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To the top of a mountain: Singer/songwriter Joe South dies at 72

Don't It Make You Want To Go Home (Joe South)Joe South, the singer/songwriter behind numerous 1960s and 1970s hits, including “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” (performed live by Elvis in 1970), “Games People Play,” and “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home,” died yesterday in Buford, Georgia. He was 72.

South also penned hits for other artists, including “Rose Garden” (Lynn Anderson), “Hush” (Billy Joe Royal; Deep Purple), and “Down In The Boondocks” (Billy Joe Royal).

In the 1960s, he was a Nashville session musician, working with luminaries such as Eddy Arnold, Aretha Franklin (“Chain Of Fools”), Wilson Pickett, Marty Robbins, and Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde).

“I never met Elvis but I saw him play live at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. He heard I was in the house and he made me stand up,” stated South in Ken Sharp’s Elvis Presley: Writing For The King – The Stories Of The Songwriters (2006, FTD).

South recalled, “He explained that I was the one who wrote ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes.’ I didn’t even know that it was a big deal with him. It was just an album cut. He performed it at the show. His live version that night was great, man.”

South is survived by a son and granddaughter.

He was a real talent. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

Related Links

No particular place to go

All right, this will be one of those off-the-top-of-my-head posts – so who knows what you’re gonna get out of reading this.

I’m just sitting here on a rainy Saturday afternoon listening to Elvis.

Blue HawaiiI’m getting back into vinyl after pretty much being all CDs all the time for the last twenty years. I pulled out my old collection, and the first one I played was Blue Hawaii.

I couldn’t believe how incredible it sounded on record. I sense a new obsession coming on.

The good thing is, I already have about 25 LPs and 25 45s from the old days before I had a CD player, so those should tide me over for awhile.

* * *

So, there were a bunch of great posts around the web for Elvis Week 2012. My favorite was probably Indisposable Johnny’s “When Elvis Moved On” over on The Round Place In The Middle blog. If you haven’t already, be sure to read it.

One post that I didn’t want to read because I knew what was coming was “Treat Me Nice”, a farewell of sorts by Thomas Melin over on his Elvis Today Blog. After five years and 500 posts, he’s taking an indefinite break from blogging about Elvis in order to spend more time with his family. It’s hard to fault him for that. I’m sure gonna miss his posts, though. Best wishes to Thomas.

While Thomas’ absence leaves a huge void, all is not lost. For instance, Sheila O’Malley continues her excellent series of Elvis Essays on The Sheila Variations blog. Meanwhile, artist Joe Petruccio just began a brand new blog called My Elvis Journal. Petruccio’s unique posts are definitely worth checking out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

* * *

August 28 Update: I’ve just found that there is yet another new Elvis blog, and it’s one I definitely want to mention. Elvis audio expert and frequent For Elvis CD Collectors Forum poster elvissessions recently began elvissessions.net, which will cover “Elvis Presley in the studio — and beyond.”

I love his informative FECC posts, so I’m looking forward to following elvissessions’ blog. Here’s a recent entry about obtaining Ernst Jorgensen’s autograph on his copy of A Boy From Tupelo during Elvis Week 2012.

Speaking of FTD’s mammoth SUN project, my copy will supposedly be in the mail this week. No autographs, though. I guess that’s one of the many perks of being in Memphis during Elvis Week. Either way, I can hardly wait for this release.

In the arena

Elvis, 1977

Elvis, 1977

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” –From “Citizenship In A Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1910.

Double Post: A Trip Down 2012/Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)

Welcome to a special, super-sized edition of The Mystery Train Blog. This double post features a guest piece by Kees of the Elvis Day By Day blog, as well as an entry by me. This is also going out simultaneously on the Elvis Day By Day blog, marking the first formal collaboration between our two sites. Kees, take it away. –Ty

A Trip Down 2012

by Kees, Elvis Day By Day blog

One of the big pros of the world wide web is that it brings people together. Through our blogs, Ty and I met and decided to look back at some of the highlights of the 35th anniversary year. This year, I blogged over 150 posts, often with multiple news items in each one. That means the Elvis world is very much alive. Picking a top 10 wasn’t easy, so I picked ten items that stuck with me as a fan and listed them chronologically.

January 08 – Cool

Elvis Chante CDSome highlights are very simple, on this day the French Elvis My Happiness fan club announced the release of the book Le Jour Ou Elvis Chante A Paris. Although my French isn’t good enough to read the book, I was stunned by the cool image on the promotional CD that came with it. That’s one cool dude.

January 26 – For God And Country

For God And Country set3764 Blvd. Publishing announced the release of the deluxe book, CD, and later vinyl set For God And Country. I really like this ‘last’ concert Elvis Presley performed as a ‘rocker’ and blame the Colonel for not professionally recording it.

The label met stiff competition when the UK-based Memphis Recording Service released the same 1961 Hawaiian concert a few months later. Fan reactions were both positive and negative (beautiful book, mixed on the remastering of the sound). The 3764 Blvd. edition is still set for release this summer, this time facing competition from plans of the official Follow That Dream collectors label.

February 06 – #1

Elvis Presley albumSpeaking of cool covers, the cover of Elvis Presley’s debut album topped Shortlist.com‘s 50 Coolest Albums of All Time list. Besides calling the cover ‘iconic’ and taking note of classic hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” the Shortlist refers to John Lennon’s quote, “Before Elvis there was nothing,” and describes “the boy from Tupelo, MS” as a catalyst for rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t agree more with the website. I have this album hanging on my wall, and it never bores me. It is very energetic.

March 27 – Welcome Home Elvis

Welcome Home Elvis bookThe Follow That Dream collectors label has recently branched out with other parties for their releases. The first one with the Behind The Image team didn’t work out, and neither did the Fashion For A King book with the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club, as it was filled with grammatical errors. However, with the Welcome Home Elvis book, the Danish / Norwegian team came back with a bang presenting a really cool King in a very cool book. With these books, I always have to think back on Ger Riff’s book. Wouldn’t it be great if the Follow that Dream label teamed with the master himself?

April 02 – Almost April Fool

Blue Suede FakesI kind of felt like a fool for not noticing that the previous announcement of the auction of a pair of blue suede shoes, said to be signed by Elvis Presley in 1956, were not the right ones. The two pairs of shoes on the images that I posted with the article were not the same type of shoes. It would have been a great April Fools’ Day joke if it had been planned just one day earlier.

April 16 – Bootleg Elvis

Bootleg Elvis bookThe book Bootleg Elvis was first mentioned on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum in 2011. In April of this year, the five collectors behind the book sent out the first official press release. Besides Ernst Jorgensen’s SUN book, this is the #2 book on my really-need-to-buy-this-year list. I know there are a lot of Elvis Presley bootlegs around, for I’ve collected quite a few of them. Being from the younger generation, though, my collection consists mainly of CDs. This book will hopefully give me a look into Elvis bootlegging history on vinyl. I’ll probably find some nice items to look for.

April 23 – Finally FTD Information

FTD World bookOne of the things the Follow That Dream label lacked from day one is information: on releases, planning, ship dates, and, most important of all, background in accompanying booklets. The label bought the official Follow That Dream URL and has the foremost Elvis Presley expert, Ernst Jorgensen, as the producer heading the team, so what is holding them up?

A lot of fans volunteered to step in, and the Japanese Elvis For Sound Fans Only fan club actually did. I don’t have their book on the first 111 FTD releases, but it deserves a spot on this list for their initiative! I’ll have to find a copy to see what the book covers. For now, I can do with the review from The Elvis Information Network.

May 06 – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Graceland bookThe Boxcar release Graceland Through The Years: 1957–1977 was first announced four years ago in an interview on the Elvis Information Network website. On this day, the label showed the result of four years of work.

I must say, I’m really looking forward to this one. I have the official EPE book, and I walked the grounds of Graceland in person over ten years ago. I expect this book to be a well-documented trip down memory lane.

May 16 – The Work Of A Man From Denmark

May 15, 2012 marks the day of the first real glimpse into the actual FTD SUN release. The Official UK Elvis Presley fan club beat the official announcement of the release of A Boy From Tupelo by one day. Speaking of days, I’m counting the days until I hold this five-kilo Holy Grail of the Elvis world in my hands. I’ve always had a real soft spot for the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and now I can experience it as complete as it will probably ever get.

May 26 – Volume Five

The fifth volume in The Elvis Files book series from the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club was released. The series documents Elvis Presley’s life and achievements in a very informative and well illustrated manner. It is a bit overhyped, has some flaws, and seems to simply collect some of the material from the internet. Still, there is nothing Elvis that compares to this body of work, so it stands out as the “Illustrated Biography” of Elvis Presley. The fifth volume documents the years 1969 and 1970, when Elvis became king of the whole wide world again. Besides the first six years of his public life, these years are the most iconic.

Back to you Ty!

Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)

by Ty, The Mystery Train Blog

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. With almost half of 2012 already in the record books, this seems like a good time to look back at the ten best stories so far this year.

#10 A revitalized dream
In 2012, noted Elvis soundboard expert Ciscoking began consulting with Sony’s Follow That Dream collectors label for Elvis fans. The first result of that collaboration was April’s Another Saturday Night, capturing a previously unreleased 1975 concert in Shreveport, Louisiana. Involving an extremely knowledgeable fan is a huge step forward for FTD’s sometimes dubious soundboard series. Earlier this month, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ official Elvis.com site showed some love for the label by rolling out a rejuvenated FTD section – complete with audio clips, posters, and movie trailers. Ciscoking has hinted that a dedicated FTD site may finally be on the way, but the Elvis.com section at least provides a temporary destination for those wanting to learn more about the various releases.

#09 Celebrating Elvis, the father
Lisa Marie Presley in February launched a new exhibit at Graceland, “Elvis… Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Nine-years-old when her father passed away, Lisa Marie presents memories of her time with him. The exhibit includes home movies, toys, and even Lisa Marie’s crib. All too often, Elvis today is seen only as an image or trademark – like Mickey Mouse. Lisa Marie’s very personal exhibit instead places a much-needed focus on the real man behind that image.

#08 Tour Graceland without leaving home
In March, Elvis.com rolled out 360-degree, panoramic tours of Graceland’s exterior, foyer, den, and racquetball building/trophy room. What better way to entice fans to visit in person than to allow a virtual preview? The real question is, will the forthcoming virtual Elvis live in virtual Graceland? While I love the virtual Graceland concept, I have to admit, the thought of a virtual Elvis (in 2D “hologram” form) creeps me out. Virtual Graceland Trophy Room

#07 I Am An Elvis By Request Fan
In May, Sony Music solicited online votes from fans on which Elvis songs should appear on a new CD, I Am An Elvis Fan. Unfortunately, Sony restricted the voting choices to less than a hundred of the 700-plus Elvis masters – not to mention thousands of alternate and live cuts released since his death. Sony Music Australia took this concept one step further in June. For Sony Music Australia’s Elvis By Request 2-CD set, fans can vote for any Elvis master, as well as many tracks released since 1977. I’ve pre-ordered both CDs, but I’m most looking forward to the Australian edition.

#06 Sweetening through the ages
The most interesting Elvis releases these days tend to be not from the main Sony label, but from the FTD label. In March, FTD released Our Memories Of Elvis Volumes 1, 2, & 3. The 2-CD set contains the original 1979 and 1980 albums, as well as a third volume and additional tracks prepared but never released. The concept is simple, the recordings have been remixed to remove certain instruments and background vocalists to strip them down to a “pure” sound. While the results may still be artificial compared to truly undubbed versions, it is still an intriguing concept and a welcome release.

#05 Grace through the storm
Lisa Marie Presley released her third album in May, Storm & Grace. Her best release yet, the album is consistent, well-written, well-performed, and well-produced. My favorite songs on the album are “Over Me,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “So Long” and “Un-break.” The other tracks are solid as well.

#04 “Some of y’all never been down South too much”
In its top-notch Classic Album series, FTD released its version of On Stage in March. I consider On Stage second only to That’s The Way It Is as the best album of Elvis’ career. By my count, this marks the fourth different configuration of this album (the original 1970 version, the 1999 special edition, the 2010 Legacy edition, and now the 2012 FTD edition). Why, then, is this latest reissue even worth mentioning? In addition to the original album, this 2-CD set contains additional tracks from his February 1970 Las Vegas engagement, many of them previously unreleased.

#03 Practice, practice, practice
Scheduled for release this month from FTD is From Hawaii To Las Vegas, which presents a January 25, 1973, rehearsal at the Las Vegas Hilton. One song from this rehearsal, “I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You,” was first issued as a bonus track last year on FTD’s uneven Stage Rehearsal CD. Originally recorded on cassette tape, From Hawaii To Las Vegas probably will not be the kind of CD you would want to throw on at a party – but it should provide valuable insight to fellow Elvis historians. Included are two runthroughs of “Separate Ways” – a song that, as far as anyone knows, Elvis never actually performed in concert.

#02 Not a typical compilation
With I Am An Elvis Fan and Elvis By Request on the way, 2012 may be seen as the year of the fan compilation. However, many fans have been making Elvis compilations for their own personal use for years – whether on cassette tape, CD-R, or iPod playlists. In May, one particular Elvis playlist made the news. Lisa Marie’s Favourite Elvis Songs features his daughter’s selections. Her 12 picks range from 1960-1972, with a full two-thirds coming from the 1970s. With selections like “Just Pretend” and “I’m Leavin’,” Lisa Marie’s list proved to be both unique and terrific. Sony should hire her to advise on future Elvis compilations.

#01 From Alabama Street to Union Avenue
After years of rumors and speculation, the announcement of a release date and early details for FTD’s seemingly mythical “SUN project” has to take the number one spot. No contest. One of the most anticipated Elvis Presley releases ever, A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings will include a 512-page book detailing the activities of Elvis in that time period as well as three CDs worth of material. The set gathers every known Elvis SUN master and outtake, plus demos and live performances. It includes ten previously unreleased tracks. The SUN project has been FTD chief Ernst Jorgensen’s baby for the past several years. A Boy From Tupelo reportedly tips the scales at 5 kilograms (11 pounds), meaning it weighs more than most newborns! Delivery is currently expected for August 16. A Boy From Tupelo (concept cover art)

What will the rest of 2012 bring to the Elvis world? Will A Boy From Tupelo live up to expectations? What other surprises are in store? Find out by keeping it tuned to the Elvis Day By Day blog.

From here to there, Elvis is everywhere

A Boy From Tupelo (concept cover art)

A Boy From Tupelo (concept cover art)

Follow That Dream, Sony’s collectors label for Elvis fans, recently announced a slate of new releases for this summer:

  • A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-55 Recordings [the long awaited SUN project, with a 512-page book and 3 CDs] – August
  • G.I. Blues: Volume 1 [2 CD set] – June
  • From Hawaii To Las Vegas: Recorded Live In Rehearsal, January 25, 1973 [1 CD] – June
  • That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2-LP vinyl set (weren’t we just talking about the original album?)] – June
  • From Memphis To Hollywood [book detailing the making of 1960’s G.I. Blues] – June

There’s certainly much to be excited about in these releases, particularly the SUN project. In fact, to save for this expensive book and CD set, I’ve been holding off on Elvis purchases so far in 2012 in hopes that this might finally be the year.

We’ll have plenty of time in coming weeks to examine some of these releases in detail, but today, I want to have fun with titles and location, location, location. Dating back to 1961’s Blue Hawaii, dozens of Elvis albums have mentioned a place in the title.

The “From Here To There” style, though, began with 1969’s 2-LP set From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis (later released separately as Elvis In Person and Back In Memphis). Since then, several subsequent releases on both the main label and FTD have followed this trend.

Put them all together and you get a virtual Elvis travelogue:

  • From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis (recorded/released 1969)
  • From Nashville To Memphis (recorded 1960-1969/released 1993)
  • From Sunset To Vegas (recorded 1974/released 2009)
  • From Hawaii To Las Vegas (recorded 1973/released 2012)
  • From Memphis To Hollywood (covers 1960/released 2012)

So, I wonder if it is possible to put the titles in an order where you can go from location to location without getting stranded?

1.) From Nashville To Memphis
2.) From Memphis To Hollywood
3.) From Sunset To Vegas
4.) From Vegas To Memphis
5.) From Memphis To Vegas
STRANDED in Vegas! Need a ticket to Hawaii.

Trying again…

1.) From Hawaii To Las Vegas
2.) From Vegas To Memphis
3.) From Memphis To Hollywood
4.) From Sunset To Vegas
STRANDED in Vegas again! Need a ticket to Nashville.

It appears there is no solution to this Rubik’s cube of Elvis titles. I might be stranded, but at least there’s good music on the radio.

FTD releases are available from various online stores. They originate in Denmark and then ship to retailers, so there is sometimes a two or three week delay after the release date before the items arrive for those of us in the US.

From 1956 to 2012: Follow Elvis’ journey through Richmond

Despite his enduring popularity, Elvis Presley is rarely given his due as an artist. Though this has improved considerably over the last ten to twenty years, the general public still tends to latch on to things like wacky souvenirs, bad impersonators, and “alive” hoaxes.

My favorite Elvis writer of late has been Sheila O’Malley of the Sheila Variations blog. With a fresh voice, she presents new perspectives on Elvis the artist. Rarely fluff pieces like you might see on other blogs (including this one), Sheila’s posts tend to be demanding reads. Invest the time and there are always insightful payoffs.

I discovered the Sheila Variations not through Elvis but through baseball. A few years ago, I was writing a post about baseball movies for my now-extinct pop culture blog. One of my favorites is Field Of Dreams, adapted from W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe. While researching the film, I came across Sheila’s blog and a number of extremely helpful posts.

When I find a new blog I love, I tend to search it for other topics of interest. Though it was only one post, I was delighted to find a reference to Elvis there as well. The 2005 post promised of more to come, eventually. “I’ll know when I’m ready,” she said at the time.

I bookmarked the blog and checked it every now and then. Always finding something to enjoy while patiently waiting for the topic of Elvis to return. It took over six years for Sheila to know she was ready to write about Elvis, but when she was, the resulting series of Elvis Essays that began last August 16 and continue to this day have been nothing short of astounding. I’m hoping that she will eventually compile her observations into a book, a documentary, a multi-media experience, or all of the above.

I was quite happy, therefore, when Sheila last month posted a short preview of a future Elvis post centered around Richmond, Virginia. Inspired by the excellent “In Search Of Elvis In Richmond, VA” posts on the Smithsonian’s Elvis At Twenty One blog, Sheila took a road trip from New Jersey to visit some of Richmond’s Elvis sites in person – as well as take in the Elvis At 21 exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This turned out not to result in just one post, but four.

The Sheila Variations: The Richmond Saga

Part I June 30, 1956: Elvis Presley in Richmond, Virginia – Moment By Moment

Part II The Jefferson Hotel

Part III The Mosque and The Monuments

Part IV The Train Station, the Water Tower, and “Elvis at 21″ at VMFA

Sometimes, I’ll read something and think, “I wish I had written that.” This is definitely one of those times.
The Sheila Variations
My favorite random moments:

  • “I showed the really nice guy at the front desk the things I wanted to see. […] I asked him if it was ‘walkable’. He said, ‘Oh, no. It’s about two miles.’ Just one of the many cultural differences between living in NYC and living somewhere else which is more of a car culture.” (from Richmond Snapshots)
  • “Peter Guralnick, in his introduction to his second volume of Elvis’ biography, says that the years from 1958 until 1977 were all about ‘the disappearance’ of Elvis Presley, a sentiment I disagree with entirely. He did not disappear. He was always there. It’s just we didn’t get to see him anymore, unless we went to the movies, or, in the 70s, saw him in concert. […] I know Guralnick means “disappeared” on another level, but I disagree with THAT level as well. How you can say that someone who put out the two gospel albums he did in the 60s […] disappeared is a mystery to me. How you can feel he disappeared when you consider his record-breaking appearances in Vegas [and] at Madison Square Garden, the albums from the 70s, especially Promised Land […] the continued innovation in his music, the continued personal aspect of it […] The nerve of that Elvis guy to follow his own path.” (from Part I) [This segment, which should be read in context in its entirety in the original post for full effect, literally left me wanting to cheer. –Ty]
  • “The Jefferson Hotel certainly isn’t hurting for customers, but they do say on their website: ‘Stay where Elvis stayed!'” (from Part II)
  • “New York often doesn’t honor its history, architecturally anyway. I never even saw the original Penn Station, but it is like a wound in my soul to think of what was torn down. […] But there the Mosque stands, now called The Landmark, with a giant Lion King banner, and the ghosts of Duke Ellington and Ethel Barrymore and Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley literally shimmering in the foreground.” (from Part III)
  • “What would Elvis at 21, strolling down that hallway, have thought if he knew that one day an entire exhibit devoted to his time in Richmond would be on display at the Museum there? It’s all so strange. And beautiful. And perfect. Elvis couldn’t know, he couldn’t predict. He could just believe in himself, and keep launching himself out there into the spotlight. That is what he did.” (from Part IV)

* * *

Today was the final day of the Elvis At 21 exhibition here in Richmond. Though I regret not being able to make it out to see photographer Alfred Wertheimer when he visited the museum for an Elvis panel discussion in January, I did at least have the opportunity to take in the exhibition one more time a couple weekends back.

For my return visit, I brought along my Mom, who became an Elvis fan in 1956. It was nice to walk through the exhibit without having to worry about writing a review this time. We followed the museum visit up by watching Elvis ’56 and my Mom’s all-time favorite, Aloha From Hawaii. It was a perfect day.

Elvis At 21 is not over, though. The tour continues at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, starting April 7 (more info here).

From an art museum to a Presidential library . . . maybe Elvis really is starting to get his due.