Hall of Famer D.J. Fontana to appear at Elvis FestivalWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Although decades have passed since Elvis Presley ruled the radio waves, Blue Moon Boys drummer D.J. Fontana still remembers when he first realized Elvis was finally a popular musician.
“We were in Dallas, Texas playing the old Cotton Bowl and there were 40,000 people out there, kids, and he came out of one of the back tunnels on a convertible and we looked out there and I said, ‘I think this boy might have just finally made it’,” Fontana said.
Although Fontana is now 80 years old and doesn’t play for crowds the size of the Cotton Bowl, he appears each year at the Toledo Elvis Festival, which takes place April 30 at St. Clement Hall, 2990 Tremainsville Road.
In addition to Fontana, the festival stars Joe Moscheo, Terry Blackwood, Portia Griffin, Robert Rosencrantz, Leo Days, Walt Sanders, Nick Gutierrez and the Roustabout Show Band.
Michelle Rosencrantz, president of the Toledo Elvis Presley Fan Club, said all proceeds from the festival will be donated to Honor Flight Northwest.
“It’s about Elvis’ music and his generosity,” Rosencrantz said. “He was probably one of the most humanitarian entertainers that the world will ever see.”
This is the fourth year the fan club donated its raisings for Honor Flight, an organization that sends World War II veterans on a day trip to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial.
“It’s a way to honor them back,” Rosencrantz said. “It’s so they can see; some of them cry when they see what’s been done for them.”
Rosencrantz said the returning veterans return, excited like “little boys on a field trip.” The reaction of the veterans has inspired her to keep donating money to Honor Flight until they have no one else to send to the memorial.
“This one in particular said, ‘Thank you so much for making this happen,’ and I said, ‘Sure, it’s the least this country could do for you,’” Rosencrantz said. “He said when they got back, they had nobody greet them. I don’t feel they got treated well. Well this guy who was thanking me so much, turns out he was a prisoner of war. That got to me.”
She said the Honor Flight is an appropriate organization because of Presley’s military history. Checks sent to Honor Flight acknowledge they are in memory of “Sergeant Elvis Presley.”
“Elvis was a sergeant in the army and he didn’t ask for special treatment,” she said. “He would do whatever everyone else had to do.”
Fontana, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, started playing drums in high school and was hired to play with Elvis while working at the Louisiana Hayride in 1954. During his career, Fontana played more than 460 cuts with Presley.
It took a seven-year campaign, led by Rosencrantz, to have Fontana inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Rosencrantz and the Elvis Presley Fan Club sent letters each week asking for the induction of Fontana. In addition, Rosencrantz sought signatures to help the cause. Some of the notable signatures of the 50,000 included Bruce Springsteen, Max Weinberg, Ringo Starr and Keith Richards.
“Keith Richards said, ‘Elvis, DJ, Bill and Scottie: the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever. Give thanks, give praise,’” Rosencrantz said.
She said if Elvis were alive, he would have rejected his induction if he wasn’t allowed to bring the Blue Moon Boys with him.
“I know that if he were alive, he wouldn’t have accepted it if it didn’t include his band,” Rosencrantz said.
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