Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
This Monday marks what would have been Elvis Presley’s 83rd birthday.
Historically and fondly remembered as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis was much more than “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Burning Love.” Elvis crossed over into blues, rhythm and blues, and never forgetting his roots, country.
We rarely feature country in this segment. But we’ll make an exception and quite possibly expose you to the diverse greatness that was Elvis.
This first number was written in 1940 by Gene Sullivan and Wiley Walker and recorded by the duo in 1941. They were told by an executive at Columbia Records that in order to make it in the business, they had to sing original material.
“During that time, I was moving my family and everything we owned in our car from Lubbock Texas to Oklahoma City for a new job,” said Sullivan.
“I drove all night across Texas looking right into a bright full moon. The moon was so bright that I could even turn off the car headlights and still see the road. And that’s where I got the idea for ‘When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again.’ And I wrote that song on that trip.”
Elvis recorded it in 1956 and performed it here on the Ed Sullivan Show. His introductory remarks are referring to gifts he received at Christmas and for his birthday.
In 1971 Elvis recorded an all-country album.
The tracks from “Elvis Country” were combined with those from another 1971 album, “Love Letters From Elvis” on a compilation entitled, “Elvis Country (Deluxe Edition)” that was released in 2012. Here’s an excerpt from the Deluxe edition’s album notes:
In January 1971, Elvis was well and truly back and on top of his game. During 1970, he chalked up no less than 4 Platinum and 3 Gold album awards and 5 Gold singles. As if this sales achievement wasn’t enough, on January 16, he was given the award as one of the “Top Ten Young Men of The Year” by the United States Jaycees. His new album Elvis Country released that same month received critical acclaim. In an outstanding review for Rolling Stone, biographer Peter Guralnick said: “… Elvis Presley has come out with a record which gives us some of the very finest and most affecting music since he first recorded for Sun almost 17 years ago.”
Elvis Country is, obviously, a return to roots. But it’s the singing, the passion and engagement most of all which mark this album as something truly exceptional. All the familiar virtues are there. The intensity. That peculiar combination of hypertension and soul.
Elvis Country received an RIAA Gold certification and spent 21 weeks on the Billboard album chart. The single “I Really Don t Want To Know” c/w “There Goes My Everything” reached #9 and #21 on the Billboard country and pop charts respectively.
Before “Elvis Country” came out in early 1971 Elvis was promoting the album in his Las Vegas shows with his version of a song first recorded by the great Ray Price in 1963 and in 1965 by another country legend, Eddy Arnold.
If you’re seeing a theme here this week, boy you are good.
Elvis had an amazing ability to take a song that wasn’t his originally, yet somehow make it his own.
In 2003 David Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren wrote “Heartaches by the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles” complete with essays on 500 songs critical to the development of country and pop music.
Number 1 on their list was Sammi Smith’s 1970 version of “Help Me Make It Through the Night” that was written and first recorded by Kris Kristofferson, and you talk about fantastic lyrics. This song definitely had them.
“It’s an example of great songwriting [by Kris Kristofferson], it’s by a woman, and it’s clearly a record — not just words and melody, but a performance. It’s greater than the sum of its parts,” said Cantwell.
Some surveys have declared this the best country song ever. You’d get no argument from me.
Elvis recorded the sexually frank song on May 17, 1971.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
And remember. Elvis was multi-talented. Multi.
For our close…
In March of 1974 Elvis returned to his hometown of Memphis, ending a 15 city tour with six performances. RCA recorded some portions of the concerts for a live album.
Elvis looked good. He sounded good.
The local newspaper wrote:
The performances yesterday afternoon and last night were sold out at 12,300 each as the singer performed in his hometown for the first time in 13 years.
The crowds reacted to the magical personality almost as though the clock had been turned back to 1961.
There were screams, shrieks, shouts and standing applause from the moment Presley stepped on stage until he walked off about one hour later.