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!
It was sad to hear of the death of George Jones, one of the greatest country vocalists of all time. A few years ago I published an article about Johnny Cash and George Jones in the Johnny Cash Fanzine and, as a tribute, I am reproducing the article below.
George Jones was born on 12 September 1931 in Saratoga, Texas, the eighth child of George Washington Jones and his wife Clara. His parents played guitar and piano and encouraged their son to take an interest in music buying him a guitar when he was just nine years old. It wasn’t long before George learned how to play and a stint in a local band in 1947 led to his own radio show. It was one of his co-workers who gave him the nickname ‘the possum’ apparently because of his supposed similarity to the animal. In 1950 he joined the Marines and after returning home from Korea in late 1953 began playing at clubs where he caught the attention of Houston record executive H.W. ‘Pappy’ Dailey. Jones’ first country hit came in 1955 with Why Baby Why and in the years that followed he had several hits including Just One More, Color of the Blues, Treasure of Love and White Lightning. Throughout the sixties he scored hits with The Window Up Above, Tender Years, She Thinks I Still Care and The Love Bug. Jones’ second marriage ended in 1968 and not long after he met Tammy Wynette, they were married the same year. By 1970 Jones’ relationship with Dailey had ended and he began working with Billy Sherrill, who was also producing Wynette. Hits from this period included We Can Make It, Once You’ve Had the Best and The Grand Tour. Contrary to the song they had released in 1973, We’re Gonna Hold On, Jones and Wynette were heading for divorce. George’s life was in turmoil with reports of outrageous behavior caused by heavy drinking and an addiction to drugs. At this point in his career he seemed to be living many of his own songs. The couple’s lives became something of a soap opera with separations, reconcilliations and finally ending with divorce in 1975. Despite this they continued to record together and had hits including Golden Ring and Near You. His failure to appear at over fifty concert dates in 1979 earned him the nickname ‘No-Show Jones’ from many irate fans. However, he started off the new decade with a Grammy Award as well as several Country Music Awards for the song He Stopped Loving Her Today. He followed this success with more hits including If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will) and Who’s Gonna Fill Her Shoes. George was finally elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992.
Back to the mid-fifties and on 28 December 1956 Cash played as support for George Jones at a show in Texarkana and this would be the first of many times that they would share billing on concert posters throughout the length and breadth of the United States. Following this show their paths would cross on many Saturday nights as they both made regular appearances on the Louisiana Hayride, broadcast out of Shreveport, Louisiana. There have been many CDs issued with material from the Hayride with Johnny Cash & George Jones Live At The Louisiana Hayride giving a comprehensive selection of material. As early as 1957 Cash and Jones had worked the same circuit, touring as part of package tours across the southern states, something that would continue into the early-sixties. One of these shows was broadcast on radio at the time and the complete show has circulated among fans over the past few years. Tuesday 14 March 1961 would find Cash and Jones along with Roger Miller, Rose Maddox and Johnny Western playing a show at the Civic Auditorium in Houston, Texas. During the show Jones performed many of his hits including Accidentally On Purpose and Treasure Of Love and joined Roger Miller on Long Time To Forget. Cash closes the show performing a set that included Big River, Rock Island Line, I Got Stripes, I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Lead Me Father, Ballad Of The Harp Weaver and Goodbye Little Darling On 1 April 1984 a concert was held to celebrate the opening of Jones Country Music Park in Colmesneil, Texas. Cash and Jones appeared on the show during which they performed I Got Stripes, a song they had recorded together a few years earlier. Jones would make several appearances with Cash on television, most notably on The Johnny Cash Show. During his appearance on the show broadcast on 15 April 1970 they performed White Lightning together while Jones performed a medley of his hits including She Thinks I Still Care and Love Bug. He also appeared as a guest on Cash’s 1979 Spring Special.
Throughout his career Cash would turn to the George Jones songbook on a number of ocassions. In 1960 he released his fourth Columbia album Now There Was A Song which included two tracks written or co-written by Jones. Just One More had been a #3 hit back in 1956 while Seasons Of My Heart, co-written with Darrell Edwards, had appeared on Jones’ first album Grand Ole Opry’s New Star. Cash would go on to record other Jones compositions. Accidentally On Purpose, another written with Darrell Edwards, was a top thirty single for Jones in 1960 and Cash included it on his 1962 release Sound Of Johnny Cash. Although not a Cash release Jones did co-write, with June Carter and Helen Carter, A Song To Mama which was issued as a Carter Family single. Cash can be heard doing a brief narrative and joining the Carters on the final chorus. Released in 1993 Johnny 99 included I’m Ragged But I’m Right, a song Jones included on his debut album. Cash would also record the song in 1993 during his time with Rick Rubin but this version has not been released. The last known Jones composition that Cash recorded was in late-1979 at the home of Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter in London. Recorded as a duet with Elvis Costello, We Oughta Be Ashamed was never released at the time. In 1981 Costello released the Billy Sherrill produced Almost Blue, an album of country covers and a real departure for Costello. Twenty-three years later the album was re-issued with twenty-seven bonus tracks one of which was We Oughta Be Ashamed. In the liner notes Costello wrote, “Unfortunately, our voices were somewhat mismatched. I sounded like a whimpering schoolgirl next to John. Nevertheless, our intentions were good. We cut a rare George Jones composition to send to Nashville in lieu of a get-well card, as George had been suffering some bad health at that time.” As well as recording songs composed by George Jones both Cash and Jones would also work together in the studio. In February 1979 Johnny Cash started work on what would become his twenty-fifth anniversary album, Silver. The album was produced by Brian Ahern, best known for his work with Emmylou Harris. Ahern brought a different sound to Cash’s recordings using all the studio techniques at his disposal including phasers and filters. He also utilised instruments not usually associated with Cash including mandocello, banjo-lute and dulcimer. It gave a brand new sound to celebrate Cash’s twenty-five years in the business. At a session on 14 February George Jones was on hand and they recorded a duet, the Cash composition I’ll Say It’s True, which appeared on the album and as a b-side to a new recording of Cocaine Blues, also lifted from the album.
At the same session they also recorded two other tracks, I Still Miss Someone and I Got Stripes which were apparently intended for release on a George Jones project but were never issued at the time. In 2002, to celebrate Cash’s 70th Birthday, Silver was one of many albums re-issued to mark the ocassion. The two previously unreleased duets with Jones were added as bonus tracks. In 1990 Johnny Cash, George Jones and Tom T. Hall joined Cash’s brother Tommy on a version of Hall’s Thoughts On The Flag which would find a release on Tommy Cash’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Album. There was one other ocassion where Cash would find himself in the studio with George Jones. At a session on 24 January 1979 Cash was putting the finishing touches to his new gospel release A Believer Sings The Truth when in walked Jones, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. This unexpected visit resulted in a version of I’ll Fly Away featuring all four artists but the song remains hidden away.
George Jones had the opportunity to pay tribute to Cash when, on 10 November 2003, he was one of the many artists who came together at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to remember The Man in Black. Jones joined Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson for Big River and returned to perform Give My Love To Rose. He then joined Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams Jr to recreate the country supergroup The Highwaymen and together they performed the Jimmy Webb classic Highwayman.
Johnny Cash and George Jones may only have worked together a handful of times but during this, whether on the road or in the studio, their mutual admiration for each other is evident.
Lynsey de Paul was one of the first successful female singer-songwriters in the United Kingdom. Her breakthrough came in 1972 when The Fortunes had a top ten hit with Storm In A Teacup, penned by de Paul and Ron Roker. A few months later she scored her first hit with Sugar Me which peaked at #5 and followed with the light-hearted dig at the current glam-rock scene with Getting A Drag. With two top twenty hits it was surprising that her third single, All Night, failed to dent the top fifty. She returned to the top twenty in 1973 with the beautiful Won't Somebody Dance With Me which also gave her the accolade of being the first female artist to be awarded an Ivor Novello Award for the song. A second Ivor Novello award followed in 1975 for No Honestly which was used as the theme tune to the hit ITV comedy of the same name (featuring John Alderton and Pauline Collins) and provided her with yet another UK Top 10 hit. Rock Bottom, which she wrote with Mike Moran, was the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1977 where it finished second behind France. She continued to record throughout the seventies and also appeared on television many times. She presented the TV show The Vinyl Frontier which was like a musical version of the Antiques Roadshow where items of music memorabilia were valued.
Back in 1972 I was just fifteen years old when Sugar Me was released and instantly became a fan of Lynsey de Paul. I played the record to death which probably annoyed the rest of the family. She became my first musical crush and I remember having pictures all over the bedroom wall. Sad I know but that's what it was like in the seventies! I added her next few singles to the collection with Won't Somebody Dance With Me becoming my favourite track of all those she recorded. I bought her first album, Surprise, and also her follow-up album Taste Me…Don't Waste Me and must have worn out the grooves with the amount of time they spent on the turntable.
I sold the singles/albums during the early-nineties, which I now regret, but fortunately I can now re-live those great days of the early seventies with the release of Lynsey de Paul - Sugar And Beyond: Anthology 1972-1974, a two-disc set released by RPM Records. Thirty-three tracks covering the period 1972-1974 and featuring all the hits (Sugar Me, Getting A Drag, All Night, Won't Somebody Dance With Me, Ooh I Do, No Honestly and My Man And Me) along with the b-sides. Both albums (Surprise and Taste Me…Don't Waste Me) are also included along with a couple of previously unreleased tracks (House Of Cards and Taking It On). Besides the singles there are many great album tracks including Sleeping Blue Nights, Nothing Really Lasts Forever, Taste Me and When I'm Alone With You. The sixteen page booklet includes liner-notes by Michael Robson and there are some great photos and memorabilia reproduced.
I never had the chance to see Lynsey de Paul in concert, although I did try to watch all her TV appearances on Top Of The Pops etc, but was fortunate to meet her when I was invited to appear on The Vinyl Frontier, which she introduced.
A second volume, Into My Music, which covers the period 1975-1979 is also available and I might have to add this to the collection as well. Until then I will sit back and enjoy some great music from one of the best female singer/songwriters of the seventies.
Welcome to my latest update.
Issue #74 of Johnny Cash - The Man in Black was published recently and includes articles on The Statler Brothers, Johnny Cash's appearance at the White House, a look back at the album Hymns From The Heart,
an interview with Don Reid of The Statler Brothers and much more. You can read more and subscribe on our website
I have been going through all the boxes of memorabilia from the various music projects/books I have worked on over the years and discovering many items I had not looked at in a long time.
Two items I found are my letter from Peter Asher (Linda Ronstadt's manager) that I received after sending him the article I wrote for Record Collector magazine in 1994. A few days later I also received a personally signed photo from Linda. Both are among my prized possessions and are pictured obove.
There are still several boxes to go through and organise (a long overdue task) and I am sure in the coming weeks and months I will come across more 'forgotten' items.
This is the cover of the latest issue of Vintage Rock and I am pleased to have another article in print - this time on the life and musical legacy of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan. The magazine can be purchased at W H Smith and on-line at the Vintage Rock
I have just finished reading Rod Stewart's biography which was a very enjoyable read and have just added Spinning Blues Into Gold (The Chess Brothers and The Legendary Chess Records) to my kindle and looking forward to some spare time to start reading again!
Don't forget if you have anything to ask or say you can leave a reply or comment and you can also 'like' this on facebook.
Old Yellow Moon (Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell) — Emmylou Harris first heard Rodney Crowell back in 1974 while choosing songs for her first solo album with producer Brian Ahern. Having worked through a selection of song demos, Harris was unable to find anything that appealed to her. Ahern remembered a tape he had of a songwriter who, although he signed on the recommendation of someone whose opinion he valued, had actually never listened to. The first song on the tape was Bluebird Wine and from that moment Harris knew she needed to know and hear more from this talented singer/songwriter. Crowell’s Bluebird Wine opened her debut solo album Pieces Of The Sky and it wasn’t long before Rodney Crowell was recording and touring with Emmylou Harris as part of her Hot Band appearing on many of her albums including Luxury Liner, Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town and Blue Kentucky Girl. They both went on to have very successful solo careers but are now back together on Old Yellow Moon, an album of duets between Harris and Crowell that has been a long-time coming, nearly forty years, and it has been worth the wait. Like her earlier work with Gram Parsons there is something wonderful when they record together trading verses and singing in harmony. Produced by Brian Ahern, who has worked previously with both artists, the album brings together many of the original members of the Hot Band - James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, Emory Gordy and John Ware. Additional musicians include Vince Gill, Stuart Duncan and Bill Payne. Two uptempo tracks open the album, Hank DeVito’s Hanging Up My Heart and Roger Miller’s Invitation To The Blues and then the tempo slows for a beautiful version of Patti Scialfa’s Spanish Dancer. Crowell provides four songs to the album, Bluebird Wine, Open Season On My Heart, Here We Are and Bull Rider. Crowell revised the lyrics on the first two verses of Bluebird Wine as he had originally written the song when he was 21 and felt the new lyrics were, “…a little more in keeping with my sensibilities now.” Harris had recorded Here We Are with George Jones for his My Very Secial Guests album and Johnny Cash had recorded Bull Rider for his Silver album. Personally I think this version of Here We Are is far superior to the George Jones duet. Black Caffeine and Old Yellow Moon, which closes the album, are two more DeVito compositions and fit perfectly on the album with the latter featuring beautiful harmonies from both artists. The same can be said about Dreaming My Dreams, originally recorded by Waylon Jennings, and Matraca Berg’s heartbreaking Back When We Were Beautiful. Talking about the album Harris said, “It was always something that was going to happen. I’m glad it’s happening now, at this point of our lives and our careers.” Old Yellow Moon is one of the best country albums to be released in a long time and I can’t see there being a better country album this year.
In Time (The Mavericks) — In 2003 The Mavericks split following the failure of their self-titled sixth album. Now, ten years later, they are back and sounding better than ever. The retro-styled band who formed back in 1989 in Miami brought together a blend of Nashville, Mexiacn horns and Cuban rhythms that won them international popularity and critical acclaim. The vocal style of Raul Malo, who has released several solo albums during the bands split, is a major part of the bands success and his style has often been compared to that of Roy Orbison. In Time features fourteen tracks written and produced by Malo who is back with fellow band members Robert Reynolds, Paul Deakin and Jerry Dale McFadden. Like previous Mavericks albums the sound is instantly recognisable and there is no filler. It is hard to pick out the best tracks when there are fourteen of them but my own personal favourites are the opening track Back In Your Arms Again, Fall Apart, As Long As There’s Loving Tonight, Forgive Me and the excellent, haunting (Call Me) When You Get To Heaven. This album is a joy to listen to, exciting, fun and featuring excellent musicianship, songwriting and one of the greatest voices in modern country music. It is great to see them back together again.
Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (Elvis Presley) — In January 1973 Elvis Presley performed a landmark concert at the Honolulu International Center in Hawaii which was broadcast live across Japan, The Phillipines, Korea, China and Australia. It was the world’s first, and most expensive, full-length concert satellite broadcast and within four weeks the concert was released as Elvis Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite and would eventually go on to reach #1 on the Billboard Chart and reach 5 x Platinum status by the Record Industry Association of America. The broadcast was delayed in America until April due to the recent release of the movie Elvis On Tour while the UK would have to wait even longer. It was estimated that a viewing audience of over 1.5 billion people watched the show although this is unlikely and has been disputed in the years since. In 1988 a recording of the live rehearsal show, recorded as a safety back-up should something go wrong during the live broadcast, was issued an The Alternate Aloha and now on this Legacy Edition both shows are brought togther for the first time with the five bonus songs recorded after the audience had left the building.
Both shows are almost identical with just a couple of differences in song selection between the two performances. Opening with See See Rider and the recent hit single Burning Love the show moves at a fast pace through many of Elvis’ greatest hits and several songs which, back in 1973, he had not recorded or released before. Of these new songs the highlight has to be his cover of James Taylor’s Steamroller Blues which was also released as a single. Other new tracks include What Now My Love, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (a song he introduces as the saddest song he has ever heard), Welcome To My World, Something and It’s Over. The show was a benefit for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund, raising over $75,000, and Elvis performed I’ll Remember You, a song written by Lee. One of the highlights during the show was An Americn Trilogy which received thunderous applause from the audience. As always Elvis ends the show with Can’t Help Falling In Love, very appropriate at this show as it was featured in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. At 3:00am, following the show, Elvis and the band recorded five songs for use in the US broadcast. Of the five songs four, Blue Hawaii, Ku-U-I-Po, Hawaiian Wedding Song and No More originated from Blue Hawaii while the fifth was a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain. Elvis does sound tired on these tracks but their inclusion is a bonus.
The sound has been improved on both discs but is more noticeable on disc two. The sound on the original release of the rehearsal show was awful and it is good to have it here, newly remixed and remastered, with great sound and an excitement that was missing from The Alternate Aloha. The package includes a booklet with liner notes by Stuart Colman and many rare photos. My only complaint is that the first disc, featuring the original album, has a few seconds of silence where each of the original sides of the album ended. I cannot see why this has been done as it spoils the flow of the live recording and I hope it is corrected on the finished product. Despite my minor quibble this is another neat package from the folks at Sony/Legacy.
Boy Meets Girls TV Shows Vol. 1 (Various Artists)
— Back in the fifties there was little chance of you seeing your favourite American artists on British television. BBC’s 6.5 Special
, produced by Jack Good, ran from September 1958 to May 1959 and gave the viewer the chance to see artists like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, but mostly from movie clips. Good’s next venture into pop television was Boy Meets Girls
which was televised between September 1959 and March 1960. Marty Wilde and Billy Fury were regulars and among the American artists featured on the show were Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ronnie Hawkins and Johnny Cash. Cash guested on the show in September 1959 and Musicians Union rules meant that had to use British musicians, including Joe Brown, and is probably the only time from this period that he wasn’t backed by the Tennessee Three. This new CD includes two complete shows from the 16th and 23rd February 1960 which have been digitally remastered from the original soundtrack recordings and features many previously unreleased songs by the compare Marty Wilde (Way Down Yonder In New Orleans/Let’s Talk About Us
) and guests including Billy Fury (Turn My Back On You/Colette
), Johnny Gentle (If I Had A Girl/Be My Girl
), Eddie Cochran (Hallelujah! I Love Her So/C'mon Everybody/ Somethin' Else
) and the Vernon Girls (What About Us
). There are four bonus tracks from shows between late 1959 and early 1960 including Johnny Cash (I Got Stripes
). There was always confusion about which songs Cash performed on the show and now we know at least one of them! The twelve page booklet includes many original photos from the shows some not seen before and liner notes by Derek Genister. The CD is available from Bim Bam Records at www.bim-bam.com
The latest issue of Johnny Cash-The Man in Black will be published on 1 March and includes another exclusive interview along with articles on the Statler Brothers and the album Hymns From The Heart. You can read more and subscribe by visiting our website.
I have been enjoying a number of new CDs and books over the past few weeks. I am currently reading Rod Stewart's biography on my Kindle and it is a well written and enjoyable book.
On the CD front I am currently enjoying the lavish 35th anniversary deluxe edition of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours
. The set contains 4 CDs and a DVD and includes some great highlights from the recording sessions along with a live recording from 1977. Rumours
is my all-time favourite album and this new set sits nicely alongside my original vinyl copy, a cassette, the original CD and subsequent 2-CD set and the recently published book Making Rumours
. Sad I know! If only I had a signed copy of the album by all five band members to add to the collection :)
They will be touring the UK again in September (unfortunately without Christine McVie) and I am hoping to go to one of the concerts.
Other CDs I have enjoyed recently are the two Heard Them Here First CDs (Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard) from Ace Records which feature the original recordings of songs both artists covered. I have also been listening to the latest Elvis Presley FTD release Hits Of The 70s, featuring the original 12 songs plus an additional 37 tracks. Brings back many memories. I became an Elvis fan in the early seventies and remember buying most of the singles featured on this set on the day of release as I did the album on its release in November 1974.
Although published a few years ago I have set up a new website to promote my Linda Ronstadt biography, A Life In Music
, which is available in PDF format. You can read more and order a copy here
Finally I have been commissioned to write another article for Vintage Rock
(my fifth for them) which should be published in March. Look out for copies in your local W. H. Smith.
Welcome to my final update of the year. It has been an exciting year for me with many new projects and changes.
In March Johnny Cash-The Man in Black went over to electronic format (PDF) which was well received and has resulted in several new subscribers. We have some great interviews and articles planned for 2013 and it is not too late to take out a subscription.
We also published (in e-book PDF format) The Fanzine Interviews which brought together many of the interviews that have appeared in the fanzine over the past nineteen years. Support for our Fanzine Store has increased over the year with the new Complete Columbia Album Collection becoming our biggest selling item.
More details about the fanzine, e-book and our store can be found on our website at www.johnnycashfanzine.com
At the beginning of the year I started writing for Vintage Rock magazine and recent articles have included Skiffle Music, Johnny Cash and The Beach Boys. The latest issue includes my article on country music legend Hank Williams. I will be in discussion with Vintage Rock early next year regarding future articles, so watch this space.
Other projects planned for next year include working on a new e-book which will chronicle a group whose career has covered several decades.
I worked with American singer/songwriter Holly Stewart setting up her UK official website and hope to have the opportunity to work with her on other projects. I hope 2013 will be a good year for her and that she finally gets the recognition she deserves.
All that leaves is for me to say thanks for all your support over the past twelve months and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Lonnie Donegan And The Birth Of British Rock & Roll, written by Patrick Humphries, is the first full-length biography of the skiffle king and one of the most influential characters in British popular music, who passed away on 3 November 2002.
Who can forget those great sing-a-long skiffle hits including Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour On The Bedpost Over Night, Rock Island Line, Puttin' On The Style and the number one hit My Old Man's A Dustman. You can read the stories behind these songs and much more in this book.
The reader is taken back to the grey days of the thirties, when Donegan was born, and moves through his life covering all the major events including his National Service which saw him posted overseas and taking in the local jazz scene. Other interesting stories include Ken Colyers trip to New Orleans and his subsequent removal.
The author has interviewed many people whose paths crossed with Donegan including Mark Knopfler, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Bruce Welch, John Peel and George Melly as well as his first wife and daughter. This is a well reserached and written biography and if you have any interest in Lonnie Donegan, skiffle music or the early British music scene then this book is for you.
It was fifty-six years ago today that Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash recorded together at Sun Studios. To celebrate what has become known as The Million Dollar Quartet I am reprinting below an article I wrote for the Johnny Cash Fanzine back in 2006.
Tuesday 4 December 1956 — on that day Carl Perkins was in the studio, accompanied by his brothers Jay and Clayton and drummer W.S. ‘Fluke’ Holland, with the intention of recording some new material that would include a version of the old blues song, Matchbox. Sam Phillips wanted to expand the sparse sound and brought in his new signing, Jerry Lee Lewis who would play piano.
Sometime during the afternoon Elvis Presley, now an RCA Recording artist, and his girlfriend Marilyn Evans called in to see Sam Phillips and it wasn’t long before an impromptu jam session began. Phillips had the good sense to turn on the tape machine to capture this historic moment. It was sometime during this session that Johnny Cash arrived although, to this day, mystery surrounds his actual involvement in the proceedings.
Not one to miss a photo opportunity and some publicity Phillips called a local newspaper and Robert Johnson came over to the studios accompanied by a photographer. The following day an article, written by Johnson about the session, was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title ‘Million Dollar Quartet’. The article included the now legendary photo of Elvis seated at the piano surrounded by Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
The tapes of this legendary session remained unheard for over twenty years with contractual issues, especially with Presley’s new label, being the main stumbling block. Shelby Singleton, who had purchased Sun Records in 1969, undertook a long search of the Sun catalogue and licensed nearly all of the Sun catalogue to the UK Charly Records label. A result of this search was the issue of seventeen songs from the Million Dollar recordings, most of which were in the gospel genre.
Several years later, additional material was discovered which resulted in the release of the 1987 double album The Complete Million Dollar Session, together with a simultaneous issue in CD format in Europe. Over the next twenty years this material has been issued countless times on different labels, each with a different selection of tracks and often in differing running orders.
Ernst Jorgensen, who has worked on countless excellent Elvis Presley releases, claims that the material issued contains around 95 percent of the recordings. Apparently there were three reels and on the first you can hear Elvis arriving and on the final reel you can hear him leave. It would seem that the chance of ever finding any more tracks seems slim but a recent release does offer an additional twelve minutes of material so who knows! This also adds fuel to the fire as regard to Johnny Cash’s involvement at the session about which more later.
Most of the forty-plus songs are incomplete and are interspersed with chatter between those taking part. The repertoire is a mix of mainly gospel tunes with a spattering of country songs from legends such as Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry.
They also turn their hand to hits of the day including The Five Keys Out Of Sight Out Of Mind, Pat Boone’s Don’t Forbid Me and snippets of Rip It Up, Too Much Monkey Business and Brown Eyed Handsome Man.
Elvis talks about seeing Jackie Wilson in Las Vegas as part of Billy Ward’s Dominoes singing Don’t Be Cruel and goes on to imitate Wilson. He also performs some songs he was due to record at forthcoming RCA sessions including Is It So Strange, Peace In The Valley and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.
Elvis plays piano on most of the tracks, or at least until Jerry Lee takes over the final few songs, and is also the featured lead vocalist. Perkins does sing lead on Keeper Of The Key and his band are actually featured on the earlier tracks recorded that day.
On listening to all the material that has been released so far one thing is very obvious and that is the fact that Johnny Cash’s voice does not seem to appear on any of the tracks.
According to Robert Johnson, Cash did join Presley, Perkins and Lewis on Blueberry Hill and Isle Of Golden Dreams despite neither track showing up. Perkins, in a 1972 interview, confirmed this when he mentioned these two songs alongside I Won’t Have To Cross The Jordan Alone, The Old Rugged Cross, Tutti Frutti and Big Boss Man. Again none of these tracks have surfaced so maybe Cash is present on these tracks.
When did Cash arrive at the studio? There are reports that Cash had gone to the studio to pick up some money that was owed to him and that he was there before Elvis arrived.
In his 1997 autobiography Cash wrote, “I was there. I was the first to arrive and the last to leave, contrary to what has been written- but I was just there to watch Carl record, which he did until mid-afternoon, when Elvis came in with his girlfriend. At that point the session stopped and we all started laughing and cutting up together. Then Elvis sat down at the piano, and we started singing gospel songs we all knew, then some Bill Monroe songs. Elvis wanted to hear songs Bill had written besides Blue Moon of Kentucky, and I knew the whole repertoire. So, again contrary to what some people have written, my voice is on the tape. It’s not obvious, because I was farthest away from the mike and I was singing a lot higher than I usually did in order to stay in key with Elvis, but I guarantee you, I’m there.”
It has also been reported that Cash only stayed for a short time and then left to do some Christmas shopping while another story claims that he was only asked to join the session after Phillips had chosen to call the Memphis Press Scimitar.
Whatever story is true there is no doubt he was there at some point as proved by the photo and it would seem very strange to believe that he would just turn up for the photo and then leave straight after.
Listening to the recordings we are given a couple of clues that would suggest that Cash was not present for the recording and maybe did just pose for the photo. Smokey Joe Baugh, who did not sing but was in the studio can be heard saying, after I Shall Not Be Moved, “You oughta get up a quartet.” Then there is the female voice that can be heard asking if “This Rover Boys Trio can sing Farther Along?”
However, we can also hear Elvis mentioning Cash by name during the song On The Jericho Road which suggests he was at the least in the studio and possibly taking part in the session at that point.
Until more tapes are found from these historic sessions we will never know the answer to this question. In the meantime sit back and enjoy what is available, you won’t be disappointed.
A few years ago I went to see Joe Brown in concert and it was a wonderful evening of music from one of the countries most talented but underated musicians and performer. At the end of the show he performed I'll See You In My Dreams accompanied by just his ukulele and it was a fantastic way to bring the show to an end. He had previously performed the song at the George Harrison Tribute Concert and is now a song he ends all his shows with. This new album, on which Brown plays the ukulele, features Joe and his band, led by his son Pete, and they are supported by the Ukulele Club Of Sonning Common, apparenty taught by Joe's daughter Sam Brown. The album is a mix of traditional songs and pop songs given a ukulele makeover. Most of the covers work very well especially McGuiness Flint's When I'm Dead And Gone, Chas and Dave's plaintive There's No Pleasing You and even Motorhead's Ace Of Spades. However, the standout pop cover is ELO's Mr Blue Sky which sounds like it could have been written for the ukulele. The only track I could have lived without is Pinball Wizard which doesn't quite work for me. However, it is the traditional songs that I enjoyed the most. Music hall tracks including I Like Bananas and George Formby's When I'm Cleaning Windows (he couldn't have left this track off) and others like Hula Girl and I Like You. An album of great interpretations and musicality it will be spending a lot of time in my CD player. Hope he tours again soon and comes back to my hometown. I'll be first in line for tickets.