|Musical role:||Conductor and Musical Director|
Born in Buffalo, NY, Joe Guercio began conducting the orchestra for Elvis' concerts from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1977.
Guercio recalls "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."
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 lived in Las Vegas since 1967 and has been a musical director for Diana Ross, Jim Nabors, Florence Henderson, Diahann Carroll, and 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. Recently, Guercio accompanied blues legend B.B. King to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II and perform in the Vatican's fifth Christmas concert.