EIN E-Alert #242.......Thursday 25 Jan 2007
The big news this week is a rumor that the partnership between EPE and Cirque du Soleil to produce a series of Elvis themed shows has collapsed. There were initially mixed reports and EIN had sought clarification from EPE. We are pleased to say that earlier today it was confirmed that the partnership is still standing and Cirque du Soleil's "Elvis" is proceeding!
Nigel & Piers
How Country Music Influenced The King
Throughout his career, country music and Elvis were closely intertwined. Not surprisingly, country music was one of the seminal musical influences on the young Elvis as he grew up in the urban south, an area characterised as a hotbed or cross-cultural musical melting pot of country, gospel and rhythm and blues. By the late 1940s around 650 US radio stations carried country music, the majority of them located in the southern States. It was because of this explosion in the number of country radio stations that artists including Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams gained a recognition that their musical predecessors would have envied.
Subsequently Elvis would win a long contract with the Opry’s competition, the Louisiana Hayride. The Opry and Hayride represented the premier live country music promotions in the US.
|The early country influence on Elvis was largely ‘bluegrass’, the country sound characteristic of the Memphis and surrounding area and a great favourite of Elvis’s mother, Gladys. Charles Wolfe relates bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s account of his first meeting with Elvis in his liner notes to the excellent BMG release ‘Elvis Great Country Songs’:
"He came right up to me and talked about how he and his mother had liked my music, and knew my songs."
Robert Matthew-Walker, in his intriguing book ‘Studies in Modern Music - Elvis Presley’ notes how Elvis was born at the right time. Hank Williams, Red Foley, Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Ernest Tubbs were bringing country music to the masses through the growth of radio and television in the 1940s and 1950s. Elvis, a typical southern working class youth, could not avoid being influenced.
Ernest Tubb (above)
Hank Snow (opposite)
Matthew-Walker even suggests that Elvis’s short career as a movie usher would have brought him into contact with country music, a popular element in many movies, particularly down south. He cites the 1952 movie ‘With A Song In My Heart’ that featured ‘Blue Moon’ - Elvis’s subsequent recording of this song being one of his most haunting. The Presley family spent many Saturday nights listening to the comedy and music of the Grand Old Opry on their radio.
Years later Elvis would unsuccessfully try out for the Opry and continue truck driving, something allegedly consistent with the advice of Opry promoter, Jim Denny. (EIN Note: The alleged comment by Denny has been exposed as a myth)
Appearing weekly, Elvis’s exposure on the Hayride would be an early catalyst for his eventual historic appearances on television - the carriage of Elvis’s important ‘visual’ element to a national and international audience being the instrument that would solidify and ensure his arrival as the twentieth century’s biggest musical star.
From his appearances on the Hayride, a 1996 release ‘The Louisiana Hayride Archives Volume 1 Elvis Presley’ showcased Elvis’s performances between October 1954 and December 1956 including the previously unreleased and historically important but unfortunately inferior sound quality ‘Hearts of Stone’. Other tracks included Maybelline, I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine, I Was The One and Blue Moon of Kentucky.
Robert Matthew-Walker comments that Elvis’s musical fusion of black music and country music was (is) wholly successful. This is all the more important as earlier attempts to mix the two were unable to break away from the instrumental make-up of the classic jazz or blues bands. Elvis, Scotty, Bill and later D J formed what endures as the classic make-up of the rock band - drums, bass, rhythm and lead guitar.
Sam Phillips was fully aware of the importance of both country and rhythm and blues to the southern audience and deliberately released Elvis singles with the ‘A’ side being an r&b number and the ‘B’ side a country song. Those five Sun singles were That’s All Right, Mama/Blue Moon of Kentucky; Good Rockin’ Tonight’/I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine; Milkcow Blues Boogie/You’re A Heartbreaker; Baby, Let’s Play House/I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone and Mystery Train/I Forgot To Remember To Forget.
While touring with Hank Snow in 1955, a prominent American music magazine, The Country Song Roundup featured a story ‘Elvis Presley - Folk Music Fireball’. This followed national features in Cowboy Songs and C&W Jamboree. By November 1955 Elvis had been awarded the ‘New Star of the Year’ award by the C&W Jamboree for topping their readers poll with 250,000 votes!!!
On joining RCA Elvis’s first LP ‘Elvis Presley’ featured classic country songs such as ‘I’m Counting On You’, ‘I Love You Because’ and ‘Blue Moon’. His second RCA LP ‘Elvis’ included the country standards ‘When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again’ and one of Elvis’s favourites ‘Old Shep’. Early in his RCA recording career it was country guitar legend, Chet Atkins, who would produce many of Elvis’s songs. It was also partly because of RCA’s growing country and western roster that Elvis was signed by the company - in the early days he was still regarded as essentially a Southern country singer.
Interestingly, a number of Elvis’s early influences had regularly come together at gospel promoter W. D. Nowlin’s All-Day Singing and Dinner Picnic in De Leon, Texas. An annual event the Picnic often featured Eddy Arnold, the Stamps Quartet, the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet. Elvis played the Picnic on July 4, 1955 .
At the time, J.D. Sumner was bass singer with the Blackwood Brothers. Unfortunately Elvis initially decided to sing only gospel songs and failed to respond to the audiences’ plea for his usual rockabilly tunes. "He fell flat on his face" J. D. Sumner later recalled. Elvis learnt quickly however and by that evening was again giving the crowds what they wanted.
Early in his career Elvis’s ‘tampering’ with traditional country (eg. Blue Moon of Kentucky and many of the tracks recorded for his second movie ‘Loving You’) by giving it a faster tempo was criticised in many quarters. Elvis’s derivative style, a composite drawn from earlier country styles, echoed country boogie-woogie with its ‘triplet’ vocal rhythm, pianist Moon Mullican, the Maddox Brothers, Hank Williams and Red Foley.
Charles Wolfe commented: ‘Throughout his career, Elvis kept returning to his country roots. He had grown up during the heyday of Hank Williams, Red Foley and Bill Monroe, and he often paid tribute to them. He was one of the first to contribute to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1960.’
Due to Elvis’s commitments in Hollywood there were only a few country tracks released during his movie years of the 60s. The album ‘Elvis For Everyone’ included a memorable version of Hank William’s classic ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’. In 1967 Eddy Arnold’s ‘You Don’t Know Me’ was featured in Clambake while another Arnold track ‘Just Call Me Lonesome’ was included as a bonus track on the movie’s soundtrack album.
Whenever possible, Elvis took the opportunity to record his movie soundtracks in the country music capital, Nashville - for example the soundtracks for Kissin’ Cousins (1963), Harum Scarum (1965) and Clambake (1967) were all recorded in RCA’s Studio B in Nashville . When there Elvis was backed by prominent country musicians including Charlie McCoy (harmonica/bass), Floyd Cramer (piano), Homer ‘Boots’ Randolph and Glen Campbell (guitar).
In the late 60s Elvis also recorded two original country songs, both written by Jerry Reed: Guitar Man and U.S. Male. In 1969 he would record at the tiny American Sound Studios in Memphis and the resulting ‘From Elvis In Memphis’ album was soon hailed as one of his best. It included many superb country cuts: Eddy Arnold’s ‘I’ll Hold You In My Heart’; Johnny Tillotson’s ‘It Keeps Right On A Hurtin’ and ‘Gentle On My Mind’ (earlier a huge hit for Glen Campbell). Crossover tracks included the great ‘Kentucky Rain’, written by another country artist yet to find fame, the late Eddie Rabbitt. The backing musicians for these sessions also included two aspiring country singers, Sandy Posey and Ronnie Milsap. The American Studios recordings, released in 1987 with added tracks as ‘The Memphis Record’, represent Elvis’s most potent studio effort since the Sun days with its heady mix of pop, rock, soul and country music.
Elvis’s love of country music was reflected in the seminal album ‘Elvis Country’ - full of strong material, most of it recorded in the home of country music, Nashville , on June 4, 1971 . It was also arguably Elvis’s first concept album including tracks such as the stirring ‘Make The World Go Away’ (a hit for Timi Yuro, Eddy Arnold and Ray Price), ‘There Goes My Everything’ (better known as a hit for Engelbert Humperdinck), ‘It’s Your Baby, You Rock It’, the plaintive ‘I Really Don’t Want To Know’ (another Eddy Arnold standard), Bill Monroe’s bluegrass hit ‘Little Cabin On The Hill’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’.
In his final years Elvis frequently returned to his country roots both on stage and in the recording studio. His live performances featured many country songs including ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’, ‘Help Me’ (a hit for Larry Gatlin), ‘Let Me Be There’ (originally by Olivia Newton John), ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ (which also charted for Marty Robbins) and ‘‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’.
In the studio Elvis recorded four songs from Kris Kristofferson (‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’, ‘Why Me Lord’, ‘For The Good Times’ and ‘Help Me’), two from Gordon Lightfoot (‘Early Morning Rain’ and ‘For Loving Me’), Bobby Bare’s ‘Find Out What’s Happening’, Mary Robbins’ ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ and one of Elvis’s favourites ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’.
Other country tracks were ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ (although Elvis’s version was based more on Tom Jones pop version than Porter Wagoner’s original country interpretation), ‘Fairytale’ (a major hit for the Pointer Sisters), ‘Susan When She Tried’ and the Jim Reeves country standard ‘He’ll Have To Go’. On the recording front more than 80 Elvis singles have made the Billboard Country Charts, 11 of them reaching the top spot. ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’ (the ‘B’ side of Elvis’s fifth Sun single, Mystery Train) was the first of these and enjoyed an amazing 40 weeks on the Country charts. Others to hit the top spot were ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘She Thinks I Still Care’, ‘Guitar Man’, ‘I Was The One’ and ‘Loving You’.
One of the most requested songs since Elvis’s death in 1977 is ‘Always On My Mind’, destined to become an even bigger hit when released by country superstar, Willie Nelson.
In 1995 William Ruhlmann sat around conversing with several Elvis biographers. Dave Marsh observed: "Oh, he must have been listening to Ray Price a lot." because he’d been doing a lot of Ray Price numbers, which figures, because Ray was really huge right then, the early 70’s. Price had hits with ‘For The Good Times’, ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’, ‘Release Me’, ‘I’ll Be There’ and ‘Faded Love’ - all songs covered by Elvis. While the Price influence was true in the early 70s, if we considering his career as a whole there is one country artist who arguably influenced Elvis more - Eddy Arnold. In the next part of this series I will examine the Arnold influence.
In a future edition of our Spotlight On The King series we will examine the significant impact on Elvis of country music superstar, Eddy Arnold.
All Shook Up, Richard Middleton in ‘The Elvis Reader’, Kevin Quain (ed)
Elvis Country, RCA, 1970
Elvis Great Country Songs, BMG, including liner notes by Charles Wolfe
Elvis Sessions II, Joseph A. Tunzi
Last Train To Memphis , Peter Guralnick
Ray Price, American Originals, CBS, 1989
Studies in Modern Music - Elvis Presley, Robert Matthew-Walker
The Essential Eddy Arnold, BMG, 1996
The Louisiana Hayride Archives, Vol. 1 Elvis Presley, Branson Gold Records, 1996
Walk A Mile In My Shoes, William Ruhlmann, Goldmine, 19 January 1996
This edition of Spotlight On The King was prepared by Nigel Patterson. It was originally published in Elvis Monthly. © 2000 & 2003
Read more "Influences on The King" in EIN's Spotlight section
Elvis with Sam Phillips & Marion Keister
Quote of the Week
Kaonashi about one of the latest American Idol hopefuls auditioning in Memphis:
"Robert Holmes claims he sounds just like Elvis. Um, yeah. Maybe if Elvis had his balls cut off when he was still alive. Next!"
Aussie & NZ fans - join EIN in Memphis this August on our:
"Ultimate 30th Anniversary Tour!"
With this year's Elvis Birthday celebration over, the excitement is starting to build and there is now only a little over 6 months before EIN's Ultimate 30th Anniversary Tour! departs Australia for the US.
Elvis' favorite superhero
Elvis and Dakota Fanning have everyone "all shook up"
|Entertainment insiders are abuzz about a new controversy, and this time it has nothing to do with Lohan's "water bottle" or Justin's latest ladyfriend. This time, it's Elvis and Dakota Fanning who have everyone all shook up. Seems that 12-year-old actress Fanning's role in the movie Hounddog is that of a child who is brutally raped, then turns to the music of Elvis for comfort.
The scene is so brutal that the film's investors actually pulled out, and production had to be stopped until new investors with deep pockets and thicker skin were located. Despite the controversy — or perhaps because of it — the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
The question now: Is Memphis ready for the dubious attention Hounddog will bring to its most famous dead resident? (Source: MemphisFlyerOnline)
Visit Charmaine's Elvis Graphics Page
Rex & Elisabeth Mansfield book to become film
The American company Newly-minted Cinema League has bought the film and tv rights for the book "Sergeant Presley: The Untold Story of Elvis' Missing Years".
The story follows the basictraining from Elvis in Texas untill the end of his army life in Germany and will contain subjects as his meeting with Priscilla and his starting addiction to prescripted medication.
The authors are Rex and Elisabeth Mansfield. Rex was a fellow soldier from 1958 to 1960 and his wife is romanticaly linked to Elvis. The start of the shooting is scheduled for next summer.
Where the name Elvis came from
(Source: Amber Smith)
The original form of the name is Scandinavian:
Alviss = All Wise
Ailbhis - (AL-vis) 6th C. Irish saint; perhaps also can be Ailbhe. Anglecized as Elvis
The reason for the spelling of Aron with only one A is because the names Jesse Garon and Elvis Aron were meant to rhyme. For some odd reason in the early 20th century, it was popular to rhyme the middle names of your children (it's rampant in my mom's family, for example).
Elvis switched it to Aaron in later years to reflect the biblical spelling.
Last year Elvii at the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Ontario, Canada set the world record for the biggest number of Elvis look-a-likes together (97). Earlier this month the record was smashed as 147 jumpsuited & be-wigged Elvis tragics grouped together at the Annual Parkes Elvis Festival in rural Australia. Well the Colingwood folks aren't too happy about their record being taken...and are vowing to get it back!
With 170 tribute artists expected to participate in the Collingwood Elvis Festival in 2007 and even more in the years to come, organizers there said therevare more than confident they can break the new record of 147 when the time is right. (Source: Parkes Champion Post)
America = Elvis!
by Erick Raven - DailySkiff
The legacy of America is the blending of black, white and Native American into a whole greater than its ndividual parts. The music of America is perhaps its greatest export. It was built upon the foundation of slaves, poor southern whites, Native American rituals and aristocratic European immigrants. Jazz is America's classical music and it was the first export to give the rest of the world a sense of what America is and what it could potentially represent for the rest of the world. Yet the ultimate personification of American culture did not come until 30 years after the jazz revolution began.
Presley not only reminds us of America's ability to influence the world, but also of our own paradoxes. He made black music more popular than any other form of music in the world, which would lead some to claim that he stole it. But all musicians "steal" from one another; it's in our blood. Presley would merge a gospel hymn like "Amen" with Ray Charles' classic rhythm and blues song "I Got a Woman" with no second thought. Vocally, he would be the anti-drug, yet die addicted to them. Yet it's the cultural paradoxes that made him the influential singer he was.
Simply put, America can be summed up in two words: Elvis Presley. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Presley's death and many are reconsidering the role he played in pop culture history. When he exploded upon the American cultural landscape in 1956, Presley was an enigma to all except the city of Memphis, and possibly New Orleans. This guy performed the most simple, yet most profound, kind of music and elicited a firestorm of response. There were whites who said he sounded black, blacks who said he didn't sound white but certainly not black.
He was what author Stephen Talty called the personification of Mulatto America. In his book of the same name, Talty writes, "The moment when the young Elvis, out of nowhere, started singing 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' in his half-breed style is the pivot on which much of modern culture turns. Rock and roll, youth culture, and all that followed was born that day in Memphis." What America exported to the rest of the world as a result of this poor, white singer would change societies the world over.
According to The Beatles Anthology, John Lennon said, "I'm an Elvis fan because it was Elvis who really got me out of Liverpool." In an April 2004 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, U2's lead singer, Bono, wrote that Presley had "hips that swivel from Europe to Africa, which is the whole point of America, I guess."
Bono wrote, "In Elvis, you have the blueprint for rock and roll: The highness - the gospel highs. The mud - the Delta mud, the blues. Sexual liberation. Controversy. Changing the way people feel about the world."
In recent years, Presley has been thought of more as an overweight Vegas circus act than the socially revolutionary figure he actually was. Most rock and hip-hop musicians have no idea how many doors were opened for them by Presley's 1956 cultural explosion.
In Presley, the divisions America likes to focus on were temporarily blurred, and a new possibility of seeing and hearing the world was opened up. Hopefully we, as a nation, can be as harmonized socially as Presley was musically and show the rest of the world what America is supposed to be about. Erick Raven is a first-year graduate student in the School of Education from Grand Prairie.
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