'Long Black Limousine'

How Elvis transformed this 1950's country song

EIN Spotlight by Paul Simpson -

Long Black Limousine was composed by Vern Stovall and Bobby George and first released in 1958 by Wynn Stewart.

Cut at the Memphis Sessions in 1969 Elvis transformed Long Black Limousine from a country ballad to "a vehicle for savage social protest”.

The lyric is complex, the relationship between the narrator and his love remains unclear. 

In this EIN Spotlight respected author Paul Simpson takes a close look at this powerful song from Elvis' 1969 Memphis sessions...

At Sun Studios in Memphis in the summer of 1955, Elvis warned his baby – and, by extension, himself – about the perils of pink Cadillacs. Nearly fourteen years later, in the first recording of the legendary sessions at American Recording Studios in Memphis, he chastised his beloved – and himself – with a very different vehicle, a long black limousine.

This dark tale of a girl who left for the big city promising to come back in a fancy car “for all the town to see”, only to return in a hearse was written by Vern Stovall and Bobby George.

The first released version, released by Wynn Stewart in 1958, was a plaintive country rendition, which hinted at that microgenre of doom-laden teen pop hits epitomised by Teen Angel, a US chart-topper for Mark Dinning in 1960, and spoofed by the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band’s Death Cab For Cutie.

Stewart’s version is sincere, effective and conventional.

Three years later, Stovall cut his own version, quickening the tempo but the backing vocalists are slightly too obtrusive, masking the song’s tragic ironies rather than emphasising it

In 1968, folk singer Jody Miller had a minor country hit with her cover, slowing down the tempo and imbuing the ballad with a fatalistic sadness. Her version is slightly over-arranged and, given the beautiful clarity and power of Miller’s voice, the backing singers seem superfluous.

That same year O.C. Smith, who had made his name with Count Basie’s band, released his version on the B side of Little Green Apples. Smith’s recording is much closer to the feel and scale of Elvis’s version, opening with drumbeats that immediately set the ominous tone for the grim events to come. Smith’s vocal oozes soul but, once again, the impact is muted by backing singers who seem determined to steer the song into mainstream pop territory.


The performance of the song Elvis gave on 13 January 1969 is full of funereal foreboding, arguably his darkest performance since Heartbreak Hotel and How’s The World Treating You? in 1956. The tolling church bells that introduce the song set the tone for the tragedy that unfolds. Tommy Coghill’s brilliantly ominous guitar chords as Presley sings “And now they’ve finally brought …” add to the sense of doom.

The horns and strings cunningly added by producer Chips Moman give the story an epic setting and the backing singers sound like a sardonic, soulful Greek chorus, almost challenging the narrator as if to say they had known all along it would end like this.

In many ways, Elvis was the small-town boy who fell for the bright lights of the city. (He was also famed for his passion for fancy cars.) Yet he gives himself completely to the song, giving a performance that, as Greil Marcus noted, gloriously smashed through the contradictions of his own myth. When he is rebuking his loved one for her blind ambition, luxurious lifestyle and recklessness – the race on the highway and the curb she never saw – he could just as easily be chastising himself.

As Ernst Jorgensen notes in Elvis Presley A Life In Music: “When Elvis selected it as his first number at the session, he brought to it a sense of loss and desolation, a kind of anger that seemed driven by an almost personal identification with the subject of the song.” His voice has a rough edge – he had a cold – which only makes his anguish even starker. He sings with a passionate abandon usually heard only on his gospel recordings (though it also distinguishes It Hurts Me and If I Can Dream).

In Elvis’s hands, this country ballad becomes, as Peter Guralnick wrote in his Rolling Stone review, “a vehicle for savage social protest”. Though he dismisses the song as ordinary, it is more complex than it sounds on first play. The relationship between the narrator and his love is unclear: though he talks of the girl being brought back to him, there is no hint of a past romance or exchanged kisses, so it is entirely possible his love was unrequited. Did he merely know the girl well enough for her to boast that she would return one day in a fancy car to show the whole town how well she had done? Or was it only with her death that he belatedly realised how much he loved her?

As the song begins, Elvis is observing the scene almost sardonically. Yet by the end, there is only desolation. His phraseology is perfect throughout, from the slow, accusatory way he observes his lover’s rich friends to that epic finale when the sight of a finely dressed chauffeur sparks the heart wrenching confession that the narrator’s heart and dreams are with his dead lover in that long black limousine. The nature of his loss – and the power of this morality tale – is mysteriously underlined by the insistent horns Moman introduces at the close.

Yet, ultimately, what distinguishes Elvis’s Long Black Limousine is the intimate intensity of his vocal. As the blogger Eric Wolfson writes: “When Elvis sings that he will never lover another, you believe him: this is less the sound of a man singing the lyrics to a song than it is a man living his words out.”

It is hard, now, to listen to Long Black Limousine, and not remember that, less than nine years later, Elvis would be lying in a long white limousine at his own funeral in Memphis, Tennessee.  Yet this masterpiece lives on, its power and beauty undimmed, to remind us why Elvis touched so many hearts and inspired so many dreams.


Spotlight written by Paul Simpson (design/ images by Piers Beagley)
-Copyright EIN October 2016

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

'All Shook Up' "My heart beats so it scares me to death"

"Baby, Let's Play House" “You may have a pink Cadillac but don’t you be nobody’s fool.” 

'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)


All Shook Up - EIN Spotlight: Composer Otis Blackwell liked to boast that he could write a song about anything. So when music publisher and lyricist Aaron ‘Goldie’ Goldmark dropped a Pepsi on the floor and urged Blackwell to turn that into a hit, the songwriter did precisely that.

But Elvis' classic 1957 hit All Shook Up wasn't the first version released - what Elvis managed to do was to transform the demo into something unique with a playfulness, sense of freedom and simple instrumentation that were all reminiscent of the more innocent, earlier understated sound of Sun Records.

Go here to our EIN Spotlight where respected author Paul Simpson takes a close look at this US best-selling single of 1957.

(Spotlight, Source;PaulSimpson/ElvisInformationNetwork)

'Suppose - Did It Inspire Imagine'Released only as a Bonus Song on Elvis' 1968 Speedway soundtrack LP, this quiet, chilling ballad, Suppose is worth a listen in its own right.
It is one of a handful of Elvis’s recordings that – like his cover of Dylan’s 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time' – suggests roads he sadly never got to take.
Yet it also intrigues me because of the possibility – and I put it no more strongly than that – that it inspired 'Imagine', the utopian anthem that became John Lennon’s signature song.

At times this mere suggestion divides Presley’s legion of fans.

Go here to our EIN spotlight where EIN contributor Paul Simpson investigates this fascinating possibility...

(Spotlight, Source;EIN/PaulSimpson)

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?
Go here to EIN's exclusive interview with Wayne Jackson - RIP.
UPDATED - Paul Dowling in-depth EIN Interview:
Interview with Caroline Cahoon-Hauser - her encounters with a Young Elvis:
"Dr. Nick" Exclusive EIN interview:
EIN Joyce Bova exclusive Interview:
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 (Record Collector)
Did You Miss these Popular EIN articles
UPDATED - Elvis and the Coco Palms Resort:
- 'The Elusive Norman Taurog' EIN Spotlight:
"Baby, Let's Play House" - EIN Spotlight 
'If I Can Dream' new Elvis album - EIN Readers Respond:
"You Can Have Her" Elvis' One-Off Performance:
'Elvis Meets The Beatles':
Did Elvis Record 'Tiger Man' At Sun?
Forever Elvis - A 2015 commemorative Spotlight:
Elvis "Non Stop Erotic Cabaret":
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 ":
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:
'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: Live at the International' Book Review:
'Promised Land' FTD CD Review:
"Kissed By Elvis" Janet Fulton Interview:
'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 Taking Care Of Business - In A Flash FTD Book Review:
'ELVIS - NBC TV Special' FTD CD Review:
'ELVIS Las Vegas 1975' FTD CD Review:
(Book Review) Elvis' Humor Girls, Guns & Guitars (Bo Keeley):
Book Review - Elvis Style: from zoot suits to jumpsuits (Zoey Goto):
'The Elvis Files Vol. 7 1974-1975'  Book Review:
NOW UPDATED - 'Elvis Presley - The Album Collection' EIN Review:
'The West Coast Tour '76' FTD CD Review:
MRS ELVIS Record Store Day Releases - SPECIAL PREVIEW:
'ELVIS LIVE in the 50's The Complete Concert Recordings' Review:
(Book Review) Elvis, The Numbers:
'Down At The End Of Lonely Street' - Book Review:
(Book Review) A Guide to the Australian Records of Elvis Presley The Vinyl Years 1956-1990):
'Live A Little, Love A Little' FTD Soundtrack Review:
'If I Can Dream' Elvis with the RPO - In-depth CD Review:
'A Touch Of Gold Lamé' Book Review
'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): 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:
‘Elvis At Stax’ [Deluxe] Reviews:
'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:
'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