Monday, June 27, 2011

Stay Away Joe, Oh Yeah

Even if it's more than a year until our daughter will start attending nursery school, we're already looking at which one to wish for. You see, in our part of town there's a lot of kids and not too many nursery schools, so your first choice isn't always the one you get. But today my wife walked by one that I feel must be a winner.

Looking at this particular nursery school, my wife thought she spotted a photo of someone familiar in one of the windows. So what she did was take a picture of that particular window that she showed me triumphantly when I arrived home from work.

Although very granular, I recognized the motive instantly. ”That's Elvis,” I blurted out. ”From the movie Stay Away, Joe”. My wife smiled at me. ”This must be a great nursery school, don't you think,” she kidded.

I went to the computer to download the photo from the camera and manipulated it as best as I could in Photoshop. A search on the Internet for images from Stay Away, Joe then made it possible to identify the photo as the one used on the cover of the ”U.S. Male”/”Stay Away” single.

Surely it must be a sign. A nursery school with Elvis in the window has to be our first choice. And of course it helps that it's the one located closest to our home as well.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Elvis ... If He's Out There We'll Find Him!

It's not everyday I contact the U.S. Navy. But a year and a half ago I sent an e-mail to the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) of the Patrol Squadron FORTY-FIVE (VP-45). It went like this:

Dear Sir!

My name is Thomas Melin, I'm living in Sweden and I'm a great fan of Elvis Presley. Many years ago I bought an Elvis patch at a store that sold military surplus stuff that I recognized as some kind of aircrew patch. This patch "resurfaced" a couple of days ago when I found it at a bottom of a drawer in my desk. This time I decided to try to find out what the patch was all about, so I searched for it with the help of google. The first thing I found out was that VP-45 is a patrol squadron, and I found it very interesting to read about its proud history on

Unfortunately, there was no mentioning about the Elvis patch, so that's why I've decided to try to contact you, to see if you can help me out. (I've also contacted the VP-45 Association with the same question.) I actually got one google hit mentioning the patch as an unofficial patch, but the link didn't work so I couldn't read more about it.

I would be very grateful if you could tell me more about the patch, what it means that it is unofficial, what year it was used and so on. I think it's a really clever and cool patch, telling whoever reads it that VP-45 is a squadron that gets the job done. As I also have an Elvis blog, I thought it would be interesting to write about the patch and its history there:

Thank you very much and merry christmas and a happy new year to you!

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Melin,
Gothenburg, Sweden

Unfortunately I never received a reply, nor from the VP-45 Association. For some reason I came to think about this yesterday and dug out the patch from the drawer where it's still residing together with another military patch with an Elvis connection.

I then sent the Patrol Squadron VP-45 another e-mail, with the old one attached, explaining that I never received a reply, and would be grateful if the present PAO could help me out this time around. Of course I realize that he has more important things on his mind than starting asking his squadron mates questions about an old aircrew patch with Elvis on it, but I just had to try one more time.

As soon as I hear anything, I'll let you know.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In The Garden (3:12)

Some days Elvis plays a bigger part in my life than others. Yesterday he was abscent most of the time, but for one song in the morning. Yet that was all it took to get me in a good mood.

As on every other Saturday morning, the radio in our kitchen was tuned to a nationwide radio show called Ring så spelar vi (loosely translated to Call and we play) during breakfast. The concept of the show is to have ordinary people call the program, wish for a song and then try to answer a question correctly. If they do, they win a CD. The song they wish for is played regardless of the result.

As you can guess Elvis is among the artists people want to hear, and yesterday was no exception. "The laughing version of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' is one of the most wished for songs," the host told a woman calling in who wanted to hear a slow Elvis number.

"I bet she goes for 'Love Me Tender' or 'Can't Help Falling In Love'," I told my wife who sat on the other side of the table. I then glanced to the right at my eight months old daughter, but she didn't offer an opinion in the matter. The woman then surprised me by telling the host she wanted to hear "In The Garden."

Three minutes and 12 seconds. As I listened to Elvis delivering his beautiful version of this reverent church traditional my spirits rose. The tiredness I felt after a night with only a couple of hours sleep (courtesy of our daughter) vanished and like countless of times before I once again thought about how lucky I am to be an Elvis fan.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Young Man With The Big Beat

Over three years ago I learned that Ernst Jorgensen had bought a tape of Elvis performing his last show for the Louisiana Hayride, on December 15, 1956. The problem then, according to Ernst, was that the show wasn't commercial enough to release on Sony/BMG. Yesterday I found out that he's fortunately changed his mind and is going to make this historical recording available in September as part of a Sony Legacy 5-CD box set devoted to Elvis incredible achievements in 1956.

Centered around his two first long playing albums Elvis Presley and Elvis (which will be released as a 2 CD Legacy Edition, too), the box set will also include the rest of the 56 masters as well as live recordings, outtakes and interviews. As all the outtakes have been previously released, as well as the live material from Las Vegas (May 6) and Little Rock (May 16), it's the complete show from the Hayride that excites me the most.

The first time I learned about this show was back in 1984 when I bought an LP titled Elvis: The First Live Recordings. On it were never before released songs recorded live at the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana in 1955 and 1956. The last track on Side B was a breathless rendition of "Hound Dog" from Elvis final appearance on December 15. Listening to it now, I have to fully agree with the sleeve notes written by Richard Goldstein.
He'd returned [...] for a final performance at the Hayride, before an audience of 10,000 teenage girls. As he sings, their screams wash over him like a tide of shards. No synthesizer can duplicate that innocence in the face of ecstasy. But through this remarkable recording, we can be present at the creation. And ready for its return.
Soon we can be present at the creation of the whole show (see track list below). Judging by the versions of "I Was The One" and "Love Me Tender" (not found on any BMG/RCA releases but featured on several Louisiana Hayride compilations, such as the Music Mill Entertainment release Good Rockin' Tonight), there will be screaming from start to finish. I can't wait to join the mass hysteria.

Track listing for the final Louisiana Hayride show, December 15, 1956:

  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Long Tall Sally
  • I Was The One
  • Love Me Tender
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Love Me
  • I Got A Woman
  • When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
  • Paralyzed
  • Hound Dog

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shake That Tambourine

Of course my eight month old daughter isn't the only child interested in rattles. But the way she uses them to great effect while listening to "Shake That Tambourine" must be somewhat more unusual. It was when I noticed her interest in shaking toys that then rattled that I got the idea to play her track number six on my Harum Scarum CD. Sitting on the floor, her eyes immediately lit up when she heard the intro featuring the tambourines and her hand clutching the rattle started moving purposefully as she looked up at me. I picked her up and started humming along with my daughter in my arms. A smile animated her face as she looked at the loudspeakers from where the music emerged.
Shake... the little tambourine Shake a-ring a jing -jing a-ling Shake, shake my little dancin' queen Shake that tambourine, that tambourine
From then on that's been her favorite music number. Maybe even more so after receiving a pair of castanets from a friend of ours about a week later. Talk about the perfect present! I admit I even went so far as to play my daughter a couple of unreleased takes of "Shake That Tambourine," courtesy of FTD. But listening to Elvis loosing it after singing "Bracelets keep a-clinking, on their' TEENY feet" only seemed to confuse her, so pretty soon I returned to the master. By the way, Elvis actually did at least 38 takes of "Shake That Tambourine," as the master is a splice of takes 24 and 38, according to Ernst Jorgensen's A Life In Music as well as Joe Tunzi's Elvis Sessions III. It was the only song he recorded on February 24, 1965.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Special Moments With FTD 11

As the door to the studio opens and Jerry Reed walks in, Elvis looks at him and says, "Lord, have mercy, what is that?" Jerry, not having shaved in about a week and still wearing the clothes from his interrupted fishing trip, nervously approaches Elvis with a battered guitar case in his hand, his old clogs making a clattering sound on the studio floor.

Elvis gets up from the armchair where he's been sitting and chatting with his friends Joe Esposito, Charlie Hodge and Billy Smith. "Ahh, Jerry, sorry to bother you on a Sunday and all," he says politely as they shake hands. "Man, I just love your recording of 'Guitar Man,' but these here guys can't make it sound like it did on your record," he continues as he points in the general direction of guitar players Scotty Moore, Harold Bradley and Chip Young.

It's September 10, 1967 and the location is RCA's Studio B in Nashville. The aim of the session is to record some singles and a couple of bonus tracks for the upcoming Clambake soundtrack album. A few hours earlier, the session kicked off with a rundown of "Guitar Man," a song whose driving accoustic sound Elvis haven't been able to get out of his head since he heard it on the radio in LA while making the movie Speedway that summer.

But the musicians couldn't get the groove, particularly the guitar sound, which plays a major part in the song. So producer Felton Jarvis wisely told Elvis that if he wanted that distinctive Jerry Reed guitar sound they'd have to get Jerry Reed himself aboard. "Get him in," Elvis answered.

After tracking him down on a fishing trip on the Cumberland River outside of Nashville, Jerry Reed arrives at the studio, looking like "a sure-enough Alabama wild man," as Felton Jarvis later likes to tell the story. In contrast, Elvis is trim-looking, wearing a casual black suit and a bright shirt with the topp buttons opened.

Jerry, a whirlwind of energy, hooks up his electric gut string, tunes the B-string up a whole tone, and tones the low E-string down a whole tone. "So I can bar straight across," he explains to his fellow guitar players. He plays a couple of tones with his fingers.

Felton glances at Elvis who is standing at the microphone, looking expectantly at Jerry. "We're rolling, this is 'Guitar Man' take one," Felton says, as Jerry continues to run through some guitar licks, trying to get his fingers up to speed. Elvis laughs as Jerry excuses himself, "I ain't played all weekend, Elvis." "I know, you're house is a mess, Reed," Felton kids him. Elvis, fascinated by the man, chimes in, "That's a mess, man." "It is ... a mess," answers Jerry as he starts working out the intro.

"No man, there ain't no way you can get them both, they'll just sound like a room full of spastics, or something," Jery Reed tells Chip Young, who nods his understanding that it's not possible to do all the guitar parts from his original recording at one time. Then, after a couple of tries, he turns to bass player Bob Moore, "It's long on the record, I forgot it's like this," he says and plays the intro just right. Elvis' face lits up.

What follows is a take abandoned after the first verse, but during those 35 seconds there's no mistaking Elvis sounding energized and engaged, focusing on the music. Instead it's Jerry Reed making the mistakes, "I may wonder of in the parking lot. Stay with me, or I'll get to you-sometime tonight, he jokes. "I can do that better... one two, three four."

And better and better it gets. Elvis, responding well to the shot of musical adrenaline injected by Jerry Reed's guitar sound, really gets into it. Take 5 is the first complete take, and at the end of take 10, when the guitars and the rhythm is just right, Elvis starts singing "What'd I Say."

As the band adds power, steel guitar player Pete Drake, wearing his customary flowered shirt, glances as Elvis and a thought runs through his mind: "Is this really the same guy that I played for in June, and whose last recording was that silly song, what was it called again ... yeah, the one with the corny title ... "He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad?"

To experience this historical session, play track number 16 on disc 1 of FTD's Elvis Sings Guitar Man and then tracks 11–13 on disc 2.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Great Big Fairytale

Just a quick post today to point you in the direction of a great article written by Troy Y. over at his The Mystery Train Elvis Blog. Titled "The Once And Future Album" it's a 1967 review of the album Elvis Sings Guitar Man (one of FTD's latest "what if" albums), set in a universe where Elvis took a stand and demanded the album be released instead of the Clambake soundtrack with bonus songs.

The article is cleverly written, telling the reader that the 1963 platinum selling release Elvis Sings Memphis Tennessee (another "what if" album released by FTD in 2008) came about the same way. That is, with Elvis threatening to fire his manager Colonel Tom Parker if he didn't give in.

After the actual review we are told that Elvis is expecting his first child with "longtime sweetheart" Ann-Margret early next year. Also, that the shelved songs from Clambake might be combined with the songs from last year's canceled Spinout soundtrack album on an Elvis Double Feature Album.

Great stuff, Troy, and I love the stenciled and type written Mystery Train Elvis Newsletter (November 1967) illustration!

Elvis 1967: The Once And Future Album (The Mystery Train Elvis Blog)