Elvis Presley | September 1-3, 1956 Recording Sessions
Elvis Presley : Sunday 2nd / Monday 3rd September 1956, L-R Gordon Stoker, Elvis Presley and )Hugh Jarrett.
The September 1-3, 1956 session at Radio Recorders was the first-ever time, that Elvis has visited the studios. Many more would follow in the next ten years. At 12:00pm Colonel Parker, Elvis and Gene Smith, Elvis' cousin arrived at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, where a large studio about the size of two large living rooms was reserved for Elvis' recording session. The doors were locked on the outside, inside sat a special guard, sitting watch over an 'ADMIT ONLY list. After greeting the Colonel, he guided us to a side door.
Elvis walks across the studio, seating himself at the piano, his cousin takes one of a dozen folding chairs leaning against the wall and seats himself just outside the glassed-in sound booth. Colonel Parker enters the booth to greet Mr.Steve Sholes, RCA manager of Specialty Artists and Repertoire, Mr W.W. Bullock, Manager of RCA records Division, Mr Robert Mosley, RCA Victor's West Coast Sales Promotion Manager and Engineer Thorne Nogar, all the men are dressed in casual denims and sport shirts. Elvis is wearing black slacks, yellow socks, red checked shirt, and black oxfords with red inserts. Warming at the piano, Elvis runs his hands idly along the keys.At the sound of the first note, The Jordanaires, led by Gordon Stoker, came in from the hall coffee machine, cups in hand, they join Elvis around the piano.After a few opening bars of the old standard 'Blue Moon' which Elvis plays hauntingly, eyes almost closed, he breaks into a raucous 'Hound Dog', singing playing, and tapping both feet at the same time, the music penetrating the end of the corridor, summons guitarist Scotty Moore, drummer D.J Fontana and Bass player Bill Black from the coffee machine
Bones Howe Recording Engineer : I'd worked with Elvis as an engineer at Radio Recorders back in the 50's and he really ran his own recording sessions. I mean, Steve Sholes, the RCA guy from Nashville, just sat there and ran the clock. So what it boils down to was Elvis produced his own records. He came to the session, picked the songs, and if something in the arrangement was changed, he was the one to change it. Everything was worked out spontaneously. Nothing was really rehearsed. Many of the important decisions normally made previous to a recording session were made during the session. What it was was a look to the future. Today everybody makes records this way. Back then Elvis was the only one.
He was the forerunner of everything that's record production these days. Consciously or unconsciously, everyone imitated him. People started doing what Elvis did. It was always about the music, he would keep working on a song, and he would listen to it played back, and his criterion was always, did it make him feel good? He didn't care if there were little mistakes, he was interested in anything that would make magic out of the record. The sessions were always fun, there was great energy, he was always doing something that was innovative. It was always about whether you had a feeling for music or not, whether you felt what he felt, that's why he liked Thorne (Nogar) so much. Thorne was a very genuine, sincere person, and he wanted Elvis to be completely happy with the records. The trick was that there was no trick. Thorne was there, and the studio was there-it was a level playing field. So he could just come in and do what felt good.
Gordon Stoker : We didn't rehearse much, when he came to a session you'd had demo's to listen to.
He didn't know, and we didn't know what we were going to do at a recording session until he got there.
Freddy Bienstock brought in a stack of demo's and we'd listen to them for hours before he'd decide.
Hugh Jarrett : He used us on everything that required vocal backing. We worked on almost every side he cut during those years. Not everything because some things didn't require a vocal group, but we were on most of his records from that time.We had been doing a lot of studio work and these were 'head' sessions - somebody would say 'Let's try this here' we'd run through it, he'd sing the song and we'd contribute what we felt. If we liked it, we did it, and if we didn't, we didn't, and of course if he did't like it, nobody did it. He was very acceptable to our ideas as far as the vocal background was concerned, but at the same time he did not hesitate to let us know if he had an idea that he wanted to try out. He was the boss.
Scotty Moore : If the band wasn't able to do it the way he wanted, he'd just say, well, do whatever you can do, then. Thorne Nogar : He ran the session, he would be right in the centre of everything, like with the Jordanaires when he sang, we would set it up with a unidirectional mike, so he would be standing right in front of them, facing them, and they would have their own directional microphone, and they would be singing to one another. He could spend two hours on a tune and then just throw it away.
Songwriter Otis Blackwell : I had the chance a couple of times (to meet Elvis) I was invited down by the Presley people. But, things were going so well, I was - considered one of the top writers and was doing a lot of records. I figured that if I split, I might've lost' it, so I didn't go anywhere.(Why 'Paralyzed' was never released as a single)The story I got was that, because of the word 'paralyzed' a lot of organizations got down on the thing, so they wouldn't release it as a single. At least that was the case here in the US - in Europe. It didn't hurt anybody. I used to sing all my own demos, and I thought that (he) did justice to the songs, and put the kind of feeling into it that I felt. The number would continue to be pushed, such as on the Ed Sullivan show.
From Colonel Parker - 'Regarding the ballad for your next show, I would like to make the following suggestions. At present we plan to use the other side of the new record titled 'Any Way You Want Me' and also the new novelty tune 'Paralized'.'The songs for the Sullivan Show will be 'Anyway Way You Want Me', 'Paralyzed', and 'Love Me' You can check with Hill and Range, Mr Freddy Bienstock for further details'.
L-R Neal Mattews, Hugh Jarrett, Elvis at the piano, Gene Smith and Steve Sholes.
A wonderful insight into Elvis' thoughts on the number can be found on the BMG The Complete Million Dollar Quartet CD , with Elvis introducing the number whilst talking about 'Billy Ward and the Dominoes' version of 'Don't Be Cruel' recorded on December 4th at Sun Studios, Memphis.
Elvis : What key did I do that 'Paralyzed ' end?...You know Carl?(Perkins)....All I got do is stand there Paralyzed...that's that's the way I thought about recording it, after it came out, I thought about doing it, the same way he done 'Don't Be Cruel' you know...'It says errr .....When you looked into my eyes, Slow you know'.
This may have been how Elvis approached the various live versions during 1957.
Long Tall Sally
Take 1-4, take 4 is the master.
Art Rupe - Long Tall Sally I produced out here in Los Angeles, the version that came out, what they had done in New Orleans wasn't acceptable and the title of it then was called 'The Thing', there was a horror movie out at the time, and Richard called it 'The Thing'. When I told them I didn't like that, they came up with 'Bald Head Sally and then we came up with 'Long Tall Sally'.
Writer and A & R man (for Specialty Records) Robert Blackwell, and Little Richard's dismay, the song 'Tutti Frutti' was covered by pop crooner Pat Boone who took the song higher on the pop charts (#12) than their original version had. They then decided that their next single would have faster-paced lyrics that Pat Boone couldn't replicate. Around this time, popular disc jockey Honey Chile introduced Robert to a young girl named Enortis Johnson who had the notion of writing a song for Little Richard to record to raise money for an operation needed by her Aunt Mary. The 'song' was actually a piece of paper which read: 'Saw Uncle John with Long Tall Sally, they saw Aunt Mary coming so they ducked back in the alley'.
Above, L-R Steve Sholes sat foreground, Hugh Jarrett stood behind him, Elvis centre, with Hoyt Hawkins and Gordon Stoker look over to Scotty Moore on the right of frame with his 1954 L5 CESN.
Not wanting to upset this influential DJ, Robert took the song to Little Richard. They decided, after experimenting with the lyrics, that the phrasing could be sung rather quickly which would suit their purposes. Between Robert and Little Richard, they finished the song and recorded it for their follow-up single. Although the working titles used for the song included 'The Thing' and 'Bald Headed Sally, ' they went with 'Long Tall Sally' as the title and it became his biggest hit to date, scoring a #6 hit on the Billboard pop charts .Little Richard recorded his version on February 10th 1956, and released in March 1956.
Note : Elvis is said to have performed this number live as early as April 13th 1956, in Texas.RCA released a live version from Las Vegas Venus Room, New Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas, on May 6th 1956.
Elvis was back at the piano, rehearsing again, They worked for half an hour cutting one record after another, but, each time Elvis reached the middle of the song, he burst out laughing, 'I can't help, those words reminds me of my dog back home, 'They tried a third and fourth time, but each time, halfway through Elvis broke up the song, finally, he disciplined himself, and the song was finished.
Take 1-5, Take 1 is the master, take 5 was used by mistake on 'Elvis'.
Scotty Moore remembers recording 'Too Much', with a description of it being 'ancient psychedelia' : We did several takes, but I got lost on that one, but back in those days you didn't have multi-track, you didn't go back and fix somethin', and you did't stop until they stopped you from the control room - you kept goin'. I just kept chunking away, I didn't make any mistakes, but it wasn't the same solo I played on the other takes, somehow I came out of it exactly where I was supposed to be. I forgot what key the thing was in, an oddball key for guitar to begin with, and I got absolutely lost and just kept on playing and finally recovered somehow or another. I have never been able to duplicate it exactly, I've come close, but not to the exact notes, that must have been the take they liked, it felt better than the others, so they released it. If someone missed a note or somethin' back then it wasn't a big deal - it was the feel that was important, if it feels good it's fine.
I can listen back to that stuff and find bunches of clinkers, y'know - Bill would be playin' in one key and we'd be playin' in another. He (Elvis) knew I had gotten lost, but he loved the way it turned out, when the song ended(playback), he raised up and said, 'That's it', and he did it for damned meanness.
He knew I had gotten lost and he knew damned well I would have to live with it.
D.J. Fontana : Too Much is a classic, it really is. The overall track was really good, Scotty wasn't happy with the guitar solo, and still isn't. Scotty got to his guitar solo and said he got lost completely and didn't know where he was. He couldn't get back and he tried to get Elvis to do it again. Elvis said 'Aw no, we're not doing that ever again' (laughs). He said 'That was too good, Scotty we're not gonna do it again'.
Takes 1-12, take 12 is the Master.
Take 1-2, (Insert) take 2 used for composite.master
Composite - Spliced Master
Note : Elvis performed the number on the Ed Sullivan Show on 6th January 1957. This version is completely different in the order of the lyrics and the structure to the studio version. Scotty Moore's guitar solo was reduced from 22 seconds on the studio version to 15 seconds on the Sullivan version.
Elvis walks to the corner of the studio, picking up his guitar and tuning it, returning to the microphone. At this moment his hands move across the strings, his expression changes. Singing or playing, his body is in tension. Elvis is completely wrapped up in his delivery. It is like an aura about him, and it isn't something that he turns on for his audiences.Elvis the perfecttionist is dissatisfied with one arrangement after another, he stops frequently, replaying a phrase, saying to the group at large, 'Here listen to this' adding a new variation. As Elvis practices matching his singing to the guitar, the rhythm is so infectious that the Jordanaires clap hands in the background, accentuating the beat, no one has suggested they do this.
Takes 1-12, take 12 is the Master.
Elvis Performed the number on September the 9th on the Ed Sullivan Show, just under a week from the studio recording, and unsurprisingly is very close to the studio cut. It's worth noting that Gordon Stoker can be seen playing the piano on this performance, therefore the conclusion would be that Mr.Stoker also played the piano on the studio version. No piano player had been booked, and the duties were shared between Gordon Stoker and Elvis. Elvis was the sole producer of his recordings, and he made the decisions. The producers names that are on those recordings..they just sat there in the control room.
First In Line
At the piano Elvis sits, feeling his way through the new number, a slow and melancholy tune, none of the music is written out, Elvis and his group play everything from memory and by ear, sometimes the other musicians will read a portion of the score, but Elvis, never.Elvis plays through the number for almost an hour but is never satisfied, time after time something goes wrong.When halfway through, Elvis throws up his arms, his sign for everything to stop, then turns to discuss with the band the effect for which they have been trying.
'Okay' says Elvis finally, 'this sounds better' just then one of the instruments goes flat, Elvis has perfect pitch. He throws up his hands again exclaiming, 'Oh, no!'
Takes 1-27, Take 27 is the Master.
Rip It Up
Takes 1-19, take 19 is the Master.
After the session Thorne Nogar had this to say : Real nice to work with him, no problem with him, I wish all clients were as nice to work with, lets say it that way, he is one of our better artists as far as technically working with him.(He was an) awful nice kid-he came in there were no pretensions, just a kid off the street.
Elvis | LPM-1382, October 19, 1956
1. Rip It Up - Robert Blackwell/John Marscalco
2. Love Me - Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller
3. When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again - Wiley Walker/Gene Sullivan
4. Long Tall Sally - Enotis Johnson/Richard Penniman (Little Richard)/Robert Blackwell
5. First In Line - Aaron Schroeder/Ben Weisman
6. Paralyzed - Otis Blackwell/Elvis Presley
1. So Glad You're Mine - Arthur Crudup
2. Old Shep - Writer: Red Foley
3. Ready Teddy - Robert Blackwell/John Marscalco
4. Anyplace Is Paradise - Joe Thomas
5. How's The World Treating You - Chet Atkins/Boudleaux Bryant
6. How Do You Think I Feel - Walker/Pierce
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Elvis Presley and Barbara Hearn | June 19, 1956 | Fairgrounds Amusement Park, Memphis
Elvis Presley and Barbara Hearn at Elvis' 1034 Audubon Drive House | June 19, 1956
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Elvis Presley Love Me Tender Movie Set Photos
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Elvis Presley The Ed Sullivan Show Rehearsals | October 26-28, 1956
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The Million Dollar Quartet (December 4, 1956)
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Elvis Presley's Last Louisiana Hayride Performance | December 15, 1956
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The Movies Of 1956
1956, Love Me Tender, Twentieth Century Fox
The Movies In Photos
CDs | DVDs | Books
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.