Some Elvis songs go from rumor to reality

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

Elvis His Life From A To Z (Worth and Tamerius)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 A lot of the information is now outdated, and these days there are better Elvis references (though multiples are needed to replace this single volume), particularly online – but I still pull it out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.

Education, Elvis Style (Part 2)

Read Education, Elvis Style – Part 1

Back in the early 1990s, while finishing up high school, I spent all of the gift money I received for graduation on three Elvis items. My way of thinking was, what better way to further my education?

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from those items.

Elvis Today CD

  • About Elvis: Just because the record company actually bothered to print the lyrics in the liner notes of an Elvis CD doesn’t mean they always used the right words.
  • About life: Hold on to the most important pieces of your life, or they may soon be gone.

ELVIS: His Life From A to Z book

  • About Elvis: His favorite board games were Monopoly and Scrabble. He played Monopoly with the Beatles when they met in 1965.
  • About life: If an entire 620-page encyclopedia can be devoted to your life, you’ve hit the big time.

ELVIS: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll-The Complete 50s Masters 5-CD set

  • About Elvis: He played electric bass on 1957’s “Baby, I Don’t Care.”
  • About life: Life can change at a moment’s notice, sometimes due to our actions (paying to record a demonstration record) and other times due to circumstances beyond our control (being drafted into the US Army).

No need to send me any gifts now, though, folks. My graduation from studying Elvis and life won’t be for some while, I hope.

Education, Elvis Style (Part 1)

At this time of year in the United States, high school and university graduations are taking place. It is customary to send friends and family members gifts once they reach this milestone. Particularly for high school grads, these gifts often come in the form of money – intended for use in further education.

I graduated from high school in the early 1990s and sure enough, in the last few months of my senior year, checks from various friends and family members arrived in the mail. At the time, I was still working on obtaining my first summer job. When it came to money, I basically had none.

That had never stopped me from spending time browsing record stores, though. I can remember drooling over two Elvis CD releases in particular that had been out for about a year by that time: ELVIS: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Complete 50s Masters and Elvis Today.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, of course, was the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed 5-CD boxed set that collected his 1950s material together in a coherent fashion for the first time. I can remember just staring at the track listings on the back of the box, marveling over the song titles.

Cover of 1992 Elvis Today CD

Elvis Today was the CD debut of a 1975 album previously available only on vinyl. Since RCA had inexplicably deleted the original album from its catalog, I had been trying to track it down for years before the CD release. I only had three of the songs on it and wanted desperately to hear the others.

Both releases were part of RCA/BMG’s “Elvis In The 90s” series, which had the mission of bringing all of his master recordings to the CD format.

As I dutifully wrote out thank you notes for the gracious graduation gifts people had sent me, a plan began formulating in my head. Sure, I was starting university classes in a few months, but what did I need for that right now? I had a better idea.

Soon enough, I was at the record store and spent most of my graduation money on The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Elvis Today. I had just enough left over to buy a reference book I had also been eyeing up for some time: ELVIS: His Life From A to Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius.

People had sent money for me to further my education, and that was exactly what I intended to do.

To be continued. . . .