Much of the attention at this extended session was, however, focussed on the development of two modest pop songs, ''Bonnie B'' and ''Baby Baby Bye Bye'', neither of which appear to have stimulated a huge amount of excitement on the part of Jerry Lee. To his credit, he sticks to his task and incrementally improves the calibre of the limited material he's given to work with. What isn't in doubt, judging from snippets of studio chatter, is Sam Phillips' own enthusiasm for the new facilities and the more sophisticated recording equipment with which he intended to update the Sun sound, little realising at this juncture that in moving from 706 Union he had lost the defining, preternatural quality of his product and throw the baby out with the bathwater. (*)
Ironically, the greatest impression Lewis made in terms of a hit parade placing during the early 1960s was to be archieved with ''Bonnie B'', a song which Sun studio engineer Charles Underwood had written about his wife and which, for some reason, the Swedish nation took to its heard and placed at the top of its pop charts when it was released there in 1964. The song is a strange amalgam; whereas the melody and structure provides more than a faint suggestion of ''Singing The Blues'', a dominant feature throughout is the guitar figure, itself decidedly reminiscent of Billy Burler's riff at the heart of Bill Doggett's 1956 ''Honky Tonk Part 1''. Although ''Bonnie B'' is untypical Lewis material, perhaps the labour was worthwhile; ''Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On'' and ''Great Balls Of Fire'' apart, it remains the record for which he is best remembered in the Nordic countries. A similar amount of energy was spent on securing a decent cut of Dorsey Burnette's ''As Long As I Live'', during the course on which Jerry Lee seems to have been unable to get ''Bonnie B'' entirely out of his mind. Once he'd overcome that distraction, however, they produced a master which eventually saw release more than eighteen months later, both on a 45 and on Lewis's second album. (*)
Sun's new promo manager, Cecil Scaife, and general manager, Bill Fitzgerald came up with the idea of releasing an instrumental record by Jerry under a pseudonym (The Hawk) on Sun's sub label, Phillips International (PI 3559). However, the results were as commercially stillborn as Lewis's other singles released in 1959 and 1960. His problem were compounded by a dispute with the Musician's Union over non-payment of dues which meant that he was unable to record officially although Phillips proceded as usual.
Although destined to be heard publicity for the first time rather more than a decade after the event, Jerry Lee's dichotomous portrayal of Gene Aytry's ''Mexicaly Rose'' was also a part of the groundbreaking work in the Madison Avenue studio. His slightly less accomplished reading of the hymn ''The Great Speckled Bird'', similarly taking flight at a variable speed, was overlooked for even longer, only coming to light in 1987. These performances invite parallels with the recording both of ''Break Up'', which left by-products such as ''Lovesick Blues'' and ''Big Legged Woman'' and of ''Let's Talk About Us'', which begat ''Night Train To Memphis''. Not for the first time, the labouring over relatively banal tunes aimed at teenagers had provided an informal opportunity for Jerry Lee to perform some of his own favourites. Recordings such as these confound the gainsayers who argue that the tapes were never intended for release and should have remained in the vaults or even been destroyed. But Sam Phillips knew what he was doing when he kept the machines rolling, capturing everything that popped into Jerry Lee's head, and giving him free rein. The golden hits apart, Lewis's reputation is surely founded more securely on his capacity for breathing new life into material from the likes of Gene Autry, Hank Williams and Roy Acuff than on a few evanescent pop songs. (*)
''Don't Drop'' was written by Terry Fell, born on May 31, 1921, Dora, Alabama. Although Terry Fell's name appears only once in the Billboard country charts, he staked his claim to fame by being not only the writer of "Truck Driving Man" but also the original recorder of the song. In 1930, he swapped his pet groundhog for a guitar, although it was to be three years before anyone showed him how to play it, or the mandolin that he also acquired. At 16, he hitch-hiked his way to California, spending some time with the Civilian Conservation Corps. He eventually returned home but he and his widowed mother finally relocated to the Los Angeles area. In 1943, while working for Tru-Flex tyres, he began to play bass with Merle Lindsey's Nightriders.
Around 1945, he joined Billy Hughes, made his first recordings for Fargo and began to write songs for the American Music Company. In 1954, after further recordings for Memo, Courtney and 4-Star, he joined RCAVictor Records, making his first recordings on their subsidiary "X" label. "Truck Driving Man" appeared as the B-side of his first "X" single, in April 1954. The A-side, "Don't Drop It", became a number 4 country chart hit (his only one) and although "Truck Driving Man" failed to chart for Fell, it went on to become a country standard. It has since been charted by both George Hamilton IV and Red Steagall (as late as 1976!) and recorded by countless other artists, including Buck Owens, who was managed by Fell early in his career.
"Don't Drop It" also spawned its share of covers, both for the country and the pop markets, including versions by Wilbert Harrison (Savoy) and some great versions for Jerry Lee Lewis (Sun). Fell made further recordings and worked as an artist for a few years, until the lack of further hits and throat problems saw him lose interest in performing. In 1962, he relocated to Nashville, where he wrote songs and worked for several publishing companies, until he eventually retired. In 1993, Bear Family Records issued a CD containing all 24 of his RCA masters, two previously unissued. Fell also co-wrote "You're The Reason", a US country and pop Top 12 hit for Bobby Edwards in 1961, also recorded by Hank Locklin and Joe South (and many others since then). Terry Fell died on April 4, 2007 in Madison, Tennessee.
Other significant recordings are by Ray Price cut the song on Columbia in 1957; Ricky Nelson recorded a version for Imperial in 1958; Kitty Wells recorded it for Decca; Marty Robbins covered the song for Columbia in 1961; Tennessee Ernie Ford cut the song in 1961; George Jones included the song on his 1960 album ''George Jones Salutes Hank Williams''. In his autobiography, Jones printed the first six lines of the song and stated, "Its lyrics couldn't be more simple, or profound''; Sun Records released an recording version by Johnny Cash for his 1960 album ''Sings Hank Williams''; Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version for Sun Records, with characteristic bravado, he changed it to "You Can't Help It (If You're Still In Love With Me)''; Patsy Cline cut the song for Decca; Burl Ives recorded the tune for Decca, and Ferlin Husky recorded it in 1961.
In 1962, Connie Stevens recorded ''I Can't Help It'' for the 1962 album ''The Hank Williams Songbook'', and the son of Williams Sr., Hank Williams Jr. recorded it for his 1963 album LP ''Sings The Songs Ff Hank Williams''; Charlie Rich covered the song in 1963; Dean Martin cut the song for Reprise; Eddy Arnold recorded the song in 1964; Marty Robbins included it on his 1968 LP ''I Walk Alone''; Ernest Tubb covered the song in 1968; Stonewall Jackson recorded the song for Columbia in 1969; ''I Can't Help It'' appears on Roy Orbison's 1970 LP ''Hank Williams The Roy Orbison Way''; Glen Campbell recorded it for his 1973 album ''I Remember Hank Williams''; Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris covered the song in 1974, and the song is featured on the reissue of Willie Nelson's 1975 LP ''Red Headed Stranger'' album as a bonus track. Charlie McCoy recorded it as an instrumental in 1977; Charlie Pride recorded it on his 1980 tribute ''There's A Little Bit Of Hank In Me'' with Loretta in a duet. Conway Twitty recorded ''I Can't Help It'' and was released as flip-side of the 1993 single "Divine Hammer''.
"Your Cheatin' Heart" is a song written and recorded by country music singer and songwriter Hank Williams in 1952, regarded as one of country's most important standards. Country music historian Colin Escott writes that "the song, for all intents and purposes, defines country music''. He was inspired to write the song while driving with his fianceé from Nashville, Tennessee to Shreveport, Louisiana. After describing his first wife Audrey Sheppard as a "Cheatin' Heart", he dictated in minutes the lyrics to Billie Jean Jones. Produced by Fred Rose, Williams recorded the song on his last session at Castle Records in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 23, 1952.
"Your Cheatin' Heart" was released in January 1953. Propelled by Williams' recent death during a trip to a New Year's concert in Canton, Ohio, the song became an instant success. It topped Billboard's Country and Western chart for six weeks, while over a million units were sold. The success of the song continued. Joni James' version reached number two on Billboard's Most Played in Jukeboxes the same year, while Ray Charles' 1962 version reached number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 13 on the UK Singles Chart. The song ranked at 217 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and was ranked number 5 on Country Music Television's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.
By 1952, Williams was enjoying a successful streak, releasing multiple hits, including "Honky Tonk Blues", "Half As Much", "Settin' The Woods On Fire", "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" and "You Win Again". While his career was soaring, his marriage to Audrey Sheppard became turbulent. He developed serious problems with alcohol, morphine and painkillers prescribed to ease his severe back pain caused by spina bifida. The couple divorced on May 29, and Williams moved in with his mother. Soon after, Williams met Billie Jean Jones backstage at the Ryman Auditorium, a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, who was, at the time, dating Faron Young. Williams started dating Jones, upon the end of her relationship with Young and soon began to plan their marriage. While driving from Nashville, Tennessee to Shrevenport to announce the wedding to her parents, Williams talked to her about his previous marriage and described Audrey Sheppard as a "cheatin' heart", adding that one day she would "have to pay". Inspired by his line, he instructed Jones to take his notebook and write down the lyrics of the song that he quickly dictated to her. The finished composition included the line "You'll walk the floor, the way I do", which evoked Ernest Tubb's hit "Walking The Floor Over You".
Williams recorded the song on September 23 at the Castle Studios in Nashville. The session, which became Williams' last, also produced the A-side "Kaw-Liga", as well as the songs "I Could Never Be Ashamed of You" and "Take These Chains fRom My Heart". It was produced by Williams' publisher Fred Rose, who made minor arrangements of the lyrics of "Your Cheatin' Heart". Williams described the song to his friend, Braxton Schuffert, as he was about to play it, as "the best heart song (he) ever wrote". Williams is backed on the session by Tommy Jackson (fiddle), Don Helms (steel guitar), Chet Atkins (lead guitar), Jack Shook (rhythm guitar), and Floyd "Lightnin'" Chance (bass).
While traveling to a scheduled New Year's show in Canton, Ohio, the driver found Williams dead on the backseat of the car during a stop in Oak Hill, West Virginia. "Your Cheatin' Heart" was released at the end of January 1953. Propelled by Williams' death, the song and the A-side "Kaw-Liga" became a hit, selling over a million records. Billboard initially described the songs as "superlative tunes and performances", emphasizing the sales potential. Within a short time from its release, the song reached number one on Billboard's Top Country and Western Records, where it remained for six weeks. A demo version of Williams singing "Your Cheatin' Heart" with just his guitar, likely recorded in 1951, is also available.
Released in the wake of his passing, the song became synonymous with the myth of Hank Williams as a haunted, lonely figure who expressed pain with an authenticity that became the standard for country music. The name of the song was used as the title of Hank Williams' 1964 biopic. "Your Cheatin' Heart", as well as other songs by Williams were performed on the movie, with George Hamilton dubbing the soundtrack album recorded by Williams' son, Hank Williams, Jr. In the 2003 documentary series ''Lost Highway'', country music historian Ronnie Pugh comments, "It's Hank's anthem, it's his musical last will and testament. It's searing, it's powerful, it's gripping. If you want to say this is his last and best work, I wouldn't argue with that''. AllMusic described the track as the "signature song" of Hank Williams, and an "unofficial anthem" of country music. Rolling Stone magazine called it "one of the greatest country standards of all time", ranking it at number 217 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song ranked at number 5 in Country Music Television's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music in 2003, Two Pepsi Super Bowl commercials featured the song, one aired during Super Bowl XXX, featured Williams' recording while a Coca-Cola deliveryman grabbed a Pepsi. The second one, aired during Super Bowl XLVI, featured the same situation, but with the song covered by Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. The song forms the title of the 1990 TV drama 'Your Cheatin' Heart' by John Byrne.
Other significant recordings are, February, 1953 by Hank Williams (MGM 11416); February, 1953 by Joni James; September, 1958 by George Hamilton IV (ABC Paramount 9946); March, 1959 by Billy Vaughn, an instrumental (Dot 15936); November, 1962 by Ray Charles (ABC Paramount 10375); 1965 Elvis Presley for his LP ''Elvis For Everyone'' (RCA Victor LSP-3450).
The first take stands out by virtue of a rather more aggressive sounding piano solo, opening with rapid fire repeat strikes of the same chords. Thereafter, even though the opening passage of each solo keeps to much the same formula, there are a number of variable fills in the second half of each; the more crotical listener might even point to some ''duff'' notes here and there. Takes 5, 6 and 10 all exhibit the one noticeable twist in the lyric, when Jerry Lee declares that he'll love the object of his affection ''till the day I die'' rather than simply the staccato ''till - I - die''. The latter part of take 5 also features a gratuitous ''goodbye honey'' casually delivered towards the fade out that isn't heard elsewhere. On sam's instruction, take 10 is performed at a much slower pace and both this and the final take, here made available for the first time without the overdubbed addition of the Gene Lowery Singers as heard on the issued master, are the easiest to tell apart from the mass of similar sounding recordings that precede them. (*)
"Hound Dog" is a twelve-bar blues song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton on August 13, 1952 in Los Angeles and released by Peacock Records in March 1953. "Hound Dog" was Thornton's only hit record, spending 14 weeks in the Rhythm and Blues charts, including seven weeks at number 1. Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll", and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in February 2013.
"Hound Dog" has been recorded more than 250 times. The best-known version of "Hound Dog" is the July 2, 1956 recording by Elvis Presley, which is ranked number 19 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the ''500 Greatest Songs of All Time''; it is also one of the best-selling singles of all time. Presley's version, which sold about more than 10 million copies globally, was his best-selling song and "an emblem of the rock and roll revolution. It was simultaneously number 1 on the United States pop, country, and Rrhythm and Blues charts in 1956, and it topped the pop chart for 11 weeks - a record that stood for 36 years. Presley's 1956 (RCA 20/47-6604) recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988.
"Hound Dog" has been at the center of many lawsuits, including disputes over authorship, royalties, and copyright infringement by the many answer songs released by such artists as Rufus Thomas and Roy Brown. From the 1970s onward, the song has been featured in numerous films, in ''Grease'', ''Forrest Gump'', ''Lilo and Stitch'', ''A Few Good Men'', ''Hounddog'', ''Indiana Jones'', ''The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'', and ''Nowhere Boy''.
On August 12, 1952, rhythm and blues bandleader Johnny Otis asked 19-year-old songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to his home to meet blues singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Thornton had been signed by Don Robey's Houston-based Peacock Records the year before, and after two failed singles, Robey had enlisted Otis to reverse her fortunes. After hearing Thornton rehearse several songs, Leiber and Stoller "forged a tune to suit her personality, brusque and badass". In an interview in Rolling Stone in April 1990, Stoller said: "She was a wonderful blues singer, with a great moaning style. But it was as much her appearance as her blues style that influenced the writing of ''Hound Dog'' and the idea that we wanted her to growl it''. Leiber recalled: "We saw Big Mama and she knocked me cold. She looked like the biggest, baddest, saltiest chick you would ever see. And she was mean, a ''lady bear'', as they used to call 'em. She must have been 350 pounds, and she had all these scars all over her face" conveying words which could not be sung. "But how to do it without actually saying it? And how to do it telling a story? I couldn't just have a song full of expletives''. In 1999, Leiber said, "I was trying to get something like the Furry Lewis phrase 'Dirty Mother Furya'. I was looking for something closer to that but I couldn't find it, because everything I went for was too coarse and would not have been playable on the air''. Using a "black slang expression referring to a man who sought a woman to take care of him", the song's opening line, "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog", was a euphemism, said Leiber. The song, a Southern blues lament, is "the tale of a woman throwing a gigolo out of her house and her life".
The song was written for a woman to sing in which she berates "her selfish, exploitative man", and in it she "expresses a woman's rejection of a man, the metaphorical dog in the title". According to Iain Thomas, "'Hound Dog' embodies the Thornton persona she had crafted as a comedienne prior to entering the music business" by parading "the classic puns, extended metaphors, and sexual double entendres so popular with the bawdy genre''. Rhythm and blues expert George A. Moonoogian concurs, calling it "a biting and scathing satire in the double-entendre genre" of 1950s rhythm and blues.
Leiber and Stoller wrote the song "Hound Dog" in 12 to 15 minutes, with Leiber scribbling the lyrics in pencil on ordinary paper and without musical notation in the car on the way to Stoller's apartment. Said Leiber, "Hound Dog'' took like twelve minutes. That's not a complicated piece of work. But the rhyme scheme was difficult. Also the metric structure of the music was not easy''. According to Leiber, as soon as they reached the parking lot and Stoller's 1937 Plymouth, "I was beating out a rhythm we called the 'buck dance' on the roof of the car. We got to Johnny Otis's house and Mike went right to the piano…didn't even bother to sit down. He had a cigarette in his mouth that was burning his left eye, and he started to play the song''.
Elvis Presley's 1956 version Larry Birnbaum described "Hound Dog" as "an emblem of the rock 'n' roll revolution". George Plasketes argues that Elvis Presley's version of "Hound Dog" should not be considered a cover "since, most listeners, were innocent of Willie Mae Thornton's original 1953 release". Michael Coyle asserts that "Hound Dog", like almost all of Presley's "covers were all of material whose brief moment in the limelight was over, without the songs having become standards''. While, because of its popularity, Presley's recording "arguably usurped the original", Plasketes concludes: "anyone who's ever heard the Big Mama Thornton original would probably argue otherwise''.
Presley was aware of and appreciated Big Mama Thornton's original recording of "Hound Dog". Ron Smith, a schoolfriend of Presley's, says he remembers Elvis singing along to a version by Tommy Duncan (lead singer for the classic lineup of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys). According to another schoolmate, Elvis' favorite rhythm and blues song was "Bear Cat (the Answer to Hound Dog)" by Rufus Thomas, a hero of Presley's. Nevertheless, it was Freddie Bell and the Bellboys' performance of the song, with Bell's amended lyrics, that influenced Presley's decision to perform, and later record and release, his own version: "Elvis's version of ''Hound Dog'' (1956) came about, not as an attempt to cover Thornton's record, but as an imitation of a parody of her record performed by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. ..The words, the tempo, and the arrangement of Elvis' ''Hound Dog'' come not from Thornton's version of the song, but from the Bellboys'''.
According to Rick Coleman, the Bellboys' version "featured Dave Bartholomew's three-beat Latin riff, which had been heard in Bill Haley's ''Shake, Rattle and Roll'''. Just as Haley had borrowed the riff from Bartholomew, Presley borrowed it from Bell and the Bellboys. The Latin riff form that was used in Presley's "Hound Dog" was known as "Habanera rhythm'', which is a Spanish and African-American musical beat form. After the release of "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley, the Habanera rhythm gained much popularity in American popular music.
Presley's first appearance in Las Vegas, as an "extra added attraction", was in the Venus Room of the New Frontier Hotel and Casino from April 23 through May 6, 1956, but was reduced to one week "because of audience dissatisfaction, low attendance, and unsavory behavior by underage fans''. At that time, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, who had been performing as a resident act in the Silver Queen Bar and Cocktail Lounge in the Sands Casino since 1952, were one of the hottest acts in town. Presley and his band decided to take in their show, and not only enjoyed the show, but also loved their reworking of "Hound Dog", which was a comedy-burlesque with show-stopping va-va-voom choreography. According to Paul W. Papa: "From the first time Elvis heard this song he was hooked. He went back over and over again until he learned the chords and lyrics''. Presley's guitarist Scotty Moore recalled: "When we heard them perform that night, we thought the song would be a good one for us to do as comic relief when we were on stage. We loved the way they did it''. When asked about "Hound Dog", Presley's drummer D. J. Fontana admitted: "We took that from a band we saw in Vegas, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. They were doing the song kinda like that. We went out there every night to watch them. He'd say: 'Let's go watch that band. It's a good band!' That's where he heard 'Hound Dog,' and shortly thereafter he said: 'Let's try that song'''.
When asked if Bell had any objections to Presley recording his own version, Bell gave Colonel Tom Parker, Presley's manager, a copy of his 1955 Teen Records' recording, hoping that if Presley recorded it, "he might reap some benefit when his own version was released on an album''. According to Bell, "Parker promised me that if I gave him the song, the next time Elvis went on tour, I would be the opening act for him - which never happened''. In May 1956, two months before Presley's release, Bell re-recorded the song in a more frantic version for the Mercury label, however it was not released as a single until 1957. It was later included on Bell's 1957 album, ''Rock& Roll…All Flavors'' (Mercury Records MG 20289). By summer 1956, after Presley's recording of the song was a million-seller, Bell told an interviewer: "I didn't feel bad about that at all. In fact, I encouraged him to record it''. After the success of Presley's recording, "Bell sued to get some of the composer royalties because he had changed the words and indeed the song, and he would have made millions as the songwriter of Elvis’s version: but he lost because he did not ask Leiber and Stoller for permission to make the changes and thereby add his name as songwriter''.
Soon after, Elvis Presley added "Hound Dog" to his live performances, performing it as comic relief. "Hound Dog" became Elvis and Scotty and Bill's closing number for the first time on May 15, 1956 at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, during the Memphis Cotton Festival before an audience of 7,000. Presley's performance, including the lyrics (which he sometimes changed) and "gyrations", were influenced by what he had seen at the sands. As the song always got a big reaction, it became the standard closer until the late 1960s.
By 1964, Elvis Presley's version of "Hound Dog" had been covered over 26 times, and by 1984, there were at least 85 different cover versions of the song, making it "the best-known and most often recorded rock and roll song". In July 2013 the official Leiber and Stoller website listed 266 different versions of "Hound Dog", but acknowledged that its list is incomplete. Among the notable artists who have covered Presley's version of "Hound Dog" are: Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps; Jerry Lee Lewis in July 1974 for his Sun International LP ''Rockin' And Free'' and in November 1988 for the Zu-Zazz LP ''Jerry Lee Lewis - Doný Drop It''; Chubby Checker; Pat Boone; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Betty Everett; Little Richard; The Surfaris; The Everly Brothers; Junior Wells; The Mothers of Invention; Jimi Hendrix; Vanilla Fudge; Van Morrison; Conway Twitty; Jimi Hendrix and Little Richard; John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Elephant's Memory Band; John Entwistle; Carl Perkins; Eric Clapton; James Taylor; and (in 1993) Tiny Tim (in his full baritone voice). In 1999 David Grisman, John Hartford, and Mike Seeger included "Hound Dawg" on their 1999 album Retrograss, which was nominated for a Grammy in the Traditional Folk Album category in 2000.
There's more than a touch of irony in the fact that nearly thirty years after the event this minor work should be elevated to the status of the title track on an entirely new Lewis Sun LP, following the rediscovering of these lost tapes in the later 1980s; ''Keep Your Hands Off Of It'', more deserving of the accolade, was itself celebrated as the other headliner on a twin-set of albums issued on the Zu-Zazz label (Z-2003) in 1987; here, we're treated to another example of Jerry Lee's capacity to recall some of the licentious blues material he would doubtless have heard in Haney's Big House during teenage excursions from his home in Ferriday''. (*)
''Keep Your Hands Off It'' was originally written as "Hands Off'', later known as "Keeps Your Hands Off Her", is a 1955 song written and recorded by Jay McShann. The single, on the Vee-Jay label, was the most successful Jay McShann release on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart. "Hands Off", with vocals performed by Priscilla Bowman, was number one on the rhythm and blues best seller chart for three weeks. The single is notable because this was the last single to hit number one on the rhythm and blues chart without making the Billboard Hot 100 until 1976: For the next twenty-one years, all singles which made the top spot on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart would make the Hot 100.
In 1961, Damita Jo DeBlance recorded her version of "Keeps Your Hands Off Her" for Mercury Records (Mercury 71760). Elvis Presley recorded and worked in a jam with "Got My Mojo Working", but not before Elvis interpolated "Keep Your Hands Off Her" during his sessions in June 1970 at RCA Studio B. in Nashville, Tennessee. ''We grew up on this mediocre shit man'', Elvis declared enthusiastically. ''It's the type of material that's not good or bad, it's just mediocre shit, you know''. But it was ''mediocre shit'' with which he was totally comfortable, for which he had great respect, and that he would always love.
As a footnote to this mammoth session features the masters of both ''Baby Baby Bye Bye'' and ''Old Black Joe'', as ultimately complemented by the vocal chorus and issued together on the single Sun 377, issued on The Sun Singles Collection, Volume 4 (BCD 15804-1-17-18) in 1997.
There are also to unsheathe the overdubbing process, and reveal, for the first time, the related tapes of the Gene Lowery Singers at work, issued on BCD 17254-18. These provide an intriguing opportunity to step into the sound booth with the backing singers and focus on their contribution being enacted in real time over the playback of the original recording. On hearing these tapes it is apparent that, but for a judicious edit, the issued version of ''Baby Baby Bye Bye'' might well have sounded rather more populated, with the earlier onset of the backing track. Equally, perhaps something was lost in the engineers having all but eliminated from the issued record any evidence the impressive male bass voice accompanying ''Old Black Joe'', which it is now possible to hear clearly in the deconstructed performance. (*)
1 - ''THE WILD SIDE OF LIFE'' - B.M.I. - 2:49
2 - ''BILLY BOY'' - B.M.I. - 2:20
In New Zealand (and perhaps other countries), the single had a special paper sleeve with the usual RCA logo top left and 45 R.P.M. bottom left and included, in large letters, "ELVIS" top right and bottom left: "Elvis' 1st new recording for his 50,000,000 fans all over the world''.
Decca released Kitty Wells' ''Left To Right''.
In the late 1950s, while stationed in West Germany with the U.S. Army, Presley heard Martin's recording. According to The New York Times, quoting from the 1986 book Behind The Hits, "he told the idea to his music publisher, Freddie Bienstock, who was visiting him in Germany. Mr. Bienstock, who many times found songwriters for Presley, returned to his New York office, where he found songwriters, Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold, the only people in that day. The two wrote lyrics in half an hour. Selling more than 20 million records, the song became number one in countries all around and was Presley's best selling single ever, a song [they] finished in 20 minutes to a half hour was the biggest song of [their] career''.
In 1960, "It's Now or Never" was a number-one record in the United States, spending five weeks at number one and the U.K., where it spent eight weeks at the top in 1960 and an additional week at number one in 2005 as a re-issue, and numerous other countries, selling in excess of 25 million copies worldwide, Elvis Presley's biggest international single ever. Its British release was delayed for some time because of rights issues, allowing the song to build up massive advance orders and to enter the UK Singles Chart at number one, a very rare occurrence at the time. "It's Now or Never" peaked at number seven on the rhythm and blues charts.
A live version featuring "'O Sole Mio" is available on the 1977 live album ''Elvis In Concert''. "'O Sole mio" is sung by tenor Sherrill Nielson.
In early 2005, the song was re-released along with the other Presley singles in the UK, and again reached number one on the UK Singles Chart for the week of 5 February 2005. The song also appears in the TV mini-series ''Elvis''.
At the third Madison Avenue session in mid-1960, Jerry Lee Lewis brought new life to yet another folk memory, the tale of the railroad pioneer ''John Henry''. In getting back on the rhythm and blues track, he complemented this with a rousing version of Chuck Willis's ''Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes'', the two being paired for the next single release, Sun 344. This same get-together also witnessed both his first known recording of ''C.C. Rider'', with which Willis had himself scored a hit in 1957, and a frenetic ''What'd I Say. Finally, in a characteristic melding of genres, Jerry Lee refurbished an old western swing favourite, ''When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again'', albeit Elvis Presley had pointed the way on this one with his own uptempo reading of the same song in 1956. (*)
John Henry is an African American folk hero and tall tale. He is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man", a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel. According to legend, John Henry's prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam powered hammer, which he won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand as his heart gave out from stress. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books and novels. Various locations, including Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia, Lewis Tunnel in Virginia, and Coosa Mountain Tunnel in Alabama, have been suggested as the site of the contest.
The story of John Henry is traditionally told through two types of songs: ballads, commonly called "The Ballad of John Henry", and work songs known as hammer songs, each with wide-ranging and varying lyrics. Some songs, and some early folk historian research, conflate the songs about John Henry with those of John Hardy, a West Virginian outlaw. Ballads about John Henry's life typically contain four major components: a premonition by John Henry as a child that steel-driving would lead to his death, the lead-up to and the results of the race against the steam hammer, Henry's death and burial, and the reaction of John Henry's wife.
The well-known narrative ballad of "John Henry" is usually sung in at an upbeat tempo. The hammer songs (or work songs) associated with the "John Henry" ballad, however, are not. Sung slowly and deliberately, these songs usually contain the lines "This old hammer killed John Henry / but it won't kill me." Nelson explains that: ...workers managed their labor by setting a "stint'', or pace, for it. Men who violated the stint were shunned... Here was a song that told you what happened to men who worked too fast: they died ugly deaths; their entrails fell on the ground. You sang the song slowly, you worked slowly, you guarded your life, or you died.
There is some controversy among scholars over which came first, the ballad or the hammer songs. Some scholars have suggested that the "John Henry" ballad grew out of the hammer songs, while others believe that the two were always entirely separate. Songs featuring the story of John Henry have been recorded by many blues, folk, and rock musicians of different ethnic backgrounds. Many notable musicians have recorded John Henry ballads, including Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, Drive-By Truckers, Joe Bonamassa, Furry Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, Pink Anderson, Fiddlin' John Carson, Uncle Dave Macon, J. E. Mainer, Leon Bibb, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Gillian Welch, Cuff the Duke, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Jerry Reed, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Travis, Harry Belafonte, Mississippi John Hurt (as "Spike Driver Blues"), Lonnie Donegan, Jack Warshaw, Jason Molina, and Steve Earle.
The story also inspired the Aaron Copland's orchestral composition "John Henry" (1940, revised 1952) and the 2009 chamber music piece Steel Hammer by the composer Julia Wolfe. Henry is the subject of the 1931 Roark Bradford novel John Henry, illustrated by noted woodcut artist J. J. Lankes. The novel was adapted into a stage musical in 1940, starring Paul Robeson in the title role. According to Steven Carl Tracy, Bradford's works were influential in broadly popularizing the John Henry legend beyond railroad and mining communities and outside of African American oral histories. In a 1933 article published in The Journal of Negro Education, Bradford's John Henry was criticized for "making over a folk-hero into a clown''. A 1948 obituary for Bradford described John Henry as "a better piece of native folklore than Paul Bunyan''. Ezra Jack Keats's John Henry: An American Legend, published in 1965, is a notable picture book chronicling the history of John Henry and portraying him as the "personification of the medieval Everyman who struggles against insurmountable odds and wins''.
Colson Whitehead's 2001 novel John Henry Days uses the John Henry myth as story background. Whitehead fictionalized the John Henry Days festival in Talcott, West Virginia and the release of the John Henry postage stamp in 1996. The DC Comics superhero Steel's civilian name, "John Henry Irons," is inspired by John Henry. The Ghost of John Henry appears as a character in Elizabeth Bear's novel "One Eyed Jack''.
''When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again'' is a song written by Wiley Walker and Gene Sullivan in 1940. They first recorded it for Columbia Records in 1941 (Columbia 20264). Walker was inspired to write the song while travelling in West Texas with the full moon in his face. As he drove down the highway, daybreak approached. Walker noted the apparent change of colour of the moon from a bluish tint to gold.
Elvis Presley recorded ''When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again' (RCA Victor EPA-992) on September 2, 1956 at Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California, with Thorne Nogar and Bones Howe behind the board. Elvis sang "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again" in his appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (January 6, 1957) and on his TV special taping "Elvis", June 27, 1968, at the 6:00pm and 8:00pm shows. It has also been recorded by Zeke Manners (1947), in 1947 by The Singing Lariateers (RCA 20-2130), in 1949 by Tex Ritter (Capitol 1977), and recorded by Cindy Walker, Cliffie Stone, Sammi Smith, the Statler Brothers, Hank Thompson, Emmylou Harris, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Bill Monroe, Merle Haggard, and of course, Jerry Lee Lewis, among others.
"The Great Pretender" is a popular song recorded by The Platters, with Tony Williams on lead vocals, and released as a single on November 3, 1955. The words and music were created by Buck Ram, the Platters' manager and producer who was a successful songwriter before moving into producing and management. "The Great Pretender" reached the number one position on both the rhythm and blues and pop charts in 1956. It also reached the UK charts peaking at number 5.
Buck Ram reports that he wrote the song in about 20 minutes in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in order to have a song to follow up the success of "Only You (And You Alone)''.
In early 2005, the song was re-released along with the other Presley singles in the UK, and again reached number one on the UK Singles Chart for the week of 5 February 2005. The song also appears in the TV mini-series ''Elvis. His back-side ''A Mess Of Blues'' is a song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Schuman, that was originally recorded by Elvis for RCA Victor in 1960, reaching number 32 in the United States charts and number 2 in the United Kingdom charts. "A Mess Of Blues" is a single released by the British Rock band Status Quo in 1983. It was included on the album ''Back To Back''. Due to a printing error several hundred copies of the picture sleeve for this release were printed with the front and rear photographs inter-changed.