Listening to Sirius XM Elvis radio, I am privy to all kinds of heretofore unknown tidbits, many times, straight from the mouths of those who were there. I’ve heard a lot of interesting facts about songs Elvis performed, and I’d like to share some of those with you…
In the Ghetto (Written by Mac Davis, recorded by Elvis in 1969)
This was a huge hit for Elvis. Elvis added the last line himself, where he repeats: “And his momma cries”
Mac Davis on how the song came to be:
“I grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and it was a ghetto in every since of the word, but we didn’t use that word back then. I was trying to come up with a song called ‘The Vicious Circle,’ how a child is born, he has no father, and the same thing happens. The word ‘Ghetto’ became popular in the late ’60s to describe the poor parts of town. A friend of mine, Freddy Weller, who used to play guitar for Paul Revere And The Raiders, showed me lick on the guitar one day. I went home and fiddled around with it, I wrote the song and called him up at 4 in the morning and sang it to him. He called me a dirty name and hung up on me. He knew I’d written a hit with his lick, but that’s the way it goes.”
Don’t Cry Daddy (Written by Mac Davis, recorded by Elvis in 1969)
Again, in Mac’s own words…
“At the time I was going through a divorce. I had my son, Scotty, for the weekend and was about to take him home. I had some time to kill, and I flipped on the five o’clock news. Scotty was about five or six years old. It just happened to be the broadcast where they were showing some film of the massacre in Vietnam. It was a very famous horrific incident where some of our guys shot to death some women and children villagers. They were showing some scenes of the bodies, and apparently I started crying and didn’t even realize it. The next thing I know Scotty was patting my back and trying to comfort a grown man going, “Don’t cry daddy.” That’s where the inspiration came from for “Don’t Cry Daddy.” My songwriter’s brain made it totally different. By the time I got Scotty home to his mother’s…on the way back to my house I had the chorus written.”
This song was recorded in 1997 as a duet with Lisa Marie, with Elvis’ voice dubbed in.
One Night (Written by Dave Bartholomew and Earl King, recorded by Elvis in 1957)
Elvis first recorded the original version in January, 1957: One Night of Sin. His manager and record company felt the lyrics were too suggestive and risque, so the lyrics were changed (some say by Elvis himself) and the song became and was re-recorded as “One Night With You,” a mega hit for Elvis. Here is the original version:
All Shook Up (Written by Otis Blackwell, recorded by Elvis in 1957)
According to songwriter Otis Blackwell, he was trying to come up with a follow-up song to “Don’t Be Cruel.” He used to joke that he could write a pop song from any phrase or theme. In the autumn of 1956, one Blackwell’s bosses at his publishing offices dropped an unopened bottle of Pepsi on the ground. When he removed the cap, the soda exploded all over his white shirt. In frustration, Blackwell’s boss slammed the half-emptied Pepsi bottle on Blackwell’s desk. “There,” he said, tersely. “Write a song about that.” Blackwell studied the bottle closely for about a couple of seconds before finally shaking it again. Legend has it, he wrote the lyrics to “All Shook Up” before the bubbles had completely settled back into the beverage.
Softly as I leave you (Composed in Italian by Giorgio Calabrese and Tony De Vita. English songwriter Hal Shaper added English lyrics to it in 1961. This song wasn’t actually recorded by Elvis, but was only done in concerts.)
Elvis told a story about the song when he performed it in Vegas. Elvis said that he’d heard the story from some people in Florida. It was based on a man, who was dying. His wife was sitting by his bedside. As she began to doze off, he felt himself beginning to die and he wrote the words to the song on a notepad. Supposedly, Elvis insiders claim that this explanation was just an example of his flair for storytelling, so it likely isn’t accurate. If that’s so, then it just goes to show Elvis had a creative imagination. No matter whether it’s true or not, I think it’s pretty awesome. Side note: Elvis doesn’t actually sing this song; he speaks the words while his backing tenor Sherrill Nielsen sings it.
Heartbreak Hotel: (Written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton, recorded by Elvis in 1956)
I’m sure you’ve all heard this story, I think I’ve told it on my blog before, but it’s highly interesting, to me, so I’m sharing again. The below is from the article found at this link: http://performingsongwriter.com/heartbreak-hotel/
A suicide note was the unlikely inspiration behind the song that became Elvis’ first No. 1 hit and million-selling single.
Steel guitarist and session musician Tommy Durden read a newspaper article about a man who had killed himself, leaving behind a piece of paper with the haunting words: “I walk a lonely street.”
Durden brought the article to his friend and cowriter Mae Boren Axton. A 41-year-old high school English teacher who moonlighted as a journalist and a songwriter, Axton had notched a few hits in the early ’50s with artists such as Perry Como and Ernest Tubb. In late 1955, she took a part-time position as a public relations secretary for Elvis’ manger, Colonel Tom Parker. When Mae first met Elvis, she felt he had everything he needed to become a star except a hit song. “You need a million-seller and I’m going to write it for you,” she promised.
As Axton and Durden discussed how they could turn the newspaper article into a song, Axton suggested that there be a “heartbreak hotel” at the end of the lonely street. With that flash of inspiration, the pair was off and running. Painting a picture of a place where “broken-hearted lovers cry away their gloom” and “the desk clerk’s dressed in black,” they managed to convey in very few words a mood that was both romantically charged and funereal.
Side note: Elvis purchased his first home, the one on Audubon Drive, with the money he made from Heartbreak Hotel.
Are You Lonesome Tonight: (Written by y Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926, recorded by Elvis in 1960)
I remember, right after Elvis passed away, this was probably the hardest song to listen to. The lyrics, ‘If you won’t come back to me, then they can bring the curtain down’ made my sisters and I sob uncontrollably.
Elvis was reluctant to record this song, because he was afraid he couldn’t do it justice. His manager, Tom Parker, convinced him to do so, because it was his wife’s favorite song. (And, you guessed it, huge hit!) Supposedly, Elvis had the studio lights completely turned off while recording the song. As he finished, he bumped into a chair, knocking it over, and the sound can be heard if you listen to the record on headphones.
Side note: The spoken part is loosely based on a speech by Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act II Scene VII:
All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
A version of Elvis performing the song on stage and getting so tickled he can’t finish the song, aptly named, The Laughing Version, is extremely popular with fans. It’s adorable…take a listen:
I hope you’ll actually take the time to listen to these videos, they are awesome, amazing, fantastic. (And I’m not just saying that because I’m an obsessive Elvis fan, honest I’m not ;))
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Elvis was known for his giving heart and charitable work during his lifetime. Lisa Marie and Elvis Presley Enterprises have continued that tradition with their involvement in various charities. In 1984, The Elvis Charitable Foundation was formed. The EPCF created a scholarship fund for students majoring in the arts. The charity also contributes to one of Elvis’ favorite charities, Goodwill Homes, a Memphis facility that provides counseling and services for abused children and their families. The EPCF also assists numerous other charities, especially focusing on arts, education and children’s programs.
Learn more here, including how to donate:
END OF LONELY STREET – Now Only 99 Cents!
On Elvis’ birthday this year, I released a Vintage Romance short story set in 1957, and of course, my heroine is an Elvis fan. 🙂 As a tribute to Elvis’ generosity, and in order to assist with this worthy cause, 10% of my proceeds for End of Lonely Street will go to the EPCF.
All Toby Lawson wants is to go to college to become a teacher and to be free of her alcoholic mother and some painful memories. But when her mother nearly burns the house down, Toby must put her dreams on hold and return home to care for her. The only time she isn’t lonely and miserable is when she’s listening to her heartthrob, Elvis Presley. His music takes her away and helps her escape from everything wrong in her life.
Noah Rivers has always loved Toby, but no matter what he says, she can‘t get past the fact that her drunken mother once kissed him. He soon realizes the true problem lies in Toby’s belief she’s not good enough for him and in her fear she will be just like her mother.
What will it take to prove to her that she deserves to be happy, and that he would give anything to be the man to make her dreams come true?