BMHOF Class of 2001
Joe Guercio has enjoyed a prolific career, but he is probably best known and admired for his work with Elvis Presley. He was musical director and conductor for Elvis' concert shows from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1977 when Elvis made his last concert appearance. Elvis was known for spontaneity and improvisation on stage and the cast had to be ready for anything. Guercio remembers "He'd just turn around and start a tune. The rhythm section knew him backwards and forwards, but when you're up there conducting a twenty-six-piece orchestra, what are you gonna do?" In describing that experience, Guercio once commented good-naturedly that conducting for Elvis was "like following a marble down concrete steps." This led to his being a target for a particular practical joker. Guercio later found his stage tux stuffed with marbles and a few hundred more rolling around in his dressing room. Along with the marbles was a note: "Follow the marble - E.P."
Guercio was musical director for the International Hotel in Las Vegas when the work with Elvis began. Along with the obvious contributions he made to Elvis' shows, including many of the triumphs of Elvis' "concert era", it was Joe Guercio who created the now almost iconic six-note theme for Elvis' stage entrances and bows. It was also Guercio who suggested that Elvis' shows open with Theme from 2001 - A Space Odyssey (Also Sprach Zarathustra). The inspiration came when Guercio and his late first wife saw the now-classic science fiction movie in a theater, for when the music began Mrs. Guercio whispered to her husband "You'd think Elvis was about to enter."
Joe Guercio first left his native Buffalo, NY as an accompanist for Patti Paige. He has been a musical director for Julius LaRosa, Diana Ross, Jim Nabors, Florence Henderson, Diahann Carroll, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, among others. His arrangement of the medley Sweet Inspiration/Where You Lead was a 1972 hit for Barbra Streisand, and his arrangement of The Way We Were/Try to Remember was a 1975 hit for Gladys Knight. Guercio's work with Natalie Cole to reunite her on stage in duet with her late father, Nat King Cole, pre-dated her famous early 1990's duet recordings and videos with Mr. Cole. Guercio accompanied blues legend B.B. King to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II and perform in the Vatican's fifth Christmas concert.
In August 2012, the Elvis 35th Anniversary Concert once again was the highlight of the week long celebration of Elvis' life in Memphis. Under Joe's direction, the Joe Guercio orchestra, along with the TCB band, Sweet Inspirations, the Elvis Imperials, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, and more, contributed to the sold-out Elvis experience. Joe's thanks go out to Stig Edgrin and all involved for their help in making this an evening to remember.
Sadly, Mr. Guercio passed away in Nashville on Sunday, January 4, 2015.
Back - 2001