Pistol Annies and Darius Rucker. There was also an appearance from Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Mac Davis, who penned several Presley classics, including “A Little Less Conversation” and “In the Ghetto.”
They’re part of an all-genre lineup that includes Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Post Malone, John Fogerty, Josh Groban, Yolanda Adams, Alessia Cara and Adam Lambert. It’s a fitting mix, as the ’68 special showcased several sides of Presley.
“Elvis is one of the reasons that country music got to be so cool,” Shelton said. “Because he was a country guy, he was a rock guy, he was R&B. It was a little bit of everything, and that’s why everybody loved him.”
The “ ’68 Comeback” was a pivotal moment for Presley — it reaffirmed his status as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and reinvigorated his career after years in decline.
“This special, it lived on forever,” Underwood said.
“I don’t think anybody knows when they (film a special) how it’s going to impact, but the fact that we’re still talking about it this many decades later is a testament to him as an artist and his music.”
While Sunday’s special re-creates several moments and elements of the original — including the iconic “boxing ring” stage — it’s not afraid to try something new. Urban, for example, is performing “Burning Love,” which Presley didn’t record until 1972.
“But I’ve always loved this song,” Urban said. “(Late Nashville songwriter) Dennis Linde was the writer of it, and I’m a big Dennis fan as well as Elvis, so it was a no-brainer for me. Although I’ve never done it before, so nothing like jumping in the deep end and doing it on the Elvis special for the first time,” he said with a laugh.
‘Elvis All-Star Tribute’ song list
“Trouble”/”Guitar Man” – Blake Shelton
“Hound Dog” – Shawn Mendes
“Burning Love” – Keith Urban
“Baby, What You Want Me to Do” – Keith Urban & Post Malone
“Jailhouse Rock” – John Fogerty
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” – Ed Sheeran
“Always on My Mind” – Kelsea Ballerini
“Heartbreak Hotel” – Jennifer Lopez
“One Night” – Darius Rucker
“Suspicious Minds” – Blake Shelton
“Love Me Tender” – Alessia Cara
“Memories” – Mac Davis
“A Little Less Conversation” – John Legend
“Are You Lonesome Tonight” – Little Big Town
“Blue Suede Shoes” – Adam Lambert
“Love Me” – Pistol Annies
Hits medley (“That’s All Right,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Blue Suede Shoes”) – Mac Davis, Post Malone, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker & Blake Shelton
Gospel medley (“How Great Thou Art,” “He Touched Me,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – Carrie Underwood & Yolanda Adams
“Little Sister” – Dierks Bentley
“It’s Now or Never” – Josh Groban
“If I Can Dream” – Elvis Presley, Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton
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