Vinyl Elvis #4: THAT’S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (1954)

Portions of this post were first published on one of my pop-culture blogs, now retired.


Today marks the 68th anniversary of the release of Elvis Presley’s first record on July 19, 1954.

I have two near-mint copies of That’s All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky.

By far, they would be the most financially valuable pieces of my entire record collection or of all of my collections of anything, for that matter, except that they were both pressed in 2009, rather than 1954. Oh well. It’s not about the money, it’s about the music. Always has been.

THAT'S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (Single; Sun, 1954; Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy 2009--included as bonus with the Franklin Mint's ELVIS: THE COMPLETE MASTERS COLLECTION CD set; from Tygrrius' collection)

THAT’S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (Single; Sun, 1954; Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy 2009–included as bonus with the Franklin Mint’s ELVIS: THE COMPLETE MASTERS COLLECTION CD set; from Tygrrius’ collection)

That’s All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky (Single)
Label: Sun [Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy]
Catalog Number: 209 [Reissue: 88697613017 (Label) / 88697673597 (2010 Outer Sleeve)]
Recorded: 1954 | Memphis, TN
Released: 1954 [Reissue: 2009]

Packaged in a plain, brown sleeve much like the original, my first copy of the record was included with Franklin Mint’s Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection CD set from 2009. A few years ago, I acquired a second copy of That’s All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky, which Sony had released back in April 2010 for Record Store Day. Unlike the simple brown sleeve, this one included a gaudy cover, but I was surprised to discover that the record contained within is actually identical to the one that shipped with the Franklin Mint set. Sony must have been thinking ahead and pressed extra copies for the Record Store Day promotion.

Side A

Side A of THAT'S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (Single; Sun, 1954; Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy 2009; from Tygrrius' collection)

Side A of THAT’S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (Single; Sun, 1954; Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy 2009; from Tygrrius’ collection)

“That’s All Right” (1954)
One of the endearing aspects of this performance of “That’s All Right” is the sheer joy in the voice of Elvis as he sings. He finally has his opportunity in the studio, and he is making the most of it.

Elvis in 1970 reflected on his style, stating that it was “a combination of country music and gospel and rhythm & blues […]. That’s what it really was. As a child, I was influenced by all that.”

He added, “Of course, the Grand Ole Opry is the first thing I ever heard, probably, but I liked the blues, and I liked the gospel music–gospel quartets–and all that.”

On this first single, the blues and country influences are as clear as they ever would be. Some credit That’s All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky as the first rock ‘n’ roll record, but to say Elvis invented the style is to make a false assumption that any one person actually did.

Rock ‘n’ roll evolved from the very sources that Elvis himself described. Besides, “Rocket 88,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and other potential contenders pre-date Elvis’ version of “That’s All Right.”

What Elvis did with his early records for Sun and RCA, though, was ignite the smoldering evolution of rock ‘n’ roll into a full-blown blaze. By melding country into the blues of “That’s All Right,” Elvis in 1954 unleashed a sound that not only built upon the foundation established by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup‘s original 1946 recording, but took the song in a new direction. Absorbing the music of his youth, Elvis knew instinctively that blues and country explore many of the same themes, which allowed him to re-interpret these kinds of songs in a unique way.

Unfortunately, despite what the beautiful record label would have you believe, this reissue actually contains an RCA mastering of “That’s All Right,” rather than the original Sun mastering. It is the same 1954 recording, but RCA added echo to its versions not present on the Sun original.

A few years after this 2009 reissue of SUN 209, the “dry” version of “That’s All Right” finally became available again via FTD’s A Boy From Tupelo boxed set in 2012. Sony RCA/Legacy re-released A Boy From Tupelo in a much more affordable package for mainstream retail in 2017.

The dry version of “That’s All Right” is superior, though it takes some getting used to because the echo versions were used in every official release of the song from December 1955 through 2011. Unless, of course, you have been spinning a Sun original.

Side B

Side B of THAT'S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (Single; Sun, 1954; Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy 2009; from Tygrrius' collection)

Side B of THAT’S ALL RIGHT/BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY (Single; Sun, 1954; Reissue: Sony RCA/Legacy 2009; from Tygrrius’ collection)

Blue Moon of Kentucky (1954)
While Elvis added country to the blues of “That’s All Right,” he created a literal flip side by melding rhythm & blues into the country bluegrass of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Again, the sound is markedly different from Bill Monroe’s 1946 original. Again, there is that joy in Elvis’ voice.

A fun tidbit is That’s All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky contains only three musicians: Elvis on acoustic guitar, Scotty Moore on electric guitar, and Bill Black on the upright bass.

One of the earliest rock ‘n’ roll records, and no drummer to be heard. Credit goes to Black, whose bass makes it sound like there must be a drummer.

A drummer did not join the group in the studio until the early 1955 session that produced “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone,” the flip side of Elvis’ fourth record for Sun.

“That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” became regional hits for Elvis. He would follow-up the single with four more records on the Sun label before signing with RCA in late 1955.


“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9

Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a countdown of Elvis Presley’s 711 master recordings from worst to best. Read Part 1.

We left off last time with songs in the Below Average/For Elvis Fans Only category, and we begin today with songs in that same status.

In the course of making this list, which covers only recordings released during his lifetime, I realized just how many of my favorite Elvis recordings were released after his death. For example, I find the master of “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” from the ELVIS-TV Special album to be a middling performance, ranked here at #550. However, a couple of the other versions recorded that same night would actually make my “All-Time Top 20” list.

This list represents one fan’s opinion.

#600 I Miss You (1973)
Raised On Rock

#599 Moonlight Swim (1961)
Blue Hawaii

#598 He Touched Me (1971)
He Touched Me

#597 He Is My Everything (1971)
He Touched Me

#596 Can’t Help Falling In Love/Closing Riff (Live-1974)
Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis
Comment: “Can’t Help Falling In Love” from Elvis’ March 20, 1974, Memphis concert is the lowest ranked of his live masters.

#595 I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (1956)
Elvis Presley

#594 Clambake (1967)
Clambake

#593 Once Is Enough (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#592 Stop, Look And Listen (1966)
Spinout

#591 Roustabout (1964)
Roustabout

#590 Give Me The Right (1961)
Something For Everybody

#589 A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#588 Easy Question (1962)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#587 Put The Blame On Me (1961)
Something For Everybody

#586 Gonna Get Back Home Somehow (1962)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#585 Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet, Baby (1967)
Speedway

#584 Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers (1963)
Elvis For Everyone!

#583 Do The Vega (1963)
Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others

#582 Ito Eats (1961)
Blue Hawaii

#581 Beach Shack (1966)
Spinout

#580 I Got A Woman/Amen (Live-1974)
Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis

#579 First In Line (1956)
Elvis

#578 Have I Told You Lately That I Love You (1957)
Loving You

#577 Sand Castles (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#576 Because Of Love (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#575 True Love (1957)
Loving You

#574 Fun In Acapulco (1963)
Fun In Acapulco
Comment: With #574 and below in today’s list, we move into Average/Mediocre songs. I still wouldn’t go out of my way to play any of these for the general public, but they aren’t bad.

#573 Comin’ Home, Baby/Introductions By Elvis (Live-1973)
Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite

#572 Comin’ Home, Baby/Introductions By Elvis (Live-1972)
As Recorded At Madison Square Garden
Comment: I never thought I’d see the day where I was ranking versions of Elvis introducing his backing singers and musicians during his concerts, but here I am. Friends, that’s what I’m willing to do for you. These June 10, 1972, Evening Show introductions from Madison Square Garden edge out the similar introductions from Elvis’ January 14, 1973, concert in Honolulu because Elvis introduces each of the Sweet Inspirations by name rather than solely as the group. I love the Sweet Inspirations and wish he had introduced them this way at each concert.

#571 There’s A Brand New Day On The Horizon (1964)
Roustabout

#570 Down By The Riverside/When The Saints Go Marching In (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#569 Girl Happy (1964)
Girl Happy

#568 Hey Little Girl (1965)
Harum Scarum

#567 I’ll Take Love (1966)
C’mon Everybody

#566 Frankfort Special (1960)
G.I. Blues

#565 Easy Come, Easy Go (1966)
C’mon Everybody

#564 Tonight Is So Right For Love (1960)
G.I. Blues

#563 Summer Kisses, Winter Tears (1960)
Elvis For Everyone!

#562 Ask Me (1964)
Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 4

#561 How’s The World Treating You (1956)
Elvis

#560 Hard Knocks (1964)
Roustabout

#559 Steppin’ Out Of Line (1961)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#558 I Don’t Wanna Be Tied (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#557 Find Out What’s Happening (1973)
Raised On Rock

#556 Hound Dog (Live-1973)
Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite

#555 Tryin’ To Get To You (Live-1974)
Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis

#554 Can’t Help Falling In Love/Closing Riff (Live-1973)
Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite

#553 Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (Live-1973)
Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite

#552 Cindy, Cindy (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#551 Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On/Mama Don’t Dance/Flip, Flop & Fly/Jailhouse Rock/Hound Dog (Live-1974)
Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis

#550 Baby, What You Want Me To Do (Live-1968)
ELVIS-TV Special
Comment: The live master of “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” is the lowest ranked of his masters captured for the ELVIS television special, later known as the “’68 Comeback Special.”

#549 I Feel That I’ve Known You Forever (1962)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#548 I Need You So (1957)
Loving You

#547 I’ll Never Know (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#546 Help Me (Live-1974)
Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis

#545 Beyond The Bend (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#544 Starting Today (1961)
Something For Everybody

#543 We’ll Be Together (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#542 Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello (1962)
Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 4

#541 I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine (1954)
The Sun Sessions

#540 This Is Our Dance (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#539 Tomorrow Night (1954/1965)
Elvis For Everyone!

#538 A House That Has Everything (1967)
Clambake

#537 This Is The Story (1969)
From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis

#536 How Do You Think I Feel (1956)
Elvis

#535 So Glad You’re Mine (1956)
Elvis

#534 One-Sided Love Affair (1956)
Elvis Presley

#533 Let’s Forget About The Stars (1968)
Let’s Be Friends

#532 Long Legged Girl (1966)
Double Trouble

#531 Riding The Rainbow (1961)
I Got Lucky

#530 El Toro (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#529 Young Dreams (1958)
King Creole

#528 Frankie And Johnny (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#527 My Desert Serenade (1965)
Harum Scarum

#526 Fools Rush In (1971)
Elvis Now

#525 Double Trouble (1966)
Double Trouble

#524 Guitar Man/Little Egypt/Trouble (1968)
ELVIS-TV Special

#523 Nothingville/Big Boss Man (1968)
ELVIS-TV Special

#522 I Got Stung (1958)
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2
Comment: “I Got Stung” is the lowest ranked of Elvis’ 38 Billboard Top 10 hits on my list.

#521 Please Don’t Drag That String Around (1963)
Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 4

#520 Vino, Dinero Y Amor (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#519 My Wish Came True (1957)
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2

#518 Who Are You (1967)
Speedway

#517 Puppet On A String (1964)
Girl Happy

#516 One Broken Heart For Sale (1962)
One Broken Heart For Sale (Single)

#515 What Now, What Next, Where To (1963)
Double Trouble

#514 It’s Over (Live-1973)
Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite

#513 Santa Lucia (1963)
Elvis For Everyone!

#512 Crawfish (1958)
with Kitty White
King Creole

#511 Let Me Be There (Live-1974)
Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis

#510 I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (1960)
Something For Everybody

#509 Welcome To My World (Live-1973)
Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite

#508 Slowly But Surely (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#507 Fever (1960)
Elvis Is Back!

#506 Cotton Candy Land (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#505 If You Don’t Come Back (1973)
Raised On Rock

#504 Love Letters (1966)
Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 4

#503 Kiss Me Quick (1961)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#502 Spanish Eyes (1973)
Good Times

#501 White Christmas (1957)
Elvis’ Christmas Album

To Be Continued . . .

Read Part 3

Elvis Presley in 1957 (MGM)

Elvis Presley in 1957 (MGM)


“Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.”
Psalm 38:22

Elvis Masters: The Ultimate Countdown – Part 1

Elvis Presley in 1961 (United Artists)

Elvis Presley in 1961 (United Artists)

In his 23-year career as an entertainer, Elvis Presley released 711 master recordings. This year is the 45th anniversary of his death, and attempting to rank all of those recordings from worst to best is the ridiculous, over-the-top way I have chosen to mark the occasion here on The Mystery Train.

Portions of this list presented unexpected challenges – especially today’s entries. I usually try to keep things positive here on The Mystery Train, so I have never done a “Worst of Elvis” type of ranking. It’s one thing to analyze the merits of 1972’s “Burning Love” versus 1956’s “Love Me” to determine which is better. It is quite a different thing to assess the failings of 1965’s “What Every Woman Lives For” versus 1956’s “We’re Gonna Move” to determine which is worse.

As always, this is one fan’s opinion. For many of the songs, I have included links to the official recordings on YouTube so that, if you dare, you can listen for yourself and make your own judgments (I am not sure if the YouTube videos will function outside of the U.S. – if not, my apologies).

As noted, we are starting at the bottom – which is dominated by movie tunes and illustrates just how destructive those soundtracks were on Elvis’ body of work. Yes, some of the tunes work a little better within the context of the actual films, but that doesn’t mean they should have come out on record. Elvis should not have wasted his gift in this way.

It will take us a little while to get to the good stuff, but come aboard now and get strapped in to your seat. The ride will be a little bumpy in the beginning. We begin with the Poor/Horrible category.

#711 Confidence (1967)
Clambake
Comment: As the worst Elvis song released in his lifetime, “Confidence” also earns the “distinctions” of being the worst of his 1960s master recordings and the worst of his movie masters.

#710 Wolf Call (1964)
Girl Happy

#709 Barefoot Ballad (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#708 A Cane And A High Starched Collar (1960)
A Legendary Performer, Volume 2

#707 Scratch My Back (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#706 A Dog’s Life (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#705 Datin’ (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#704 Yoga Is As Yoga Does (1966)
I Got Lucky

#703 I’m Not The Marrying Kind (1961)
C’mon Everybody

#702 What Every Woman Lives For (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#701 We’re Gonna Move (1956)
A Date With Elvis
Comment: Recorded for the movie Love Me Tender, “We’re Gonna Move” is the worst of Elvis’ 1950s masters. It narrowly escapes being recognized as one of the ten worst masters of his entire career.

#700 Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce (1964)
Girl Happy

#699 Poor Boy (1956)
For LP Fans Only

#698 Startin’ Tonight (1964)
Girl Happy

#697 There’s Gold In The Mountains (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#696 Petunia, The Gardener’s Daughter (1965)
with Eileen Wilson
Frankie And Johnny

#695 Who Needs Money (1967)
with Ray Walker
Clambake

#694 Look Out, Broadway (1965)
with Eileen Wilson and Ray Walker
Frankie And Johnny

#693 Go East, Young Man (1965)
Harum Scarum

#692 Golden Coins (1965)
Harum Scarum

#691 Kissin’ Cousins No. 2 (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#690 House Of Sand (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#689 Carny Town (1964)
Roustabout

#688 Big Love, Big Heartache (1964)
Roustabout

#687 Spring Fever (1964)
Girl Happy

#686 Poison Ivy League (1964)
Roustabout

#685 Stop Where You Are (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#684 Everybody Come Aboard (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#683 Lonesome Cowboy (1957)
Loving You

#682 Steadfast, Loyal And True (1958)
King Creole

#681 This Is Living (1961)
C’mon Everybody

#680 The Walls Have Ears (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#679 Sound Advice (1961)
Elvis For Everyone!

#678 Wisdom Of The Ages (1965)
Harum Scarum

#677 Smokey Mountain Boy (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#676 And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind (1969)
From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis
Comment: “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” is the worst of Elvis’ non-movie masters and the worst of his mostly stellar American Sound sessions from 1969.

#675 Chesay (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#674 Little Egypt (1964)
Roustabout

#673 Let Me (1956)
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#672 Hot Dog (1957)
Loving You

#671 Padre (1971)
Elvis (Fool)
Comment: “Padre” is the worst of Elvis’ 1970s masters. In 1958, Elvis name-checked Toni Arden‘s “Padre” as his favorite song. It is unfortunate that his own recording 13 years later is so uninspired. I’m a firm believer that much of Elvis’ 1970s material is underrated, but “Padre” is tough to defend.

#670 If That Isn’t Love (1973)
Good Times

#669 She Wears My Ring (1973)
Good Times

#668 Mama (1962)
Let’s Be Friends

#667 Shake That Tambourine (1965)
Harum Scarum

#666 Earth Boy (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!

#665 Kismet (1965)
Harum Scarum

#664 Catchin’ On Fast (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#663 He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad (1967)
Speedway

#662 Mirage (1965)
Harum Scarum

#661 Big Boots (1960)
G.I. Blues

#660 No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#659 Blue River (1963)
Double Trouble

#658 Sing You Children (1966)
You’ll Never Walk Alone

#657 She’s A Machine (1966)
Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others

#656 Smorgasbord (1966)
Spinout

#655 I Love Only One Girl (1966)
Double Trouble

#654 Wheels On My Heels (1964)
Roustabout

#653 Take Me To The Fair (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#652 The Yellow Rose Of Texas/The Eyes Of Texas (1963)
Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others

#651 Western Union (1963)
Speedway

#650 In Your Arms (1961)
Something For Everybody

#649 It Ain’t No Big Thing (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#648 Woman Without Love (1975)
Today

#647 Song Of The Shrimp (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls!
Comment: The fact that a movie tune in which Elvis sings from the first-person perspective of a shrimp is not even close to being the worst song on this list is a testament to the utter horribleness of the above songs.

#646 It’s Carnival Time (1964)
Roustabout
Comment: From “It’s Carnival Time” at #646 and below in today’s list, the songs transition from Poor/Horrible to the Below Average/For Elvis Fans Only category.

#645 One Boy, Two Little Girls (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#644 Hey, Hey, Hey (1967)
Clambake

#643 It Won’t Be Long (1966)
Double Trouble

#642 You Can’t Say No In Acapulco (1963)
Fun In Acapulco

#641 I’m Falling In Love Tonight (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#640 Miracle Of The Rosary (1971)
Elvis Now

#639 I’m Yours (1961)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#638 Happy Ending (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#637 The Love Machine (1966)
I Got Lucky

#636 Queenie Wahine’s Papaya (1965)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style

#635 Baby, If You’ll Give Me All Of Your Love (1966)
Double Trouble

#634 Shout It Out (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#633 There Is So Much World To See (1966)
Double Trouble

#632 Do The Clam (1964)
Girl Happy

#631 Adam And Evil (1966)
Spinout

#630 The Meanest Girl In Town (1964)
Girl Happy

#629 There Ain’t Nothing Like A Song (1967)
with Nancy Sinatra
Speedway

#628 I’ll Be Back (1966)
Spinout

#627 Come Along (1965)
Frankie And Johnny

#626 Three Corn Patches (1973)
Raised On Rock

#625 I Love You Because (1954)
Elvis Presley
Comment: “I Love You Because,” one of Elvis’ very first recordings, is the lowest ranked of his legendary Sun sessions.

#624 When I’m Over You (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#623 Lover Doll (1958)
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#622 For The Millionth And The Last Time (1961)
Elvis For Everyone!

#621 A World Of Our Own (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#620 If I Were You (1970)
Love Letters From Elvis

#619 Echoes Of Love (1963)
Kissin’ Cousins

#618 There Is No God But God (1971)
He Touched Me

#617 Reach Out To Jesus (1971)
He Touched Me

#616 Wooden Heart (1960)
G.I. Blues

#615 Do Not Disturb (1964)
Girl Happy

#614 I’ve Got To Find My Baby (1964)
Girl Happy

#613 Who Am I (1969)
You’ll Never Walk Alone

#612 Tell Me Why (1957)
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#611 Girl Of Mine (1973)
Raised On Rock

#610 Susan When She Tried (1975)
Today

#609 Relax (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#608 You Gotta Stop (1966)
I Got Lucky

#607 What’s She Really Like (1960)
G.I. Blues

#606 Just A Little Bit (1973)
Raised On Rock

#605 Just For Old Time Sake (1962)
Pot Luck With Elvis

#604 Harem Holiday (1965)
Harum Scarum

#603 Tonight’s All Right For Love (1960)
A Legendary Performer, Volume 1

#602 How Would You Like To Be (1962)
It Happened At The World’s Fair

#601 A Whistling Tune (1961)
C’mon Everybody

To Be Continued . . .

Read Part 2


“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Luke 16:13

Elvis Movies: KID GALAHAD

Before we get started with the main feature, I want to take a brief moment to remind you that Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS movie begins playing next week in many locations around the world. Based on the trailers, the attention to detail looks amazing. I love that this trailer throws in a couple of brief shots of the real Elvis as well.

I have also watched and read a few interviews with Austin Butler, who plays Elvis Presley, and he seems completely invested in the role. Many actors have tried and mostly failed to fill Elvis’ shoes before him, but this 30-year-old really seems to have discovered his spirit. We’ll find out soon.

As I’ve said before, after seeing so many horrible attempts to tell the Elvis Presley story in the past, I never even thought I’d watch this movie at all, much less go to the theater opening weekend as I’m now planning to do. The trailer above concludes with “Suspicious Minds (Caught In A Trap),” my mom’s favorite song. She would have been excited to see this movie with me and, though she passed away over three years ago now, I know she’ll be there next to me.

Continuing my rewatch of movies featuring the real Elvis Presley, next up is Kid Galahad – his 10th movie. I have only seen this one a couple of times before.


“Presley Packs the Screen’s Biggest Wallop…with the Gals…with the Gloves…with the Guitar!”

Kid Galahad (United Artists)
Wide Release: August 29, 1962 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Gig Young, Lola Albright, Joan Blackman
Screenplay By: William Fay
Story By: Francis Wallace
Music Score By: Jeff Alexander
Produced By: Davis Weisbart
Directed By: Phil Karlson
Running Time: 96 Minutes


Sugarboy Romero (Orlando de la Fuente) faces off against Kid Galahad (Elvis Presley) in the climax of 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Sugarboy Romero (Orlando de la Fuente) faces off against Kid Galahad (Elvis Presley) in the climax of 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Elvis Presley stars as Walter Gulick in Kid Galahad. After a stint in the Army, Walter returns to his hometown of Cream Valley, New York, for the first time since becoming an orphan at 14-months-old. The 22-year-old is looking for a job fixing cars, but since he arrives too early in the morning for the auto shop to be open, he naturally checks out a nearby boxing camp instead to see if they need a mechanic.

The fictitious Cream Valley, New York, coincidentally enough, looks remarkably like Idyllwild, California. I suppose that’s better than trying to pass off California as Europe, at least. “Cream Valley” – the name sounds like a magical place where they make salad dressing or something like that.

Shockingly enough, the boxing camp doesn’t need a mechanic. However, Walter does find a job there as a sparring partner. It turns out his Army background has provided him with both auto repair and boxing experience.

As a sparring parter, Walter is a bit of a failure. He stands there and takes a beating from the fighter – over 70 punches. Walter doesn’t try to defend himself or even at first throw any punches in return. He finally throws one punch, proceeding to knock out the now worn-out fighter. While this doesn’t make for a great sparring partner, the boxing camp’s owner, Willy (Gig Young), sees dollar signs and soon puts Walter on the professional boxing circuit.

Several movies before this one, the screenplay adaptation of A Stone For Danny Fisher was changed once Elvis was attached to the project such that the boxer lead character became a singer instead. That 1958 movie, one of Elvis’ best performances as an actor, was also eventually renamed King Creole, after one of the songs in the film.

A few years later, in Kid Galahad, Elvis finally got his chance to play a boxer. According to longtime friend Sonny West, if Elvis had his way, he would have reunited with King Creole director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) on this film, which was produced in late 1961. Curtiz had also directed the original 1937 version of Kid Galahad, starring Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart. Despite Elvis’ campaign, Phil Karlson received the directing nod instead. Curtiz passed away in April 1962 at the age of 74.

Willy (Gig Young) and Lew (Charles Bronson) listen as Walter (Elvis Presley) sings "Riding The Rainbow" while driving a Model T Ford in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Willy (Gig Young) and Lew (Charles Bronson) listen as Walter (Elvis Presley) sings “Riding The Rainbow” in a Model T Ford in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Charles Bronson appears in Kid Galahad as Lew, who acts as Walter’s trainer. Lew seems genuinely enamored of “the kid” and tries to look out for him. Bronson does a terrific job in this role and is a highlight of the film. This is apparently one of the few movies where Bronson smiles – and he smiles early and often in Kid Galahad.

Elvis Presley is Walter Gulick in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Elvis Presley is Walter Gulick in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Willy, it turns out, has gambling and other problems that are putting his boxing camp in jeopardy. A mobster leaves two thugs to stay at the camp for insurance.

When Ralphie (Jeff Morris), one of the goons, makes an unwanted advance at Willy’s long-time fiancée, Dolly (Lola Albright), Walter knocks him flat out without even needing to take a beating first this time. “It wouldn’t have happened, but he don’t know how to behave himself with a lady,” explains Walter.

Dolly says, “Thanks, Galahad” to Walter, and the name sticks.

“Dolly, please take the Eagle Scout out of here before Ralphie wakes up and kills him,” quips Lew before they find a loaded gun on Ralphie. Incidentally, I must note that it is hard to take a mafia henchman seriously with a name like “Ralphie.”

Joan Blackman is Rose in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Joan Blackman is Rose in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Willy’s kid sister, Rose (Joan Blackman), travels in from the Bronx to reorganize the camp when he keeps phoning her for money. She owns half of the business, apparently an inheritance from their father. Galahad is immediately all googly eyes for her. Blackman had appeared with Elvis before in Blue Hawaii, and the pair here manage to show more chemistry together than they did in that 1961 movie – which is admittedly a pretty low bar.

Willy is not too happy when the couple gets engaged. “You can’t yell loud enough to make me shut up,” Galahad tells him during a heated argument. “I’m not marrying Rose because she’s your sister, Willy, but in spite of it.”

Hearing the ruckus, Dolly intervenes and asks Willy what’s wrong as he is about to punch Galahad. “What’s the matter with me? This cream-headed clown wants to marry my sister, that’s what’s the matter with me,” he answers.

The long-suffering Dolly delivers this stinger, causing Willy to storm off: “Well, at least he’s not asking her to hang around for three or four years, Willy.”

Soon enough, Dolly leaves Willy (what is with the names in this movie?). This exchange is one of my favorites in the film – great acting from Lola Albright. Dolly at first seems happily surprised when Willy appears to give in, thinking he is finally going to marry her – but then realization dawns and she becomes sad again.

Dolly: “It’s just that you and marriage have never learned to mix.”
Willy: “All right.”
Dolly: “‘All right’ what?”
Willy: “I’ll lay you 3-to-1, angel, I never bet on another horse. … What’s the matter? What did I do now?”
Dolly: “You’ll probably never know. Excuse me.”

Lew (Charles Bronson) holds up an old poster found advertising 1921's Dempsey vs. Carpentier fight in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Lew (Charles Bronson) holds up an old poster found advertising 1921’s Dempsey vs. Carpentier fight in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

In a fun, blink-and-you-miss-it moment, Galahad tosses Lew an old boxing poster he found. The poster advertises a real match that took place on July 2, 1921: Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier – “the fight of the century.” The event was over 40 years old at the time of Kid Galahad and is, of course, over 100 years old now.

Galahad proves an unexpected success in boxing. He uses the same strategy each time – stand and take a beating for awhile and then throw one punch to knock out the other fighter. He identifies himself as being from Cream Valley, and the little town loves him for it. One of the locals notes, “All these other muscleheads up here, not one of them said he was from Cream Valley.”

I kept expecting a relative or at least an old family friend to show up from Galahad’s past – especially when a priest looks incredulously at his 1939 Cream Valley baptism certificate. Alas, Lew is apparently not Galahad’s long-lost older brother.

Ed Asner is Frank Gerson in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

The legendary Ed Asner makes his first appearance in a feature film in Kid Galahad, playing a district attorney who is trying to get Willy to testify against the mobsters.

Galahad (Elvis Presley) trains with Lew (Charles Bronson) for the big fight in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Galahad (Elvis Presley) trains with Lew (Charles Bronson) for the big fight in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Willy signs Galahad up for a fight against an especially tough opponent, Ramon “Sugarboy” Romero (Orlando de la Fuente), so Lew works hard with him to prepare for the climactic battle. All that’s missing is the Rocky theme.

Speaking of music, most of the songs in Kid Galahad are unfortunately mediocre or worse. Though not mentioned if he learned this skill in the Army as well, Galahad, of course, is a singer.

“I Got Lucky” is a bit of a highlight, including Galahad doing “the Twist” with Rose.

The film’s best song, the clever “King Of The Whole Wide World,” is ruined by jazzy overdubs during the movie’s opening titles. The best version of this song can still be found on 1986’s Return Of The Rocker album – the first release of the extended master including Boots Randolph’s complete saxophone solo.

One thing I will note is, I doubt there are any other boxing movies out there where the fighter who was knocked out in the previous scene invites the guy who just walloped him to sing a song with him. Ah, Elvis Movies, you’ve gotta love them.

Kid Galahad is notable for another reason – Elvis’ hair. This is one of only two color movies for which Elvis did not dye his hair black. Instead, he opted for his natural brown hair.

Elvis Presley is Walter "Kid Galahad" Gulick in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Elvis Presley is Walter “Kid Galahad” Gulick in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Kid Galahad is often enjoyable and certainly stands apart from many of Elvis’ other movies, particularly in terms of effort – most notably with the boxing details. Though it never quite delivers a knockout punch, Kid Galahad is still a winner.


Boldly Go

Michael Dante plays Joie in Kid Galahad and appears as Maab in the 1967 Star Trek episode “Friday’s Child.”

Joie (Michael Dante) spars with Galahad (Elvis Presley) in 1962's KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Joie (Michael Dante) spars with Galahad (Elvis Presley) in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Michael Dante is Maab in the 1967 STAR TREK episode "Friday's Child" (Paramount)

Michael Dante is Maab in the 1967 STAR TREK episode “Friday’s Child” (Paramount)

In addition, multiple uncredited cast members from Kid Galahad went on to appear in Star Trek, including:

  • Dave Cadiente [Kid Galahad: Boxer | Star Trek: Enterprise Crewmember in “The Tholian Web” (1968) and the Klingon Sergeant in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)]
  • Al Cavens [Kid Galahad: Fight Spectator | Star Trek: Klingon Crewman in “Day Of The Dove” (1968) and Second Fop in “All Our Yesterdays” (1969)]
  • Louie Elias [Kid Galahad: Boxer | Star Trek: Various roles in “Dagger Of The Mind” (1966), “And The Children Shall Lead” (1968), “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” (1968), “The Tholian Web” (1968), and “The Cloud Minders” (1969)]
  • Seamon Glass [Kid Galahad: Boxer | Star Trek: Benton in “Mudd’s Women” (1966)]
  • Gil Perkins [Kid Galahad: Freddie | Star Trek: Slave #3 in “Bread And Circuses” (1968)]
  • Paul Sorensen [Kid Galahad: Joe | Star Trek: Merchantman Captain in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)]
  • Bill Zuckert [Kid Galahad: O’Grady | Star Trek: Johnny Behan in “Spectre Of The Gun” (1968)]

Honorable mentions:

  • Nick Dimitri [Kid Galahad: Boxer | Various roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the 1990s]
  • Bert Remsen [Kid Galahad: Max | Kubus in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “The Collaborator” (1994)]

While researching the various Star Trek connections, I also noticed there are tons of cast and crew crossovers between Kid Galahad and the Rocky movies. I just don’t have the energy to capture them here, so I leave it to a more industrious Elvis or Rocky fan in the future to document them elsewhere.


Elvis Presley is Kid Galahad and Orlando de la Fuente is Sugarboy Romero in 1962’s KID GALAHAD (United Artists)

Kid Galahad Tote Board

  • Punches: 334 (including 11 knockouts)
  • Kisses: 10
  • Songs: 6

Songs In Kid Galahad

  1. “King Of The Whole Wide World” (1961), written by Ruth Batchelor & Bob Roberts
  2. “This Is Living” (1961), written by Fred Wise & Ben Weisman
  3. “Riding The Rainbow” (1961), written by Fred Wise & Ben Weisman
  4. “Home Is Where The Heart Is” (1961), written by Sherman Edwards & Hal David
  5. “I Got Lucky” (1961) [performed twice], written by Dolores Fuller, Fred Wise, & Ben Weisman
  6. “A Whistling Tune” (1961), written by Sherman Edwards & Hal David

The Mystery Train’s Kid Galahad Scorecard

  • Story: 6 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 8
  • Fun: 4
  • Songs: 4
  • Overall: 6 (Worth Watching)

Kid Galahad Around The Web



“I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Elvis Movies: ROUSTABOUT

Earlier this year, I began a rewatch of Elvis Presley’s movies. Today’s focus is one that I have not seen as often as some of the others – Elvis’ 16th movie, Roustabout.


“Elvis Presley as a Roving, Restless, Reckless, Roustabout”

Roustabout (Paramount)
Wide Release: November 11, 1964 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Freeman
Screenplay By: Anthony Lawrence and Allan Weiss
Story By: Allan Weiss
Music Score By: Joseph J. Lilley
Produced By: Hal B. Wallis
Directed By: John Rich
Running Time: 101 Minutes


Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

In Roustabout, Elvis Presley stars as Charlie Rogers, a singer who ends up working at a carnival when Joe (Leif Erickson), a grouchy old carny, runs him off the road, damaging his motorcycle and destroying his guitar. Ah, Elvis Movies, you gotta love ’em.

The Morgan Shows carnival in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

The Morgan Shows carnival in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Despite the inane setup, Roustabout is pretty good! When Maggie (Barbara Stanwyck), the owner of the carnival, pays for a new guitar and repairs to his motorcycle, Charlie stays on as a roustabout until his bike is ready in order to spend more time with Cathy (Joan Freeman), Joe’s daughter. Joe, of course, is not amused by this turn of events.

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Outside of this movie, “roustabout” is not a term I have encountered. It essentially means an unskilled laborer. It seems to be used most often today in the oil rigging industry. In this case, Charlie does odd jobs at the carnival, such as helping to set up rides or even filling in at a candy apple stand.

When attempting to attract players for a game that Cathy is promoting, Charlie winds up singing and drawing a crowd. His roustabout days are soon behind him, for Maggie signs him on as a singer instead.

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) begins to draw a crowd for Morgan Shows when the carnival signs him on as a singer in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) begins to draw a crowd for Morgan Shows when the carnival signs him on as a singer in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

It turns out that Maggie has a habit of bailing Joe out of trouble, and her carnival is facing financial ruin because of it. Charlie brings in the teen money, and the situation begins to improve until things come to a head between him and Joe, causing Charlie to switch to a rival carnival.

Barbara Stanwyck is Maggie Morgan in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Barbara Stanwyck is Maggie Morgan in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis does a fine job acting in certain parts of Roustabout. A scene between him and Barbara Stanwyck is my favorite of the film:

Charlie: “You collect strays, Maggie. And you got one in Joe. Why don’t you stop recruiting? They don’t make a family.”
Maggie: “What would you know about a family?”
Charlie: “Nothing!”

After Maggie walks away and can no longer hear him, Charlie repeats the line again, softly, sadly: “Nothing…” It is a quick moment, but certainly one of Elvis’ best in his 1960s movies.

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

The rebellious Charlie is reminiscent of some of Elvis’ earliest film roles. For instance, Charlie remarks early on, “Look, if you’re not tough in this world, you get squashed, honey.” These words could have been taken right out of Vince Everett’s mouth in Jailhouse Rock (1957). Charlie also has traces of Deke Rivers from Loving You (1957) and even a little bit of Danny Fisher from King Creole (1958). At 29 during production of Roustabout, however, Elvis does seem a little old at times to be playing a rebel.

Even some of Elvis’ mannerisms in Roustabout remind me of his 1950s presence, otherwise left out of many of his 1960s movies. Elvis’ performance of “One Track Heart” in Roustabout, for instance, is quite reminiscent of his 1956 “Blue Suede Shoes” screen test, except with a less exciting song. Later on, during “Hard Knocks,” he does his more typical 1960s movie hand-clapping thing, though.

Elvis’ natural flair for comedy comes into play a few times in Roustabout. One example:

Cathy: “You must get your face slapped a lot.”
Charlie: “About 50–50.”

Pat Buttram does a terrific job playing the villainous Harry, the owner of the big-time carnival that is looking to put Maggie out of business. Another great couple of lines:

Charlie: “Not everybody is as big a crook as you are, Harry.”
Harry: “Well, everybody tries.”

Pat Buttram is Harry and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Pat Buttram is Harry and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Charlie’s show goes over well, and Harry asks him to do an encore. “Nah,” says Charlie. “Always leave ’em wanting more.” This phrase, of course, was the philosophy of a real-life carny huckster, “Colonel” Tom Parker, when it came to managing Elvis. Parker also served as technical advisor on Roustabout and most of Elvis’ other films.

I try not to review soundtrack albums in this series, focusing any discussion of songs instead on how they appear in the movies themselves. However, I do want to point out in this case that Roustabout has one of the worst soundtrack albums – with nary a hit or highlight in sight. I was surprised, then, that just about all of the songs work perfectly in the context of the actual film. Perhaps based on the fun of seeing the movie, fans propelled the otherwise lackluster Roustabout soundtrack to Billboard‘s number one album position in January 1965. It would be over eight years before Elvis scored another number one album (1973’s Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite).

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley in a production number taped for 1968's ELVIS television special (NBC)

Elvis Presley in a production number taped for 1968’s ELVIS television special (NBC)

Roustabout obviously had an influence on some of the production numbers created for the 1968 ELVIS television special, even down to costuming. The denim outfit that Elvis wears at times in the movie is almost identical to one he wears during portions of the special, for instance. Roustabout is also one of the few times we see Elvis in leather prior to the special. The barker lines on the ELVIS-TV Special soundtrack album might even have been directly lifted from recordings made for this movie. The performance of “Little Egypt” in the ’68 special is better than the cringey one in Roustabout, incidentally, though the outdated song is a detriment to both productions anyway.

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) at Harry’s carnival in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)


Boldly Go

Multiple uncredited cast members from Roustabout went on to play roles in Star Trek.

K.L. Smith plays the Sheriff in Roustabout and appears as a Klingon in the Star Trek episode “Elaan Of Troyius” in 1968.

Elvis Presley is Charlie and K.L. Smith is the Sheriff in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie and K.L. Smith is the Sheriff in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

K.L. Smith is a Klingon captain in the 1968 STAR TREK episode "Elaan Of Troyius" (Paramount)

K.L. Smith is a Klingon captain in the 1968 STAR TREK episode “Elaan Of Troyius” (Paramount)

Other cross-overs include:

  • Dick Cherney [Roustabout: Carnival patron | Star Trek: A council member in “A Taste Of Armageddon” (1967) and a passerby in “The City On The Edge Of Forever” (1967)]
  • Carey Foster [Roustabout: College girl | Star Trek: An Enterprise crewmember in “The Squire Of Gothos” (1967), “This Side Of Paradise” (1967), and “The Alternative Factor” (1967)]
  • Teri Garr [Roustabout: Carnival dancer | Star Trek: Roberta Lincoln in “Assignment: Earth” (1968)]
  • Marianna Hill [Roustabout: Viola | Star Trek: Helen Noel in “Dagger Of The Mind” (1966)]
  • Jesse Wayne [Roustabout: Carnival worker | Star Trek: Chekov stunt double in “The Tholian Web” (1968)]

Some of these players will show up again in other Elvis movies not yet covered, giving them another chance to be featured here on The Mystery Train Elvis Blog.

An honorable mention goes to Elvis’ pal Lance LeGault, who appears as a barker in Roustabout and plays Captain K’Temoc in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Emissary” in 1989.


Elvis Presley takes a pummeling as Charlie Rogers in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley takes a pummeling as Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Roustabout Tote Board

    • Songs: 11
    • Punches: 11
    • Kisses: 8
    • Karate Chops: 4
    • Slaps: 2
    • Motorcycle Crashes: 2

Songs In Roustabout

  1. “Roustabout” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  2. “Poison Ivy League” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  3. “Wheels On My Heels” (1964), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  4. “It’s A Wonderful World” (1964), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  5. “It’s Carnival Time” (1964) [performed twice], written by Ben Weisman & Sid Wayne
  6. “Carny Town” (1964), written by Fred Wise & Randy Starr
  7. “One Track Heart” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  8. “Hard Knocks” (1964), written by Joy Byers
  9. “Little Egypt” (1964), written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
  10. “Big Love, Big Heartache” (1964), written by Dolores Fuller, Lee Morris, & Sonny Hendrix
  11. “There’s A Brand New Day On The Horizon” (1964), written by Joy Byers

The Mystery Train’s Roustabout Scorecard

  • Story: 6 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 8
  • Fun: 8
  • Songs: 6
  • Overall: 7 (Worth Watching)

Roustabout Around The Web


Click image for larger, full-color version


“Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, ‘I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.’ ‘Agreed!’ Laban replied. ‘I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.’ So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.”
Genesis 29:18-20

Elvis Movies: SPINOUT

Mike McCoy tests his #11 427 Cobra in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike McCoy tests his #11 427 Cobra in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Today, we will look at Elvis Presley’s 22nd movie, Spinout. Before we do that, however, I want to take a sidetrack to mention Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS film. I usually dislike movies that attempt to portray Elvis, so I was fully intending to skip this one. That is, until I saw the preview trailer that Warner Brothers released last week.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures channel (YouTube)

The ELVIS trailer shocked me. Austin Butler seems to have captured the essence of Elvis. He has the body language and moves down without looking like an impersonator. I figured he would look like a clown once they showed him in a jumpsuit, but he pulls that difficult look off, too. I loved the unexpected use of “Unchained Melody” from 1977, which gave me chills. The production design is obviously top-notch, with a keen attention to detail.

The story of Elvis is a challenge to portray in an effective way. It is a tale of both triumph and tragedy. His life is both inspiring and depressing. He achieves the American dream many times over, but slowly allows it all to erode.

“The image is one thing, the human being is another,” Elvis said in 1972. “It’s very hard to live up to an image.” Once Elvis died in 1977, the image won and the human that he once was all but disappeared. Can Luhrmann’s film humanize Elvis again? If the script is as solid as the trailer, this could really turn out to be something special. ELVIS opens in the United States on June 24.

No need to wait until June to enjoy Elvis, though. Let’s take a drive with the real Elvis in Spinout.

Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)


“It’s Elvis with his foot on the gas and no brakes on the fun!!!”

Spinout

Spinout (MGM)
Wide Release: November 23, 1966 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Diane McBain
Written By: Theodore J. Flicker & George Kirgo
Music Score By: George Stoll
Produced By: Joe Pasternak
Directed By: Norman Taurog
Running Time: 93 Minutes


In Spinout, Elvis Presley stars as Mike McCoy. Is Mike a racecar driver who also sings or a singer who also races cars? Folks, we don’t ask such questions when watching an Elvis Movie. We just sit back and enjoy the ride.

View from the #9 car, driven by Mike McCoy, during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

View from the #9 car, driven by Mike McCoy, during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Outside of the cars, there is not a lot of action in Spinout. The film focuses more on the romance side of the Elvis Movie formula. Three, count them, three women are vying for Mike’s affections. There’s heiress Cynthia (Shelley Fabares), who runs him off the road in the opening scene. There’s also author Diana (Diane McBain), who declares him the “perfect American male,” with the prize being herself, naturally. Even the drummer in his band, Les (Deborah Walley), has been secretly holding feelings for him.

Deborah Walley is Les, Diane McBain is Diana, and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Deborah Walley is Les, Diane McBain is Diana, and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike is initially unable to decide what to do about his admirers. “I’ve gotta think about it,” he says. “I’ll let you know after the race. I think better when I’m driving.”

Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Spinout is the second of three Elvis Movies in which Shelley Fabares appears. She is one of my favorite Elvis co-stars, so I really don’t understand how Mike found deciding among the three women to be so difficult. Anyway, the movie also includes a couple of fun in-jokes in regards to Elvis’ real-life past – the Ed Sullivan Show warrants a mention and Mike refers to a wandering canine as a “hound dog.”

Though production on Spinout began only a few months after the premiere of the Get Smart television series, be sure to listen out for Mike doing what sounds to my ears like a quick Don Adams impression with Agent 86’s “Would you believe?” catch-phrase.

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) rehearses "Never Say Yes" in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM). Note the 12-string guitar.

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) rehearses “Never Say Yes” in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM). Note the 12-string acoustic electric guitar.

Mike does sing quite a bit in the movie. “All That I Am,” “Am I Ready,” “Never Say Yes,” and “Spinout” are all strong songs. “Never Say Yes” is rare in the Elvis catalog in that it includes the “Bo Diddley Beat,” which is fun to hear. On the other side of the coin, “Smorgasbord” is awful.

Mike McCoy drives the #9 car during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike McCoy drives the #9 car during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

For a movie named Spinout, there is less racing than you might expect. The Santa Fe Road Race featured in the finale is well-filmed. A humorous subplot involving Mike’s #11 car being stolen by another man vying for Cynthia becomes tiresome, though. Mike ends up substituting for Shorty Bloomquist (James McHale) in car #9 to chase after his own car. Look quick and you’ll see Elvis’ friends Red West and Joe Esposito in Shorty’s pit crew. Cynthia also winds up driving onto the road course, so she and Mike tangle again, creating a bookend of sorts to the opening.

Spinout sometimes qualifies as fun, but all too often feels like it is running on empty.

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) races in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) races in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)


Spinout Tote Board

  • Kisses: 28
  • Songs: 9
  • Cars Driven By Mike: 4
  • Women Chasing Mike: 3
  • Cars Crashed Into Water: 2
Audience members look on as Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) sings "Adam And Evil" in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Audience members look on as Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) sings “Adam And Evil” in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Songs In Spinout

  1. “Spinout” (1966) [performed twice], written by Sid Wayne, Ben Weisman, & Dolores Fuller
  2. “Stop, Look, and Listen” (1966), written by Joy Byers
  3. “Adam And Evil” (1966), written by Fred Wise & Randy Starr
  4. “All That I Am” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  5. “Never Say Yes” (1966), written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman
  6. “Am I Ready” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  7. “Beach Shack” (1966), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kaye
  8. “Smorgasbord” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  9. “I’ll Be Back” (1966), written by Sid Wayne & Ben Weisman
Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

The Mystery Train’s Spinout Scorecard

  • Story: 2 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 5
  • Fun: 4
  • Songs: 6
  • Overall: 4 (For Elvis Fans Only)

Further Spinout Reading


TMT Files: Mike McCoy

Click image for larger, full-color version


“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:23-25

Vinyl Elvis #3: HIS HAND IN MINE (1960)

Portions of this post originally appeared in a review I wrote of His Hand In Mine for the album’s 60th anniversary in Kees Mouwen’s Elvis Day By Day 2020: The Year In Review. The 2021 volume is available now.


HIS HAND IN MINE (RCA, 1960; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

His Hand In Mine
Label: RCA
Catalog Number: LPM-2328
Recorded: 1960 | Nashville
Released: 1960

1960 was Elvis Presley’s most productive year to that point in his career. He recorded 52 studio masters, released 3 albums, and filmed 3 movies; and all that with being out of commission for almost the entire first 3 months while completing his stint in the U.S. Army.

For the 25-year-old singer, the albums Elvis Is Back! and His Hand In Mine represented artistic achievements on par with his outstanding work in the previous decade. The latter title was his first Long Play (LP) sacred album, a follow-up of sorts to his 1957 Extended Play (EP) sacred album Peace In The Valley.

Elvis recorded the entire His Hand In Mine album the night of October 30, finishing in the early morning hours of October 31, 1960. Amazingly, the record was in stores within a month – presumably rushed to have it ready for the Christmas season. RCA released His Hand In Mine in both mono and stereo formats.

As a second generation Elvis fan, I first heard His Hand In Mine in the early 1990s on CD. As with so many Elvis albums, I have bought it a number of times in different CD configurations over the years since then. When Kees asked me to review the album for its 60th anniversary back in 2020, I sought out a vinyl version – a first pressing of the 1960 mono release.

One of the things I enjoy about collecting used records is pondering their history. I imagine a young Elvis fan in 1960 buying this album at her or his local record shop and taking it home to play it for the first time. What else is happening in November 1960?

Inner sleeve of HIS HAND IN MINE (RCA, 1960; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for color version

How many others owned this particular copy of His Hand In Mine before it made its way into my hands 60 years later? Whose hands will hold it 60 years from now?

The album is in remarkable condition for its age. The outer sleeve, featuring a photo of Elvis at the piano, taken during a break while filming Flaming Star, is still vibrant. Only a small tear beneath the RCA logo on the front cover, where a fan was perhaps too aggressive in removing a price tag, and minor splitting in the bottom seam betray its age. The inner sleeve, promoting Elvis Is Back!, is in great shape. On the vinyl itself, there are but a few little crackles in quiet portions. Whether this is an indication that the original owner(s) did not play this album very often or simply treated it with reverence, there is no way to know.

When I first heard His Hand In Mine nearly 30 years ago, I believed in God but had little understanding of Christianity. While I thought Elvis’ voice sounded beautiful on many of the songs, I really did not connect with them beyond that. I did occasionally play this or one of his other sacred albums on a random Sunday, seeking something.

In 2018, I accepted Jesus into my heart, and I was literally reborn (2 Corinthians 5:17). While I still stumble every day, I now have a personal relationship with Jesus through daily reading of the Bible and prayer that helps me get back on track to becoming who He created me to be.

As for Elvis’ sacred recordings, they began to take on new meaning for me. It is within this context that I want to examine His Hand In Mine.

Side 1 of HIS HAND IN MINE (RCA, 1960; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side 1

  1. His Hand In Mine
    The album kicks off with the title track, “His Hand In Mine.” Elvis’ voice is full of new confidence and strength on this slow number – as compared to 1956’s more faltering “Love Me Tender,” for instance.
  2. I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs
    Up next, the pace picks up with “I’m Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs.” This song sounds like Elvis fulfilling his dream of being in a gospel quartet. The line “When Jesus says to me, ‘Well done'” recalls the following verse from the Bible: “His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord'” (Matthew 25:21 KJV). As a Christian, I do not fear death, as I know it is when I will go to meet Jesus. I pray I will live the rest of my life such that He will say, “Well done.”
  3. In My Father’s House
    There is an even more direct Scriptural reference in the next song, “In My Father’s House.” Elvis sings, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not true He would have told me so.” In the Bible, Jesus states: “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 KJV). Elvis’ vocals are exquisite on lines like, “Jesus died upon the cross to bear my sorrow. Freely died that souls like you might have new life.” A highlight of the album.
  4. Milky White Way
  5. Known Only To Him
    “Known Only To Him” is an interesting 1960 recording by Elvis because it is one of those where portions sound like his later voice from the 1970s. His inspirational and Christmas songs do tend to blend together better across the decades, though, compared to many of his other recordings. It would have been interesting to hear Elvis take another try at this song in 1970 or 1971, even if live. I don’t think he would have been able to better this version, though.
  6. I Believe In The Man In The Sky

Side 2 of HIS HAND IN MINE (RCA, 1960; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side 2

  1. Joshua Fit The Battle
    My first complete read-through of the Bible in 2018 had a secondary and unexpected benefit of filling in details for me on a number of songs. For instance, in the upbeat “Joshua Fit The Battle,” I had always heard the lyrics as, “I know you’ve heard about Joshua, he was the son of none.” Yes, for 25 years I thought Joshua was an orphan until I finally learned that his father’s name was Nun. The song recounts the battle of Jericho, which is featured in chapter 6 of Joshua in the Old Testament. In his later years, Joshua was one of only two adults from Moses’ original followers to make it to the Promised Land.
  2. Jesus Knows What I Need
    “Jesus Knows What I Need” is one of those songs that speaks Truth whenever I need comfort. I can imagine Elvis singing this one around the piano with friends. A bit of trivia: In subsequent pressings of His Hand In Mine, this song’s title was corrected to “He Knows Just What I Need.”
  3. Swing Down Sweet Chariot
    The humorous “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” takes us back to the Old Testament. Called “Zeke” in the song, the prophet Ezekiel’s encounter with the chariot of God is described in chapter 1 of Ezekiel. Though I love this song, I much prefer the alternate version of Elvis’ 1968 re-recording that features the Blossoms as the backing vocalists.
  4. Mansion Over The Hilltop
    Like “In My Father’s House” on Side 1, “Mansion Over the Hilltop” and “If We Never Meet Again” on Side 2 provide beautiful illustrations of the Perfect Place, Heaven. In “Mansion,” a favorite line is, “Someday yonder we will never more wander, but walk on streets that are pure as gold.” I just love the sound of Elvis’ voice as he paints this picture.
  5. If We Never Meet Again
    Elvis’ mother, Gladys, passed away in August 1958 at the age of 46, and I’m sure Elvis had her in mind while recording “If We Never Meet Again,” which states: “If we never meet again this side of Heaven, as we struggle through this world and its strife, there’s another meeting place somewhere in Heaven, by the side of the River of Life – where the charming roses bloom forever and ever, and separations come no more.” The “River of Life” is from Revelation 22:1 in the Bible, which describes God’s throne in Heaven. Elvis was only 23 when he lost his mother. At a September 1958 press conference before leaving to be stationed in Germany until his return to the U.S. and civilian life in March 1960, he had this to say about her, captured on the Elvis Sails EP: “My mother, I suppose since I was an only child, that we might have been a little closer. Everyone loves their mother, but I was an only child, and Mother was always right with me, all my life. It wasn’t only like losing a mother, it was like losing a friend, a companion, someone to talk to. I could wake her up any hour of the night, and if I was worried or troubled about something, she’d get up and try to help me.”
  6. Working On The Building
    I first heard the energetic “Working On The Building” on the 1988 album Elvis In Nashville and loved it right away. Take 2, released on the 2006 FTD edition of His Hand In Mine, is also a favorite. In the gospel segment of the 1968 ELVIS television special, wheelbarrows can be seen as part of the set decoration – reminding me of this 1960 song, which was unfortunately not performed on the show. “I’m working on the building, it’s a true foundation,” sings Elvis. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus talks about the importance of building a strong spiritual foundation. “Working On The Building” serves as a perfect conclusion to His Hand In Mine.

Back cover of HIS HAND IN MINE (RCA, 1960; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for color version

I enjoy looking at album covers while playing records. His Hand In Mine includes liner notes on the back by Robert Kotlowitz. He explores Elvis’ early faith through attending the First Assembly Church of God in Tupelo, Mississippi.

An interesting tidbit in the liner notes, which I do not recall reading elsewhere, is, “Gladys and Vernon Presley, with their small son [Elvis] standing between them, became a popular trio singing hymns at camp meetings, revivals and church conventions.” Truth or legend?

The liner notes also include a quote from Elvis’ mother: “When Elvis was just a little fellow, he would slide off my lap, run down the aisle, and scramble up to the platform of the church. He would stand looking up at the choir and try to sing with them. He was too little to know the words, of course, but he could carry the tune.”

Except for a quick session in June 1958, which was a couple of months before his mother’s death, Elvis made no formal recordings while serving in the Army. While Elvis Is Back! and the G.I. Blues soundtrack afforded no such opportunities, I firmly believe His Hand In Mine is a “labor of love” by Elvis in tribute not only to Jesus but, as Kotlowitz states, to Gladys Presley.

Back inner sleeve of HIS HAND IN MINE (RCA, 1960; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for color version


“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
Proverb 15:3