The Secrets of Elvis' record collection
"The King and Hi-FI" / "From Elvis' Record Crates"
An EIN Review /Spotlight
The secrets of Elvis' record collection.
The June 2004 issue of Britain's excellent Record Collector magazine featured a very interesting article about what is in Elvis' personal record collection.
It provides a great insight into Elvis' eclectic musical interests with many titles sure to surprise fans. The artists featured are a wide variety of names well known to fans and many artists fans will not have heard of before.
EIN also checks out some other detailed looks at "Elvis Vinyl crates" and what records he collected...
The full list of Elvis' record collection was supplied by EPE and comprises more than 2,000 items of which more than 1,000 are catalogued in the Record Collector article (review below), meanwhile Michael Lollar from the Memphis Commercial Appeal also examines Elvis record crates.
From Elvis's crates ... Influential singers fill list of vinyl
- By Michael Lollar
|It was Elvis Presley's synthesis of gospel, blues, soul, country and rhythm and blues that helped construct rock and roll in the 1950s, and his record collection reflects the far-ranging tastes that followed him into the 1960s and 1970s. From Chuck Berry to Bobbie Gentry to Beethoven, Presley was a fan.
Graceland and EPE have cataloged the collection with 1,000 albums and singles filling up a 24-page list top-heavy with the "big voices" and "clear and distinctive" styles that were a magnet for Presley.
"Elvis used to say, 'I can appreciate the best of everything,' " says hisElvis friend and disk jockey George Klein, who once asked Elvis why he liked opera stars Mario Lanza and Enrico Caruso.
There is only one opera recording (by Lanza) in the Elvis collection, which EPE's Todd Morgan says "leans heavily to black rhythm and blues and to black and white gospel." Graceland archivists cataloged the recordings by title and last names of artists, so exact numbers in each category aren't readily available. That's because many of the groups and solo artists who began as gospel singers crossed over into pop and rhythm and blues and later returned to their gospel roots.
But Elvis friends said they did not need to see a list to know that Gospel recordings were Elvis's favorites and the music that Elvis most often played for friends. "He loved close harmony," says former Memphis Mafia member Red West, who lived at Graceland. He says Elvis's favorite groups were the Harmonizing Four and Golden Gate Quartet and his favorite gospel singers included Jimmy Jones, Jake Hess (who sang with the Statesmen and later formed the Imperials) and Mahalia Jackson.
It was that close harmony that also made him a big fan of the Ink Spots and The Platters, especially love songs, says West. But Elvis's tastes were also guided by his personal views, so that the flower-power draw of The Mamas and the Papas, one of the biggest close-harmony groups of the '60s and '70s, was too liberal for his tastes, says West.
Gospel groups in Elvis's collection include the Blackwood Brothers, the Imperials, the Statesmen Quartet, the Stamps, the Harmonizing Four, the Revivalaires, the Jubil-Aires and the Oak Ridge Boys.
Soul and rhythm and blues performers are another major part of the collection, and it was a handful of them who would be at the top of Elvis's all-time favorite solo artists, Klein says. Former church choir singer Roy Hamilton, whose big baritone voice turned him into a major rhythm and blues artist who crossed over into pop in the '50s, may have been Elvis's No. 1 favorite singer. He especially loved Hamilton's version of Unchained Melody and later recorded it himself.
"In Elvis's version you can hear Roy Hamilton (his style) all the way through it," says Klein. Hamilton also influenced Jackie Wilson, Elvis's other all-time favorite, says Klein. Wilson's Night and Lonely Teardrops were two of Elvis's favorite songs.
Memphis Mafia member Marty Lacker, who lived at Graceland and later founded the city's music commission, says singer Jimmy Jones of the Harmonizing Four gospel group was another Elvis favorite. At dinner one night in the Graceland dining room, Elvis told him the people who "really influenced" him were big-band and pop singer Billy Eckstine, rhythm and blues singers Brook Benton and Arthur Prysock and gospel singer Jake Hess.
But Elvis's tastes were always varied, says Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling, former head of the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission. While he owned several Frank Sinatra records, he was an even bigger fan of Dean Martin. Schilling also remembers Hamilton as an all-time Elvis favorite, but also lists Mario Lanza, the Ink Spots, the Blackwood Brothers, the Prisonaires, The Platters, The Drifters and The Jackson 5. "We followed the Jackson 5 in Lake Tahoe once when Lisa (Lisa Marie Presley) was 6 years old. That's when she first met Michael Jackson."
Rock bands are a rarity in the collection. There were four Beatles albums and albums by Chicago and the Turtles, but West says Elvis preferred soloists. West, a songwriter, once tried to turn Elvis on to the song Green, Green Grass of Home, but Elvis wasn't interested. When Tom Jones recorded it, Elvis was returning to Memphis on a tour bus. "When we got within range of Memphis, he kept stopping every few minutes to call George Klein (at WHBQ radio) and got him to play it every few minutes from Little Rock to Memphis.'' Jones and Presley later became good friends, often visiting each other backstage after their Las Vegas shows.
There are relatively few female singers in the record collection, but Elvis's friends say his favorites included Anne Murray (for her "clear and distinctive voice"), Vikki Carr (It Must Be Him), Mahalia Jackson, Della Reese, Dionne Warwick, Bobbie Gentry, Leslie Uggams, Timi Yuro, the Andrews Sisters, the McGuire Sisters and his former backup group The Sweet Inspirations. His record collection includes a duet album between Memphis father and daughter Rufus and Carla Thomas.
Elvis, the rocker and balladeer, was not a fan of jazz , but he had an album by Duke Ellington, Newport 1958, in the collection. There was also only a small sampling of classical music - Brahms's Symphony No. 1, Beethoven's Konzert Fur Klavier Und Orchestra No. 5 and Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor.
Graceland TV room with Elvis' Hi-Fi & vinyl collection on the far left - check out the stack of 45rpms
Some of the highlights listed in the Record Collector article (there are many more) include:
- Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters is the earliest released (1943) single in the collection
- the collection includes significant numbers of R&B but remarkably few seminal rock & roll releases. The large catalog of artists included Johnny Ace, Ray Charles, Faye Adams, Joe Turner, Little Walter and Ivory Joe Hunter
- similarly, 'white' gospel recordings are well represented by names such as The Blackwood's, the Speer Family, The Statesmen, the Higher Ground and the Brock Brothers, while 'black' gospel hardly gets a look in, with only a handful of singles and LPs by artists including the Soul Stirrers, Golden Gate Quartet and the Rance Allen Group
- Ballad recordings by The Clovers, the Crickets, The Platters, the Spiders, the Dominoes, Pat Boone and Glenn Miller/The Ink Spots
- The Country music genre is well represented through recordings by Jimmy Little, Bobbie Gentry, Eddy Arnold, Rita Coolidge, Jim Reeves and Ray Price
- soul recordings by Smokey Robinson, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King among many others
- Orchestral records by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Choral recordings by the Bethany First Church of the Nazarene and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- Movie themes by Leonard Bernstein, Marty Gold and the Manhattan Pops
- Then contemporary rock sounds - The Allman Brothers Band , Free and Mott The Hoople records
- Then contemorary pop sounds - Jose Feliciano, Nilsson, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, Dionne Warwick and Anne Murray
- Collection of speeches (In Search of Freedom) by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
- Charles Boyer's LP of spoken love songs (Where Does Love Go)
- The (symbolic single) I Can Make It With You by Jackie DeShannon
- Several comedy albums including The First Family by Robert Kennedy impersonator, Vaughn Meader, and Laugh...Live from Jonathan Winters
- Red West's acetate of If Everyday Was Like Christmas (a festive theme recurred throughout Elvis' large collection with dozens of yuletide season titles)
The list of artists Elvis listened to is particularly broad. Apart from those mentioned above, others signifying an interesting cross-section of the musical rainbow are: Marty Robbins, Frank Sinatra, Brownie McGee, the Sunshine Sisters, Mac Davis, Rex Allen Jr., the New York Philharmonic, J.J. Cale, Glen Campbell, Bobby Bare, Bonnie Guitar, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, The Statesmen, Buck Owens, the North Cleveland Church of God, The Supremes, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, Dean Martin, Roy Hamilton, Adam Wade, Billy Vaughn, Della Reese, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Fontaine, Cliff Richard and Carla Thomas.
The authors (Steve Cairns and George R. White) found what they termed as some "cringeworthy" releases:
- The Andrews Sisters Greatest Hits
- Milton Berle's Songs My Mother Loved
- Hilltoppers' Present Tops In Pops
Other interesting inclusions include releases by:
- Max Bygraves Acker Bilk
- Bert Kaempfert
- Pat Boone reads from the Holy Bible
- two singles by The Partridge Family
- several "well worn LP's by David Cassidy".
(Right:Graceland's classic "music centre")
Of special mention has to be Elvis' possession of "Ballads of The King (Songs of Elvis Presley)" by the Johnny Mann Singers.
And yes, for those of you wondering, Elvis' personal record collection included several of his own releases. Titles found included Elvis Is Back (reportedly well worn), Peace In The Valley (EP), A Date With Elvis (LP) and Jailhouse Rock (45rpm). However, Cairns and White state that it is "nothing like the full set".
In the book 'Elvis The Rough Guide' author Paul Simpson lists some of the highlights of interest from Elvis' record collection..
1. "White Christmas" - Bing Crosby
2. "Shake a Hand" - Faye Adams
3. "Just Walking in the Rain" - The Prisonaires
4. "Malaguena" - Andre Kostelanetz
5. "Pledging My Love" - Johnny Ace
6. "Unchained Melody" - Roy Hamilton
7. "Blue Velvet" - The Clovers
8. "Witchcraft" - The Spiders
9. "I Walk the Line" - Johnny Cash
10. "Peggy Sue" - Buddy Holly
11. "Skinny Minnie" - Bill Haley
12. "Fever" - Peggy Lee
13. "Good Rocking Tonight" - Pat Boone
14. "Chain Gang" - Sam Cooke
15. "Stardust" - Frank Sinatra.
16. "Gonna Miss You Round Here" - BB King
17. "20-75" - Willie Mitchell
18. "Share Your Love With Me" - Bobby Bland
19. "The House of the Rising Sun" - The Animals.
20. "Mr. Pitiful" - Otis Redding
21. "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" - The Righteous Brothers
22. "It's a Man's Man's World" - James Brown
23. "Spanish Flea" - Herb Alpert
24. "Ode to Billy Joe" - Bobby Gentry
25. "Baby I Love You" - Aretha Franklin
26. "Light My Fire" - Jose Feliciano
27. "Everybody's Talkin'" - Nilsson
28. "I Hear You Knocking" - Dave Edmunds.
29. "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" - Jim Croce
30. "My Way" - Frank Sinatra
1. "Every Time I Feel the Spirit" - Mahalia Jackson
2. "Dino's Italian Love Songs" - Dean Martin
3. "Piano in the Foreground" - Duke Ellington
4. "The First Family" - Vaughn Meader
5. "Greatest Hits" - Chuck Berry
6. "The Greatest Live Show on Earth" - Jerry Lee Lewis
7. "Where Does Love Go" - Charles Boyer
8. "Crying Time" - Ray Charles
9. "Live in Las Vegas" - Tom Jones
10. "Cherish" - David Cassidy. (Presumably bought for, or by, Lisa Marie)
If you want to know more about Elvis' Record Collection the extremly detailed 2004 article "The King and Hi-Fi" from the Record Collector magazine is a valuable entry in our understanding of Elvis Presley the person. Until EPE releases a definitive catalog, The King and Hi-Fi is likely to stand as the most comprehensive examination of what is a most interesting subject. We recommend it to all serious Elvisphiles.
(Original EIN Review, Source: EIN, 3 August 2004)
Article reformatted by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN December 2013
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Other Relevant EIN Articles....
Influences on The King - How Sister Rosetta Tharpe Influenced Elvis: Elvis would listen to legendary gospel singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, on the family radio each week. Her influence on the future King of Rock & Roll was to be substantial.
Influences on The King - The Blackwood Brothers: Elvis was influenced heavily by both "black" and "white" male gospel groups.
Influences on The King - The Statesmen Quartet: continuing our in-depth examination of those artists who influenced Elvis' musical direction, EIN looks at the impact of another white gospel group, The Statesmen Quartet,a group fronted by the charismatic singer, Jake Hess.
Influences on The King - The seminal influence of Dean Martin on Elvis:
Influences on The King - The Blues!: Blues music was an important genre that would shape the musical direction of The King. EIN continues its "influences" series with a comprehensive look at Elvis and the blues.
Influences on a Legend - Mario Lanza: "Elvis loved opera, and he especially liked Mario Lanza. He would watch The Student Prince which was set in Heidelberg, over and over again. He loved the power of the big voices. And he loved big orchestras. He liked real dramatic things." Marty Lacker's observation nicely captures the essence of this article where we look closely at how Mario Lanza influenced Elvis' music style.
James Brown and Elvis, soul-brothers and spiritual kin: Elvis was "The King of Rock and Roll", James Brown was "The Godfather of Soul" and both changed our musical world forever. But while many Elvis fans know only a little about James Brown, in many ways Brown was a spiritual kin to Elvis and understanding their careers is essential to comprehending the era they lived in, the music that they made and the lives they changed. In this fascinating article EIN’s Harley Payette & Piers Beagley check out their connections and the power of their music.
The First Cut Is The Deepest - Elvis on the Creative Edge: EIN's Piers Beagley takes a look at Elvis in the recording studio in this enlightening article.
"The Gospel According To Elvis" - an EIN Spotlight by Nigel Goodall: In celebration of the new BMG release of 'I Believe: Elvis Gospel Masters' acclaimed author and EIN contributor Nigel Goodall explores this least appreciated influence on Elvis’ career. More than any other musical genre, gospel played a consistently important role in Elvis’ life, from his childhood to his final years on the road. Gospel music brought Elvis his only Grammy awards, and also became his consolation in times of stress or depression. During the dark years of the 60s, when Elvis' recording career came close to collapsing in a sea of trivia, his spiritual releases acted as a beacon of artistic quality. Yet this side of Elvis' great legacy is too often ignored by the general public.
Elvis And The Vocal Group Tradition: Elvis Presley and doo-wop are not two phrases that normally go together. But, the vocal-group tradition was a profound part of the King's musical heritage, and the group sound's influence on Presley demonstrates the way the art form has infiltrated and informed pop music even if the sound is not visible on the surface.
But like blues, gospel and country, the vocal-group sound was where Elvis returned whenever he needed a shot of the real thing. It was a part of who he was.
The Rough Guide to Elvis: Piers Beagley tells us why the updated edition of Paul Simpson's book should be an essential part of every Elvis fan's library.
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