Elvis Presley weekend continues at First Draft. One of the first songs I remember hearing as a small child was Don’t be Cruel. I dug the message then and still do.
As a young rock fan, Elvis was a presence in my life. My parents didn’t even complain when I played Elvis. That was not the case when The Who hit the turntable.
I was lucky enough to see Elvis’ Vegas show, which was truly sensational. It did not, however, make me want to wear a sparkly stage suit and take up karate.
Elvis had a complicated career as a recording artist. The world has been bombarded with Elvis products. There are over 2000 compilation albums out there. Proof positive that Colonel* Parker milked every red cent out of his prize rock star.
Elvis belongs to history now. He changed the culture, but everyone knows that. We’re here to talk about the music, which has held up quite well. That’s more than can be said for his movies; most of which are stinkers. I like three of them in this order: King Creole, Viva Las Vegas, and Jailhouse Rock.
Who among us doesn’t love the Flying Elvi in Honeymoon In Vegas?
In New Orleans, we have the Krewe of the Rolling Elvi:
Back to the music.
Many of the King’s biggest hits were covers of less well-known-usually Black-artists. My focus is on songs that Elvis was the first to record. That simplified the winnowing process, which could have gone on forever otherwise. I make an exception for my favorite late period Elvis song, Suspicious Minds. There’s an exception to every rule.
As always, this list is in chronological order and reflects my personal taste.
Let’s get rocking.
Elvis was on a roll when Don’t Be Cruel hit the charts. Otis Blackwell wrote the song, but Elvis received a songwriting credit. It was a common practice in the record industry back then.
Paralyzed is another Otis Blackwell song. It rocks like crazy the title notwithstanding.
What’s not to love about a song that rhymes dwell and hotel?
All Shook Up is another Otis Blackwell creation with Elvis’ name on it. At least they didn’t credit Colonel* Parker.
We move into the Hollywood era with Jailhouse Rock. It was the theme song of Elvis’ third feature film and was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Those are names you’ll hear again as the Elvis Dozen unwinds.
King Creole is another Leiber and Stoller song. It’s the theme song of Elvis’ best movie. It’s directed by Oscar-winner Michael Curtiz, which made it an A picture all the way. It landed at the #16 spot on my Set In Louisiana movie list.
Trouble is another swell Leiber and Stoller tune:
A Mess of Blues was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. It began life as the B-side to It’s Now Or Never but became a hit on its own after DJs flipped the 45. I aspired to be a 45 flipper at one point in my life. It never happened. Oh well, what the hell.
Little Sister is another Pomus/Shuman tune. It’s so catchy that I tapped my toe just thinking about it.
We’re back to movie songs with Return To Sender. It was written by our old pal Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott. I wonder if Scott was related to the 19th Century general of that name who was played by Sydney Greenstreet in the Errol Flynn vehicle, They Died With Their Boots On.
Viva Las Vegas is a Pomus/Shulman song written for one of the King’s most entertaining movies. What’s not to love about his co-star Ann-Margret?
Suspicious Minds concludes the Elvis Dozen with a bang. It has one of the finest opening lines in rock history: “We’re caught in a trap; I can’t walk out.”
It’s lagniappe time. I give you the Elvis Covers Half Dozen featuring Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder, Cheap Trick, Dave Edmunds, Bryan Ferry, and Dwight Yoakam.
There’s only one way to close this post: