'Baby, Let's Play House'

Paul Simpson investigates Elvis’ inspired 1955 version of the Arthur Gunter original.

EIN Spotlight by Paul Simpson -

"Baby, Let's Play House"... Recorded at Sun Studios in February 1955, Presley’s historic rendition reveals the comprehensive love for – and knowledge of – the blues.

Compared to the Arthur Gunter original Elvis’s version is much more emphatic, playful, exuberant, tougher and scornful...

“You may have a pink Cadillac but don’t you be nobody’s fool.” But who is Elvis singing to here?


In this EIN Spotlight respected author Paul Simpson takes a fascinating look at this classic Sun Studios song...

“You may have a pink Cadillac but don’t you be nobody’s fool.” Who is Elvis singing to here?

Ostensibly, in his cover of Arthur Gunter's most famous song, the 20-year-old Presley is admonishing his girlfriend but as he improvised that line – and was renowned for his love of Cadillacs in that colour – it’s as if he is contemplating the pitfalls that might lie ahead on his road to glory.


Recorded at Sun Studios in February 1955, Presley’s historic rendition reveals the comprehensive love for – and knowledge of – blues that later astonished those pioneering hipsters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller with the former admitting: “We were surprised to discover Elvis had an incredible sense of history and knowledge of where all that music came from, He knew all about Arthur Crudup and Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson and all those blues people we revered. He may have been unsophisticated in many ways but musically he was very astute.”

Born in Nashville in 1926, Gunter had started out singing in a gospel quartet – one of Elvis’s great, unfulfilled ambitions – and got his big break after Ernie Young, the owner of the Nashville record store he liked to hang around in, launched the Excello label in 1952. After singing with various blues bands, Gunter wrote the song Baby Let’s Play House and took it to Young. Released in 1954, it was picked up by Leonard Chess and became Excello’s biggest hit on Billboard’s R&B charts.

In light of the controversy over whether white singers like Elvis copied black blues songs – or emasculated them to make them more commercial – it’s probably worth noting that Gunter’s song drew on Cy Cohen’s 'I Want to Play House With You' which Eddy Arnold took to the top of the country and western charts in 1951.

"House" was a popular euphemism for romantic numbers in the early 1950s. The same year Arnold struck gold, Rosemary Clooney topped the Billboard hot 100 with 'Come On-a My House', a song she thoroughly detested.

To be clear, Gunter didn’t copy Arnold or Cohen either. His 'Baby Let’s Play House' is earthy, direct and infused with an emotional charge missing from the sunny 'I Want To Play House With You'.

Click HERE to listen to Arthur Gunter's original on YouTube



Played back today, Gunter’s original sounds like a prophetic blend of delta blues, rock and roll and rockabilly. He is, in a relatively laid back fashion, urging his errant lover to come back but he’s not commanding her – he mostly sounds as if he’s pleading with her to come to her senses although, at other moments, he doesn’t sound that bothered if she comes back or not.

Elvis’s version is much more emphatic, playful, exuberant, tougher and scornful – just listen to the way he makes “school” sound like “skewl”. And whether you prefer his interpretation or Gunter’s, it’s impossible to argue that the King copied the original or watered it down in the way that, for instance, Pat Boone covered Fats Domino’s 'Ain’t That A Shame'. As rock critic Robert Hillburn wrote of Elvis’s Sun recordings: “Far from being timid, Presley – working with producer Sam Phillips – redesigned them. He not only frequently changed the tempos, but often revised the words, sometimes throwing out whole verses to give the songs more compactness and punch.”

From the very first, subsequently much imitated, stuttering hiccup on Baby Let’s Play House, Presley takes command. The pace is frenetic – his version lasts two minutes and 23 seconds, 26 seconds faster than Gunter’s. The interplay between Bill Black’s thunderous bass-slapping, Elvis’s audacious, experimental vocal – he makes use of every trick in his rapidly expanding vocal repertoire – and Scotty Moore’s snarling rhythm guitar creates something that transcends such labels as country and blues and, 60 years after it was recorded, still sounds fresh and original. As Bill Dahl notes on allmusic.com, the performance’s decadent danger and incendiary energy defines rockabilly in the 1950s.

Click HERE for Elvis' astounding transformation of the same song

It’s hard to know what to read into Elvis’s improvised warning about a pink Cadillac. It was, as Greil Marcus wrote, “at the heart of the contradiction that powered Elvis’s early music; a perfect symbol of the glamour of his ambition and the resentments that drove it on.”

Was the future King reflecting on the paradoxes of fame? Or ironically chiding himself? (Quite possibly – he was funnier about his career and legend than he is usually given credit for.) Or was he merely substituting an image that better captured his own frustrations as a truck driver, electrician and singer who had, when he cut this record, become his family’s principal wage earner? Given his devout faith as a member of the First Assembly of God, he may not have felt comfortable with a line that seemed to specifically demean religion.

The performance paved the way for Gene Vincent to hiccup his way through his trademark smash Be Bop A Lula, sounding so like Elvis that Gladys Presley thought her son had made the record, and mesmerised John Lennon who tried, with his band The Quarrymen, to recapture the feel on their cover version.

In 1965, Lennon used the line “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man” to open the Beatles song Run For Your Life on their album Rubber Soul. Although Lennon later said he regretted writing the number, it was one of George Harrison’s favourites and was covered by Elvis’s friend and one-time co-star Nancy Sinatra.


Elvis live in Ottawa - a town that was troubled by Elvis' earlier visit in 1957 "Last night's contortionist exhibition at the Auditorium was the closest to the jungle I'll ever get."

Decades later both the Beatles song – and Elvis’s Baby Let’s Play House – were banned by Ottawa radio station CFRA because they were deemed misogynistic. The ban seems a little perverse because, as monstrously possessive as Elvis sounds on that crucial line, he backs away from the menace with a kind of comically syncopated interpretation of the lyrics that implies none of it is to be taken too literally. And the contempt, as his vocal makes clear, was not for the girl but for, in Marcus’s words, “a world that had always excluded him”, a world where too many people felt it was their social duty to show the Presley family exactly who they were.

A class divide is implied here: the pink Cadillac and the college-education may symbolise that the singer is a few rungs below his girl on the social ladder and resents having to look up.

Buddy Holly covered Baby Let’s Play House a few months after Elvis – very much in the King’s style while, as Dahl notes, the Johnny Burnette Trio’s “romping Oh Baby Babe”, recorded in 1956, is so similar it should be counted as another cover. Elvis’s ad-libbed lyric provided the catalyst for the Bruce Springsteen song Pink Cadillac, released in 1984 as the B-side to the single 'Dancing In The Dark', and later covered by Natalie Cole, daughter of the great Nat, a singer the King paid tribute to by singing 'Mona Lisa' while he was in the US Army.

Moore’s playing was almost as influential as Presley’s vocal, inspiring Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page to take up guitar. To this day, Keith Richards is still desperate to understand how Scotty created that feel – and how he might be able to duplicate it.

Presley’s Baby Let’s Play House reached number five on Billboard’s country charts in 1955, his first single to chart nationally. Fifteen years later, he revisited the song in rehearsals for his Las Vegas concerts. The footage of him singing “Come back baby come” – his feet pounding out the rhythm – is one of the most evocative scenes from those rehearsals. Half jokey, half sincere, his run through has the kind of authenticity that makes you wish he had recorded such material on a bluesy counterpart to the album Elvis Country.

Gunter may not have realised it in 1955 but Presley’s cover was the best thing that happened to his career. His own records never generated any great sales – the 1995 compilation Baby Let’s Play House (Uni/Excello) collects all his best work if you’re interested – and by 1966, when he moved to Michigan, he was only performing occasionally. He died in 1976, at the age of 49, a year before Presley. Gunter’s great regret, he said once, was that “Elvis got that number and made it famous but I never got the chance to shake his hand.”


Spotlight written by Paul Simpson (images by Piers Beagley)
-Copyright EIN December 2015

EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.

Click HERE to comment on this article


DON'T MISS these recent, previous fascinating EIN Spotlights by Paul Simpson

'Suppose - Did It Inspire Imagine'

'Trains, Jet Planes and Morning Rain' EIN Spotlight:

'Big Boss Man: What Kind of Technical Advice Did Parker Provide for Elvis’s Movies?':

"If You're Going To Start A Rumble" -The Importance of Fights In Elvis Movies:



Interview with 'Elvis Films FAQ' author Paul Simpson: "Elvis Films FAQ"  was reviewed by EIN as one of the best Elvis books published in 2013... "Paul Simpson examines every angle of Elvis’ film career and writes about it in a very engaging and enjoyable style. The real triumph of this book is that it will make you want to watch all of Elvis’ films one more time! Highly recommended."

While Elvis' Hollywood years are full of mystery, and Elvis Films FAQ covers them all! Elvis Films FAQ explains everything you want to know about the whys and wherefores of the singer-actor's bizarre celluloid odyssey; or, as Elvis said, "I saw the movie and I was the hero of the movie."
"Elvis Films FAQ" was without doubt one of the best Elvis books published in 2013 and EIN wanted to know more from its author Paul Simpson.
(Interviews, Source;ElvisInfoNet)

'Elvis Films FAQ' Book Review: Elvis' Hollywood years are full of mystery, and supposedly 'Elvis Films FAQ' covers them all! Elvis Films FAQ by author Paul Simpson explores his best and worst moments as an actor, analyses the bizarre autobiographical detail that runs through so many of his films, and reflects on what it must be like to be idolized by millions around the world yet have to make a living singing about dogs, chambers of commerce, and fatally naive shrimps.
After all if Elvis Presley had not wanted to be a movie star, he would never have single-handedly revolutionized popular culture.
Yet this aspect of his phenomenal career has been much maligned and misunderstood – partly because the King himself once referred to his 33 movies as a rut he had got stuck in just off Hollywood Boulevard.

It is a mightly entertaining book - but go here as EIN's Piers Beagley investigates to see whether this new book by author Paul Simpson really answers all the questions you need to know ....

(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInfoNet)


EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.













Did You Miss these Popular Interviews?
Linda and Sam Thompson in Australia:
John Wilkinson Tribute & 1972 Interview:
(Interview) Anne E. Nixon answers your questions
Ginger Alden Interview:
Elaine Beckett -Easy Come Easy Go costar- Interview:
Shirley Dieu, author of Memphis Mafia Princess, talks to EIN:
Interview With Elvis author - : Gillian G. Gaar
Interview with Dick Grob, Elvis' Head Of Security:
Hollywood veteran Michael Hoey talks to EIN:
Interview with 'Elvis Films FAQ' author Paul Simpson:
"My Fast Life" Rare Elvis Presley 1964 Interview:
RIP - Bernard Lansky talks to EIN:
Allyson Adams 'The Rebel and The King' Interview: 
Joseph A. Tunzi
David Stanley (2012)
Author Chris Kennedy Interview about D.J. Tommy Edwards:
Vernon Presley Interview:
Jerry Leiber Interview for EIN
Elvis Paradise Hawaiian Interview - with Peter Noone
Sam Thompson, Elvis' bodyguard, 2011 Interview
James Burton Interview - Rick Nelson & Elvis:
Elvis Drummer Jerome "Stump" Monroe EIN Interview:
Donnie Sumner Remembers his friend Sherrill Nielsen: 
Lamar Fike EIN Exclusive Interview
Jamie Aaron Kelley - EIN Interview:
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'The Complete Masters' and more:
D.J Fontana Interview - Elvis Week 2010 special: 
Red West Interview:- 2010 Elvis week special
Linda Thompson - Interview Special:
Elvis in 1969 - Ann Moses & Ray Connolly Interviews:
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'On Stage' and Elvis' Legacy in 2010:
Paul Lichter
Dr. Nick talks to EIN
Alanna Nash
Ernst Jorgensen (2009)
Joseph Pirzada
Jeanne LeMay Dumas
Larry Geller
Mac Davis
Roger Semon
Ernst Jorgensen
Wayne Jackson (Memphis Horns)
Ernst Jorgensen (Record Collector)
Did You Miss these Popular EIN articles
EIN Spotlight on Aloha's director Marty Pasetta
'Elvis - The UK's 'Most Successful Chart Act':
FTD "What now, What next, What If? PART TWO ":
Elvis and the Coco Palms Resort:
FTD "What now, What next, What If?":
Is 'From Elvis In Memphis' the only Elvis album you need to own?:
EIN's 'Elvis Star Track' Of The Week
'Trains, Jet Planes and Morning Rain' EIN Spotlight:
Wertheimer's Reaction To Finding The 'Mystery Kisser':
UPDATED - 'Elvis Madison 1977 - The Gas Station Incident' with Kathy Westmoreland:
"If You're Going To Start A Rumble" -The Importance of Fights In Elvis Movies:
ELVIS WEEK 2014 - EIN exclusive Sanja Meegin reports:
'Big Boss Man: What Kind of Technical Advice Did Parker Provide for Elvis’s Movies?':
UPDATED - 'American Studios 1969 - A Turning Point In History':
'The Nation's Favourite Elvis Song' Spotlight
Linda and Sam Thompson in Australia:
Elvis Passwords - We’ve Hacked them all! 
Fourteen Key Elvis Singles:
Elvis And The Vocal Group Tradition:
Happy Birthday EIN EIN turns 100 – a retrospective!:
Aloha From Hawaii - The Concert 2013- EIN Exclusive
Elvis at Madison Square Garden 40 Years Ago
'The Wedding' Elvis & Priscilla EIN special Spotlight:
'Elvis In Ottawa' Spotlight & Elvis Interview:
'Elvis: Live at the International' Book Review:
Book Review: Elvis in Vegas
'Promised Land' FTD CD Review:
"Kissed By Elvis" Janet Fulton Interview:
'1956, Elvis Presley’s Pivotal Year':
"ReBooked At The International'- in-depth Review:
EIN Spotlight on Alfred Wertheimer:
'Elvis Memphis to Madison 1977' The Gas Station Incident:
'Elvis In Concert' 1977 TV special; Should it be released officially?
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'The Complete Masters' and more:
Dark Side of the Colonel
Did you miss these Reviews
'Elvis Files Magazine ISSUE 11' Review:
(Book Review) 'Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley - The Biggest Shows of 1957' Volume 2:
'Nashville Chrome' - (Maxine Brown & Elvis) Book Review:
'Rock Around The Bloch' FTD Book Review
'Elvis' Christmas Album' FTD Review:
'Flaming Star' FTD Review
Is 'From Elvis In Memphis' the only Elvis album you need to own?
'Ultimate Elvis' Book Review
(Book Review): Elvis Presley: A Southern Life
(Book Review) The world knows Elvis Presley....but they don't know me:
The Elvis Films (Book Review)
'Elvis In Florida April 1975' FTD In-Depth Review:
'Autopsy: The Last Hours Of Elvis' - Review:
(Book Review): CHANNELING ELVIS How Television Saved the King of Rock 'n' Roll:
(Book Review) Elvis and Ginger:
'Elvis Files Magazine ISSUE 8' Review:
(Book Review) Memphis Mafia Princess:
'Final Countdown To Midnight' NYE 1976 - in-depth Review:
'ELVIS' FTD Classic Album Review:
(Book Review) 100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:
'Elvis-The King Of The Jungle' In-Depth Book Review:
(Book Review): Elvis' Favorite Director:Norman Taurog:
'ELVIS AT 21' Exhibition Review:
'Elvis Music FAQ' - Book Review:
'Elvis Films FAQ' Book Review:
'The On Stage Season' FTD In-Depth Review:
'The Elvis Files Vol. 6 1971-1973'  Book Review:
'Love Me Tender' Blu-Ray Edition Review:
'Houston We Have A Problem' - CD review:
‘Elvis At Stax’ [Deluxe] Reviews:
'The Elvis Files Vol. 6 1971-1973'  Book Review:
'Love Me Tender' Blu-Ray Edition Review:
'Houston We Have A Problem' - CD review:
'Hot August Night' FTD CD Review:
'Elvis - Aloha Via Satellite: A 40th Anniv Release' Book Review:
'Aloha From Hawaii' 40th Anniv LEGACY CD Review:
Aloha From Hawaii - The Concert 2013- EIN Exclusive Review:
‘Elvis On Tour’ E-book Review - with Great jumpsuit photos-
'From Elvis Presley Boulevard' FTD In-Depth Review:
'Prince From Another Planet’ In-Depth Review:
'Elvis: Walk A Mile In My Shoes' - EIN Review:
‘Greatest Live Hits of the 50s’ MRS CD Review: 
Once Upon A Time: Elvis and Anita (Memories of My Mother) - Book Review:
'A Boy From Tupelo' special In-depth Review:
Bootleg Elvis (Book Review)
Best of Elvis on YouTube
Graceland cam
EPE's Multimedia Elvis Gallery
Sirius Elvis Satellite Radio
Elvis Radio (ETA's)
Elvis Express Radio
Ultimate Elvis Radio
Elvis Only Radio
"Images in Concert" PhotoDatabase
Radio Interview: Vernon & Gladys Presley
Sanja's Elvis Week 2007 Photo Gallery
'EIN's Best of Elvis on YouTube'
The Music of Elvis Presley - Australian Radio Show
All about Elvis
All about Elvis Tribute Artists
All about Graceland
All about Lisa Marie Presley
Ancestors of Elvis
Art Archives
Book Releases 2009
Contact List
Elvis and Racism
Elvis as Religion
Elvis CDs in 2007
Elvis DVDs in 2006
Elvis Film Guide
'2007 New Releases'
Elvis Presley In Concert "downunder" 2006
Elvis Online Virtual Library
Elvis Research Forum
Elvis Rules on Television
Graceland - The National Historic Landmark
How & where do I sell my Elvis collection?
Is Elvis the best selling artist?
Links to Elvis' family & friends
Links to other Elvis sites
Marty's Musings
Online Elvis Symposium
Parkes Elvis Festival 2009 (Australia)
Presley Law legal archives (Preslaw)
Presleys In The Press
Sale of EPE (Archives)
6th Annual Elvis Website Survey
Spotlight on The King
"Wikipedia" Elvis biography