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After making his first appearance on National TVon the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in New York on January 28, Elvis stayed in town and at around 11 a.m. on Monday, January 30, he and the band headed for the RCA Studio, 155 E. 24th Street. They recorded for seven hours that day, then three hours on January 31. These sessions yielded 'Blue Suede Shoes' and five other tunes: 'My Baby Left Me', 'One-Sided Love Affair', 'So Glad You're Mine', 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You' and 'Tutti Fruitti'.
'Blue Suede Shoes' was the only hit single in the bunch, but the sessions were crucial in Elvis history because they marked the point at which he started moving away from his raw, pure Sun sound to the more commercial and mainstream sound RCA envisioned for him.
Elvis returned twice more to the New York Studios.
On February 3, Elvis returned to New York for a second recording session at RCA's New York Studio, prior to his second appearance on the 'Dorsey Brothers Stage Show', the following day. These sessions yielded 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' and 'Shake, Rattle and Roll'.
Elvis returned for a final time to the New York studios on Monday, July 2, 1956, this time following an appearance on the Steve Allen Show. Over seven hours recorded 'Hound Dog' and 'Don't Be Cruel', which would be released five weeks later and become his most successful single to-date, racking up 11 weeks at No. 1. Elvis also recorded a nice ballad, 'Any Way You Want Me'.
Colonel Parker tells RCA vice president Larry Kananga during the day that 'Hound Dog' may become such a big hit that RCA may have to change it's corporate symbol from the 'Victor Dog' to the 'Hound Dog'.
This is the first time that Elvis takes over full leadership of a session, and he insists on completing each song to his satisfaction, continuing with 'Hound Dog' (thirty-one takes) and 'Don't Be Cruel' (twenty eight) well past the point that nominated producer Steve Sholes would have quit. Elvis is the producer.
The following is an exclusive extract from the New York RCA Studio 1: The Complete Sessions CD, DVD Audio and Book set courtesy of Joseph Pirzada and exclusive to EP Music / Elvis Australia.
The action finally starts when Sholes calls for a test of all the equipment and instruments. Microphones have to be strategically placed around the room to get the sound they're after. Immediately DJ Fontana picks up his drumsticks and taps out a rhythm, while Bill Black slaps his bass and Scotty Moore plucks out a beat. Where is Elvis amid all this? Right where he wants to be - at the piano playing Gospel tunes and singing spirituals with the Jordanaires. Finally, the recording session is set to begin. After the levels have been set, Steve and Elvis trade thoughts and decide they should record Hound Dog first.
Gordon Stoker remembers that RCA had brought in Big Mama Thornton's version of 'Hound Dog' as a demo: 'They had demos on almost everything that Elvis recorded, and we'd take it from the demo. We'd listen to the demo, most of the time, and we'd take it from the demo. We had (Big) Mama Thornton's record on 'Hound Dog', since she had a record on that. After listening to it we actually thought it was awful and couldn't figure out why Elvis wanted to do that'. He didn't know at the time of course, that Elvis' version wasn't based on Thornton's rendition of 'Hound Dog' at all but on the version he saw in Las Vegas by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys.
Although Shorty Long does play piano on the other two songs they recorded that day, he is not available for the recording of 'Hound Dog'. They need a piano player for the track and in steps Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires. Since they can't set up a microphone at the piano for him, Gordon won't be able to sing his tenor part during this song.
Recording sessions were done much differently back in 1956. It was monaural sound back then. The sounds were mixed as they were recorded, using single track tape recorders. Patching two or more takes together was not widely done at the time (It would be more common even two years later), so if you didn't get the sound you wanted you had to go back and do a re-take. The standard procedure called for the musicians and singer(s) to record what they dubbed as a rehearsal take, and then listen closely to the playback thereby deducting what needed to be changed or altered to get the sound they wanted to achieve for the actual recording. Without Gordon singing tenor, the Jordanaires try to come up with a combined sound as best they can to cover it, and Gordon laughs as he states, 'That's one of the worst sounds we ever got on any record!' However Elvis insists on doing the song, and the results, albeit without Gordon singing tenor, will still do more than please the masses. Gordon also related that Elvis very much knew in his mind what he wanted the final results to be so they didn't spend a lot of time working out tempos.
What made Elvis so unique were the liberties he took in the studio. Stoker confers that 50 years ago most musicians were extremely serious and cut-throat in the studio - but not Elvis. He had fun with it, he enjoyed himself and thereby created a different atmosphere than most musicians and singers were used to in the studio. Perhaps that's part of the reason why Elvis' sound was so unique, so vibrant. As long as they came up with a sound that Elvis liked, the group was happy as Gordon relates.
This was the last time Elvis held a recording session in New York.
Elvis Presley New York July 2, 1956
January 30 1956 RCA Studio's - New York
Blue Suede Shoes G2WB 1230-10
My Baby Left Me G2WB 1231-09
One Sided Love Affair G2WB 1232-08
So Glad You're Mine G2WB 1233-10
January 31 1956 RCA Studio's - New York
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You) G2WB 1254-18
Tutti Frutti G2WB 1255-10
February 3 1956 RCA Studio's - New York
Lawdy Miss Clawdy G2WB 1293-10
Shake Rattle & Roll G2WB 1294-12
Shake Rattle & Roll (Backup Vocal Overdub) G2WB 1294
July 2 1956 RCA Studio's - New York
Hound Dog G2WB 5935-31
Don't Be Cruel G2WB 5936-28
Any Way You Want Me (That's How I Will Be) G2WB 5937-12
- Elvis Day By Day : By Ernst Jorgensen & Peter Guralnick is a complete account of public, private, rare, forgotten, and renowned moments, captured with such detail and immediacy they read like diary entries in a life--from first steps to the first time the young 'hillbilly cat' stepped on stage; from the creation of a revolutionary new sound to the last days of a universally known, tragically misunderstood music legend. No longer in print. Grab one if you find one.
Elvis A Life In Music - The Complete Recording Sessions Book (Ernst Jorgensen) is a superlative book combining beautiful illustrations and searching text. The author, responsible for BMG's modernisation of the Elvis Presley catalogue, has dug well beneath the surface to present the definitive story behind Elvis Presley's recording sessions. In the process the reader is taken into the recording studio to experience the atmosphere: 'Altering the lyrics, laughing as his voice cracked, throwing in the first two lines of 'A Little Less Conversation'. Elvis was relaxed and energetic as they ran through a series of incomplete takes, finally making it to the end at take ten'. If you are interested in Elvis' recoding sessions you will without doubt consider this your most prized possession - book wise. Read Review
CDs / Audio DVDs
Elvis Presley FTD Special Edition 2 CD Set
From Elvis Presley Music ---- https://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au