"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."
"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."
"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."
(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)
"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"
"Absolute id crashed into absolute superego...as the uptightset man in America shook hands with just about the loosest."
(Mark Feeney on the 'Elvis meets Nixon' meeting)
"Elvis is everywhere"
(Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper)
"...especially in the South, they talk about Elvis and Jesus in the same breath"
(Michael Ventura, LA Weekly)
Compiled by Alex Jay; released on Moonbeam Classics (MBCC00002)
I have had a long interest in the roots of Elvis's music. Thanks to Elvis's broad spectrum of musical styles, the study of his music opens up many doorways into the origins of and influences upon modern music, including his own.
Several collections of songs purporting to be the original versions of those later recorded by Elvis have been released, most of them during the 1990s. None ever managed to provide the real original versions and many repeated the same mistakes.
"Black & White Elvis," a double-CD collection released by Mood Music in their Mood Classics series, does not pretend to present original versions of the forty-eight tracks that make up the set.
Instead, Alex Jay, the compiler, presents older versions of songs later recorded by Elvis and uses them to demonstrate
the influences and impressions to which Elvis might have been exposed. Just about all of the numbers
were, indeed, later recorded by Elvis himself, but this is almost a very happy coincidence.
The set is presented in a nicely understated and appropriate black-and-white package, with a simple
cover design and two substantial CD-insert booklets. The two CDs contain a fine selection of numbers
from the black and white sides of the artificial divide that we humans seem to find so important (why can't
we all be just human?). The first CD contains the "black" numbers, mostly Blues and early Rock'n'Roll,
while the second CD is "white" with predominantly Country and Pop tunes. Before Elvis, of course, music was
very much Black and White -- segregated, in fact. People like Elvis helped to stir things up and
break down such artificial barriers.
Many of the forty-eight tracks tracks are already familiar to Elvis fans and have been released on similar
compilations in the past. A few numbers, however, are pleasant surprises. These include Wee Bea Booze's
version of "See See Rider," Roy Brown's original version of "Good Rockin' Tonight" (Wynonie Harris's version
is more common), Marlene Dietrich's "Muß I Denn" (not the original, but unusual enough), and "It Is No Secret"
by The Blackwood Brothers, one of Elvis's favourite groups.
One number in the set that was not recorded by Elvis is "Blues Stay Away From Me" by the Delmore Brothers.
Although Elvis did not record the song itself, most fans are probably aware of the slow, blues-like
version of "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" that Elvis made at Sun. That version contains a guitar figure
which comes indirectly from this recording of "Blues Stay Away From Me" and is just one of the many
demonstrations of the Delmore Brothers' great influence in the development of early Rock and Rockabilly in
As a collection of the sorts of music that might have influenced Elvis, this is an excellent set. I am
always careful when referring to the influences on Elvis or to the music to which Elvis listened: who am I
to know that? Such things can be little more than conjecture, but "Black & White" offers at
least a suggestion of the music that was available on the radio at the time and which Elvis perhaps heard. Alex
Jay, the compiler of "Black & White," is himself careful not to refer to his collection as "original,"
instead pointing out that the music represents only possible influences and mpressions upon Elvis. That's
bang on the mark and, when listened to in that context, the collection makes a lot more sense.
Alex Jay's quite copious notes that accompany the CDs offer brief biographies of each of the
artists featured in the set, and very good little bios they are, too. These notes also provide intriguing
information about the individual numbers, or the music in general, so the reader's interest might well be piqued
to look further into the fascinating world of Elvis's musical influences and background. The notes are
supplemented with numerous photographs, but, given the number of photos and the limited space offered
by a CD-insert, these are unfortunately often too small.
The set is further supplemented by digital data. Sadly, however, this has been created in such a way as to be
platform dependent, an unforgivable laxness at a time when it is so easy to make cross-platform multi-media
All in all, a fine overview of the sort of music that a young Elvis might have heard and and
excellent introduction into the fascinating world of the history of popular music.
Further information about the double CD "Black & White Elvis" can be found at:
where it can also be ordered.
(Note that this site indicates that the songs on the set are the original versions of numbers also sung
by Elvis. This is not the case -- far from it, in fact. Alex Jay himself makes no such claim;
instead he refers to the numbers simply as influences and impressions on Elvis.)
Tracklist: CD1 Elvis Black:
01. That’s All Right – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
02. Good Rockin’ Tonight – Roy Brown
03. Hound Dog – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton
04. Take My Hand Precious Lord – Mahalia Jackson
05. Lawdy Miss Clawdy – Lloyd Price
06. Money Honey – Clyde McPhatter/Drifters
07. Mystery Train – Junior Parker
08. Crying in the Chapel – Orioles
09. Tomorrow Night – Lonnie Johnson
10. Joshua Fit the Battle – Golden Gate Quartet
11. So Glad You’re Mine – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
12. Stack O’Lee Blues – Mississippi John Hurt
13. I Need You So – Ivory Joe Hunter
14. My Happiness – Ella Fitzgerald
15. Milk Cow Blues – Kokomo Arnold
16. See See Rider – Wee Bea Booze
17. Such A Night – Clyde McPhatter/Drifters
18. Cotton Field – Leadbelly
19. That’s When Your Heartaches Begin – Ink Spots
20. I Feel So Bad – Chuck Willis
21. My Baby Left Me – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
22. Shake, Rattle and Roll – Big Joe Turner
23. Fool, Fool, Fool – Clovers
24. Swing Down Sweet Chariot – Golden Gate Quartet
CD2 Elvis White:
01. Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe/Blue Grass Boys
02. I’m Movin’ On – Hank Snow
03. Faded Love – Bob Wills/Texas Playboys
04. Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams
05. There’s No Tomorrow – Tony Martin
06. Just Because – Shelton Brothers
07. Blueberry Hill – Gene Autry
08. Frankie and Johnny – Jimmie Rodgers
09. Old Shep – Red Foley
10. I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’) – Jimmy Wakely
11. Love Letters – Dick Haymes (Heyman/Young)
12. I’ll Hold You n My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms) – Eddy Arnold
13. Muss I Denn – Marlene Dietrich (Traditional)
14. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams
15. When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again – Wiley Walker/Gene Sullivan
16. I Love You Because – Leon Payne
17. (Now and Then There’s A) Fool Such As I – Hank Snow
18. Harbor Lights – Sammy Kaye/Don Cornell
19. It Is No Secret – Blackwood Brothers
20. I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine – Dean Martin
21. It’s A Sin – Eddy Arnold
22. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – Gene Autry
23. Blues Stay Away From Me – Delmore Brothers
24. You’ll Never Walk Alone – Judy Garland
David Neale ...Copyright June 2005
"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Garry Enders)
" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"
"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"
(humorist Dave Barry)
"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"
(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")
"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"