As I’ve mentioned before, the first Elvis reference book I ever owned was the 1992 edition of ELVIS: His Life From A To Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius. The oversized hardcover contains 620 pages of Elvis information, presented in an encyclopedia-like format.
It is divided into three main sections:
- The Man – people, places, things, and trivialities in his life
- The Performer – movies, television appearances, radio shows, and concerts
- His Music – songs, albums, bootlegs, and other music-related items
I used to spend hours flipping though this book. Twenty years later, it is literally falling apart at the seams. A lot of the information is now outdated, and these days there are better Elvis references (though multiples are needed to replace this single volume), particularly online – but I still pull it out every now and then.
One of the areas I spent the most time in over the years was the Songs sub-section of His Music. For each song, the book presents background information, such as the writer, the original artist recording details, Elvis recording information, and single, LP, and bootleg releases.
Some of the songs listed did not have releases at the time. Those were the ones I found most interesting, for I wondered if I would ever get to hear them. The book notes that the recording information is as of June 1, 1990. Think of all of the Elvis recordings released since that time. Pretty much the entire Ernst Jorgensen era has taken place since then.
I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the many songs that the book lists as either unreleased or only rumored to exist that have since been officially released.
Blowin’ In The Wind: The book states that “Elvis sang ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in concert on a few occasions in the 1970s.” If true, I’m not aware of any live recordings surfacing of this song. However, two different 1966 home recordings of Elvis singing “Blowin’ In The Wind” have since been released on A Life In Music and In A Private Moment.
The Cattle Call: A to Z says that Elvis sang this one “in concert on at least a couple of occassions in the 1950s.” If so, that remains unreleased. However, A Life In Music and One Night In Vegas have since included two different rehearsal (really, “just foolin’ around”) versions of this song from 1970. It also featured in the 1992 video Elvis: The Lost Performances.
Dominick: At the time, this movie tune from Stay Away, Joe, was only available on bootleg. It has since been released officially on Double Features: Kissin’ Cousins/Clambake/Stay Away, Joe.
Fool, Fool, Fool: “It’s been reported by some that Elvis recorded ‘Fool, Fool, Fool’ while at Sun Records. No proof of that has yet come forth,” states A to Z. A 1955 acetate of this song was later released on The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Happy Birthday To You: The book notes that Elvis occasionally sang this tune in concert. Various live performances have since been released, including one on Collectors Gold from 1969 (to James Burton).
I’ll Never Stand In Your Way: Elvis’ second demo, recorded in 1954, consisted of this song and “It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You.” At the time of A to Z, the recording had not yet surfaced. It wrongly lists “Casual Love Affair” as the B-side. “Reportedly, a tape of the acetate still exists,” the book states. “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way” was first released on A Life In Music. “It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You” later appeared on Sunrise.
I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You: Listed as only available on bootleg back then, a rehearsal version has since surfaced on Stage Rehearsal.
Jambalaya: Listed as only available on bootleg, a brief, 1975 live performance of this song has since been released on Southern Nights.
My Happiness / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin: Elvis’ first demo recording from 1953 was also not yet released at the time of A to Z. Here’s an interesting snippet from the text, “At the time of this writing, plans are to release ‘My Happiness’ / ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’ on the soundtrack of a two-video package, Elvis’ Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 & 2, a joint venture of Disney’s Touchstone Films and RCA.” Apparently, this project became the two-video set Elvis: The Great Performances (1990). “My Happiness” featured in both the video and the soundtrack CD. However, the demo version of “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” would not be released until 1992’s The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
A Little Less Conversation: While a studio master and an alternate of this song were of course released during Elvis’ lifetime, the book mentions, “An instrumental track was recorded for the 1968 TV special ‘Elvis,’ but it was decided not to use the song in the program.” It would later turn out that Elvis did indeed record a vocal for the song for possible use in the ELVIS special, as first released on 1998’s Memories. In turn, this would later become the basis of the “Elvis vs. JXL” remix version of the song that first featured in a 2002 Nike commercial during the World Cup and later achieved international hit status with a single release and on the album ELV1S 30 #1 Hits.
MacArthur Park: Listed as only on bootleg, Elvis singing a few lines of this song live in 1968 has since surfaced on a few official releases, including Tiger Man.
Poor Man’s Gold: A to Z notes that an instrumental track was recorded for one of his 1969 American Sound Studio sessions, but that he never recorded the vocal. Since then, a line or two of Elvis singing the song was released on Suspicious Minds.
Portrait Of My Love: Listed at the time as only available on bootleg, a rehearsal version has since been released on Stage Rehearsal.
Running Scared: A to Z states that Elvis recorded this song during the 1976 Graceland sessions. I’m not sure if that’s true, but a line or two of the song from 1970 have been released a couple of times since then, including on Walk A Mike In My Shoes.
The Twelfth Of Never: According to the book, a live concert version of this song was released on the bootleg Elvis Special, Volume 2. More than likely, this is actually referring to the August 16, 1974, rehearsal of this song that first became officially available on Walk A Mile In My Shoes.
When The Snow Is On The Roses: Out of all of the above songs, the one that fascinated me the most when flipping through this book in the 1990s was “When The Snow Is On The Roses.” It was only available on bootleg at the time, but the text stated, “Elvis sang ‘When The Snow Is On The Roses’ with only his own piano accompaniment on August 24, 1970, in Las Vegas. It was the first time that he played the piano in concert.” A photo included with 1992’s King of Rock ‘n’ Roll that showed Elvis playing piano during a 1956 concert quickly proved part of the text wrong. In any event, this 1970 audience recording later received an official release on Live In Las Vegas. It was wonderful to finally hear it.
There are a ton more rumor songs listed in A to Z that we have not yet heard. Perhaps they don’t exist. Or, perhaps, in another twenty years, some other Elvis fan will be able to do a list like the above.