Joe Guercio, Elvis Presley’s Orchestra Leader, Dead at 87
Joe Guercio, the musical director and conductor of Elvis Presley’s band from 1970 until the legend's death in 1977, died Jan. 4 at the age of 87.
Guercio passed away in Nashville, Tenn., due to complications from a fall. He had been in the hospital and hospice care. A touching post on the TCB Band's Facebook begins simply, "The Maestro has left the building."
Born July 16, 1927, Guercio was a native of Buffalo, N.Y. Prior to working with with Presley, he was an accompanist for legendary pop singer Patti Page and a musical director for Diana Ross, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, Florence Henderson, Jim Nabors, Diahann Carroll and more.
After Presley began his residency at Las Vegas' International Hotel, he met Guercio, who was the International's musical director. Soon, Guercio began leading Presley's 26-piece orchestra and rhythm section, which proved to be quite the feat, as the King of Rock and Roll was unpredictable and spontaneous. Guercio once described it “like following a marble down concrete steps.”
Guercio is credited with several well-known parts of Presley's live performances, including the singer's horn-filled entrances and exits. In 1997, he became involved with a touring production he helped conceive, 'Elvis: The Concert,' which featured Presley's voice and image with live musicians playing in the background, helping keep his legend alive.
Guercio's fingerprints were all over Presley's work, but he also arranged memorable pieces like 'Sweet Inspiration / Where You Lead' for Barbra Streisand and 'The Way We Were / Try to Remember' for Gladys Knight. In 1997, Guercio joined B.B. King to perform at the Vatican’s annual Christmas concert and meet Pope John Paul II.
“I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Joe Guercio,” says Presley’s former wife, Priscilla Presley. “He was a close friend and associate who will be greatly missed by us all. I was fortunate to see him at Graceland a few months ago, and, as only Joe could do, he had us all laughing with him at his stories.
"His musical talent was unsurpassed. Elvis loved working with him," she adds. "We have all lost a great man and a true gentleman. My heart goes out to his beloved family.”
Funeral arrangements for Guercio have not been announced. Our deepest condolences go out to his family.
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