I thought I would share a few facts that I find interesting. If you’re an Elvis fan, you might already know them. If not, then I hope you find them interesting as well.
A Star is Born – A highly successful movie released in 1976 starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Barbara and Elvis were friends and held one another in high regard. Barbara asked Elvis to co-star with her in the movie, and he was thrilled. He planned to do it, but Colonel Parker nixed it and wouldn’t let him. I think this would have been a huge turning point in Elvis’ acting career, and in his life in general.
Thunder Road – An excellent movie from 1958 starring Robert Mitchum. Elvis was a fan of Mitchum’s and wanted to meet him. When they met, Mitchum asked him if he’d be interested in co-starring in Thunder Road. Elvis was thrilled and desperately wanted the role, but the Colonel refused.
Don’t Cry Daddy – Written by Mac Davis, who also wrote quite a few other songs for Elvis, one of the most popular being In the Ghetto. Mac said that Elvis made some tweaks to most of his songs, and in this one, Mac ended it with ‘another little baby child is born in the ghetto’ and Elvis added ‘and his mama cries’ – which Mac thought was genius. Back to Don’t Cry Daddy, in Mac’s own words, here is the story of how the song came to be:
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. Basically that’s where the song came from. It was a combination of him telling me not to cry because of watching this massacre in Vietnam on TV and my own situation having gone through a divorce. I didn’t know at the time that it was a special song. It was just another day in the life of a songwriter. We write songs about our lives and about things that happen to us…I do remember thinking that I should have written another verse for it. But that was me. That’ll be on my tombstone, “I was still working on that last verse.”
Help Me – An Elvis song written by Larry Gatlin. Elvis recorded a few of Larry’s songs, my favorite of them by far is Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall. I heard a brief interview with Larry Gatlin on Elvis radio recently. He said that he was struggling financially, and he and his wife were at home, wondering how they were going to keep their house. He received a call from a mutual friend of his and Elvis who told him Elvis was recording his song. Larry hung up the phone and said to his wife, “Honey, we can keep the house.”
Here is Elvis’ rendition of Bitter They Are. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a live version.
Heartbreak Hotel, recorded in January, 1956 – Elvis’ first million selling record was co-written by Mae Boren Axton, mother of singer/songwriter Hoyt Axton. She was an English teacher and a songwriter. A steel guitarist, Tommy Durden, read an article about a man who killed himself and left a suicide note that read “I walk a lonely street.” He showed the article to Mae and the two collaborated on the song. Mae took a position as a part time public relations secretary for Colonel Parker, and when she met Elvis in 1955, she said that he had everything it took to be a star except a hit song. She told him, “You need a million-seller, and I’m going to write it for you.” And, that she did.