Paul Dowling is without doubt one of the major names in the Elvis World. He started collecting and selling Elvis vinyl over 40 years ago and has one of the world's largest Elvis Presley record collections.
He started his "WorldWide Elvis" shop back in the seventies, way before the internet, where fans could get hold of rare Elvis records and memorabilia.
With such a fascination with Elvis, Dowling not only became a big name in the early years of Elvis bootlegs but later became friends with Ernst Jorgensen and helped RCA / BMG with various official releases including their three superb 90's Elvis 50/60/70s box-sets, as well as all of the 1994 "Double Features" CD box sets.
EIN's Piers Beagley recently caught up with Paul Dowling for a lengthy talk about his incredible life, his fantastic bootlegging legacy, his fascination with Elvis and much, much more ...
Paul Dowling is without doubt one of the major names in the Elvis World. He started collecting and selling Elvis vinyl over 40 years ago and probably has the world's largest Elvis Presley record collection. He started his "WorldWide Elvis" shop back in the seventies, way before the internet, where fans could get hold of rare Elvis records and memorabilia.
With such a fascination with Elvis, Dowling not only became a big name in the early years of Elvis bootlegs but later became friends with Ernst Jorgensen and helped RCA / BMG with their three superb 90's Elvis 50/60/70s box-sets.
In 2012 the wonderful book 'Bootleg Elvis' was published which helped explain how a group of super-keen Elvis fans from around the world, including Paul Dowling, created the fascinating world of Elvis vinyl bootlegs to satisfy demands of Elvis collectors who were being ignored by RCA at the time.
In the book Dowling is credited as "revolutionizing the Elvis bootleg scene" due to his desire to create high-quality product that could compete or even be better than the official RCA output.
Dowling also contributed four delightful stories to the Bootleg Elvis book and while he left the bootleg scene decades ago but still runs "WorldWide Elvis" selling official FTD releases as well as rare Elvis vinyl and books.
It has been a long time since fans read an interview with Paul Dowling and EIN wanted to find out what he was up to - and what he thought of the Elvis scene after all these years.
Updated with three full size images - as requested by interested collectors
EIN: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, it has been a fair while since fans heard your thoughts on the Elvis world. First, a little background please for fans who may not know. I know you started off as a collector (and still are) and then this led you to becoming a dealer since around 1974 - but can you tell us how this all happened, Paul?
Paul Dowling - WWE: This might take a while but I hope the readers find it interesting!
I had no idea who Elvis Presley was until around 1962 when my next door neighbor Bruce Marpel convinced me to see the movie FOLLOW THAT DREAM which starred Elvis in a comedy as a dumb, likable, charming hillbilly. This was not the typical Elvis movie where he would do twelve songs. This had only six songs and, in my opinion, it was one of the best and most underrated movies he ever made. Little did I know how watching my first Elvis film that day would completely change my life a decade later!
I had just started dating a girl in mid 1962. She didn't agree with my tastes in music (well, she did like the Beach Boys) and, for the next three years, it took a lot to convince her to go to the latest Elvis movie playing at the local theater. I remember trying to get her to see FUN IN ACAPULCO but I finally gave up as I knew Elvis and she just didn't get along. My mother (“the Duchess” - her nickname) just couldn't understand what I saw in this greasy (in her mind) degenerate. And God knows what my father - who was a Harvard graduate and local high school principal - thought was unknown to me but he probably thought I was hopeless and would never amount to anything and for a long time it looked like he was 100% correct!
I soon learned that being an Elvis fan was not just a passing fancy and was not something that would go away, as much as the Duchess probably hoped it would. To help expand my interest in the King, in 1965 a local radio station aired an Elvis hour every week night from 7 - 8PM and I never missed it and I taped everything I could on the reel to reel tape recorder I had. This was heaven as they played songs that I had never heard and it seemed that there was a "never ending" supply of them. I simply loved it. All I could think about was Elvis music. Thanks to that same radio show, I learned about an English magazine ‘ELVIS MONTHLY’ which had been around since 1959 and was enjoying a huge increase in sales even though 1965 was the pinnacle of the Beatles era. Luckily I caught the address of that publication and started subscribing to it.
That was the beginning of my lifelong fascination with Elvis Presley.
EIN: How did this new fascination become your business?
WWE: Well, turning a hobby into a business wasn't accomplished overnight. In fact, it wasn't even thought about! I first had to deal with my newly found addiction which consumed my entire life - morning, noon, and night and even in my dreams. No, this was not alcohol or drugs or any "normal" addiction. For some reason I found myself becoming a totally obsessed Elvis Presley record collector which may have been WORSE than any of the well-known bad habits.
After reading an article in a late 1969 edition of my bible at the time - ELVIS MONTHLY - about other countries releasing different Elvis records than the U.S. I was hooked! And by "different" I mean different picture covers and / or different song compilations. Why this fascinated me I can't say for sure although I guess I was always a collector of something – comic books, baseball / football cards and even TV GUIDE magazines!
This article opened a whole new world for me as it gave information on records from Australia, England, France, Germany, South Africa, Japan, and many, many other countries. I just fell in love with the dreamlike idea of seeing (let alone owning) any of these. Little did I know what would be in store for me but unfortunately I had to wait a few years because there was no address to write to to purchase them and, even if there had been, the article clearly stated that a good portion of these had been deleted for years so my thoughts at the time were how could I even hope to get any.
Luckily, again thanks to the MONTHLY, I found an address sometime in late 1972 of one of the best Elvis publications that ever came out - Rex Martin's ELVIS WEEKLY from England. This was a typed eight or twelve page informative newsletter that Rex sent out by subscription every week and, contained information on what releases were coming out on Elvis worldwide, reviews of Elvis' "live" shows BUT, most important, it had what I had been looking for - names and addresses of Elvis record collectors from all over the world! I had discovered literally a goldmine and my life was never to be the same again!
I’ll never forget the day I received my first “fix”. It was March of 1973. Thinking back on it I couldn’t have started my lifelong hobby of collecting Elvis’s worldwide records in a better way. Two months earlier I had ordered some Japanese LP’s from Haruo Hirose by SEA MAIL which is why it took so long to arrive but….....WOW!!…....was it worth the wait! I had no idea what to expect as I carefully opened that unbelievably well packed box and I remember that moment like it was 2 minutes ago. It was almost like opening your first present on Christmas when you were a kid but actually maybe even better because what I saw and what was in front of me were four of the most beautiful records I had ever seen in my life – ELVIS’ GOLDEN STORY VOLS. 1 & 2; GOLDEN HYMNS; and GIRL HAPPY.
The first two were simply “greatest hits” type LP’s, the gospel one was a two LP set of Elvis’ first 2 religious LP’s, and GIRL HAPPY was the same as the U.S. with a different cover but it was the packaging that totally caught me by surprise. First, the covers were not made of the usual thin cardboard that all U.S. LP’s on any artist used but were much thicker and almost plastic coated and were glossy, laminated beauties. Plus, most of them opened like books with pages and pages of pictures, lyrics in Japanese and English inside, and the GOLDEN STORY’S even threw in a large poster / calendar fold out of Elvis. Forget about the songs! Who cared? Who played them anyway as I had heard them all….... but, wait a minute, maybe not, as I discovered that when I actually put them on my stereo each one sounded different but how could this be? Well, I later found out that RCA Japan took great pains to remaster them and this gave them a much better and clearer sound making some of the songs even sound like different takes. In a way, these were essentially the forerunner of CDs a decade later. The Japanese vinyl pressings were THAT good!
A day or so later I received some Australian EP’s from my new friend in Australia – Wayne Hawthorne, another fanatical collector who had been in the game for years. All of these were totally different than the EP’s issued in the U.S. The need to conquer more and more countries was just beginning!
EIN: It’s incredible looking back now in this era of instant downloads, how collecting Elvis had to be done internationally by mail or sea-mail. That would have taken serious time and money.
WWE: The quest to collect became an obsession and I was constantly ordering different releases from Haruo, Wayne, Livio Monari in Italy, HT Long in Malaysia, Cathy Prinsloo in South Africa and just about anyone from any country that issued something different. I wanted everything.
One of the major problems I started running into as I got deeper and deeper into this was trying to find out what 78’s, singles, EP’s, or LP’s that were actually different than the United States. Some of my new collector friends overseas knew but even ones who had be into it for years weren’t 100% sure and it became pretty expensive buying GI BLUES from every country in the world only to find out that there was nothing radically unusual about it. But, thank God Peter J. Milne (a huge worldwide Elvis collector at that time) from Aberdeen, Scotland entered my life so I must thank him still for being my teacher, mentor, and everything.
Jean Marc Gargiulo and Paul Dowling, August 1977
EIN: Your WorldWide Elvis was only just getting going when Elvis died in 1977. How did you hear of Elvis' death - and what on earth did you think would happen with your passion for collecting since, at the time, it must have seemed like the end of the era?
WWE: As I mentioned, after I started collecting Elvis' worldwide vinyl in 1973 I realized that this was NOT a cheap hobby especially someone who had graduated from college a year or so before and had absolutely no desire to look for a job. Thanks to my parents letting me stay at their home I was basically a total bum with no ambition at all. Anyway, after borrowing money from my mother constantly to buy Elvis records for “my disease” she got tired of that and I actually (God forbid!) got a "job" as a substitute high school teacher (my father at that time was a high school principal and was well known and suggested this to me but I never subbed at his school) which was really a baby sitting job with teenagers who loved me because I let them do anything they wanted.
But I hated getting up at 6 AM to go to this "job" and by early 1974 I had this idea of selling extras of some of the records I had and putting out a very small list and mail it to Elvis fans I found in Elvis fan club publications at that time. I remember one day around that time coming home from coaching a gym class all day and finding a check for $500 in the mail for Elvis records from one collector. Now this was 1974 and $500 was a lot of money and I think I was being paid $30 a week doing the sub thing so right then and there I decided to devote all my time in selling Elvis for a living of course not knowing what would happen three years later!
How I heard about Elvis' death was this! Jean Marc Gargiulo and members of his French fan club were in the U.S. to see Elvis on tour and they stopped by my home (parent’s home that is) on August 16, 1977. After showing them films of things like the ED SULLIVAN shows, a few DORSEY TV SHOWS, and the 68 TV SPECIAL I got a phone call from a friend who was scheduled to pick me up a batch of McDonald's hamburgers for everyone there. But before I got off the phone I heard his wife in the background crying hysterically.
She had been watching the news on TV and the top story was about Elvis dying. That was bad enough but then I had to tell Jean Marc and his friends the news. Of course it was devastating to them and to me. I just recall Jean Marc almost collapsing in a chair and it seemed like he remained there for hours.
Then somehow the local newspaper - the Baltimore News American - called me and wanted to come over and interview me the next day. So I let them and you can see the pictures of us looking shell-shocked above in the photo. That story and a few others that followed were picked up by God knows how many newspapers radio stations and phone calls from every country in the world and they were reprinted worldwide. I remember especially Brazil, Argentina England, Japan, Italy etc. Everyone wanted to interview me and I was busy getting calls from everywhere. Things were crazy.
EIN: So how did that lead to you becoming one of the most famous Elvis bootleggers ever?
WWE: I didn't just wake up one day and decide to become a bootlegger! It was something that just happened almost by accident and was a result of a phone call sometime in the cold winter of early 1975. At this point of my life I was so obsessed with collecting Elvis' record releases from every country in the world that this was literally all I could think about. It was all I cared about in those days and everything I did centered around this hobby or, more accurately, this fanatical Elvis vinyl habit I had.
The poor girl I had started to date in June 1973 (three months after I had received my first Japanese records) had no idea what was to be in store for her for the next three years. She was dating someone who I admittedly did care for at the beginning but soon she became a distant number two as nothing or no one could get in the way of my addiction. Not only did I take her to the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Md every Sunday as I responded to ads offering Elvis records in the local newspaper but I soon put ads myself in the same paper looking for any and every Elvis record that was out there, most times putting HER phone number in the ad as I used to spend Sundays at her home.
And so it happened that one fateful Sunday as she had just cooked me a wonderful steak dinner the phone rang and it was a call from a well known record dealer Wayne Rogers from North Carolina. He was visiting a friend locally and was looking in the classified ads in the BALTIMORE SUN and saw mine. All I know is that this phone call began a new phase of my life!
EIN: And this led to your first bootleg release of Elvis’ first TV appearance on “Stage Show’ as a 45rpm single?
WWE: - THE DORSEY SINGLE - I have no idea how Wayne came across a tape of Elvis' first appearance on the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey TV show on January 28, 1956 but he did. When he played it for me I couldn’t believe it. Up until that day I thought that TV shows Elvis did in the 50's were lost forever especially the Dorsey shows. Bob Anderson in Virginia had shown me all three Ed Sullivan shows on film and I found it incredible that something this old that was on “live TV” could still exist on film but the Dorsey shows in my opinion were a lot rarer as most people had never heard of them so, as I listened to Elvis singing I GOT A WOMAN and SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL with the different and somewhat controversial verse that no one had ever heard before, I was floored. It's hard to remember how much I paid for this piece of history although $15 comes to mind but it hardly mattered. I couldn't wait to get it and when it did arrive a few days later I played it for Ed Bayes (a non Elvis record collecting friend of mine) whose first comment was “why don't you boot it?”.
“Boot it”!!! Huh? What did Ed mean by that? Sure I had been aware that there had been a few Elvis bootleg LPs made but was Ed really suggesting that I actually somehow put this tape on record? And then I asked...... how?
Well, good old Ed answered this pretty quick as he suggested I contact Les Moskowitz who owned an oldies vinyl store ROADHOUSE OLDIES in Silver Spring, Md. and who had issued loads of 45’s on Doo Wop and 50’s blues groups on vinyl. I called Les and he recommended a pressing plant that was ten minutes (if that!) from where I lived in Ruxton, Md. So I went there, got a price for one thousand 45 RPM singles, conned my mother into “lending” (try GIVING!!) me the $500 to have these pressed. I then made up a label using the name “WHITE KNIGHT”. I wanted a normal picture cover but that became too complicated to do so I ended up buying a plain white mailing envelope with a flap on the back and went to a printer to get a Dorsey photo on both sides and lettering.
EIN: So straight away you got the plant to press Elvis Presley singles?
WWE: No, the pressing plant would not let me put “Elvis Presley” on the label so I used “The Blue Moon Boys” and that apparently was ok with them even though of course it was no secret who was singing!
I was offering the Dorsey 45 boot for $10 each so my profit was $9.50 on each one although profit was NOT my objective. I know some people will find this hard to believe but I never made this or any of the other bootlegs I did for the money and in fact Sam (aka Vic Colonna) and I had many somewhat friendly heated arguments about this later on.
In thinking back on this part of my life, I think I probably used the “WHITE KNIGHT” label to signify that I was kind of like a knight in shining armor giving something to the Elvis fans that they had never heard before. And actually that philosophy was really behind all of the bootleg LP's I did for the next five years!
But, being so far beyond help as far as my Elvis vinyl sickness was concerned, I soon found out that this bootleg single made a much better trade item which of course could help me greatly add to my growing vinyl disease of trying to collect every single RCA Elvis record from every country in the world that was different from the U.S. version. Instead of paying $10 or $12 (not including AIR postage!) for say a new Japanese LP all it would cost me to get it would actually be 50¢ (my actual cost for each DORSEY single!) + the postage to Japan or whatever country!
Not a bad deal at all especially for someone like myself who had spent nine years in college (to avoid the reality of getting a real job! And yes I did graduate finally!) and was still living at home and not working, I had discovered a great way of building up my collection and feeding my insatiable disease. Thank God for bootlegs!
EIN: Thank God for bootlegs indeed, where would keen Elvis collectors be without them! Tell us about your second release which was your first boot LP.
WWE: That was the ‘TV GUIDE PRESENTS ELVIS’ LP. Not only did I produce a very historic release and an Elvis performance that no one had ever heard before but this was just the next step for me to support my worldwide Elvis RCA vinyl disease. After I had traded as many DORSEY singles as I could, I realized I needed something new - another record - but this time an LP with more material that RCA had not released! This turned out to be maybe one of the first concept bootleg LP's ever as it contained material taken only from television performances.
When I went back to the local pressing plant that I used for the DORSEY single I was unfortunately told that they could no longer do anything for me if it involved Elvis. I never knew why the change of heart.
All I knew is that I had to find someone who could press my first LP. I finally did. I was told about a pressing plant in Nashville, Tn - Nashville Record Plating – so I contacted them and they gladly took my business. 1000 copies of this LP were made making it one of the hardest-to-find of all the Elvis bootleg LP's - at least the original pressing with the spelling of "COMBACK" on the back cover!
The name TV GUIDE PRESENTS ELVIS came from a very rare promotional interview 45RPM EP that RCA in the U.S. made for the magazine - TV GUIDE - in 1956. It contained only very short excerpts of the complete interview but, at that time, this promo was one of the hardest to find of any of Elvis' U.S. Records and, except for the few people who owned this, hardly anyone had ever heard it. The label was ridiculous! It was “designed” by a local record collector who just wanted to be a part of it and I have absolutely no idea why I allowed myself to use this!
The rest of the LP (with the “TV theme”) contained the Elvis portion of the STEVE ALLEN TV SHOW from July 1, 1956; the 1960 FRANK SINATRA TIMEX TV show; and a very rare interview Elvis did with Hy Gardner on TV in 1956. I forget where I found the cover photo but it seemed to fit. I added the “TV GUIDE” magazine logo which I thought would be the perfect finishing touch without of course realizing that I was infringing upon their logo copyright although I was soon to be made aware of this when I received a “cease and desist” letter from, you guessed it, TV GUIDE.
EIN: Presumably someone had informed on you, perhaps other jealous dealers?
WWE: Being a novice ‘bootlegger wasn’t all fun and games and devoid of any problems. Two completely useless cowardly nobodies from New Jersey at that time were the first crooks I had become aware of in my new Elvis world. Not only were these losers calling up other collectors pretending to have rare records (which they never had) and then taking people's money without sending anything back but they also were very jealous of me and the records I had produced so they got in touch with TV GUIDE magazine and informed them of my recent LP. Needless to say, the magazine wasn’t too thrilled that I used their copyrighted logo without their permission so they wrote me a “cease and desist” letter which basically said that, if I didn’t stop selling the TV GUIDE LP, they would sue me! Not a nice thought but, thinking back on it now I had no money anyway so any law suit would have been a waste of time and money for them. But at that time I was pretty nervous to say the least.
But an amazing thing happened! Of course I showed my mother the letter and the Duchess went to work immediately. She called her sister whose husband was Vice President of BLACK AND DECKER in Towson, Maryland at the time and asked him what he thought. Well, in a very weird stroke of irony and luck, it turned out that not only was the lawyer who wrote the TV GUIDE letter a former employee at the Towson BLACK & DECKER but he was a very good friend of my uncle's! He had since moved on to TV GUIDE in Radnor, Pa in the legal department. Anyway, a call was made by my uncle and everything was forgotten!
And to even make things stranger, that lawyer - Allan Kress - later popped up in the Elvis world working in legal for the RIAA and later with RCA in New York and, to even update Kress’ history, I even ended up meeting him in person when I was hired by BMG (RCA) in 1992 to help with a batch of CD releases. Needless to say I did not tell him who I was or bring up my past!
I wasn't completely ignorant that what I was doing was not “legal” although I found out later, thanks to an FBI agent after I was arrested in late 1982, that RCA could not have done anything to me for the songs I used because RCA had not copyrighted any TV shows; “live” performances; and interviews (which were public domain) and even outtakes of studio songs at that time. Of course I could have probably been sued by the songwriters and / or publishing companies and maybe Steve Allen, Sinatra, or Hy Gardner but I obviously didn’t care. Hey, at least I did not copy the RCA logo!
There were some “firsts” with this LP. It was the first Elvis bootleg LP to be shrink wrapped. The cover was a hard cardboard one unlike the thin paper ones used before. Plus, as mentioned before, it may have been the first concept bootleg Elvis LP in that the contents featured things that had been on TV. And you’ll never guess who was one of my first customers? Joan Deary who, at the time, was in charge of Elvis in New York! I was told who she was but her letters seemed so nice that I just didn’t care.
EIN: Did you ever get any orders from any other famous people for your bootlegs?
WWE: Yes we did. I can only remember a few right now. I know Anita Bryant (of the Florida orange juice fame and also a singer) ordered a lot. John Wilkinson also was a good customer of some of our earlier LP's. Some told me that Eddie Murphy the comedian ordered from us but under an assumed name. But get this - a friend of mine on Facebook (Matt Perreira thanks to his friend Erick Silva) sent me this photo of Elton John in his record room and take a look at the red arrow and where it points to! (Click Elton image for Full-Size photo) . Yep, my 'ROCKIN WITH ELVIS ON NEW YEARS EVE' LP! I found out from Erick that Elton was a big Elvis fan and had heard about the show and "wanted it BAD" so Tom Hullett fixed him up with a copy of the LP!
EIN: Wow, that is just about the only album you can make out in Elton's whole collection! But if Joan Deary was buying your bootlegs what did you think when RCA started copying your ideas? You must have smiled to yourself.
WWE: Oh I sure did Piers. It was a compliment and believe it or not I met her for the first - and only - time in 1983 when I had to go to Los Angeles, Ca for my trial before a Judge - not a jury trial. She was just there to simply tell the court that Elvis only had a contract with the RCA label and not with any other labels.... like mine! Anyway, I did meet Joan Deary in the lobby of the court house and we spoke for maybe 15 minutes and she not only told me that she liked ALL of the boots I did but she said she wished that I could work for them at RCA - well, I did of course 9 years later but by then she had gone! - and gave me the credit for convincing RCA to release outtakes and alternate takes. It was extremely kind of her to say this and I will never forget it. What a very nice woman.
EIN: How great to feel that your Elvis bootlegs helped push Joan Deary towards releasing more Elvis outtakes and her various compilations for RCA! Which leads me nicely to asking about your ‘1968 Comeback LP’?
WWE: 'The 68 COMEBACK' LP was huge for me. The initial first pressings (1000) were also done at the same record plant. I had no idea it would be that much in demand but it sure was. I couldn’t keep it in stock. I ran out of the initial amount real quick so I called my Nashville people to do a repress but they turned me down and said that they could not do any more Elvis LP’s for me anymore. This all sounded familiar as I had been there before. I never found out why and they never gave me a good reason but of course they obviously didn’t want any possible lawsuits from RCA so they told me to find somewhere else.
Just some of the 3/4" and BETA video tapes we got for the 68 COMEBACK LP. - (Click for Full-Size photo)
I now had a big problem! I had just produced the ultimate Elvis LP! It was my masterpiece. Collectors were ordering like crazy but now I literally only had a handful left with no way of making more. Plus I was still getting orders for the DORSEY LP which was now sold out. What was I going to do?
Enter Sam Theaker!!
I had been talking to Sam on the phone for awhile and he is the one who found the acetates for the 68 COMEBACK LP at a garage sale and he sent them to me knowing full well what I was going to do with them. I think my new Elvis collector friend Sam apparently always had a secret desire to be a bootlegger. After I told him my problem (that I could no longer repress the 68 or the DORSEY LP's) he told me to hang in there while he did some pressing plant searches in his area and not only did he find a place literally around the corner from him but their prices were not just a little cheaper than NASHVILLE RECORD PLATING but a LOT cheaper. This began my partnership with Sam.
EIN: The story is that back in the seventies you bought a mailing list of 500,000 fans from a US marketing company - pre internet that is an amazing database. When and how did you manage that?
WWE: That's true. There was a company called BROOKVILLE RECORDS from New York who had sold an ELVIS GREATEST HITS type LP on TV and they sold millions and anyone could buy their mailing list for I think 3¢ a name. So Sam and I bought them and put out a catalog and mailed a half a million of them around 3 weeks before Elvis died and they all arrived in people's home the DAY of his death! And then things went crazy!!
EIN: Did you and Sam get offered any other Elvis material that you never released or slipped through your hands?
WWE: Good question. There were loads of calls we got from people who claimed that they had things like MY HAPPINESS (this was in the late 70's long before it came out) and other unreleased SUN songs – the names of which I now can't recall. But no one ever came through with sample tapes for us to hear.
However, I was personally offered and heard the following:
- ALWAYS (originally sung by Johnny Cymbal)- 1:45 June 1961
- Six hours, 30 min SURPRISE HOME BIRTHDAY TAPE. This was just incredible as I heard a good portion of it. This was actually a birthday party that Elvis came to in California as a surprise and sang all kinds of unusual songs to the birthday man / woman and a good portion were songs he had never recorded! But while we were offered this tape at a very high price (which we would have DEFINITELY bought no matter what!) there was a good reason why we never bought it. Maybe some day it will come out but I sincerely doubt it as the story behind it is very scary!
There were a lot of ACETATES that fans would still be interested in to hear about:
- Four 16" transcription discs LA HAYRIDE (no songs listed on them from what I remember)
- 750 acetates, one sided; two sided; LP acetates:
Outtakes, alternate takes, RCA, RCA REFERENCE discs, MGM, movie, etc
(These were from a guy in New York who advertised them in GOLDMINE magazine a long time ago but I believe eventually sold them all).
- LOC 1035 Christmas LP: 6 outtakes (RADIO RECORDS ACETATES)
- ROUSTABOUT LP: 10 outtakes (RADIO RECORDS ACETATES). All acetates from ROUSTABOUT say "3-3-64" on them!)
- KISSIN’ COUSINS LP: 6 outtakes (RCA REFERENCE ACETATES)
- SUCH A NIGHT- two one sided acetates DOO WOP versions!!
a) DOO WOP version with the Jordanaires and the regular group of studio musicians backing. Same basic tempo as the version released (and very similar) but with the Jords distinctively doing "DOO WOP" in the background.
b) ACAPELLO DOO WOP version (no music at all). This was incredible as it was a lot slower than the version we have all heard with the Jordanaires literally singing the words "Doo Wop" throughout the entire song!
- DON'T BE CRUEL - 2 acetates (Take 5; take 8)
- PARALYZED - 3 outtakes (Take 4; take 6); take 9)
- HOW'S THE WORLD TREATING YOU - 3 outtakes (Take 1; take 3; take 5)
- FIRST IN LINE - 4 outtakes (Take 8; take 10; take 14; take 23)
- TOO MUCH - 6 outtakes (Take 1; take 6; take 8; take 11)
I personally heard everything above EXCEPT for the FOUR 16" LA HAYRIDE discs and obviously all of those 750 acetates! But everything else I listed was played for me at one time on the phone so I guarantee you they exist or did exist. Most I heard in the mid - late 1980's and since I was no longer in the bootleg business, even though I would have loved to have bought them, the people who had them wanted a fortune which was the problem Sam and I had all the time. The one that was the most appealing to me were the two one sided acetates of SUCH A NIGHT and I almost bought these and actually, thinking back on it, I wish I had especially the Acapella one.
But please note that since so many outtakes have been released by Ernst on FTD some of the above may have already come out. If you're like me I just can't keep track of them all, but these are what I was offered.
EIN: That is one mouth-watering list. Stuff like ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ outtakes, a doo-wop slow version of ‘Such A Night’ or even ‘Roustabout’ outtakes are what Elvis collectors dreams are made of! What about any live concert material?
WWE: I did get offered more live shows but to be honest I wrote a list down years and years ago but I never wrote down the exact information, even though I did have it at the time - but God knows where that list is now!! All I remember and it is pretty non specific.
- 8 Rehearsal tapes
- 27 Soundboard tapes "live" (including 4 monsters!)
- 12 Cassette tapes "live"
- Seven 15 1/2" IPS reel tapes – Again I’m sorry but can't recall what the titles were. I used to have it but have misplaced it over the years.
Perhaps Ernst has got hold of these by now or released some of them. It’s hard to keep up with exactly what has been put out.
EIN: Personally I can only hope FTD tracks down some of those rare gems in the future. Hearing such rare material, didn't you try and get any of your RCA contacts to see if any of this material existed in the vaults?
WWE: Well, in fact while I was going through all of RCA's files from January to May 1992 in New York I became very good friends with a man who was the head of the studio. He is one fun great guy and we are still friends and he still sends me interesting things from time to time. Just two years or so ago he sent me a special one page sheet (the original not a copy) titled "ELVIS PRESLEY UNRELEASED MATERIAL". It was probably put together when they decided to do the ELVIS FOR EVERYONE LP. It lists specific songs with takes / matrix numbers / dates that they had (and may still have) that have still never been released. Before I sent this to you I had to ask him permission first and he just gave it but, because of a confidentiality agreement he still has with BMG, he asked me to "white out" certain parts. The only thing I can tell you is that most of what you can't see is very very interesting information. Sorry about the redactions but still I think fans would like to see it. (Click image for Full-Size photo)
EIN: What do you consider was the most important release that you produced for Elvis collectors?
WWE: Oh my God, what a question! But let me answer it this way. The best selling LP we did was the NEW YEARS EVE LP. We couldn't keep this in stock. If there was such a thing as a GOLD RECORD AWARD FOR BOOTLEG LP'S this would have been it. How many we sold is unknown? 30,000, 50,000? Who knows. Even Sam I'm sure has no idea.
The favorite cover I designed was ROCKIN REBEL VOL. 1. I think it would be interesting for your readers to know about the origin
of that picture! It actually was an almost life size Japanese poster
BUT the poster omitted not only the bottom of Elvis' guitar but also
Elvis' little finger of his right hand and the top of the guitar!! But
somehow Sam found a fantastic artist in Glendale, Ca who miraculously
touched things up so that it is almost impossible to tell those parts
And by the way I did design most of the LP covers but when
we got down to later ones like PLANTATION ROCK; DOG'S LIFE (I did find
the cover pic for Sam); LEAVING IT UP TO YOU; TTWII; ALOHA REHEARSAL I
was losing interest and someone in California did those.
As far as important I think the MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET one was the most important we did and up there with the '61 HAWAII BENEFIT CONCERT LP.
EIN: Is it true that when you and Vic Colonna went to a restaurant one night you proceeded to amaze diners by lighting a $100 bill then letting it burn to ashes?
WWE: Yes that is totally 100% true! For some unknown reason for fun I just took out a $100 bill and put a match to it. Whether anyone in the restaurant saw it I honestly can't recall but yes I definitely did that.
By the way, I forget if Sam mentioned this, but the restaurant was owned by Alan Hale Jr who at the time was one of the stars of the hit TV show here in the U.S. - GILLIGAN'S ISLAND!!
EIN: After Elvis' death you also branched out into selling jewelry. Can you tell us about that.
WWE: Well Sam wanted to try selling non record related items for awhile. I don't think it lasted longer than 6-8 months (if that!) and we sold things like games, teddy bears, photos, frizbees, playing cards, yes jewelry boxes and honestly I can't even remember what else. I'm sure Felix has all the catalogs so he could tell you. We did great but I actually hated it because I couldn't have cared less about things like that as I was a vinyl addict plus wrapping an order say for a rectangular board game, a teddy bear, a jewelry box and records was living hell.
We only were set up with cardboard mailers made to pack singles and LP's so I had to create my own boxes for these or send them individually or get special mailers made for each (which we did) but that was an additional expense and eventually I was the one who decided to get out of selling these ridiculous items. But we did sell everything we had along these lines and we did make money although that was never my objective. I always just wanted to have fun but this was no fun!
Paul Dowling, Joe Esposito, Memphis, 1978
EIN: Being at the forefront of the Elvis bootleg world in its early days must have been an exciting, if at times, stressful time. But what are the main highlights of your long and interesting involvement in the Elvis world?
WWE: There are so, so many. Listening to Sam play the '61 HAWAII BENEFIT CONCERT to me on the phone after he got it was a highlight. I never even imagined this existed let alone that anyone would find it and that I was hearing it. Getting all those RADIO RECORDERS 15" reel to reel to reel master tapes (especially the fast LOVING YOU) was a thrill. Getting letters from literally thousands of Elvis fans around the world thanking us for putting out each LP was something I'll never forget. Flying to Arkansas to watch Elvis on film from the LA HAYRIDE was a trip that I'll never forget even though I hardly slept. It's just too bad that I never could have bought it.
Also, around 1992 after I got back from one of my trips to New York visiting BMG, I received a call from a man who worked for Tom Diskin and who had 13 "live" shows on reel to reel from 1956 and 1957. One of the songs was ONLY YOU from May 1956. He wouldn't play it on the phone so I figured he was all talk but a week or so later he drove down to my home in Baltimore and had a cassette of the entire show and played it for me and I heard ONLY YOU with my own ears. I was stunned to say the least. He wanted to sell all 13 tapes but at the time he wanted some crazy amount like $500,000 which obviously I didn't have and of course I had long been out of the bootleg business. The last time I heard from him was maybe six months later when he called and asked if I had changed my mind about paying his price and I said no and he said he was working on a deal with a company called PACIFIC MUSIC (??) in the Far East and that they would maybe release all of the shows but obviously that never happened. So I have no idea what ever happened to these. Wish I did.
This brings up the summer of 1985 I think when Danny Mayo called and said he had a kinescope of Elvis on the ROY ORBISON TV SHOW from Odessa / Midland Texas in 1954 or 1955 and was asking $5000 for it and of course I agreed right away. However, my regret was that I didn't send him the money immediately but instead waited until that weekend to meet him in person and buy it as he was scheduled to be in Baltimore to show his collection of his Elvis memorabilia to fans and I figured why fly to see him when I could meet him in my home town 3-4 days later. Little did I know that in the meantime he was told that the film was worth $100,000 which of course took me out of that deal.
And without question being able to obtain and release the MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET tape to the world has to be at the top of the list although that immediately brings to mind that after it came out it was reviewed in PLAYBOY magazine and I was sure that we would be sued by the Perkins, Jerry Lee, and Elvis estates not to mention possibly Shelby Singleton although Shelby and Sam had become very good friends and in fact Shelby was selling our bootlegs like crazy so he probably wouldn't have cared if he found out it was us who put it out. But this was the last bootleg we did.
Besides what I have just mentioned I guess putting on an Elvis Convention in Baltimore at the new Convention Center - CHRISTMAS WITH ELVIS '79 - and having the Jordanaires and DJ there backing an Elvis impersonator Jon Seaton was one highlight not to mention spending a lot of time with the Jords and DJ and asking them all kinds of questions about the old days. Also, meeting and hanging around with Alan Fortas at a Memphis convention in January 1978 in Memphis was loads of fun. He was like a little puppy dog who followed me everywhere. A great character.
To tell you the truth Piers there's a lot more but I just don't have time to go over it all at this time but maybe another time I will.
EIN: Did you have any more boots planned for after The Million Dollar Quartet album?
WWE: We did have another planned bootleg and that would have been the 1968 TV SPECIAL JAM SESSION tape which I got from Jerry Hopkins thanks to Rick Whitesell (at the time the editor of GOLDMINE magazine) who kept begging me to call Jerry and talk to him so when I finally did one day Jerry was very nice and said he had something to send me and that's what it was. But by then (1980 or 1981) we were being heavily investigated by the FBI so our bootlegging days were over. We ended up sending that tape to Gerry Ryff who put it out on the (I think) PLAY IT HOT bootleg with a cover pic that I think (although I'm not 100% sure now!) that we also supplied him!
EIN: Business was obviously very good at the time?
WWE: Incredible. Doing what we liked and making great money was just too good to be true!
...... Indeed it was too good to be true since it would all soon unravel, with the FBI knocking at the door and the long arm of the law investigating the Elvis bootleg market as well as prosecuting the suppliers...
Continues in EIN's in-depth Paul Dowling Interview - Part Two
|Paul Dowling EIN Interview Part Two:
In Part Two of our fascinating interview Paul Dowling discusses ....
- Being caught & jailed for his bootlegging business
- Where he obtained some of the bootleg tapes
- Meeting Janis Martin the famous “female Elvis”
- Meeting Felton Jarvis
- His official solo projects with BMG
- Working with Ernst Jorgensen
- Seeing Elvis live in concert
- Paul Dowling & Life nowadays
Interview by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN May 2016 -
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Bootleg Elvis (Book Review): Illicit Elvis recordings released by underground labels on pristine black or colored vinyl! For many fans the thought and memories of that important part of the Elvis music scene still resonates in 2012.
And now one of the year's greatest book releases has been published, Bootleg Elvis.......a high quality, incredibly well researched narrative and visual history of the 900+ Elvis bootlegs released on vinyl.
EIN recently delved deep inside this formidable book to sample its veritable treasure trove of Elvis delights! Old and new fans take note!!
Read EIN's detailed review
One of Sam Theaker / aka Vic Colonna's original adverts featuring seven classic bootleg vinyl albums, costing as little as $8.00 each!
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