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Millie Kirkham Remembers her first Recording Session with Elvis Presley

By Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
February 22, 2013 - 6:02:58 PM

Millie Kirkham's association with Elvis Presley began with the 1957 recording session that yielded, among other classics, Don't, Treat Me Nice and Blue Christmas, a song which features some of the most unique vocal background work she and the Jordanaires ever did with the King Of Rock 'N' Roll.

Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires has been quoted as saying that while Elvis liked Tubb but did not want to recut his song. Ordered to do the song, he told the band to play and sing as badly as possible. 'He argued and cussed with them for a couple of hours and finally told us to make the most horrible background we could, so they wouldn't record it', Stoker was quoted as telling a Nashville newspaper.

The backup singers laughed and sang a whooping 'woo-woo-woo-woo-woo' in the background.

'They said have fun -- do something silly', backup singer Millie Kirkham said in a CNN interview.

Presley chopped words into syllables, singing, 'I-I-I'll have a ba-lue Chrrrr-istmas ...'

'When we got through', Kirkham was quoted as saying, 'we all laughed'.

It turned out to be a repeat No. 1 hit for New York songwriters Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson.

Elvis Presley Video Video : Millie Kirkham Remembers her first Recording Session with Elvis Presley (06:32)

Did you know Elvis did not want to record 'Blue Christmas'?

Ordered to do the song, Elvis told the band to play and sing as badly as possible. Millie Kirkham tells the story as she remembers her first Recording Session with Elvis Presley.


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Kirkham's strong, clear soprano can be heard on many of Elvis' pop, rock, gospel and country recordings such as The Wonder Of You, Surrender, How Great Thou Art, Polk Salad Annie, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Don't, Just Pretend, (You're The) Devil in Disguise, See See Rider and many others.

Millie Kirkham also sang with Elvis on many of his movie soundtracks and performed with him on stage in the 1970 documentary, Elvis: That's the Way It Is in Las Vegas. A longtime fixture in the music community, her credits include numerous radio and television appearances, collaborations with the Jordanaires and the Anita Kerr Singers along with her countless recording sessions in Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas and Nashville. Her distinctive voice can be heard on classic recordings by Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, Pete Fountain, Bob Dylan, Perry Como, Carl Perkins, Rosemary Clooney, Little Richard, Reba McEntire, Brook Benton, Tammy Wynette, Vic Damone, Paul Anka, George Jones, Sonny James, Patti Page, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Arnold, Loretta Lynn, Jim Reeves and of course Elvis Presley to name a few. Kirkham was born in Nashville, Tennessee. She performed in high school bands in the early 1940s before graduating to session work.

On August 17, 1970 Soprano Kathy Westmoreland replaced Millie Kirkham, who has in essence taken over some of departed Sweet Inspiration Cissy Houston's solo duties solely for the filming of 'That's The Way it Is'. Kirkham who is busy with session work in Nashville cannot extend her commitment though the engagement, and Kathy signs on initially just for the remaining three weeks - but stays for the next seven years.

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