Belmont University today announced it will host “Belmont University Presents ‘Nashville Celebrates Elvis’,” a benefit show at the historic Ryman Auditorium on August 18, 2007—two days after the 30th anniversary of Elvis’ death, August 16, 1977—in honor of Cecil Scaife, music industry pioneer and one of the early visionaries of Belmont’s first music business program. Proceeds will go to the “Cecil Scaife Music Business Scholarship Fund” to help music business students who are attending Belmont’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business. In celebration of Elvis’ association with the early days of Nashville’s music industry, the show will feature Elvis songs performed by select celebrity artists who have recorded, performed or been influenced by his music.
“We are thrilled to be able to recognize Cecil’s contributions as a pioneer in the music industry at large as well as to our music business program which he helped launch in the seventies,” said Dr. Robert Fisher, president of Belmont University. “What better way to acknowledge Cecil than to host this exciting event giving tribute to Elvis and his music.”
Scaife, along with several others on Music Row, helped start Belmont’s music business program in 1971 with his long-time friend Robert [Bob] Mulloy, one of the first instructors at Belmont who guided the program through its early years. Mulloy and Scaife worked in many of the recording studios in Nashville in the early sixties, including Sun Studio, the third full-track recording studio in town, CBS and RCA Victor Studio B where, at the time, Elvis was recording some of his most popular hits, such as “It’s Now or Never” (1960), “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (1960), “Crying in the Chapel” (1960), and “Little Sister” (1961).
“The best part of this event,” says Cecil’s daughter LaRawn Scaife, “is that all of the dollars we raise will go to benefit Belmont University music business majors. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to honor all that my father has done for music education, music business and the entertainment industry. I am proud of his legacy and he is thrilled to be honored.”
Scaife began his career in the entertainment business in the early fifties when he worked for KFFA Radio in Helena, Arkansas. Soon afterward, he worked for Sam Phillips (an early prominent record producer who helped launch Elvis’ career) as the first promotions manager at Sun Records in Memphis. There he worked with Elvis, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. During that time, he had the honor of presenting Johnny Cash with his first Gold Record for “I Walk the Line.” Scaife started “taking Elvis on the road,” according to daughter LaRawn, early in his career starting with an appearance at a Catholic center in Helena, Arkansas.
“My father [Cecil] was one of the first in the industry to recognize that music was more than just a source of fun and entertainment, but also “big” business requiring the astute use of marketing, money and product management, and education, she says.
Passionate about education, Scaife was instrumental in establishing the music business program at Belmont which continues to serve as a model for schools across the nation and around the world. In addition, he served on the Television Broadcasting Committee at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, which focused on providing a television studio for the college. He taught classes at Belmont, where three of his children attended and established a music scholarship in honor of his wife, Sherytha, who was the first curator at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Scaife was one of the original founders of the Gospel Music Association. He created one of the first gospel labels in the nation in the sixties—Songs of Faith—which celebrated the Gospel Music Industry’s first million selling record, “Sorry I Never Knew You.” Before moving to Nashville, he managed America’s first all-girl radio station for Phillips. He also appeared on Broadway. When he encouraged Elvis to join him, Elvis responded, “Scaife, I don’t know nothin’ about that actin’. What I really need is a manager,” but Scaife went on to Hollywood instead, appearing in films.
Scaife’s other achievements include having served on the National Board of Governors/Grammy Awards Committee; serving as a lifetime elector to the Country Music Hall of Fame Committee, a member of the Country Music Association and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers. He also served as president of the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy (NARAS) and was responsible for bringing in his friend, Dick Clark, to host the Nashville segment of the Grammy Awards Show. He is commended for serving on President Nixon’s council to combat drug abuse in the entertainment industry; chairing the music division and being recognized by the Religious Heritage of America for his work.
Cecil Scaife’s son Joe produced the infamous “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus and more recently “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson. Among Joe Scaife’s other credits are: his work with Alabama, Shania Twain and Montgomery Gentry. Joe also had the honor of recording the last Grand Ole Opry show performed at the Ryman; and the first one at the new Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland.
“Belmont University Presents ‘Nashville Celebrates Elvis’” is part of a larger celebration including a number of activities surrounding the official 30th anniversary of Elvis’ death in August 2007.