MRS have released their latest set 'Elvis On Television 1956-1960 The Complete Sound Recordings' as 2CD and 100 page book combination.
The release is neatly packaged in a larger than pocket sized (140 x 190 x 20 mm) hardcover box set, making it convenient to both store and easily carry around. The book’s thick paper stock features a wonderful collection of Elvis in action plus informative text.
Just when the number of new Elvis releases seemed to be slowing down we suddenly have a pile of new “anniversary” releases. These include SONY’s ‘Way Down In The Jungle Room’ (40th anniv) and two books from the Elvis Files looking at 1956 but the first cab off the rank is this MRS release - and what a neat little number it is.
Please note that the low-res personal scans used in this review do not show the true quality of the images.
While the music has to be the main feature, the book nicely leads you through the six chapters each of which focus on Elvis’ key television appearances in the fifties, plus the added bonus of the Frank Sinatra show from 1960. The succinct liner notes are written by Gordon Minto, while the book design is credited to Miles Reape.
The seven chapters are
- The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show (CBS)
- The Milton Berle Show (NBC)
- Wink Martindale's Top Ten Dance Party (WHBQ)
- The Steve Allen Show (NBC)
- The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS)
- The Frank Sinatra Timex Show (ABC)
The design is stylish with nice full-page pictures, easy to read text plus I like the mini image pointers for each chapter that are shown on an old TV set.
Gordon Minto has a very nice way with words, as you can tell from this small extract of his introduction..
“Picture the scene. It's January 1956; you're in New York - an awe-inspiring city at best of times; it's bitterly cold; you've just turned 21 years of age; you’re over one thousand miles from home and about perform on national television for the first time; and at this point, you've no big hits to your name, and really you’re only know in the South East of the USA. Well, that was Elvis' situation as he prepared himself for the Dorsey Brothers’ show on January 28… “
In the individual chapters Minto provides the main details and highlights of each TV performance. Matching the text, each chapter features around 15 pages of significant photographs, a surprising number of the in colour.
Elvis, Scotty Moore, Bill Black - the greatest band in heaven.
Winfield Scott Moore III, 27/12/1931 - 28/06/2016 - RIP.
While many of the images may be familiar to Elvis collectors there are also plenty of rare photos to go along with them.
I checked a recent “1956” purchase and noted that of the twelve full-page photos dedicated here to the Dorsey Bros stage show appearances only one is featured in Eric Lorentzen’s wonderful Elvis Files 1953- 1956 book - and even that photo is in far better quality in this new MRS book.
(EIN Note - this review was completed before the very sad passing of Scotty Moore on June 28, 2016. Now the marvelous photos of Elvis and Scotty Moore working so closely together creating rock'n'roll TV magic are all the more poignant to look at.)
In fact I was surprised to find some wonderful new photos to add to my collection in every chapter. Again there are some tremendous images of Elvis performing with both Milton Berle and Steve Allen.
It's good to learn something new from any Elvis book and in this concise 100-page volume you can easily see how the rough, excitable, over-eager performer that Elvis was in the early Dorsey Bros shows quickly becomes more groomed, relaxed, self-assured and professional.
I particularly enjoyed the coke images spread across two pages taken from Wink Martindale's top 10 dance party that goes along with the 12 min interview.
The Ed Sullivan show was of course a pivotal in Elvis’ rocket-ride to superstardom and, along with the final chapter on the Frank Sinatra show, the book perfectly encompasses a quick look into Elvis’ early TV career to go along with the sensational music on the two CDs.
This 100-page book is a real appetite-whetter for the main course which surely has to be the BOXCAR “coffee-table” massive 450 page deluxe look at the same period. Let’s hope the picture quality will match the large size pages, we will see.
Gordon Minto’s final conclusion hits the spot. He writes, in part..
“The live recordings on this album, despite their crude origins - recorded on less than sonically sophisticated machinery - are dynamite. Their chief merit lies in the fact that they were performed live, without the benefits of sweeteners or overdubs, and that the excitement generated by them is palpable and real. If you want - or need - a lesson in how pop music as we know it started then you need look no further. These recordings influenced everyone who came after him: Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and thousands more.
Whichever way you look at it, that's an astonishing legacy”
MRS products are clearly aimed at the "Amazon market" and the “general public” Elvis fan. Hopefully the good reviews and stylish front cover will lure new fans in to discover what sensational and life-changing material Elvis performed on these early TV shows. Let’s face it, 90% of the general public will be aware of the “Aloha” jump-suited Elvis, but how many will have ever heard these stunning 1956 performances?
However if you’re reading this EIN review then you already are an Elvis Fan and are quite likely to have a copy of most of these performances in your collection, probably via the RCA 1985 Joan Deary produced ‘Golden Celebration’ box-set.
It is worth mentioning that while the vast majority of that official release was the TV shows, the RCA inside booklet only featured five full-page photos from the performances themselves. With this MRS 100 page booklet you get a much, much better idea of what it was all about.
Fabulous photo of Elvis looking far too happy on the Steve Allen show. Great hair!
Listening back to Elvis’ very early TV performances it is hard to envisage what an astounding impact they would have had. One has to remember that when Elvis was performing on these Dorsey shows the most popular songs being played on the radio were Dean Martins' 'Memories Are Made of This', The Platters 'The Great Pretender' and Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra with 'Lisbon Antigua'. All charming, sweet, middle-of-the road songs.
Elvis’ very first performance of ‘Shake Rattle and Roll / Flip Flop Fly’ has the extra enthusiasm and energy of a newcomer who is trying to do their best under what must have been a terrifying situation. Incredibly Elvis had not even recorded ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ at the time.
One also has to remember that ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ had only been released the previous day and that Elvis was by no means a successful chart performer at the time. Elvis’ second song ‘I Got A Woman’ has even more of a raw, energetic exciting feel, way out of line to the regular artists that appeared on this rather bland TV variety show.
It was an AMAZING start to Elvis’ TV career.
The audio quality of the first Dorsey shows has been improved by MRS with a reduction in the background crackle and pops that were obvious on the old RCA release. This is a notable improvement especially on the stop/start quiet points in ‘I Got A Woman’.
Other early delights are the fabulously raucous and shocking ‘Baby, Let's Play House’ and the rocking ‘Blues Suede Shoes’.
The first real misstep is the dreadful first performance of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ where Elvis had been persuaded to use the Dorsey Bros stage show Orchestra instead of his regular band. It is a fascinating piece of archival history demonstrating what a mistake it was to not let Elvis be “Elvis”. It would be five weeks later before Elvis would finally get to perform his first genuine performance of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and by then the girls in the audience were truly screaming.
Another interesting observation in fact is to note how small an audience reaction Elvis originally got at his first few TV performances and to then observe how the screams began to get louder and louder. By Elvis’ March 17th performance - and with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ heading towards number one - there was no holding back on the shrieks of adulation from his new legion of fans.
(Note that for some odd reason the final Dorsey Show of 24 March doesn't sound as clean as on the Golden Celebration version, having more hiss and distortion here).
If Elvis was a relative newcomer on the Dorsey Shows then, rather unfortunately, his new found fame as a teenage idol meant that his next TV appearance on the Milton Berle show found America's latest superstar already being made fun of. The embarrassing "Melvis Presley" sketch only going to show how big a star Elvis Presley had become in just a couple of months.
The two Milton Berle shows here feature a couple of extra introductions that were missing from the RCA ‘Golden Celebration’ release. The first introduction features a snippet of ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ and we also hear Milton Berle strangely being described as “Mr colour television himself”. What a shame that the only video documentation we have of Elvis’ fantastic 1950 shows are in black-and-white.
The quintessential performance here is of course Elvis’ fantastic bump and grind ‘Hound Dog’ routine from June 5, 1956 that would go on to shock the nation. The astounding thing to remember is that Elvis would not record this classic number one single until the following month.
The audio quality of these MRS versions is much less muffled than the old RCA release but naturally they then suffer from more audio hiss ex the original keenness scope recordings which can be annoying at times.
The first CD ends with the 12 minute interview from the June 16, 1956 Wink Martindale show. It is strange how much DJ Dewey Phillips dominates the first part of the interview as they try to force Elvis to sing a few lines of the song - which he obviously was not allowed to do.
But Elvis soon opens up explaining how he bought his first guitar for $12, about his friendship with Judy Spreckles, how much he liked songs by The Platters, “They just don't make any prettier songs than that” and how ‘I Was The One’ was the favourite of all the songs he had recorded, “But I like the royalty checks better on Heartbreak Hotel”!
It's a cool interview from the time and, for a change, with a friend not a journalist.
The second CD kicks off with the July 1 Steve Allen show, presented here in the full and includes the ‘Yippee Yi Yo, Yippee Yi Yay’ routine that was missed off the Golden box-set. Once again Elvis would be embarrassed by an awful comedy sketch and this time made to sing to a basset hound.
Such was the shock of Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’ performance on the Milton Berle show that here he was made to sing to a dog - and yet Elvis still hadn't yet recorded this already infamous track for release!
The Hy Gardner interview that follows is the best quality I have ever heard. It is in truly amazing audio quality with that old familiar background hum and noise completely removed. A lengthy and significant interview in Elvis’ career it is well-worth having in this pristine quality. Elvis was so tired after his Steve Allen TV performance the same night that his answers have a weary honesty to them.
“I mean in a lot of papers they say rock 'n' roll is a big influence on juvenile delinquency. I did don't think that is. Juvenile delinquency is something that's…… I don't know how to explain it, but I don't think that music would have anything to do with it at all.”
And sixty years later, one must consider whether any network TV interviewer on a popular show nowadays would dare ask any superstar live on-air whether they smoke marijuana!
The three Ed Sullivan shows are of course as riveting as they always have been. By then Elvis had achieved several chart-topping successes and there is a lovely self-assured swagger to his dynamic performances on this top-rating show.
This MRS release once again features introductions that were missing from the earlier RCA set. The sound quality is a delight here with more top-end and overall cleaner than it was on a Golden Celebration.
Elvis' performances of his big hits are all sensational, plus we get that extra verse “Love me tender, love me when, we are far apart” from his October 28th performance to promote his new movie.
The key songs for me however are the rarely performed numbers such as the sensational ‘Too Much’ (what a crazy guitar solo from Scotty Moore), ‘When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again’, ‘Peace In The Valley’ and even his earliest live performance of the album track ‘Love Me’.
(Note: It’s easy to forget that we only have the two live versions of ‘Love Me’ from the fifties - the other being the final Hayride show – yet this is a song that Elvis would perform for the rest of his life until his very final concert)
The final chapter of the book and CD is the Frank Sinatra show from March 1960.
At last we get all the segments from the program that feature Elvis, including the ‘It's Nice To Go Trave’ling’ introduction with Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr and also the final farewell to Elvis with Nancy Sinatra. “You call him Mr. Presley - on account she's been spoken for.” Elvis, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles!”
While the audio quality on the main the songs has never been particularly good, it has once again been improved here. If you own ‘Stuck On You’ and ‘Fame And Fortune’ from the Platinum box-set (what was that terrible bass-rumble?), then you'll be pleased with the audio improvement.
On ‘Witchcraft / Love Me Tender’ I had also completely forgotten that was an extra reprise of the ending which includes Elvis saying “It gets prettier all the time, buddy”. Very nice to have that included here.
Overall Verdict: MRS has once again come up with a fine value-for-money package that encapsulates all the music from Elvis’ early television performances in a very stylish way. The hundred or so images in the book work very nicely as a photographic reference to the music featured on the CDs. While the audio has been improved upon from earlier releases, my only slight disappointment is that original audio recordings from the Kinescopes were of such low bandwidth that there is not much that anyone could do to overly improve them.
Having said that, the audio improvement on several sections, for instance the ‘Hy Gardner’ interview, is very impressive and listening to the complete Frank Sinatra show along with all my favourites from the Ed Sullivan show is a treat.
It is a great history lesson very well presented I cannot see why early Elvis fans won’t lap this up.
Please note that the low-res personal scans used in this review do not show the true quality of the images.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN June 2016
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
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THE DORSEY BROTHERS – STAGE SHOW (CBS)
CBS STUDIO - New York, New York - 28th Jan 1956
1. Stage Show 1 Introduction & Bill Randle Introduces Elvis Presley
2. Shake Rattle & Roll/Flip Flop & Fly
3. I Got A Woman
4th Feb 1956
4. Stage Show 2 Introduction
5. Baby Let's Play House
6. Tutti Frutti
11th Feb 1956
7. Stage Show 3 Introduction
8. Blue Suede Shoes
9. Heartbreak Hotel (with Stage Show Orchestra)
18th Feb 1956
10. Stage Show 4 Introduction
11. Tutti Frutti
12. I Was The One
17th March 1956
13. Stage Show 5 Introduction
14. Blue Suede Shoes
15. Heartbreak Hotel
24th March 1956
16. Stage Show 6 Introduction
17. Money Honey
18. Heartbreak Hotel
THE MILTON BERLE SHOW (NBC)
USS HANCOCK - San Diego, California
3rd April 1956
19. Introduction of Milton Berle Show 1 & Shake Rattle And Roll (In Part)
20. Milton Berle Introduces Elvis Presley 1
21. Heartbreak Hotel
22. Blue Suede Shoes
23. Milton Berle & Elvis Presley Comedy Sketch
24. Blue Suede Shoes (Reprise)
NBC STUDIO – Hollywood, California - 5th June 1956
25. Introduction of Milton Berle Show 2
26. Hound Dog
27. Milton Berle & Elvis Presley & Debra Paget Comedy Sketch
28. Milton Berle Introduces Elvis Presley 2
29. I Want You I Need You I Love You
30. Milton Berle Presents Elvis Billboard Award
WINK MARTINDALE – TOP TEN DANCE PARTY (WHBQ TV)
LOCAL TV NETWORK - Memphis, Tennessee - 16th June 1956
31. Wink Martindale Interviews Elvis Presley & Dewey Phillips singing Money Honey
THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW (NBC)
Hudson Theater, New York, New York - 1st July 1956
1. Introduction/Dialogue with Steve Allen
2. I Want You I Need You I Love You
3. Hound Dog
4. Yippee Yi Yo Yippee Yi Yay - Comedy Routine with Steve Allen, Elvis Presley, Imogene Coca & Andy Griffith
HY GARDNER (NBC)
New York, New York - 1st July 1956
5. Calling Elvis – Interview
THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW (CBS)
CBS Studio, Los Angeles, California - 9th September 1956
6. Introduction and Charles Laughton Introduces Elvis
7. Don't Be Cruel
8. Love Me Tender
9. Ready Teddy
10. Hound Dog
Maxine Elliot Theater, New York, New York - 28th October 1956
11. Introduction Ed Sullivan
12. Don't Be Cruel
13. Introduction Ed Sullivan
14. Love Me Tender
15. Introduction Ed Sullivan
16. Love Me
17. Hound Dog
18. Elvis Talks Farewell
Maxine Elliot Theater, New York, New York - 6th January 1957
19. Ed Sullivan Introduction
20. Hound Dog
21. Love Me Tender
22. Heartbreak Hotel
23. Don't Be Cruel
24. Too Much
25. Elvis Talks
26. When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
27. Ed Sullivan Speaks
28. (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley
29. Ed Sullivan Farewells Elvis
THE FRANK SINATRA SHOW (ABC)
Fountainbleau Hotel, Miami, Florida - 26th March 1960 (Video Taped) / 12th May 1960 (Air Date)
30. It's Nice to go Trav'ling - with Frank & Nancy Sinatra, Joey Bishop & Sammy Davis Jnr
31. Fame & Fortune
32. Stuck On You
33. Frank Sinatra and Joey Bishop talk to Elvis
34. Medley - Witchcraft/Love Me Tender - with Frank Sinatra
35. Love Me Tender Reprise - with Frank Sinatra
36. Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra Farewells Elvis