THAT’S THE WAY IT IS: Six in the Summer of ’70 (Playlist Recipes #9)

Elvis Presley performs “Polk Salad Annie” at the August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

About seven years ago, I wrote a review of That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition. The 2014 Elvis Presley boxed set included 8 CDs and 2 DVDs, and my review rambled on about them for nearly 10,000 words.

Despite the length of that review, there are some loose ends that I would finally like to begin tying up regarding my all-time favorite Elvis event. I don’t know how many posts this will actually take, and they won’t necessarily run sequential to one another, either. Such is the way of things when you ride The Mystery Train.

By the time of the That’s The Way It Is project, Elvis had already performed two month-long engagements at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. From July 31 to August 28, 1969, he performed 57 concerts, 11 of which RCA recorded in full near the end of the series and compiled into the Elvis In Person half of the From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis double album.

Elvis performed another 57-show engagement from January 26 through February 23, 1970. RCA recorded portions of nine shows from the middle of this engagement, which resulted in the core of the album On Stage.

MGM’s camera crews were rolling for the Elvis: That’s The Way It Is documentary as he began his 3rd engagement on August 10, 1970. Marketed as the “Elvis Summer Festival,” this one ran through September 8 and included 59 shows. RCA recorded the first 6 concerts in full–concluding with the August 13 Dinner Show. Only four of the live songs found their way onto the That’s The Way It Is album, which acted as a tie-in to the film but otherwise featured studio songs Elvis had recorded in June.

These first three engagements at the International Hotel include some of the greatest live performances of Elvis’ career, but the vast majority of the recordings languished away in RCA’s vaults until long after his death. While performances of individual songs were often superior in the two previous engagements, to the extent there was overlap, the overall shows in the third engagement, as captured for That’s The Way It Is, are better than any that preceded or followed them.

All right, if I’m not careful, I’ll be on the way to another unreadable 10,000 word post. I love this topic, but let’s get on with it.

To assist with today’s post, I created the following infochart covering the six concerts RCA recorded for That’s The Way It Is. The numbers in the concert columns represent the sequence he performed those songs in that particular show.

Elvis Presley Summer 1970 Setlists Infochart | Compiled by Tygrrius

Focusing on the 6 shows that RCA recorded in the course of 4 days, Elvis performed only 6 of the songs at every single concert:

  • That’s All Right
  • Love Me Tender
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • Polk Salad Annie
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love

All of these are strong highlights, with only a couple of exceptions in individual shows.

The following songs appeared in 5 of the 6 concerts:

  • Hound Dog
  • I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Suspicious Minds

Of these, the highlights are tremendous versions of “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin'”. While the “Suspicious Minds” live performances are not quite as good as his August 1969 renditions, the August 1970 versions are still stellar and far better than the ones captured in February 1970. Though again inferior to 1969, “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel” remain entertaining at this point and are not yet the throwaways they would unfortunately soon become – particularly “Hound Dog.”

Not including snippets, the following songs appeared in only 1 of the 6 concerts:

  • The Next Step Is Love
  • Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto
  • Stranger In The Crowd
  • Make The World Go Away
  • Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
  • The Wonder Of You
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Little Sister/Get Back
  • I Was The One
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight

All of the one-off songs have something to offer. One of the great “misses” of the time period, in my opinion, is “Stranger In The Crowd” not being chosen and promoted as a single for That’s The Way It Is, in lieu of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” The “Stranger In The Crowd” studio track is amazing, and his subsequent rehearsals with his core rhythm group for the live show prove it could have been dynamite. Unfortunately, the sole live version is marred by the Imperials vocal group. If only the Elvis team had worked out a simpler arrangement without the Imperials that was closer to those early rehearsals.

As it was his most recent hit at the time of these concerts, it is interesting that Elvis performed “The Wonder Of You” only once during the six shows.

Featuring Elvis on electric guitar, “Little Sister/Get Back,” “I Was The One,” “Love Me” (August 12 version only), and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are all top-notch. Even the non-guitar version of “Love Me” (August 11) is a stand-out and far better than any post-1970 version.

With revised arrangements, “Words” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” are two songs Elvis improves in Summer 1970 over his Summer 1969 performances.

Other highlights of the overall six-concert span include “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” (of course) and “Just Pretend.”

These are darn-near perfect shows. The only major Elvis categories they are lacking are gospel and the blues. It is unfortunate that Elvis did not perform “Oh Happy Day” at any of these concerts, despite having rehearsed it at the last minute, as he surely would have recorded a superlative version at this time in his career. However, the gospel sound is certainly present on a few of the secular recordings, including showstoppers “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” As for the blues, some of that influence can certainly be heard in the aforementioned electric guitar segment from the August 12 Midnight Show.

Here is my “August 1970 Ultimate Show” playlist recipe for this concert engagement. As noted, Elvis’ setlist varied widely each night, so no single show actually contained all of these songs. In fact, such a concert would have been longer than any show Elvis actually gave in his entire life, to my knowledge.

  1. Opening Riff/That’s All Right (August 10, 1970, Opening Show [OS])
  2. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (August 12, 1970, Midnight Show [MS])
  3. I Got A Woman (August 13, 1970, Dinner Show [DS]
  4. Hound Dog (August 11, 1970, MS)
  5. Love Me Tender (August 11, 1970, MS)
  6. The Next Step Is Love (August 10, 1970, OS)
  7. Just Pretend (August 11, 1970, MS)
  8. Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto (August 13, 1970, DS)
  9. Men With Broken Hearts/Walk A Mile In My Shoes (August 11, 1970, MS)
  10. I’ve Lost You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  11. There Goes My Everything (August 11, 1970, MS)
  12. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (August 12, 1970, DS)
  13. Stranger In The Crowd (August 13, 1970, DS)
  14. Words (August 12, 1970, MS)
  15. Something (August 11, 1970, MS)
  16. Make The World Go Away (August 13, 1970, DS)
  17. Patch It Up (August 10, 1970, OS)
  18. Sweet Caroline (August 12, 1970, MS)
  19. I Can’t Stop Loving You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  20. Twenty Days And Twenty Nights (August 12, 1970, DS)
  21. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (August 12, 1970, MS)
  22. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (August 10, 1970, OS)
  23. Polk Salad Annie (August 12, 1970, MS)
  24. The Wonder Of You (August 13, 1970, DS)
  25. Heartbreak Hotel (August 12, 1970, MS)
  26. One Night (August 12, 1970, MS)
  27. Don’t Be Cruel (August 11, 1970, MS)
  28. Blue Suede Shoes (August 12, 1970, MS)
  29. All Shook Up (August 12, 1970, MS)
  30. US Male (August 11, 1970, MS)
  31. Little Sister/Get Back (August 12, 1970, MS)
  32. I Was The One (August 12, 1970, MS)
  33. Love Me (August 12, 1970, MS)
  34. Are You Lonesome Tonight (August 12, 1970, MS)
  35. Bridge Over Troubled Water (August 11, 1970, DS)
  36. Suspicious Minds (August 12, 1970, MS)
  37. Can’t Help Falling In Love (August 12, 1970, MS)

Though I did not structure it this way on purpose, all 6 shows are represented in this “best of” playlist. If you want an even fuller compilation, you could even include “Introductions By Elvis” from the August 12 Midnight Show after “Polk Salad Annie” and before “The Wonder Of You.”

As you can probably predict from the above playlist, my favorite show of the Summer 1970 engagement is the August 12 Midnight Show (disc 6 of 2014’s That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition and disc 2 of 2000’s That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition). In fact, this is my favorite Elvis concert ever. It features an impeccable setlist, Elvis in top form, and the fun electric guitar segment.

Though he still had many stellar recordings and accomplishments ahead of him, Elvis was never quite as awesome again as he was in Summer 1970. I am grateful we have so much material from that time period to enjoy. I wouldn’t be as strong an Elvis fan without the magic of That’s The Way It Is.

Blessings,
TY


“We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”
Psalm 33:20-22

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 4)

This is the finale of a four post series covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 3]

Released as a 2-LP set in 1987, The Top Ten Hits contained all 38 of Elvis’ top 10 hits on Billboard‘s key US charts. Other than a few outliers that failed to make the top 10 and are not on the set (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Blue Christmas,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “My Way,” and “A Little Less Conversation”), it includes all of his most famous songs for the general public. Indeed, outside of boxed sets, The Top Ten Hits remains one of the most comprehensive Elvis releases to date when it comes to mainstream songs.

Today’s post will feature hits included on Side D of The Top Ten Hits, most of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Return To Sender (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: August 1, 1976, Hampton Roads, VA, New Haven ’76
Per request, Elvis performs “Return To Sender” off the top of his head at a concert in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Included as a bonus track on New Haven ’76, this is the only officially released live version of the song. Considering it was recorded in 1976, the nadir of Elvis concert years, it actually isn’t horrible.

02. Devil In Disguise (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
It is unfortunate that Elvis never performed live in the mid-1960s. This song would surely have resulted in a classic rendition at that time.

03. Bossa Nova Baby (hit version recorded 1963)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
A medley of “Return To Sender” and “Bossa Nova Baby” might have been fun in his 1969 live shows to acknowledge a couple of hit songs from his 1960s movies.

04. Crying In The Chapel (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
Voice-wise, 1968 probably would have been the best time for Elvis to have performed “Crying In The Chapel” live. I don’t see where it would really fit in any of his four shows captured for the ELVIS special, though. August 1970 probably would have been a good vocal opportunity for it, too. I would love to hear the Blossoms or the Sweet Inspirations backing Elvis on this instead of the Jordanaires.

Elvis Presley performs “The Wonder Of You” at the August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

05. In The Ghetto (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis [Elvis In Person]
Elvis’ live versions of “In The Ghetto” never quite lived up to the studio versions. While he usually performed it strongly, he never seems as “into” the song. A stripped-down version, with just Elvis and an acoustic guitar would have been ideal.

06. Suspicious Minds (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, Hot August Night
An apparent mistake is actually what gives this live version of “Suspicious Minds” an edge over other stellar versions recorded in the same concert series. After James Burton’s opening guitar solo, Elvis fails to begin singing, so Burton continues the solo. Overall, this live version is even better than the studio master.

07. Don’t Cry Daddy (hit version recorded 1969)
Ultimate Live Version: February 18, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, Greatest Hits, Volume One
While I love “Don’t Cry Daddy,” it does not work as well in a live concert setting, and I can understand why Elvis dropped it by 1971. That said, this live version is top-notch.

08. The Wonder Of You (hit version recorded live, February 18, 1970, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, On Stage)
Ultimate Live Version (after hit recorded):
August 13, 1970, Dinner Show, Las Vegas, NV, The Way It Was
I have found that time behaves inconsistently in certain situations and for certain people. Elvis’ entire career, for instance, was compressed into about 21 years, yet he left a wealth of material behind that continues to forge his musical legacy. Elvis released his February 1970 live version of “The Wonder Of You” as a single in April 1970, and it peaked at number nine on June 27, 1970. Less than two months later, during one of the concerts captured for the MGM documentary movie Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he introduces this August 1970 live recording by stating, “I had a record out last year that–-this year . . . this year, wasn’t it?–-that did pretty good for me. I’d like to sing it for you.” In this case, two to four months in “Elvis time” was like a year in normal time.

09. Burning Love (hit version recorded 1972)
Ultimate Live Version: April 18, 1972, San Antonio, TX, Close Up
Featured in the documentary movie Elvis On Tour (MGM, 1972), this rockin’ version of “Burning Love” exceeds any other live renditions released thus far. The March 1972 studio master remains the best, however.

Well, that about wraps things up for our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Over 43 years after his death, Elvis Presley concert recordings continue to surface. With that in mind, we may have to check in on these live hits again in a few years.

Thanks for reading.

Your Conductor,
TY


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
John 14:1

Elvis: The Ultimate Live Top Ten Hits (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a series of 4 posts covering Elvis Presley’s best officially-released live recording of each of his US top ten hits.

[Read Part 2]

Today’s post features hits included on Side C of The Top Ten Hits (1987), all of which were studio recordings on the original album.

01. Stuck On You (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: March 26, 1960, Miami, FL, A Life In Music
Three weeks after Elvis finished his two-year stint in the US Army, he taped a television special with the legendary Frank Sinatra, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: It’s Nice To Go Traveling – Welcome Home Elvis. The program also starred Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Nancy Sinatra. In front of the studio audience, Elvis performed both sides of his new single. A strong rendition, this is the only live version of “Stuck On You” to have surfaced to date.

Elvis Presley performs “Stuck On You” on March 26, 1960, as part of the WELCOME HOME ELVIS special (ABC)

02. It’s Now Or Never (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: February 23, 1970, Closing Show, Las Vegas, NV, The On Stage Season: The Opening And Closing Shows 1970
When seeing Elvis in Las Vegas, some of the best shows to catch were either the Opening Show that began a concert engagement or the Closing Show that ended one. In the Closing Show that concluded his January 26-February 23 concert series at the International Hotel in 1970, Elvis sang an off-the-cuff yet solid version of “It’s Now Or Never.”

03. Are You Lonesome Tonight (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: August 26, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Elvis Aron Presley
In one segment of each of his 1969 live shows, Elvis played electric guitar on a few songs. During this portion at the August 26 Midnight Show, Elvis begins a version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” that sounds fairly normal at the beginning before he makes a humorous lyric replacement and breaks down into fits of laughter as soaring soprano Cissy Houston of the Sweet Inspirations continues diligently to sing in the background without missing a note. This only makes Elvis more hysterical. Elvis often had fun with “Are You Lonesome Tonight” on stage, but this version, which I refer to as “Are You Laughing Tonight,” by far, is the most endearing. If you want a “serious” version, though, I point you to the August 25, 1969, Midnight Show, from the previous night – first released on Hot August Night.

04. Surrender (hit version recorded 1960)
Ultimate Live Version: August 21, 1969, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV, Collectors Gold
Sure, it lasts less than 30 seconds and consists only of Elvis singing “la-da-da-da-da-da-da-daah”‘s instead of the actual lyrics to “Surrender,” but it is the longer of the only two live versions officially released. Oddly enough, I enjoy listening to it.

05. I Feel So Bad (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
If only Elvis had attempted “I Feel So Bad” during one of the 1968 “Sit Down” shows or rehearsals for the ELVIS special.

06. Little Sister (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, Elvis Aron Presley
Rare in his 1970 shows (and permanently absent by 1972, as far as I know), Elvis includes a segment where he plays electric guitar at this show – my favorite concert ever released. Captured for Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, he kicks that portion off with a great version of “Little Sister.”

07. His Latest Flame (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
“His Latest Flame” surely would have been terrific had he performed it at that same August 12, 1970, concert.

08. Can’t Help Falling In Love (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: June 29, 1968, 6 PM Show, Burbank, CA, ELVIS-TV Special
Almost as good as the studio master.

09. Good Luck Charm (hit version recorded 1961)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
While I enjoy the studio recording for what it is, it is no big loss that Elvis apparently never performed “Good Luck Charm” live.

10. She’s Not You (hit version recorded 1962)
Ultimate Live Version: None available
During rehearsals captured for Elvis On Tour (1972), Elvis made a surprise attempt at “Young And Beautiful” from 1957’s Jailhouse Rock. Unfortunately, it appears he never performed that one live. Along the same lines, I imagine “She’s Not You” would have suited his voice just as well in 1972.

Next time, we’ll wrap up our look at Elvis’ best officially released live recordings of his hit songs. Until then, take care. Thank you for reading.

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 4]


“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:17-18

2020 Songs of the Year

Thank you for riding The Mystery Train. Welcome to 2021!

Every year at about this time, I like to unleash my analytical side on my digital music data.

According to iTunes, out of 4,797 Elvis Presley tracks in my digital collection, the one I played most often in 2020 across all devices was a live recording of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” from the August 22, 1969, Midnight Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, as released on Disc 3 of Elvis Live 1969. I played this rockin’ track 17 times, making it my fifth-most played song of the year overall. Here it is on YouTube:

Credit: Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

I listened to 7,059 Elvis songs on my devices in 2020 (including duplicates). That is an average of 19 Elvis songs a day. I listened to 2,221 different Elvis tracks during the year.

One of 6,454 non-Elvis tracks in my collection, my most played song overall in 2020 was Jesus Culture‘s “Break Every Chain,” with lead vocals by Kristene DiMarco. Featured on the 2011 album Awakening – Live From Chicago, this live recording played 27 times on my various devices this year. Again from YouTube, here it is:

Credit: Jesus Culture channel (YouTube)

The other three songs that beat out Elvis in number of plays in 2020 for me were:

  • It Is Well With My Soul” by Bethel Music, also featuring lead vocals by DiMarco, Live At The Civic: You Make Me Brave, 2014, 21 plays.
  • Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers, Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord, 1968, 18 plays.
  • Burn The Ships” by for KING & COUNTRY, Burn The Ships, 2018, 18 plays.

Overall, I listened to 11,650 recordings using my digital devices this year. That works out to 32 songs a day. I listened to 4,621 different tracks during the year.

2020 was a challenging year for everyone, full of surprises. As a new year dawns, I pray that all of you have health, peace, and strength.

Blessings,
TY


“I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19

Sammy takes all the chips in Elvis Trivialities #16

A trickily-worded question did not fool Sammy, and he became a first-time winner when he correctly answered Elvis Trivialities #16 yesterday.

And the answer is…

Elvis Presley included the song “What’d I Say” from Viva Las Vegas, his 1964 movie with Ann-Margret, in 1969 concerts at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

Elvis’ take on the Ray Charles tune was the B-Side of “Viva Las Vegas.” As for the A-Side, Elvis never once performed “Viva Las Vegas” live in Las Vegas or anywhere else, as far as has been documented. He did reference the movie title on occasion during his career monologues in his 1969 shows.

Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley in VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964, MGM)

For whatever reason, “What’d I Say,” the B-Side of the 1964 single, got slightly more traction, though it was inferior to the A-Side, “Viva Las Vegas.” “What’d I Say” hit #21 and “Viva Las Vegas” unfortunately only made it to #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Viva Las Vegas” and “Blue Suede Shoes” are probably Elvis’ best-known songs that failed to become top ten hits upon initial release.

Sammy takes home a big bucket of chips from the bragging rights table. He also becomes a member of that esteemed group of certified Elvis trivia experts, The Mystery Train’s Night Riders. Congratulations to Sammy!

You never know when the next Elvis Trivialities question will arrive. Will it be in seven minutes? Seven days? Seven years? Hedge your bets now by subscribing to The Mystery Train Blog. Then, you will be notified whenever there is a new post. “All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel” to win Elvis Trivialities.


The Mystery Train’s Night Riders

  • October 7, 2020: Sammy (3:18)
  • June 14, 2013: Alec (0:18) | Honorable Mention: Wellsy (3:01)
  • February 22, 2013: Thomas (13:36)
  • January 11, 2013: George Millar (4:19)
  • December 23, 2012: Thomas (0:36)
  • October 9, 2012: David (14:38) | Honorable Mention: John (22:06)
  • February 4, 2012: Thomas (13:52)
  • February 3, 2012: Thomas (2:18)
  • December 21, 2011: Wellsy (2:37)
  • October 31, 2011: Thomas (17:32)
  • October 1, 2011: Jimmy Cool (1:01)
  • September 9, 2011: Steve Brogdon (0:17)*
  • August 6, 2011: Thomas (2:26)
  • July 9, 2011: Thomas (5:26)
  • June 23, 2011: Fred Wolfe (0:18)
  • June 22, 2011: Ty stumps the train (no winner)

*Record time


“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Psalm 27:14

Elvis Trivialities #16

Welcome back to Elvis Trivialities! It has been over seven years since our last question. Here we go again!

Elvis Trivialities On TheMysteryTrainBlog.com

Your question is…

What song from a 1964 movie with Ann-Margret did Elvis Presley include in 1969 concerts at the International Hotel in Las Vegas?

If you’re the first person to answer this question correctly in the comments below, you will win more bragging rights than you can imagine.

Only one answer per person, so make it a good one.

Good luck!


“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”
Proverb 13:20

Thank You, Mac: The Last Verse

I want to pause a few moments to celebrate entertainer Mac Davis, who passed away on Tuesday. The songwriter/singer/actor/musician was 78.

Among Elvis fans, Davis is best known as the writer of the hits “In Ghetto” and “Don’t Cry Daddy,” both of which Elvis recorded at his 1969 American Sound Studio sessions in Memphis. Standing with “If I Can Dream” (1968) as one of the few socially conscious Elvis songs, “In The Ghetto” broke Elvis’ four-year drought of top ten hits when it made it to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969. “Don’t Cry Daddy” made its chart debut later the same year and eventually peaked at #6.

As a teenager in the 1950s, Davis became an Elvis fan and attended concerts in Texas. When, as an adult, he attended Elvis’ August 25, 1969, Midnight Show at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Elvis introduced Nancy Sinatra to the audience. He then had Davis stand up as well:

“There’s a guy sitting in her booth that’s one hell of a songwriter, ladies and gentlemen. He has written some beautiful stuff, and he wrote one of my biggest records. I’d like you to say hello to Mac Davis. He wrote ‘In The Ghetto,’ ladies and gentlemen.”

After introducing a number of other celebrities, Elvis went on to perform “In The Ghetto” and threw in a “Thank you, Mac” after the song concluded. These moments are captured on CD 9 of Sony’s Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, which I just finished reviewing here last week, as well as on FTD’s Hot August Night CD.

Davis co-wrote with Billy Strange several other Elvis songs, all recorded in 1968, including “A Little Less Conversation” for the film Live A Little, Love A Little. In Ken Sharp’s Writing For The King: The Stories Of The Songwriters (FTD, 2006), Davis notes that he actually had Aretha Franklin in mind when he wrote the song and then worked with Strange to change the lyrics to better suit Elvis when submitting it for use in the movie.

After appearing in the 2001 version of Ocean’s Eleven, an alternate take of “A Little Less Conversation” found a surprising new life in 2002 when a JXL remix for a Nike commercial during the World Cup became an international hit. In Writing For The King, Davis notes he was shocked to hear the song during the 2001 movie, and his kids in 2002 were even more shocked their dad wrote the “Elvis vs. JXL” hit. When a friend called him and told him the song had been remixed and had hit number one:

“I mentioned something about it to my boys and they both jumped up and down. They said, ‘Wait a minute, are you talking about the song in the commercial?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘God, well, all the kids in school are singing that. You wrote that Dad?’ They were totally impressed. I had never impressed them with anything before that.”

The Elvis recording would go on to serve as the opening theme to the 2003-2008 TV series Las Vegas, starring James Caan, Josh Duhamel and Nikki Cox. It has been used in countless other movies and trailers as well.

Davis and Strange composed two numbers that the singer recorded for his 1968 ELVIS special, “Memories” and “Nothingville.” That same recording of “Memories” later featured in the film Elvis On Tour (1972) as well as various posthumous documentaries, including 1981’s This Is Elvis.

They also wrote “Clean Up Your Own Backyard,” featured in the movie The Trouble With Girls, and the title song of the movie Charro.

After spending the early parts of his career writing songs for others, Davis went on in the 1970s to become a star in his own right, with multiple hits, including “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me” and “I Believe In Music.” In Davis’ 1980 Greatest Hits album, he included the note: “A special thanks to Billy Strange for starting it all & all those who believed: Elvis Presley, Clive Davis & especially Sandy Gallin.”

Davis also began an acting career in the 1970s that extended all the way to 2019. In 1979, he appeared with Nick Nolte in the sports comedy North Dallas Forty. In 1993, Davis hosted two television specials about Elvis, America Comes To Graceland and Elvis: His Life And Times – a re-edit of a 1987 BBC documentary, I Don’t Sing Like Nobody/Cut Me And I Bleed. Both versions are memorable as being among the best of such productions about Elvis.

Among a long list of other television credits, Davis appeared in a 1995 episode of ABC’s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. My niece and I never missed an episode on Sunday nights. Though he ostensibly played a villain on the show, Davis’ affable personality shined through.

As a huge fan of the comeback era, I cannot overstate Davis’ contributions to that portion of Elvis’ career. The movie songs he co-wrote with Strange brought Elvis fresh material that was of a quality unheard in his films since King Creole (1958) and Jailhouse Rock (1957) a decade earlier. We usually have to grade Elvis’ 1960s movie tunes on a curve, but the Davis-Strange compositions are among Elvis’ best songs, period, movie or otherwise. The same, of course, goes for “In The Ghetto” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.”

I want to leave the last word on Davis to Davis. From Writing For The King:

“I loved Elvis’ version of ‘Don’t Cry Daddy.’ I thought it was really poignant and really sweet. […] I do remember thinking that I should have written another verse for it. But that was me. That’ll be on my tombstone, ‘I was still working on that last verse.'”

Mac Davis as cult leader Larry Smiley in LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN – “Just Say Noah” (1995, Warner Brothers)


I’m praying for Davis, his family, and friends.

Blessings,
TY


“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
John 14:1