Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive…Song #29/250: The Great Canadian Road Trip

Elvis’ private airplane with the Takin’ Care of Business logo on the tail. This plane now sits at his Graceland Mansion Museum.

If you are familiar with the career trajectory of Elvis Presley at all, then you know how he burst onto the music scene in the 1950s with music and moves that left audiences in complete hysterics. In the early 1960s, Elvis left the bright lights of the music world for the discipline of the military. When he was honourably discharged from Uncle Sam’s army, Elvis returned to the world of entertainment but as a movie star instead of being purely a rock n’ roll singer. It was during this phase of his career that Elvis Presley began to experience a drop in popularity. Concerned about this, he decided to take control of his career back from his manager in the form of a national television special in which he would simply do what he enjoyed most and that was: sing! The television special was dubbed as Elvis’ “comeback special”. It was warmly received. Going back to his musical roots reinvigorated his spirits and caused Elvis Aaron Presley to want to perform live on a more regular and consistent basis. Thus, he gathered a new backing band and headed out on the road. The name he selected for his backing band reflected the renewed sense of purpose he felt inside. Thus, when Elvis launched his first tour in over a decade, it was called the “Takin’ Care of Business” Tour with Elvis Presley and the Takin’ Care of Business Band. The whole entourage flew on a plane emblazoned with the letters “TCB” next to a lightning bolt. All of the merchandise being sold on the tour had “TCB” and the lightning bolt on it. Elvis Presley was back and was takin’ care of business as only he could.

Just prior to the airing of Elvis’ “comeback special” on TV, a band from Winnipeg, Manitoba was climbing the US rock charts with a smash hit of their own, “American Woman”. The Guess Who, led by singer Burton Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman saw their song go all the way to #1 on the charts, becoming the first Canadian act to do so in the Rock n’ Roll era. As was the case with many bands, Bachman and Cummings were busy writing and composing new material even as they toured with their older work. One of the songs that Randy Bachman brought to the group was a song tentatively called “White Collar Worker”. At the time, Burton Cummings dismissed the song as terrible because the chorus was clumsy and the melody of the song seemed to be merely copying The Beatles hit, “Paperback Writer”. But despite Cummings’ stinging rebuke, there was something about the song that Randy Bachman liked, so he tucked it away with a list of other songs he was composing with the thought of revisiting it at a future date.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Randy Bachman, Blair Thornton (who replaced Tim Bachman on guitar), Robbie Bachman and Fred Turner.

Well, that future date arrived several years later after The Guess Who had broken up. Randy Bachman found himself drifting through several bands, none of which were successful in gaining a new record deal. Eventually, Bachman turned to his family and convinced his brothers Tim and Robbie to join him in a band. They knew they needed a better singer than any of them were, so they recruited a fellow Winnipeg singer named Fred Turner. They named their new band Bachman-Turner Overdrive and set out to create some good, old-fashioned guitar driven rock n’ roll. Randy Bachman wrote all of the songs and kept all of the royalties for himself, which, in time, would prove to be a divisive decision. But, in the beginning, none of that mattered because the hits rolled off of Bachman’s pen. Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s first five albums all went Gold in Canada, with the first four also going Platinum in terms of sales. They had a string of iconic Canadian hits, such as “Let It Ride”, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”, “Roll On Down The Highway”, “Hey You” and their most famous anthem, “Takin’ Care of Business”. In the mid-1970s, BTO were as big a band in Canada as there was. Their songs, along with those of bands such as April Wine and Trooper, formed much of the soundtrack of my teenage years.

Randy Bachman was listening to Vancouver’s CFUN radio when he heard the magical phrase, “Takin’ Care of Business”.

While most critics and fans accept BTO’s other hits at face value as being straight-ahead rockin’ tunes that are fairly self-explanatory as far as meaning goes, there have always been questions about “Takin’ Care of Business”. In an interview, Randy Bachman stated that although he was an Elvis Presley fan, he had no idea that Elvis’ new tour was titled “The Takin’ Care of Business” tour, nor that his backing band was called by that name, too. He denied ripping Elvis off and claimed, instead, that his song, “Takin’ Care of Business”, had actually been written years before and went by the name “White Collar Man”. Bachman maintained that Bachman-Turner Overdrive used to use “White Collar Man” as a warm-up song during recording sessions in which they would tune their instruments and get proper mic levels all figured out while they played. He said that he never thought of replacing the phrase “white collar man” with “takin’ care of business” until one day in Vancouver when he heard a DJ on CFUN radio use the phrase to describe the station’s musical philosophy. After hearing that, Bachman tweaked the song lyrics and the BTO version of “Takin’ Care of Business” was born. But, even then, the band had no intention of recording it for inclusion on an album. How that came to be was one day during a live performance, lead singer Fred Turner began to experience a mild form of laryngitis. Not certain that he had enough voice left to finish the show, he asked the band to play something…anything for ten minutes while he guzzled water so he could finish the set. Not knowing what else to play, they fell back upon their “tune-up” song and Randy Bachman began to sing. The debut performance of “Takin’ Care of Business” was met with thunderous applause, with the audience singing the new and improved chorus back right from the get-go. Afterwards, it was decided that the song should be added to the next album and the rest is Canadian music history.

The heyday of Bachman-Turner Overdrive coincided with the rejuvenation of Elvis Presley’s career and the donning of his iconic white jumpsuit. By the time that Elvis died in 1976, Bachman-Turner Overdrive were also essentially done as a touring band, too. In the short span of five or six years, Bachman-Turner Overdrive carved out a place for themselves in the pantheon of Canadian music greats. But the intensity with which they toured and recorded new material, coupled with the lack of equity in the division of profits the band was accruing caused the band to bicker and argue, and eventually, it caused Randy Bachman, himself, to opt to leave. There were several iterations of the band as the decades rolled by, including an actual reunion between Fred Turner and Randy Bachman, but nothing of musical consequence emerged. In fact, as some of you may be aware, Robbie Bachman passed away just one week ago formally ending any hope of a reunion of the classic BTO lineup.

Looking back upon it all, Randy Bachman has said that he has no regrets over anything. He remains one of the few Canadian rockers to have two #1 hits with two different bands (“American Woman” with The Guess Who and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” with Bachman-Turner Overdrive). A song that he always believed in (“Takin’ Care of Business”) became one of the most beloved and recognizable songs in Canadian history and still can be heard played at sporting events everywhere. And through it all, by some pure coincidence in timing, he has found himself forever linked with his hero, Elvis Presley, as two musicians who knew exactly what it meant to be takin’ care of business. The mere thought of it makes Bachman smile to this very day.

The link to the video for the song “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bachman-Turner Overdrive can be found here.

The link to the official website for Winnipeg, Manitoba…the birthplace of Bachman-Turner Overdrive can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this blog shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023 http://www.tommacinneswriter.com

Tomorrow’s Top 40: Maggie Rogers, Prince, Mary J. Blige and Elvis Presley, too.

Here are some of the bands and artists who are making news with new releases this week:

Horses by Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers.

Maggie Rogers is one of the most interesting young people in music today. She was the subject of a viral video that was uploaded during the initial lockdown phase of the pandemic, and as such, she became well known to thousands of folks without having released an album or performed on a tour. Maggie’s story goes a little like this…as a child, she was a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. As she entered high school, more musical opportunities presented themselves so she became involved in school choirs and theatre productions. But, in addition to that, Rogers used her high school years to learn about music production and sound engineering. As high school ended, Maggie Rogers recorded a series of songs that would end up becoming her debut album in a couple of years. In the meantime, she used those completed songs as her application to New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Needless to say, she was accepted into the programme. One of her professors there was star singer, Pharrell. (You might know Pharrell from the song “Happy”). In any case, in Pharrell’s class, the students there were tasked with writing, arranging, performing and producing an original song. The viral video that swept the Internet was one in which it was Maggie Rogers’ turn to present in class. In the video, she sits beside Pharrell at the front of the class. They conduct a brief interview so that Pharrell can get a sense of where the upcoming song got its roots, and then her song is played. The song is called “Alaska” and was written about an Outward Bound-type leadership camp she attended in Alaska as a teenager. Pharrell is a seasoned professional and yet, when he listened to “Alaska”, he was visibly moved. When it came time for him to critique her work, he was momentarily at a loss for words. When he did speak, he ended up telling Rogers that he had never encountered anyone like her and that she was completely unique as far as her vision of herself and her music was concerned. As for her skills, he compared her to the genius of Stevie Wonder. No one who watches this video feels that he was just blowing smoke with his comments. They all appeared to be genuinely offered. (I encourage you to stop and watch this video before going on. It is a star turn happening in real time and is really something to see. You can watch the video here).

Not long after graduating from The Institute, a bidding war erupted between record labels. But, just to show you how grounded this young lady was, she formed her own label before signing with anyone else. Her condition for signing with a major label was that all of her music had to first come through her own label so that she could control the content and direction of her career. The only role a major label would play was promotion and distribution of her finished product. A bidding war ensued anyway. Her first album was released. It was called Heard it in a Past Life which earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. After the whirlwind ride that came with touring to support her debut songs, Maggie Rogers stepped away from the spotlight and went to divinity school at Harvard. She moved to Maine and lived by the sea. So, while learning about God and exposing herself to the salt air on the east coast, Maggie Rogers came up with the inspiration for new songs that comprise her album called Surrender. The lead single from this album is called “Horses”. This young lady sure can sing! She has a Folk background but “Horses” allows her to stretch her vocal range a bit, giving her a Country-Rock feel. But, what pipes! Wow! “Horses” was written after Rogers witnessed a herd of wild horses in the mountains. In the song, she admires the freedom these horses seem to have and asks a lover/friend if they have the courage to join her in a quest to be just like those horses. Quite the song. Quite the singer.

***Here is Maggie Rogers with “Horses”. The lyrics version of “Horses” can be found here.

Between the likes of Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers, Lorde, Aurora, Arlo Parks and Brandi Carlile, there is as strong a contingent of ultra-talented female artists performing today as there has been in quite a while. I wish that radio programmers would reflect this more in their offerings. As much as I enjoy hearing Fleetwood Mac-era Stevie Nicks, the 1980s Tina Turner and Annie Lennox and the twenty-year-old songs of Katy Perry and P!nk, I would prefer, just as much, to cycle in some of these modern female performers, too. They are the present and they are the future of music. Let’s give them the air time they deserve, as well.

Holiday Offerings:

Just in time for the holiday gift-giving season, we have the following three offerings for your consideration:

Prince and the Revolution: Live.

Prince and the Revolution circa 1985.

There are many people who go on and on about Bruce Springsteen and what a task master he is and how his penchant for perfection helped to craft some of the most legendary live performances in rock history. The same assessment can easily apply to Minnesota’s own Prince. Like Springsteen, Prince was very much in charge of all aspects of his music; everything from songwriting, to studio production, as well as to concert performance. He was a stickler for details and he demanded complete obedience by everyone involved in the performance of his music. Again, like Springsteen and Rock, Prince was able to create some of the greatest Funk-inspired music of the 1980s. With a string of hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, “1999”, “Raspberry Beret” and many more, Prince was one of the most prolific musical forces of his time.

Prince and the Revolution: Live captures him at his fiercest and funkiest. After touring for two years in support of the Purple Rain album and movie, Prince was growing restless. He had other musical ideas that he wanted to explore but he was beginning to feel trapped in the past, only being able to play his hits. So, while on a world tour, Prince suddenly announced that the tour was ending and that this particular show in Syracuse, New York at the Carrier Dome, would be their final stop. Because it was to be the last time Prince was to perform the songs that made up the first half of his career, he wanted the show to be one for the ages. So, he arranged for it to be broadcast live across Europe and to be recorded for national distribution in the US and so it was. This concert was first released as a video tape in the late 1980s. It was updated and re-sold as a CD a decade or so later. Finally, it has been digitally remastered, visually and audio-wise, and is being re-released again in 2022. So, if you have never witnessed a musical genius at the height of his powers, you now can. This is two hours of Prince and his band, the Revolution, absolutely ripping it up! If you like Prince even in the slightest, then Prince and the Revolution: Live is a must-have for your collection.

***Here is how the concert began with “Let’s Go Crazy!”. The lyrics version is here.

The Elvis Movie Soundtrack

As you may know, director Baz Lurhman released a movie this past summer that walked, bopped and rolled us through the life story of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. I was very pleased that Lurhman included references to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Big Mama Thornton who inspired Elvis and so many other white musicians. In any case, there were 36 songs included throughout the movie. Most of these songs were original Elvis recordings, but many others were mash-ups, or else they were original songs by others such as Thornton or Tharpe. Well, the entire soundtrack is available for download or for purchase as a CD. Today’s music lovers will purchase this collection because of the inclusion of modern singers such as Doja Cat, Diplo, Swae Lee, Kacey Musgraves and Eminem. More seasoned Elvis fans will, no doubt, appreciate the King’s older, original tunes. In either case, Baz Lurhman presents the best of both worlds for Elvis fans. In reply, all I can say to Mr. Lurhman is…come on, say it with me…thank you…thank you very much! 🙂

***Here is Elvis with “In The Ghetto”. The lyrics version is here.

Amazing by Mary J. Blige ft. DJ Khaled

Mary J. Blige and DJ Khaled from the video for “Amazing”.

“Amazing” is the first single off of a new album by Mary J. Blige called Good Morning Gorgeous. This is the first new album of original material from the Godmother of Hip Hop Soul in several years. Just to put this event into some context for you…Mary J. Blige is revered in the Soul and Hip Hop communities. She has dozens of Grammy, Billboard and other awards for her music. Her career has spanned over three decades now and places her firmly in the company of such foundational members of the world of Hip Hop as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Eminem and others of their ilk. As Mary J. Blige has matured in years, she has branched out into the acting world. She has enjoyed much success in roles based upon real people such as Jazz singer Dinah Washington in the movie Aretha, and as Florence Jackson in the historical drama, Mudbound, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Good Morning Gorgeous is a return to her musical roots. It is an album filled with songs that reflect her status as a strong, black, female role model who has earned the respect that comes with such a stellar career. The song “Amazing” features rising star DJ Khaled in a supportive role, but, as the music video clearly shows, the song is all about the feeling of happiness and fulfillment that comes from enjoying success that was earned by staying true to your principles. The song has an excellent throbbing bassline, as one would expect from Mary J. Blige. Just as a personal aside, I find the official video to be visually distracting and prefer the lyrics version. All in all, this is a grand return to form from one of Hip Hop and Soul’s leading ladies. Enjoy.

***The video for “Amazing” is here. The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for Maggie Rogers can be found here.

The link to the official website for Prince can be found here.

The link to the video for the movie Elvis can be found here.

The link to the official website for Mary J. Blige can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post is to be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 http://www.tommacinneswriter.com

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #96: Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #96: Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley.

“Heartbreak Hotel” is a song that was spawned by a suicide note. In the early 1950s, a man in Florida discovered that his wife was cheating on him with another man. In despair, he took his own life. When the Police examined his body, they discovered a suicide note. That note simply stated, “I walk a lonely street”.

The story of that man’s death was reported in a local newspaper in Florida. The story was read by a music teacher named Mae Boren Axton. She was moved by the lyrical nature of the dead man’s final words and brought the idea to a songwriting friend of hers named Tommy Durden. They both thought that there might by a song hidden beneath the tragedy of this man’s story. As they worked on the lyrics, Mae Axton suggested that if they were going to place the setting of the song in the fictional locale of “Lonely Street” then, they needed to add detail to the location. So, with that in mind, she suggested they place a hotel at the end of the street. Durden suggested stated that the obvious name for this hotel should be “The Heartbreak Hotel”. And so, one of the most famous and important songs in the history of Rock n’ Roll came to be.

Once they had the song written, they took it to a friend who was a local singer. The idea was to make a demo tape and shop it around in the hope of selling the song. When their friend tried singing the song, he found it difficult to do so. “Heartbreak Hotel” is a song that was structured, musically, in a much different manner than most songs of the early 1050s. Those days were the days of the crooners. Frank Sinatra was King. Most songs had an orchestral or big band component to them. Songs were lush and full and often spoke of Love. “Heartbreak Hotel” is the opposite of all of that. It is a song that is stripped down and punctuated with many moments of silence. Axton and Durden’s friend found it difficult to get the proper cadence for their song but, after several frustrating takes, the demo tape was completed. It was now time to shop their tape in hopes of making a sale.

Axton used her connections in the music industry to pitch her song to many people; all of whom turned her down. In fact, many people thought that the song was actually pretty poor, as songs went in those days. After many rejections, Axton heard that there was to be a Country Music festival coming to her town. The headliner was Hank Snow but, on the bill was a newcomer named Elvis Presley. So, Mae Axton contacted Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker and asked if she could play their tape for his client when he was in town. Parker agreed. When Elvis heard the song, he immediately “got it”! He asked to listen to the song over and over again until he had the lyrics memorized and then, he sang it back to Axton. He agreed to buy the song from her if he could play with the lyrics and musical structure a bit. She agreed and thus, Elvis came to have a songwriting credit for “Heartbreak Hotel”.

The funny thing is how wildly different the reactions of others were to this new song. The BBC didn’t even consider “Heartbreak Hotel” worthy of being played because, in their words, it was of such “poor vocal quality”. Elvis’ new recording company, RCA Victor, thought it was a bad song, too. The only way Elvis got it to be recorded professionally was to convince his sound engineer to double-mic him so that he would be free to move around as he sang but the microphone would still be able to clearly pick up his voice. But, as much as Elvis was given resistance by the music industry, the reaction from the public was something else altogether. When he debuted “Heartbreak Hotel” in public, the sound of his voice, coupled with the wild gyrations of his hips, drove the crowd into a frenzy. As word spread of what Elvis was doing on stage, girls began fighting to touch him; often grabbing at his clothes to the point of ripping them to shreds. Young men such as John Lennon and Keith Richards reacted in a similar manner, except, that instead of wanting to rip off his clothes, they realized that new way of making music was happening right before their eyes. To a man, they claim that hearing “Heartbreak Hotel” for the first time, by a white man like them, made them feel as though the Blues were possible for guys like them, too. Prior to seeing/hearing Elvis, Lennon and Richards and Bob Dylan all thought the Blues were the sole purvey of Black singers like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and so on. But now, when Elvis breaking down the barriers that he was doing, the whole world of, what was to become Rock n’ Roll as we know it, became possible.

So, out of one man’s heartbreak came one of the most important songs of all-time. To my knowledge, his family never received any compensation due to the fact that his story was, quite literally, “public news”. But, thanks to the imaginations of Mae Axton and Tommy Durden, just about everyone in the English-speaking world knows the answer to the question: “Where is The Heartbreak Hotel”? It is, of course, down at the end of Lonely Street.

Without further delay, here is Elvis Presley with one of the earliest known videos of him singing this song live, in public. Man Alive! That boy’s hips were made on a swivel! What moves! What a voice! This is the real deal. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #126: All Shook Up by Elvis Presley.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #126: All Shook Up by Elvis Presley.

Of all of the songs in this countdown, “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley is one of the most straight-forward as far as the story behind the song goes. But, there is some amazing Elvis-related trivia associated with this song so, here goes for both!

“All Shook Up” was written by a man named Otis Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell also wrote the lyrics to “Don’t Be Cruel”. Apparently, “All Shook Up” was written by Blackwell on a bet or a dare from his boss. The bet was that he couldn’t make a song out of his boss’ act of shaking up a can of Pepsi Cola. One day later, Blackwell had penned the words to a song about that emotional feeling of complete happiness that one feels upon falling in love. As was the case, back in the mid-1950s, if you wanted your song to be sung by someone of Elvis’ pedigree, you had to pay for that privilege so, Blackwell had to agree to sign away fifty percent of his songwriting royalties to Elvis, even though Elvis had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the song. So, the songwriting credits on the single for “All Shook Up” read “Presley/Blackwell” and now you know why.

The lyrics to the song are fairly easy to understand. No hidden nor double meanings there.

“Well, bless my soul!

What’s wrong with me?

I’m itchin’ like a man in a fuzzy tree!

My friends say I’m actin’ wild as a bug!

I’m in love.

I’m all shook up.”

One of the real things that Elvis had going for him was his natural sense of humility, coupled with his natural good looks and charisma. It isn’t just anyone who could sing such lyrics and cause women to swoon. He seemed like someone a girl could fall in love with and be treated like gold for the rest of her life.

In any case, “All Shook Up” was a big hit for Elvis, going all the way to #1, where it stayed for eight consecutive weeks. It ended up being named the Song of the Year in 1957. That honour capped off an amazing two consecutive years for Elvis. In 1956, the “Presley/Blackwell” song, “Don’t Be Cruel” was named the Song of the Year, as well. This made Elvis the only performer to have two different songs proclaimed as the Song of the Year in consecutive years. Not only that, in both 1956 and 1957, Elvis had streaks of 25-consecutive weeks each, with having a song in the #1 position. In 1956 his consecutive weeks streak included songs such as, “Heartbreak Hotel” (8 weeks), “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” (1 week), “Don’t Be Cruel”/”Hound Dog” *(Double A-sided singles that held #1 for 11 consecutive weeks) and “Love Me Tender” (5 weeks). In 1957, his streak of 25-consecutive weeks included hits such as, “Too Much” (3 weeks), “Teddy Bear” (7 weeks), “Al Shook Up” (8 weeks) and “Jailhouse Rock” (7 more weeks).

As I have said before, he is called “The King of Rock n’ Roll” for a reason. So, without further delay, here is the Song of the Year from 1957, “All Shook Up” by The King, himself, Mr. Elvis Presley. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: Honourable Mention Song #20…I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You by Elvis Presley (as Nominated by JoAnn Kroft-Hedley).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Honourable Mention Song #20: I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You by Elvis Presley (as Nominated by JoAnn Kroft-Hedley).

“I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” is a song that is based upon a French song called, “Plaisir d’ amour” that was written all the way back in 1784!!! That song was, also, written for a female lead to be sung about falling in love with a man. In the late 1950s, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” was created by three songwriters named Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George Davis Weiss. As it turned out, these three gentlemen ended up writing some of the biggest hits of the day; including, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for The Tokens and “Honeycomb” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” for Jimmie Rodgers and “Lullaby of Birdland” for Ella Fitzgerald. All three were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Songwriting Category and finally, as if that wasn’t enough, David George Weiss served as President of the Songwriter’s Guild of America for over two decades. But, the biggest hit produced by this trio of accomplished songwriters was “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” which became a worldwide hit when it was sung by The King, himself, Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley sang this song as part of the soundtrack to the movie, “Blue Hawaii”. That song became a #1 all around the world and remained in the top spot for seven weeks. In fact, the “Blue Hawaii” soundtrack album was the #1 album for twenty consecutive weeks, which held the record for almost two decades until it was replaced by Fleetwood Mac’s, “Rumours” LP in the late 1970s.

One of the things I have always admired about Elvis, as a performer, was his stage presence. He sure knew how to move and how to work an audience. He even knew what strings to pull in his movies. For example, in “Blue Hawaii”, Elvis did not do the cliched thing and sing this song to his love interest. Instead, when courting her, he did so by singing this song to her grandmother! That Elvis was a clever boy, for sure! In real life, Elvis often saved “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” for the finale of his shows. Sometimes when he sang this song, he would pick out the prettiest girl in the room and sing it to her but, just as often, he would focus in on a Grandma in the audience and serenade her. When finished, Elvis would smile and, on occasion, would kiss Grandma on the cheek or hand. The audience would swoon. Elvis was “The King” for a reason.

As an aside, in several previous posts, I have pumped the tires of a TV show called, “Full House/Fuller House” that starred, among others, John Stamos as “Uncle Jesse”, an aspiring singer who loved Elvis. Anyway, that show was a treasure trove of smart musical references, hidden amid the family comedy storylines. In one episode, the entire family went to Hawaii for a vacation. Uncle Jesse was so excited to visit all of the locations where “Blue Hawaii” was filmed. At one point, the family was invited to participate in a ceremonial luau near their hotel. Uncle Jesse, being a singer, asked to sing, “Rock a-Hula, Baby”, which he did. “Rock a-Hula, Baby” was the B-side to “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” when it was released as a single. When we watched that episode as a family, my daughters completely enjoyed the song but missed the clever Elvis reference. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the moment because I had to respect the attention to detail that the creators of this show employed each week. As a lover of the history of music, I can’t speak highly enough of “Full House/Fuller House” and the lengths they went to honour the History of Rock n’ Roll.

This song was nominated by my friend, JoAnn Kroft-Hedley. If there is a bigger Elvis fan then, I haven’t met her. She has been promoting him to me all throughout this musical countdown journey of ours so, I was definitely not surprised at all when her nominated song turned out to be an Elvis pick. JoAnn was lucky enough to have seen Elvis perform in person. According to her, as was his tradition, he saved “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” until the very end and then, when he started to sing, she says it felt like he was singing directly to her. She swooned and is still swooning to this very day. As mentioned, Elvis either picked the prettiest girl in the room or the most matronly Grandma. In JoAnn’s case, I am sure it was the former and not the latter. 🙂

JoAnn has been a staunch ally and good friend for a few years now. I met JoAnn through her daughter, Cuyler. Cuyler was a student teacher who spent time in my classroom a year or two before I retired. Because we both live in the same town, I used to run into Cuyler and her family on occasion when we were out and about. On one of those occasions, Cuyler introduced me to her Mom and we have been fast friends ever since. I am fortunate to know them, both. In fact, Cuyler has gone on to be one of the teachers that my youngest daughter, Sophie, has this year. Small world, eh?

So, thanks, JoAnn for nominating such a great song. As well, I thank you for your comments, questions and shared stories all the way through the countdown process as it has unfolded. Your input has made this experience more enjoyable for me. I am endlessly appreciative.

Without further delay, here is Elvis Presley with “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” from the movie, “Blue Hawaii”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Rock a-Hula, Baby”, as shown on the TV show, “Full House”, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #13: Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #13: Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton.

So, a funny thing happened on the way to writing this post. I was minding my own business, conducting my research into the song, “Hound Dog”, which I assumed was an Elvis Presley song and then, what I really discovered was that I didn’t actually know anything about this song at all! The story behind “Hound Dog” is so filled with twists and turns and plot developments that I think my biggest challenge today is going to be finding room to get it all down without having written a book! Suffice to say, “Hound Dog” is not an Elvis song! It is not about a dog! It was a song subject to countless legal battles over copyright infringement! And finally, it was originally sung by a lady who rivalled Aretha Franklin, herself, for singing prowess yet, she died a virtual unknown in the annals of music history. That lady’s name was “Big Mama” Thornton. So, let’s get this twisted, tangled sorrowful tale under way. Here is the story of a song called, “Hound Dog”.

The song, “Hound Dog” was written by two famous songwriters named Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller when they were just teenagers. Leiber and Stoller wrote some of the most famous songs of all-time including, “Jailhouse Rock” and “Loving You” by Elvis, “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters, “On Broadway” and “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King and over 70 other songs that charted in the US. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Songwriters Category in 1987. “Hound Dog” was one of their very first songs to be written and recorded. Because of their young age at the time, the lessons learned through the publication and recording process helped to set the stage for legal ownership of musical content and the subsequent royalty rates that helped songwriters make their living. But, at the time, none of those copyright procedures and protections existed which went a long way into making the story of “Hound Dog” so complex.

The original version of the lyrics for “Hound Dog” were written for a black woman to sing. The song was written to be a bawdy song about a gigolo ( a “hound dog”) who was trying to convince his black female mark to take care of him…..to set him up in a life of leisure, if you will. She, in turn, replies that she is aware of what he is trying to trick her into doing and she is having none of it and wants him to leave. The black woman that Leiber and Stoller presented “Hound Dog” to was a lady known as “Big Mama” Thornton. There are so many legal aspects to the story of “Hound Dog” that it is easy to overlook the part that Big Mama Thornton played but, in reality, her story is arguably the most important one of all.

“Big Mama” Thornton was a Blues singer who was cut from the very same cloth as was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. *(you can read all about Sister Rosetta Tharpe here). “Big Mama” Thornton was a strong, powerful woman who toured with a band that included a guitarist named Buddy Guy, who would go on to become one of the most legendary Blues guitarists of all-time. But, his first gig was touring with “Big Mama” Thornton. Because of her powerful presence, Leiber and Stoller…..two white, skinny, Jewish teenagers……thought she would be the perfect singer for their song. At first, she sang “Hound Dog” as a smouldering Blues song but, to their credit, Leiber and Stoller were not intimidated by her and they stood their ground and insisted that she sing the song like she was howling. “Big Mama” reluctantly agreed to try it their way and, as they say, the rest is history. Her howling rendition of a song about sex and about a woman standing her ground, set the music world on fire. When it was released under her name, “Hound Dog” by “Big Mama” Thornton went to #1 on the R&B charts and stayed there for eight weeks! The song was one of several hits she had under her own name……the next famous being “Ball and Chain”, made famous when covered by Janis Joplin. If the story of the song was that she had a hit with it and then Elvis covered it later then, that would be a relatively simple story but, that is not the end of the story at all. Hang on……we are only just beginning.

Leiber and Stoller wrote the original lyrics to “Hound Dog” at a time when copyright protection really didn’t exist. It was a time of the wild west when it came to songs and musical structures. As soon as someone released a hit, there would be imitators and copy cats springing up out of the woodwork in no time flat. The legal troubles for Leiber and Stoller regarding “Hound Dog” started as soon as they gave the song to “Big Mama” Thornton. When she read the lyrics handed to her, she agreed to sing most of the song the way it was but, requested a few changes along the way that, based on her own experiences as a black woman, that rang truer if she doctored the lyrics a tad. So, she did. In her mind and that of her manager, the slight changes she made meant that now, “Hound Dog”, as sung by “Big Mama” Thornton was now, also, written by her as well. Because she and her management team gave themselves a songwriting credit, it meant that sales of her version of the song would generate royalty revenue for them and, by doing so, cut down on the share that went to Leiber and Stoller. So, this is where legal issue #1 started.

So, as mentioned, there were plenty of copycat artists out there. When “Hound Dog” by “Big Mama” Thornton was reigning supreme atop the R&B charts, a new version of “Hound Dog” came out by a group named Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. They were not black women so, they changed the lyrics to reflect the fact that men were now singing this song called, “Hound Dog”. In order to do so, they changed the whole concept of the song from one that was sexually-charged to one that was simply about a dog chasing rabbits. It was this version of “Hound Dog” that Elvis covered. However, before we get to that, because Freddy Bell and the Bellboys created their own lyrics, they released their version as being written by them thus giving themselves a songwriting credit and the royalty revenue that came with it. Leiber and Stoller were not given any songwriting credit on this version of “Hound Dog” which, as you can imagine, created legal issue #2 for the song, “Hound Dog”. This brings us to Elvis.

As you should all be aware by now, Elvis always demanded a full 50% songwriting share of any song that he intended to cover. Since Elvis was covering a version of the song that was, in reality, an unauthorized copy of the original song he was, in fact, not entitled to the songwriting credit he coerced out of Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. But, as we know, that didn’t stop him from recording his own version of “Hound Dog”. This became legal issue #3 but, it wasn’t the end of other legal issues and issues of another sort for Elvis.

“Hound Dog” was one of Elvis’ first big hits. It was, also, one of the first songs that the American public saw him perform on TV. It was after those initial performances that Elvis was given the nickname, “Elvis the Pelvis” for the amount of gyrations he used his hips to create while singing this song. At this stage of his career, he was just starting out and was viewed by established singers such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, as being wet behind the ears. They both spoke out against the style of music Elvis was promoting. They called it vulgar and nothing but noise. As Elvis began appearing on television to promote himself and his music, the hosts of the shows he appeared on all tried various means to restrict how Elvis was shown on screen. On one show, the Tonight Show as hosted then, by Steve Allen, who held Rock n’ Roll music in contempt, he humiliated Elvis by presenting him with an autographed roll of toilet paper (I kid you not) at the end of his performance. Elvis, who wore a tuxedo for this special appearance, was furious. The very next day, he re-recorded “Hound Dog” in his own style, as opposed to merely copying Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. His new rendition was angry and powerful and energetic and more in keeping with the version we know from Elvis today. As we know, the Elvis Presley version of “Hound Dog” went straight to #1 and stayed there for multiple weeks. This was merely the beginning of a career that helped make Elvis the biggest selling singer of all-time in music history.

But, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller hated the Elvis version. In their minds, a song about a dog chasing rabbits made no sense; especially, coming from the powerful, female perspective as sung by “Big Mama” Thornton. As the litigation involving this song unfolded, it became clear that Elvis most certainly knew that the song belonged to “Big Mama” Thornton but, he opted to sing the version about dogs and rabbits, anyway. That was his choice, of course but, critics say that it was the beginning of a pattern with Elvis that saw him appropriate songs by black artists in ways that denied them credit in the public eye, as well as, the financial benefits that should have come with Elvis lending his weight to their work. That criticism has stayed with Elvis since that time. *(For proof, read the post about the song, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, where they address Elvis by name, along with this topic. You can listen to the song here).

Eventually, the copyright issues were ironed out in court. Leiber and Stoller were given their rightful credit on all versions of the song by everyone. The funny thing about that was that as the time of the first verdict in this case that spawned multiple trials, Leiber and Stoller, were legally minors and had to have their mothers sign all documents on their behalf. “Big Mama” Thornton was allowed to keep her songwriting credit but had to take a reduced share because Leiber and Stoller were given the main credit and royalty rate. “Big Mama” Thornton received nothing at all from any of the cover versions that followed her success. Leiber and Stoller were given a small share of the Elvis Presley recording which, as you can imagine, set them up for life and, as well, because of how agreeable they were with Elvis during his portion of the trial, they were given access to his company and ended up writing other songs with him, as noted at the top of this post.

For me, I always viewed “Hound Dog” as an Elvis song. Most peopled, I suppose. But, it is not an Elvis song. It is a “Big Mama” Thornton song. I feel that it is important to state that. Far too many black artists have had their work taken from them by white artists who, in turn, benefited from a society that was set up to favour whites over blacks. All of it was unfair and unjust. If this post sheds even a sliver of light on this situation and changes a few minds then, it will have served its purpose. The real thing about it is that “Big Mama” Thornton was an exceptional singer. Wow! What a presence! I had never heard her sing until I did the research for this post. But, when I did listen to her, as you will all do in a few moments, I was completely in awe. If you think “Lady Soul”, Aretha Franklin can sing, wait until you get a load of “Big Mama” Thornton. I am willing to place a fairly hefty wager that “Big Mama” Thornton was, in fact, one of Aretha Franklin’s role models starting out. Their singing styles are quite similar. In any case, I am going to play for you the video of “Big Mama” Thornton singing “Hound Dog” the way it was originally intended for it to be sung. Note the stylings of Buddy Guy, in the background, on guitar. There are many who say that, along with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the combination of “Big Mama” Thornton’s voice, with Buddy Guy’s smooth guitar work, was the real beginning of Rock n’ Roll as we know it to be today.

So, without further delay, here is “Hound Dog”, as written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and performed by “Big Mama” Thornton and Buddy Guy. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Hound Dog” by “Big Mama” Thornton, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Ball and Chain” by “Big Mama” Thornton, can be found here.

The link to the official website for “Big Mama” Thornton, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Buddy Guy, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Hound Dog”, as covered by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #54: Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #54: Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley.

The story of the song, “Jailhouse Rock” is an interesting one which only has slightly to do with “The King”, himself. It is the story of Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller being held “captive” in their hotel room until they produced the song. It is, also, the tragic story of what happened to one of Elvis’ main co-stars in the movie, “Jailhouse Rock” and how it caused Elvis to be unable to watch the movie after it was made. It is, also, the story of “Jailhouse Rock” became one of the first openly homoerotic songs ever recorded. Finally, it is the story of one of the most famous movie dance sequences ever filmed; a scene so engrained into the fabric of the song that it is almost impossible to think of the song without seeing the “inmates” dancing up a storm. So, let’s get right down to business, shall we? Here is the multi-layered story of one of Rock’s greatest songs…..”Jailhouse Rock”.

Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber were enormously successful songwriters and musicians during their heyday. They were responsible to such enormous hits as “Yakkety Yak” by The Coasters, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “On Broadway” by The Drifters, as well as, “Hound Dog” and Jailhouse Rock” for Elvis. When Elvis decided to begin to diversify his career by starring in movies, “Jailhouse Rock” was one of his first ventures. The movie was originally called, “The Hard Way” because its’ plot involved Elvis being a prison convict who discovers his talent for singing while in jail and who, upon release, rehabilitates himself and becomes a star. Stoller and Leiber were contracted to create the soundtrack for the film. They were brought to New York City to write the score. However, they had never been there before (they were from L.A.) and, upon arrival, they did all of the tourist things such as seeing Broadway shows, going to night clubs, etc., and ended up accomplishing very little. The legendary story is that the assistant producer was sent to check on their progress and, upon finding them gallivanting around town, locked them in their hotel room, barred the door with a sofa and refused to allow them to leave their room until progress became tangible. Stoller and Leiber were professionals and knew they had overstepped their bounds. They got down to work and ended up creating four songs in one day. One of those songs was “Jailhouse Rock”. The songs were shown to Elvis. He loved “Jailhouse Rock” quite a bit right away. Once the jail house dance scene was filmed, everyone involved knew it was iconic and, as a result, the decision was made to change the name of the movie to “Jailhouse Rock” as well. There are many fans and critics, alike, who consider the dance scene from “Jailhouse Rock” to be Elvis’ greatest moment on screen.

When the song was released as a single, it raced to the top of the charts, where it stayed for more than a month. It was part of a stretch of time when Elvis absolutely ruled the charts with #1 hits such as “Hound Dog”, “Love Me Tender”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, #All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”.

The movie, “Jailhouse Rock” was not as successful for Elvis, as was the single. The movie made it to #3 on the box office list but ended up only being the 14th highest grossing movie of the year, when all was said and done. In the movie, Elvis’ character is eventually released from prison and begins to carve out a career for himself in music. He does so under the professional guidance of a young, female manager who, in real life, was known as Judy Tyler. Tyler was in her mid-twenties when she starred opposite Elvis. Prior to this movie role, she was best known for her on-going role on the famous “Howdy Doody” show. It was hoped that “Jailhouse Rock” was going to be Tyler’s big break and that future stardom awaited. Unfortunately, three months after shooting wrapped……and one month prior to the movie being released….Judy Tyler and her husband were killed in a car accident. Her death shook Elvis to his core because he thought that she was super nice and talented and was rooting for her success as much as anyone else. When she died, Elvis found that the Joy was completely sucked out of the movie for him and, as a result, he was unable to watch the movie ever again without breaking down.

Whether it was intentional or not, the song, “Jailhouse Rock” was one of the very first songs to ever openly mention the possibility of a homosexual relationship.

“Number forty-seven said to number three,

“You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.”

“I sure would be delighted with your company.”

“Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me.”

I once knew a woman who was an ex-prison guard. She spoke openly about the number of rough, tough men she witnessed become, in her words, “institutionally Gay” because their sexual impulses were so strong. Men who, in the outside world, would start a barroom brawl at the merest of hints that they were Gay or showed interest in another man. But, there it was in “Jailhouse Rock”, as plain as day. Even in the film’s dance sequence, two male back-up dancers pair off in a suggestive manner. So, it should come as no surprise that “Jailhouse Rock” sent a shockwave of electricity through the Gay Community which, at the time, was still mostly conducted in secret in our civilized society of the day. At a time when representation mattered a great deal, hearing those lyrics and seeing those male dancers pair off was a pivotal moment for a great many young men.

Just before we end this post, here are a few tidbits of trivia for you to toss out and about at parties and around the dinner table……did you know that there really was a “Purple Gang” in real life? In the song, Elvis sings about “The whole rhythm section was The Purple Gang”. Well, in the real world, The Purple Gang referred to a group of Prohibition Era Jewish mobsters who were contemporaries of Al Capone and who were said to have been the ones doing the shooting during the infamous “St. Valentines Day Massacre”. Elvis, also, mentioned a person named “Shifty Henry” who, as it turned out, was a real person and a terrific musician at the time of the song being written. In a different but, related note, the famous children’s television show, “School house Rock” was inspired by the song/movie title, “Jailhouse Rock”.

So, without further delay, here is the iconic jail house dance sequence from the movie, “Jailhouse Rock” starring Elvis Presley. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the movie, “Jailhouse Rock”, can be found here. ***Well worth checking out!

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #251: Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #251: Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley.

As I said in the previous post about The Rolling Stones, my intention, going forward with this list, is to liberally sprinkle in the biggest hits of those who comprise the Titans of Rock n’ Roll, regardless of what position on the list we may be at. This applies to The Beatles, to The Rolling Stones, to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and the others of their ilk. Needless to say, that new rule applies to Elvis, as well. “Love Me Tender” is one of Elvis’ most well-known and popular songs and could easily be higher up on the list. But, from now on, let the rankings be almost irrelevant. Simply enjoy each song as I pop them into the countdown.

“Love Me Tender” is an interesting song for a number of reasons. First of all, did you know that this song was actually adapted from a song that is over one hundred years old!? The original song that forms the foundation of “Love Me Tender” is called, “Aura Lea” which was a song written about the US Civil War by two men named George R. Poulton and Stephen Foster. The song was originally sung in travelling minstrel-type shows. It was eventually adopted by the US Military Academy, who used the tune to create a song called, “Army Blue”, which served as the class graduation song each year. “Aura Lea” (which is pronounced “orally”) was featured in films starring Frances Farmer and another starring Bing Crosby.

In the early 1950s, a man named Ken Darby took the tune and created a new song that became, “Love Me Tender”. Elvis heard the song and sought to record it. Although he did not have any part in the writing of the song, his name appears on the songwriting credits. Elvis always pressured unknown songwriters, like Darby, to hand over 50% of the songwriting credits in exchange for Elvis recording the song and using his star-power to bring the song to a greater audience than would have been the case before. In a way, Elvis played the same role as modern-day “Influencers” do on social media. He raised up unknown folks into the spotlight, with the price being half of their earnings. Rock n’ Roll may be many things but, one of the main things it is, without any question, is a business.

When Elvis released, “Love Me Tender”, the song was very well-received by listeners and became a #1 hit. Just as that was happening, Elvis and his management team, made another business-related decision…..Elvis was going to capitalize on his fame and his good looks by starting to appear exclusively in movies. “Love Me Tender” was the name of the very first movie Elvis ever starred in. Originally, the movie was to be called, “The Reno Brothers” and was set in the time of the US Civil War. But, the popularity of Elvis and of his new song, “Love Me Tender” caused producers to change the name of the movie to mirror that of his hit song.

The movie, “Love Me Tender” is unique among the many movies Elvis ended up appearing in. For starters, it is the only movie he appeared in that he did not receive top billing for. *(He was billed third). It is the only movie in which his character dies and, as well, it was the only movie in which he played a character based on historical fact.

The song, “Love Me Tender”, became a staple of his live shows but, even then, it held a unique place, compared to other hit songs. “Love Me Tender” was usually the only song in his live sets that he did not sing all the way through. What usually happened was that he would start the song and then wander into the audience, flirting with the pretty ladies, as he went along. Often times, Elvis would stop singing and start having conversations with these audience members, mid-song and would only finish the song once his tour of available ladies was over. Never-the-less, you can find “Love Me Tender” on almost all of his live albums and, in those cases, there is none of the stage banter present; it is just Elvis, his voice and the words of a song that was written over a century ago.

So, for your listening and viewing pleasure, here is “The King” with one of his earliest and most popular hits, “Love Me Tender”. Enjoy.

The link for the video to the song, “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #88: Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #88: Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins.

Poor Carl Perkins.

Carl Perkins, along with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, was part of the original quartet of singers musicians who frequented Sun Records in the early 1950s. They all performed together in travelling entertainment shows. They all helped each other come up with song ideas. Sometimes, they even played together as co-headliners or else, one friend would back up the other. Those were the very earliest days of, what came to be known as, Rock n’ Roll. And, in those early days, the first man to make it big was Carl Perkins with a song called, “Blue Suede Shoes”.

The origin of the song remains contested, even to this day. But, the two most prominently held theories are that (a) Johnny Cash was helping Perkins come up with song ideas and mentioned to him that he used to know a fellow in the Army who was overly concerned with the shine on his shoes and was always telling people to “stay off of my shoes!” (b) The second version of how “Blue Suede Shoes” came to be is that Carl Perkins, himself, was playing at a local dance and kept getting distracted by a couple who were dancing together, right at the front of the auditorium. Perkins thought that the girl was beautiful but, that her date was only concerned about the girl not stepping on his cool blue shoes. To Perkins, when you are holding a girl as pretty as the stars above, who cares about shoes?!

Regardless of how the song came to be, “Blue Suede Shoes” was the very first big hit for Sun Records. The song is played in a rock-a-billy style, which combines Rock n’ Roll, Blues and Country music together. “Blue Suede Shoes” became the first rock-a-billy song to sell a million copies, as well as, being Sun Records first million seller. Of the famous four, Perkins was first out of the gate and became in demand for live concert appearances. At first, Perkins played gigs in the southern and central regions of the US and regularly sold out 1000-seat concert bowls. In due time, he began to receive invitations to appear on national tv shows; the first of which was The Perry Como Show. In the 1950s, Perry Como was one of the most famous crooners in the world so, to be asked to appear on his show was a big honour. Perkins accepted. Everyone was super excited for him because it was an opportunity for the world or, at least, the bulk of mainstream America, to hear and see the new Rock sound being played live on TV. Unfortunately, on the way home, after that show, Perkins and his crew were involved in a terrible car accident. Perkins survived but was badly injured. His brother and another crewman were killed. The wave of career momentum that Perkins was riding ended that day. He was hospitalized for several months; effectively causing him to pass out of the public eye. Shaken, as he was, he vowed never to tour again and, instead, spent the rest of his career mainly as a songwriter.

When most people think of the song, “Blue Suede Shoes”, they think it is an Elvis Presley song. Here is the story of how that came to be. As noted earlier, Elvis and Carl Perkins were friends from the very earliest of days. But, it was quite a common practise for singers to cover the successful songs of others singers. So, when Elvis left Sun Records and signed with RCA Victor, they suggested to him that his first single with them should be a cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”. By this time, Elvis had begun to have some success of his own. His star was clearly on the rise. But, being the true friend that he was, Elvis refused to record the song unless Carl Perkins was healthy and signed off on the endeavour. It was only when Perkins told Elvis that his touring days were over, that Elvis agreed to record “Blue Suede Shoes”. The funny thing about the Elvis version of the song is that, even though it is better known, it never sold as well as the one by Carl Perkins. In fact, when you look at the complete discography of Elvis Presley, “Blue Suede Shoes” isn’t even in his own Top Ten in terms of sales or recognition. Yet, most people, when asked who sang “Blue Suede Shoes” would immediately say, “Elvis!”

It is hard to say what kind of a career Carl Perkins could have had if not for that tragic accident that happened just after getting his big break. Regardless of what might have been, Perkins has been long respected for what was. He was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame soon after it opened in the mid-1980s. His version of “Blue Suede Shoes” (and, not Elvis’) was selected by the Library of Congress as being one of the most culturally important songs of the Twentieth Century in the US. He is respected and revered for helping to launch the music genre known as Rock n’ Roll. He even was known for his down-to-earth personality and his sense of humour….when asked to compare himself, in the early days, to Elvis…Perkins replied, “He’s got his looks and moves and I’ve got what the Lord gave to me. I think we know how this is gonna turn out.” and then he laughed.

The lesson I take from all of this is that neither man knew each other as a competitor. They knew and loved each other as friends. Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we all treated each other with such kindness and respect?! Without further delay, here is Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley with their versions of the classic hit song, “Blue Suede Shoes”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Blue Suede Shoes” as covered by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for all things, Carl Perkins, can be found here.

The link to the official website for “The King”, Elvis Presley, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #302: Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #302: Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley.

For many people, the topic of who the most important or influential musicians in Rock n’ Roll history are often revolves around one, Elvis Aron Presley. He is not referred to as, “The King of Rock n’ Roll” without merit. Elvis Presley did not discover nor invent Rock n’ Roll but, he, more than anyone else, was responsible for bringing it to the masses (and, by “the masses”, I mean, white America). Elvis Presley, with his handsome features, deep, rich singing voice and provocative dance moves (which some maintained unleashed a sexual power that is the actual essence of Rock music), is unrivalled in his star power. For proof that Elvis is, indeed, “The King”, look no further that the single fact that he is the highest selling musical artist, in any genre, in any era, of all-time! Mic drop!

Elvis Aron Presley began his career in the mid 1950s and quickly became the face of a cultural revolution. Signed to Sun Records and managed by Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley enjoyed an impressive start to his career with numerous #1 hits such as “Jailhouse Rock”, “Heartbreak Hotel” and many more. But, a funny thing happened while he sat atop the Music World in the early 1960s, Elvis joined the Army. At the time, it was not only patriotism that caused Elvis to leave music behind and enlist as a G.I. but, it was felt that it was a good career move, too. The idea of the handsome music star sacrificing his career for love of Country was a dream for a marketer like, Col. Parker. So, off Elvis went.

When Elvis was honourably discharged several years later, his management team decided to capitalize on the latest trend for big musical acts (like The Beatles) and have Elvis begin a career in the movies. So, for the next four or five years, Elvis starred in a string of B-movies. During that period of time, his entire musical output consisted of contributing songs for the soundtrack albums to these movies. So, while Elvis was starring in “Blue Hawaii” and “G.I. Blues”, the world of music moved on without him and before he knew it, it had been almost a full decade since he had released any original material under his own name. As hard as it may seem to believe, Elvis had almost become irrelevant. So, in 1969, Elvis demanded of Col. Parker, that he be allowed to begin touring again. In order to re-launch his music career, he signed with TV Channel, “NBC”, to air a concert of his where he would play some hits but, also, introduce new material, too. One of the new songs he released at that moment was “Suspicious Minds”.

Like many of the songs that Elvis sang, “Suspicious Minds” was written by somebody else. Motown was not the only musical entity that had teams of songwriters busily writing songs to be sung by other singers. Around Nashville, there were many aspiring musicians who began their careers as songwriters for hire. One such performer was a man named Mark James. He wrote “Suspicious Minds” for himself and based it upon a situation in his own life whereby he was married but still was in love with his high school sweetheart. The Mark James-version of “Suspicious Minds” did not chart. But, when Elvis started thinking about re-vitalizing his career, he put out word that he was seeking good songs to sing. Eventually, Mark James was made aware of this and presented his demo of “Suspicious Minds” to Elvis. Needless to say, Elvis saw something of merit in it and agreed to buy it from James. “Suspicious Minds” became the very last #1 hit that Elvis ever had in his career.

As Elvis re-launched the second phase of his career, he did so by taking up residence in Las Vegas, donning his famous/infamous white suit and playing his hits, over and over, again. Even though he remained a popular performer, Elvis, never again, attained the lofty career heights that he did at the beginning of his reign as “The King of Rock”. Overweight and addicted to prescription drugs, Elvis died alone, in his bathroom, at Graceland in 1976.

When you examine Elvis’ discography, you will discover that of all of the albums released that bear his image, his voice and his name, less than one-quarter were actual Elvis Presley albums filled with original music. A great many were movie soundtrack albums. But, by far, the greatest number of Elvis albums circulating in the world today were released posthumously. There are, literally, dozens and dozens of these post-death Elvis albums. You see, Elvis was always entangled in contracts with people like Col. Parker, who always made sure to take their share of any revenue he generated. Even in death, Elvis was the gift that kept on giving. He was a good son and a good singer, too but, he was an industry, in his own right, as well. So, I suppose it is, somewhat, fitting that a career that shook America to its core, when it started, should end in a polyester jumpsuit, in a manufactured town in the desert.

So it was with “Suspicious Minds”…the final hit from the man who changed Rock n’ Roll forever. Ladies and Gentlemen, here is “The King”, Mr. Elvis Presley. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their fabulous website can be found here.