I had visited both Nashville and Memphis with my wife Carole back in 1998 and we both hoped to return one day, especially to Nashville. When the news came through that a Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute would be held at the Ryman in November of 2003 I was very keen to attend although, due to other commitments, felt that it would be impossible. It was Carole who encouraged me to make the trip and, although she couldn’t come with me, I started making plans.
Ryman Auditorium, Legends Corner and Tootsies
I was fortunate to get a ticket for the show from Cash's manager Lou Robin and made plans that would include attending the show, some research at the Country Music Hall of Fame and hopefully some interviews for the fanzine.
In the weeks approaching the trip Bill Miller, from the official website, had made arrangements for a special price at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Nashville. It would be good that so many people from the forum would be staying in one place. Each day seemed to get better as plans were then announced for a party at the hotel after the Memorial Show. Just a few days before I was due to leave the really exciting news came through that members of Johnny Cash’s band would be playing at the party! Andy Novak would be playing lead guitar and handling the vocals with Cash band members Earl Poole Ball, W. S. ‘Fluke’ Holland and Dave Roe backing him.
Leaving Gatwick Airport on Friday 7 November I arrived in Nashville and my hotel early in the evening. A bite to eat, a drink and an early night prepared me for the busy time ahead.
On the Saturday I paid a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and took the opportunity to visit the world famous RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded many of his hits. I had been there with Carole back in 1998 but it was fun to go again.
I also had the opportunity to meet up with Lou Robin and his lovely wife Karen for about half an hour at his hotel. It was the first time I had met Lou although we had spoken on the phone many times. They were both so friendly and complementary about my work. Lou gave me my ticket for the Memorial Show to save having to sort it out on the night.
On the Sunday people from the forum started arriving and in the afternoon I travelled out to the Cemetery, Cash’s home and the House of Cash with Jim Pearson, his daughter Missy and Kelli Bodenheimer. We had organised all this via email before I left home and it was so kind of Jim to do all the driving. I was shocked a few years ago to learn that Jim had passed away and will always be grateful that I had the opportunity to know him, he was a great guy.
The visit to the cemetery was very emotional but I am pleased I had the opportunity to visit both John and June’s graves and pay my respects. Although I had visited Hendersonville and the House of Cash back in 1998 it was nice to make a return visit and this time I also managed to see Cash’s home.
Sunday evening I at last met up with Bill and Shannon Miller. Along with other forum members we sat around and chatted till late in the evening. It was a pleasant surprise when Kathy Cash joined us and spent time chatting to us all.
On Monday morning I was booked into the Country Music Hall of Fame Library and managed to find loads of information about John that I used in future issues of the fanzine and in my updated book. I also spent time researching for my book on Linda Ronstadt which has since been published in ebook format.
Before the Memorial Show I had the opportunity to attend the Press Call held at Tootsies, a bar in Nashville, and also the Sony Music Party. It was there that I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Rosanne, Kathy, John Carter, Reba Hancock, Amy Willis from Sony Music and also Jimmy Tittle. They all made me feel so welcome and I thank them all. I enjoy the work I do on the Fanzine and realised how much the family appeciated it when Reba came over, hugged me and thanked me for all the work I do in keeping John’s music alive. It was at the party that the family were presented with a special plaque commemorating the event.
I had a few hours rest before heading to the Ryman Auditorium for the highlight of my trip. The Memorial Show was something else. I was amazed when I realised my ticket meant I was sitting only a couple of rows from the stage and close to all the family members. It would take too many pages to review the show but every artist and performance was exceptional and displayed their love and affection for Johnny Cash and June.
Memorial Tribute Ticket, Programme and my Media Pass
As the show was being filmed by CMT, and at several times during the show they stopped to re-set microphones or re-do certain introductions, it didn’t finish till 11:50 (running for just over four hours). There are so many highlights but Rosanne Cash’s version of I Still Miss Someone and her introduction to Tennessee Flat-Top-Box brought me close to tears. However, the most emotional moment, was when all the family were invited on stage and, led by John Carter, performed a touching version of We’ll Meet Again. The whole audience joined in and by the end of the song there couldn’t have been many dry eyes in the Ryman.
These were just a few of the other great performances - Ain’t No Grave (Fisk Jubilee Singers), Understand Your Man (Rodney Crowell), What Is Truth (Kid Rock), Guess Things Happen That Way (Cowboy Jack Clement), Rock Island Line (Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives), Hurt (Sheryl Crow), The Rebel -Johnny Yuma (Johnny Western), Tennessee Flat Top Box (Rosanne Cash), There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang (Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr.), If I Were A Carpenter (Willie Nelson & Sheryl Crow), Sunday Morning Coming Down (Kris Kristofferson) and See You Again (Jimmy Tittle & Sheryl Crow).
By the time I made it back to the hotel the party was well underway with the band really rockin’. Although I missed some of the songs I still caught performances by Andy Novak, his 12-year old daughter who sang Tennessee Flat Top Box, Johnny Counterfit, who had the audience in stitches with his impersonations and Earl Poole-Ball. All the band took time out to chat and have their photos taken.
Everybody was so friendly and we all had a great time. It was 3am in the morning by the time we all headed back to our rooms but it was hard to sleep with everything that had happened that day. Needless to say I overslept and missed my opportunity to interview Jimmy Tittle (we had arranged it the previous day at the Sony Music Party), although I found out later that he had overslept too, so I didn’t feel so bad!
When I returned to my room there was one more surprise waiting. I had a telephone message to say that if I went to the offices of MCA Records in Music Row they would have an advance copy of the Unearthed box set for me. This was organised by Lou Robin and I was so grateful. It was a fantastic end to a wonderful day.
Before Calling it a day (or night) I gave Carole a call to tell her how the trip was going. I was quite upset that she hadn’t been able to make the trip as it would have been so much better sharing the whole experience with her.
On Tuesday Mike Horan gave me a lift out to Music Row where I picked up my copy of Unearthed and then and dropped me off in Music Valley where I spent the afternoon shopping and visiting the Opryland Hotel, where Carole and I stayed during our 1998 trip.
Wednesday came round too quick and it was time to leave. I said my goodbyes to the forum members and also Bill and Shannon and left for the airport. I had a long flight ahead and was glad to get home but I will never forget my trip, the kindness shown to me and all the new friends I made. Thank you everybody.
There were so many people who made trip to Nashville such an enjoyable and unforgettable experience and I apologise for anybody who I may have left out: Lou & Karen Robin, Bill & Shannon Miller, Jim Pearson, Missy Pearson, Mike and Mary Ann Horan, Andy Novak, Kathy Cash, Rosanne Cash, John Carter Cash, Jimmy Tittle, Reba Hancock, Earl Poole Ball, W. S. Holland, Burl Boykin, Amy Willis (Sony Music), Sarah Brosmer (MCA/Lost Highway). Also the forum members Pat, Kelli, Birgit, Brandon & Christy, Bill, Jason, Debbie, John, Susan, Tom, Kay, Dan H, Nancie, Dan S, Tony, Matthew, Michael, Ernie.
Last but certainly not least my wife Carole.
Jeannie C. Riley was born Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson on 19 October 1945 in Stamford, Texas and raised in Anson, a small town in West Texas. She developed a love of country music as a young girl and would make regular appearances at the nearby Jones County Jamboree.
After graduating from high-school she married Mickey Riley and, with amitions to become a professional musician, she moved to Nashville. It was there that she recorded a few demos that led to her first single You Write The Music/What About Them. However, it was a meeting with producer Shelby Singleton that would take her career to a whole new level. Singleton had a song he had wanted to record but had spent months looking for the right singer and then he met Jeannie C. Riley. The result, Harper Valley P.T.A., written by Tom T. Hall and released on Plantation Records, became an instant hit, reaching number one on both the pop and country charts.
The song told the story of Mrs Johnson, a widow who confronts a group of P.T.A. members after her daughter had brought home a note from the school criticising her habit of wearing mini-skirts and going out with men. The climax of the song comes when Johnson turns the tables on them and exposes, one at a time, their hypocrisy.
The song became an overnight sensation and would go on to earn her the Grammy Award for ‘Best Female Country Vocal Performance’ and the Country Music Association ‘Single of the Year.’ Riley was also nominated in two of the major Grammy pop categories – ‘Best New Artist’ and ‘Record of the Year.’ Harper Valley P.T.A. would go on to sell over five and a half million copies and was awarded a gold disc less than four weeks after its release.
With the single still riding high the record company were quick to issue an album, Harper Valley P.T.A., to capitalise on its success. With songs about characters in the original single (Widow Jones, Mr Harper and Sippin’ Shirley Thompson) it could be seen as a concept album and went on to sell over a million copies in its first few weeks and would top the country charts.
More hits followed including The Girl Most Likely, There Never Was A Time, The Back Side of Dallas, Country Girl and Good Enough to Be Your Wife. During the late-1960s and early-1970s Riley was ranked as one of the most popular female vocalists in country music.
She became well-known for her sex appeal and beauty as well as her music. At a time when many country girls were keeping a wholesome image Riley was keeping in touch with the typical sixties fashion by wearing mini-skirts and boots, on and off-stage.
She left Plantation for MGM Records in 1972 and the albums she recorded for Plantation have become hard-to-find. Thanks to Charly Records, her first five albums, released between 1968 and 1970, have now been collected in a 2-CD package with 58 tracks – Harper Valley P.T.A - The Plantation Recordings 1968-1970. The five albums are Harper Valley P.T.A., Yearbooks And Yesterdays, Things Go Better With Love, Country Girl and The Generation Gap along with a rare non-album B-Side.
As we have come to expect the sound is excellent while the sixteen-page booklet features comprehensive liner notes by Roger Dopson, detailed track listings and images including album/single artwork and some lovely photos of the lady herself. A great release at a very reasonable price which will hopefully bring Jeannie C. Riley’s music to a wider audience. Highly recommended.
Friday 12 September 2003 is a day I will not forget in a hurry. With the latest issue of the fanzine published a few days earlier I had starting thinking about the next issue. It was mid-morning when I received a telephone call to say Johnny Cash had died and within an hour I received over eight calls from radio stations in the UK and USA for comment. Having followed Cash’s career since 1970, when I was given a copy of At San Quentin for Christmas, I could not believe he was no longer with us. It was the same way I felt when I heard about the death of Elvis Presley in 1977.
I have some great memories of the past 43 years of being a Johnny Cash fan. I remember the first time I saw him. It was 1979 and I almost left it too late to get tickets for his concert in Brighton. Since then I have been fortunate to see him in concert many times. The first concert Carole and I ever went to together was Johnny Cash (Portsmouth Country Music Festival in 1980) and with the exception of one concert (London in 1994) she has always been there with me. Until late-1994 I felt I was in a minority as a Cash fan but this was set to change with an idea I came up with one day on my way to work.
And so it was that in December 1994 I published the first issue of Johnny Cash-The Man in Black, never expecting to still be running it almost twenty years later or to have a readership that spread across the world. I set up a website to complement the fanzine and was amazed and honoured, when it won the Music Lover Category at the NTL Best of British Broadband Awards in 2004. I was presented with my award by Neil Fox at an awards dinner held at The Ivy in London. My interest in Johnny Cash led to me writing a book about his career, a day-by-day chronicle which was also nominated for an award (unfortunately I did not win this one).
I have so many great memories from the past twenty years and have made so many friends through my work. Here are just a few memories - my working association with Lou Robin and Sony Music Entertainment who have supported the fanzine, the respect and help I have received from Cash’s family including Rosanne and Kathy, the invitation from Lou Robin to attend the Memorial Concert in Nashville and all the people I met during my trip (I will always regret that Carole could not come with me), the thrill of receiving advance copies of new CDs, books and DVDs, the many Cash projects I have worked on… the list goes on and on.
It is so difficult to pick out any particular event for special mention but one does come to mind. Johnny Cash made his last concert appearance in the UK in May 1997. A meeting had been arranged by Joe O’Neil, the UK representative of American Records at the time, and before the show Carole and I were taken backstage at the Royal Albert Hall to meet Cash and have our photo taken. I gave him a copy of the fanzine and he thanked me for all my work. He also signed a photo which he dedicated to Carole and I. Both photos take pride of place in my office. While backstage we also met June Carter-Cash, John Carter-Cash, Bob Wootton and Earl Poole Ball. It is a day I will never forget.
In closing I’d like to thank all those who have supported my efforts including Lou Robin, Rosanne Cash, Kathy Cash, Mark Stielper, Tom Burleigh, Tom Cording and, of course, all the subscribers and friends I have met over the years. Last but certainly not least I must thank Carole for all her support. Without her there would be no fanzine. Here’s to the next twenty years!
In 1973 Mercury Records made an attempt to broaden Jerry Lee Lewis' appeal away from the country market. The plan was to team him with another wild man from down south in Louisiana, Huey Meaux, and over three days in September they recorded the album Southern Roots. Recorded at Trans Maximus Studios in Memphis he was backed by members of the MGs, the Memphis Horns and solo artists icluding Tony Joe White and Carl Perkins. The album has been referred to as his 'comeback album' and featured some great tracks including Meat Man, Just A Little Bit, Haunted House and covers of classics like Blueberry Hill, Hold On I'm Coming and even the Percy Sledge hit When A Man Loves A Woman. More material was recorded and the plan was to issue a a second volume but only ten tracks appeared with the remaining tracks consigned to the vaults.
Bear Family have released several of these previously unreleased tracks on other releases but this new two-CD set brings together the original album, the additional tracks along with alternate versions and studio chatter.
Listen as Lewis and Meaux, two fiery and free-spirited souls, are turned loose in the studio. Meaux described the sessions later commenting, "I knew Jerry and I would fight, but in the end we'd come out with the record. We fought, but we delivered."
The bonus material includes alternate takes of Cry, Margie, Born To Be A Loser, Meat Man and Silver Threads Among The Gold, all minus the overdubs and showcasing Lewis' vocals and piano.
The two CDs are accompanied by a 32-page booklet with detailed liner notes written by Hank Davis, rare photos and a comprehensive session listing. As we have come to expect from Bear Family this is an impressive package.
Throughout a long and varied career Willie Nelson, who turned 80 this year, has recorded albums with many artists including Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Asleep At The Wheel and Johnny Cash. His latest release is another collection of duets with a difference. A new deal with Legacy Recordings saw the release of Heroes in May 2012 and in April 2013 he released Let's Face The Music And Dance. Less than six months later comes the release of a brand new collection of duets titled To All The Girls… which finds him working with eighteen of the top country music and contemporary pop female singers. He had hinted at the project earlier in the year when he said, "I am looking forward to singing with all the girls in Nashville."
Unlike other duet projects Nelson hasn't relied entirely on his past hits preferring to pick songs from a variety of sources. However, he does cover two of his well-known songs with a great version of Bloody Mary Morning with Wynonna Judd and a beautiful heartfelt rendition of Always On My Mind performed with Carrie Underwood.
Other artists sharing the spotlight with Nelson's iconic voice are Loretta Lynn (Somewhere Between), Secret Sisters (It Won't Be Very Long), Norah Jones (Walkin'), Brandi Carlile (Making Believe) and Alison Krauss (No Mas Amor).
Highlights include the opening track, an emotional performance of From Here To The Moon And Back performed with Dolly Parton and a song that she wrote for the 2012 film Joyful Noise, a cover of the 1948 popular song Far Away Places on which Nelson duets with Sheryl Crow, She Was No Good For Me with Miranda Lambert, Will You Remember Mine featuring Lily Meola and a cover of Kris Kristofferson's Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends performed with Rosanne Cash. He even covers Bruce Springsteen's Dry Lightning, with Emmylou Harris, a track that first appeared on Springsteen's The Ghost Of Tom Joad album. Making it a family affair Nelson's daughter Paula joins him for a cover of the old Creedence Clearwater Revival track Have You Ever Seen The Rain.
Fans of Willie Nelson have much to look forward to as Legacy are planning several archival releases, overseen by Nelson, which will include previously unreleased tracks on new compilations as well as bonus material on new editions of existing titles. In the meantime pick up To All The Girls… you won't be disappointed.
In July and December 1973 Elvis Presley held his last major studio recording sessions. Having recorded in Memphis at American Studios back in 1969, he returned to Nashville for future sessions in 1970 and 1971. RCA Records were putting pressure on Elvis for new recordings and, as per the terms of his contract, he was required to provide them with enough material for at least two albums and two singles. Not wanting to leave town it was decided to record at the famous Stax Studios in Memphis, located at 926 E. McLemore Avenue. This decision was not down to the history of the studio or the major successes that the studio and house band had achieved. The major reason was Elvis' lack of interest in recording and reluctance to go into a studio and the only reason why Stax was chosen was its close proximity to Graceland!
Sessions were booked for July but the results highlighted Elvis' lack of interest with only three or four of the tracks recorded showing any real commitment from Elvis. The result of these session were one album, Raised On Rock, and a couple of singles. One of which (Take Good Care Of Her/I've Got A Thing About You Baby) was not included on the album and would be held over for Elvis' next album. Fortunately the sessions held in December found Elvis in a much better frame of mind and willing to put effort into the recordings. The two albums that came out of these sessions, Good Times and Promised Land, may not have been Presley at his best but were still a hundred times better than the July material. In the UK Elvis had two of his biggest hits of the period when My Boy reached an impressive #5 and Promised Land scraped into the top ten, peaking at #9. Over the years all the material has been issued on CD with the FTD label issuing the most comprehensive releases with their 2-CD classic album releases of all three Stax albums. These included numerous outtakes and actually shed a new light on the sessions.
The material recorded during these sessions has never been recognised by the general public and in an effort to show the historical significance of his work at Stax a new comprehensive package has been put together by Sony Music. Elvis At Stax (Deluxe Edition) brings together all the masters along with a selection of outtakes on three discs. CD #1 is titled The R&B and Country Sessions-The Outtakes, CD#2 includes The Pop Sessions-The Outtakes and the July 1973 Masters while CD#3 brings together all the December 1973 Masters.
Among the track included were I've Got A Thing About You Baby and For Ol' Times Sake, both written by Tony Joe White and it is a shame he didn't record more of White's songs as both performances are excellent. Other highlights include I Got A Feelin' In My Body, Talk About The Good Times, If You Talk In Your Sleep, It's Midnight and a blistering version of Chuck Berry's Promised Land. The latter ranks as one of the greatest recordings of Elvis' seventies output. Tracks like If You Don't Come Back, Find Out What's Happening and Just A Little Bit all show promise and the band cannot be faulted. However, being from the July sessions, Elvis does not give the songs one-hundred percent. It would have been interesting to hear how these would have sounded had they been re-recorded in December.
Reflecting his current state of mind, separation from Priscilla and his ongoing health problems, are the many ballads featured. Some are very good. The above mentioned For Ol' Times Sake
, Good Times Charlie's Got The Blues
(along with Promised Land
this is my personal favourite from these sessions), Loving Arms
and It's Midnight
all stand out. Unfortunately there are also a few that he should never have recorded - Girl Of Mine
and Mr Songman
being the worst. The only tracks missing from this set, and that were on the original Raised On Rock
album, are I Miss You
and Are You Sincere
both of which were recorded at Elvis' Palm Springs home in September 1973. At this 'home' session he also added his vocal to Sweet Angeline
, as only the backing track had been recorded at Stax. Elvis had walked out of the studio on the last day of the July sessions and the band laid down the backing tracks for this and three other songs - Good, Bad But Beautiful
, Colour My Rainbow
and The Wonders You Perform
. Elvis never added a vocal to the last three although the instrumental tracks were finally issued on the FTD release of Raised On Rock
The sound is very good throughout with the outtakes remixed for this release although personally I prefer the sound on the FTD releases. Although I have not compared every track I am sure there is some additional studio chat included on some of the outtakes.
My only real criticism is the running order of the CDs. I cannot understand why they put the outtakes first especially as the idea is to bring the music to a wider audience. If that was the case then it would have been better to have the masters first followed by the outtakes. This is just my opinion though. Presented in a slip-case (which must have the worst cover ever seen on an Elvis Presley release and one of which the Colonel would be proud) includes a booklet with comprehensive liner notes from respected author Robert Gordon who presents a day-by-day (night-by-night) overview of the sessions.
Despite my minor criticism of the running order and cover I really like this release having always enjoyed the material, even if it could never match the quality of his earlier work. A single 'Best Of' CD is also available along with a two-album vinyl set.
My Johnny Cash Fanzine Store has an 'Other Artists' category and all three Elvis At Stax
releases can be purchased at the store
I have been a fan of Linda Ronstadt's music for close to forty years ever since first hearing her sing You're No Good back in 1974. I have followed her career closely ever since buying all her albums and even writing my own book about her a few years ago.
You can imagine my delight when I heard that she was writing her autobiography and couldn't wait to hear her own story written in her own words. I recently received a review copy (uncorrected proof) of Simple Dreams - A Musical Memoir, and the wait was worthwhile.
The book title is very fitting as it deals entirely with her love of music with just brief mentions of her various boyfriends and even then there are no shocking revelations or pages of gossipy text. What does come across is that she has remained friends with nearly every man she has ever met with just one or two exceptions, and you'll have to read the book to find out more!
Ronstadt delivers a fascinating story of her upbringing in Tucson, Arizona, her early influences and her rise to fame in Southern California in the late-sixties and early-seventies. Music was her driving force in life and she talks about the struggles she faced when wanting to follow her own musical path. In the music business once you are categorized it becomes a record labels worst nightmare when an artist wants to diversify. Fortunately Linda won all her battles.
Throughout her career she has worked and associated with many people in the music business and the list of names reads like a who's who of rock & country music - The Eagles, Mick Jagger, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Brian Wilson and Aaron Neville, all of whom are mentioned in the book. She also talks about those who helped shape her career including Peter Asher, John Boylan, George Massenburg, John David Souther and Neil Young.
It is obvious that the music of her childhood was very important, being filled with many different musical genres including country, pop, opera, jazz and the music of Mexico, and she devotes many pages to covering her work with Joseph Papp (Pirates Of Penzance and La Boheme), Nelson Riddle (What's New, Lush Life and For Sentimental Reasons) and her love of the music that originated in Mexico. The latter resulted in her recording several albums of 'Mariachi' music including Cancione De Mi Padre and Mas Canciones.
If I had one minor complaint it would be the lack of information or background to her mid- to late-seventies work - Prisoner In Disguise, Hasten Down The Wind, Simple Dreams and Living In The USA. In the book she talks about hating the big arena tours spending night after night playing shows in venues that were not designed with good sound in mind. This could explain why this period is almost completely ignored. A shame as this was when I fell in love with her music and when she released some of my favourite albums.
Despite my minor quibble I really enjoyed reading Linda's story and it deserves to be on the shelf of all lovers of Ronstadt's music and also any serious music fans book collection. Her writing is easy to read, simple yet direct and it was an enjoyable journey - highly recommended.
(As mentioned earlier this was an uncorrected proof with no photo sections, index or acknowledgements and I look forward to picking up a finished copy)
Following my previous post I am pleased to announce that our new website is now live and can be accessed here - www.enchantedmemoriesdvd.com
If you would like your box of old photos/negatives turned into a professionally produced DVD then please visit our site for more details.
We are pleased to offer a brand new service. Over the years we have all taken hundreds of photos that are now stored in boxes at the back of a cupboard or in the loft. How may times have you looked at them? Since the invention of digital cameras we have all taken photos that we never print.
Now you have the opportunity to have your old photos turned into a professionally produced DVD. With the addition of music these photos can be brought back to life to be viewed on your TV or computer. Even the oldest photos can be retouched or restored. Holidays, weddings, family, your favourite pets and your children growing up can all be relived.
It does not matter if your images are digital, photos, negatives or slides as all formats can be reproduced and represented in a way you may have never imagined.
We are working on a new website and prices and details will follow soon, but in the meantime if you have any enquiries please get in touch. Below is a sample of what can be achieved.
Back in 1974, long before we were blessed with the FTD label and the hundreds of outtakes and previously unreleased material, RCA Records released the first volume of their Legendary Performer series. I have been looking at my copies of the albums and thought it would be interesting to look back at these releases which, at the time, were the first to give Elvis fans previously unreleased material. The series was the idea of Joan Deary and although Colonel Parker tried to delay the release, following the RCA buyout in 1973, it would eventually sell over 750,000 copies which was more than the combined sales of Elvis' three albums of Stax material released during 1973/1975. I'll never forget buying Legendary Performer Volume 1 back in early 1974 and was amazed at the packaging which, by todays standards, may seem less impressive than it really was. With its cover, featuring an embossed pattern and a circular cut-out which showed the album insert, the detailed track listing on the reverse of both the cover and the insert and the booklet, with colour covers, full of rare photos and memorabilia it was an impressive package which Elvis fans had never had before.
Volume 1 featured fourteen tracks of which five were previously unreleased - an alternate take of I Love You Because, Tonight's All Right For Love (previously unavailable in English speaking countries) and three live tracks from the 1968 Elvis TV Special (Love Me, Trying To Get To You and Are You Lonesome Tonight?). Also included were two excerpts from the rare and hard to find Elvis Sails EP. It is probably hard to realise how important this release was at the time or how exciting it was to hear this material. I remember that the album spent many hours on the turntable and probably more time than his current studio album. It was also fascinating to look at all the rare photos and memorabilia (recording sheets, tape boxes, sleeves etc) which were all new to most fans and long before the days of the internet and FTD where this kind of material is common and has come to be expected.
We had to wait until January 1976 for Volume 2 but it was worth the wait. Fourteen tracks and this time no less than eight previously unreleased tracks and another booklet full of great images. Once again two previously unavailable tracks from the TV Special were included (Blue Suede Shoes and Baby What You Want Me To Do) along with a version of Blue Hawaii taped after the Aloha From Hawaii broadcast in 1973, an alternate take of I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, A Cane And A High Starched Collar (recorded for Flaming Star but unissued at the time) and an interview from 1956 recorded in Texas and a presentation of an award from 1961 in Hawaii. However, the highlight was the track Harbor Lights, a recording made at Sun Studios in July 1954. The released version of Such A Night featured on the album included a couple of false starts. Once again this release of older tracks outsold Elvis' current product.
Two years later, in 1978, Volume 3 was issued. Out of thirteen tracks nine were making their first appearance. An unreleased live recording of Let It Be Me featured while the 1968 Special was represented by two unreleased studio recordings,
Let Yourself Go and It Hurts Me neither of which were included in the Special. Elvis' movies were covered by unreleased versions of Frankfort Special and Guadalajara along with two further movie songs that never made the final cut, Danny (from King Creole) and Britches (from Flaming Star). An alternate take of Fame And Fortune and excerpts from an August 1965 interview from Lakeland, Florida along with another great booklet completed this excellent release.
Volume 4, the final one of the series, was released in 1983 featuring thirteen tracks with all but one (the infamous laughing version of Are You Lonesome Tonight?) making their first appearance. The 1968 TV Special archive was once again mined for an unreleased live performance of That's All Right while several tracks from the movie years were included (an alternate take of Wooden Heart, Plantation Rock, a duet with Ann Margaret on The Lady Loves Me and Swing Down Sweet Chariot taken from the film The Trouble With Girls). Both I'm Beginning To Forget You and Mona Lisa were taken from 'home' recordings made in Germany during Elvis army days while live versions of Reconsider Baby and I'll Remember You, taken from Elvis' Madison Square Garden shows in 1972 and a 1956 interview recorded in Tampa, Florida were also included. The final two unreleased tracks were the highlights with a Sun recording of When It Rains It Really Pours (including false starts) and a version of One Night with slight lyrical differences (most notably 'One Night Of Sin' instead of 'One Night With You') which probably prevented its release back in the fifties. More rare and unseen photos and memorabilia graced the pages of the accompanying booklet.
Releases like the Essential series, the 50s, 60s & 70s box sets, Platinum, Close Up and all the FTD releases have continued to give us a wealth of previously unreleased material (alternate takes, false starts, studio chat etc) but I will always have fond memories of the Legendary Performer releases and hope that maybe FTD will be able to bring all four volumes together in one package complete with reproduced artwork and comprehensive booklet. I can dream!