The Guitar Man album is an interesting one. It was the first album made up exclusively of remixes of Elvis tracks. Some liked it, others most certainly did not. There were some other tracks - electronic duets, in fact - recorded around the same time. Elvis' friend, George Klein, has some of those duets. I spoke to George from his home in Memphis.
SJ - Thanks for your time, George. Can you tell us about the tapes, and how you came by them?
GK - Well, Felton Jarvis, as you know was in the studio to do an album called Elvis and Friends and about a third into the album Colonel Parker heard about it and wasn't happy with that situation. So Colonel Parker wanted it to stop. They stopped the production, and Felton took the master tapes home. I was very close to Felton and his wife Mary. So once Felton passed away, I went to Nashville. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. About a year went by, and Mary called me one day. She said, 'George, I've got these tracks, these tapes'. She said, 'I think Felton would want you to have them'. She told me what they were. I was completely honoured that she wanted me to have them. So she got them to me, and I have them in my possession.
SJ - Were these tracks going to be part of the Guitar Man sessions, or was it a completely different project?
GK - No, it was a totally different project, it was Elvis and Friends.
SJ - So a totally different year then?
GK - I have no idea; I'm bad on years, Scotty. All I know is that he had those three tracks, and he was bringing in nine more people to sing the songs. But it never happened.
SJ - What do you think The Colonel's objections were?
GK - His objection was that Elvis had never recorded anything with anyone else, for a commercial venture. I mean, he did that thing with Ann-Margret and somebody else earlier on in his career. I can't remember what movie it was. The Colonel was probably upset that it wasn't his idea.
SJ - How many tracks are we talking about on these tapes?
GK - Three.
SJ - Just three. What are they?
SJ - The version of Blue Suede Shoes - is it a live version or the studio cut?
GK - Studio.
SJ - And what about Guitar Man - is that Jerry's vocal or reworked guitar?
GK - Vocal. He's already playing guitar on it; he played on the original.
SJ - Yeah, he did. And is there more than one version of each song, or just the one take?
GK - One take each. I offered them to RCA, and they weren't interested. I can't understand why, because they don't have anything like it. I'm gonna tell you, Scotty, the Blue Suede Shoes is a killer! Just great. Both of them (Carl and Elvis) have passed away. You can't get them back into the studio.
SJ - So why do you think RCA aren't interested?
GK - That's a good question. They really don't know what time it is! Especially since they put out that horrible version of Baby Let's Play House. Have you heard that? (This was actually not released by Sony BMG but by an independent DJ in Italy)
SJ - Yeah, it's bloody awful.
GK - RCA, they're not in tune to what Elvis was about. And if they knew about this Blue Suede Shoes, they could put something on the back of it, and have a smash.
SJ - So the tapes - they're not multitrack are they? They're a safety tape?
GK - They're quarter-inch tapes. Safety, yeah. It doesn't sound like stereo to me. It was never meant to be put into stereo.
SJ - Are the Elvis vocals the same as the released versions, or are they alternative takes?
GK - You know, I don't know. I'm not that technical, you know.
SJ - There was a rumour that there was a version of For Ol' Times Sake with Tony Joe White. Know anything about that?
GK - No. Tony Joe White was scheduled to come in, to either do that or Polk Salad Annie but it never happened.
SJ - So who else was scheduled to come in to record?
GK - Willie Nelson. Kris Kristofferson. Gee, Scotty, it was a bunch more, but I can't remember. It was, like, thirty years ago, so -
(Waylon Jennings was also asked and talks about it in his book -- 'He did one of my songs once, Just Because You Asked Me Too, imitating my voice. After he died, RCA wanted to put out a duet album with artists who had worked with Elvis, and asked me to sing along on his finished track. I couldn't handle that. 'Call Elvis', I told them. 'If it's okay with Elvis, it's okay with me'.)
SJ - I've heard you're in contact with a couple of buyers. Do you think you'll be able to get these tracks released somehow?
GK - I don't know. My hope would be that RCA would take it, because it's a natural for them. The head guy from RCA, he turned it down. I don't know why. Well, ninety percent of ownership is possession.
SJ - I suppose there could be some problems with the estate of Carl Perkins as well.
GK - I would assume, yes. And I wouldn't let the tapes go unless somebody made a deal with Carl Perkins' estate. And with the Gatlin people, and the Jerry Reed people too.
SJ - So are the tapes in good condition; are they okay after thirty years?
GK - They're in very good condition.
SJ - So do you have any other hidden treasures that we don't know about?
GK - I've got a press conference that I recorded myself. I've got an unsweetened - you know what 'unsweetened' is?
SJ - Sure, yeah.
GK - I've got a tape of unsweetened stuff with about ten of the American Sound songs from '69.
SJ - How come you've waited so long to try and release these tracks?
GK - I'm getting to that age where it needs to be out there.
SJ - And how is your book coming?
GK - It's coming late this year (2008). Elvis, My Best Man.
SJ - Well, good luck with it all, George, and thanks for talking with us again.
GK - No problem, Scotty. Thank you.