Update on Elvis Sessions IV Book by Joseph Tunzi
Source: Nigel Patterson & Elvis Day By Day
March 17, 2023
Recently, I received an email questioning whether Elvis Sessions IV by JAT Productions has been cancelled, abandoned, delayed, whatever you want to call it. The answer is a resounding no, the book has not been cancelled or abandoned. We have too much time, effort and financial resources tied up into the book for it to simply be cancelled or abandoned.
I will say that the book will not be like any of Joe's previous 'Sessions' books or for that matter any previous recording session book on Elvis, including the much beloved 'Elvis Presley, A Life In Music' by Ernst Jorgensen. We have accumulated a massive amount of photographs, especially pertaining to the recording sessions over the last 10-15 years, if not longer.
That said, I do think some people will need to temper their expectations. Will there be some brand new recording that nobody knows about mentioned in the book? At this stage, probably not.
Will there be plenty of rare or new recording session photographs? Absolutely! Joe and I have acquired a ton of new photographs over the years, especially recording session photographs from the 1950s through the 1970s. Up until now, there's only been known color recording session photographs from two recording sessions in the 1950s, those being the July 2, 1956 New York and the June 10-11, 1958 sessions in Nashville. These would be never-before-seen photos. Joe and I have been sitting on some of them (around 8 total) for a few years now and the other session (2 photos) we just came across within the last 6 months. I had never seen them before then but they are out there now.
Well, you can add at least two more session dates to that total. This doesn't even count a handful of rare recording sessions photographs from other recording sessions in the 1950s that we have also located. We've also located plenty of rare recording session photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, including one in RCA Studio B in Nashville where you see one of sound engineer Bill Porter's pyramids hanging from the ceiling directly above Elvis in the studio.
I don't want to divulge too much, but we have located an alternate photograph of a pretty well known recording session photograph from the 1970s that has never been seen before, which when combined with the other photographs that we got from this photographer, it brings up questions about the story of how this alternate photograph and the well known one came to be taken as told by one individual.
Besides the photographs, where I think the book will really shine is in the documentation that Joe and I have located, not just pertaining to the actual recording sessions but in other areas as well.
A couple of these would be :
- Copies of Elvis' musician's union card
- A copy of his handwritten application in July 1954 to join the musicians' union (AFM - local 71 - Memphis)
- A letter from Elvis' father Vernon Presley to the local 71 in Memphis shortly after Elvis died pertaining to life insurance payment benefits
- A copy of the check for a $1 million USD made out to Elvis in August 1971 for the November 1971 tour that Jerry Weintraub talked about
- A copy of the $2.5 million dollar check and pay stub from RCA for the March 1973 buyout
- Copies of the various changes to Elvis' recording contract with RCA throughout the years
- Copies of the legal documents from the reopening of the divorce proceedings in 1973 up until 1977 where Elvis still owed money on the property sale of one of the houses in California
- Copies of nearly all (I'm going to say around 90% or more) of the AFM contracts for Elvis' recording sessions. We located all of the ones from 1956-1964, missing two overdub sessions in 1965, have all of 1966-1967, missing for the two informal tapings at NBC on June 27, 1968 and one overdub session in 1968, missing two overdub sessions in 1969 and for the Vegas recordings in August 1969. From 1970 onward, we pretty much have everything. In those cases where we are missing the AFM contract, we also have the RCA recording page as well, which should suffice.
Lastly, a definitive list of what soundboards do exist in the Sony / RCA archives.
And yes, the book will have a proper index section for easy reference.
We do plan on having the book out this year. I'm not going to definitively say it will be out this year, as I would have hoped to have already had it out by now. We've literally jumped down every rabbit hole that has come our way, as far as leads for photographs, documents, etc. and at this stage, I don't see Sony Legacy / RCA or Follow That Dream or Memphis Recording Service or the bootleggers for that matter releasing anything earth shattering or groundbreaking from this point forward.
I think the 'Elvis On Tour' set was more of the beginning of the end for releases featuring a substantive amount of new material that was professionally recorded that had remained unreleased.
Yes, I know FTD will continue to do their sessions releases, 3 CD soundboard sets, vinyl releases and books but I don't think they will be able to offer anything of significance for the book. Yes, I know that 'Elvis In Concert' has yet to be tackled by either Sony Legacy or FTD but we pretty much already know what was recorded in that instance. I hope I am proven wrong on whether any new tapes will be found but I also imagine over time, various things will eventually surface. That's just the reality of it.
There's plenty of cool documents. No need to worry about that. Virtually all of the recording session AFM contracts, most of the ones from 1956-1960 feature Elvis' signature. In fact, I tracked down a copy of one of the contracts with a guy who had an original copy that had been stolen from him nearly 30 years ago. He told me the whole story about what happened. He had other memorabilia stolen from him as well at the time including something signed by Marilyn Monroe but he was able to recover that from a pawn shop owner in New York or New Jersey. Never did locate the original of the Elvis contract but he did have a copy of it. He also sent me a copy of an Air Express Division Railway Express Agency, Inc. shipping invoice of the acetates that were shipped to Elvis shortly after the recording sessions were concluded. Apparently, Elvis didn't stick around for the acetates to be cut so that he could take them with him after the sessions. The invoice is dated and time stamped shortly after the sessions concluded and indicates that it came from RCA and went to Graceland and the package contained phonograph records.
As far as the overdub sessions colonel snow mentioned, the two from 1965 are the known 'Santa Lucia' overdub session in New York in October 1965 and the unknown overdub session for 'Wild In The Country.' Joe and I have located the AFM contract for the March 1965 'Tomorrow Night' overdub session. Joe and I do have the RCA page for the 'Santa Lucia' overdub session. The 1968 overdub session is the 'Beyond The Reef' overdub session which again we have the RCA recording page. But the interesting thing about that one is that the backup vocals were not overdubbed on the same day as the instruments were. In fact, the backup vocals were overdubbed along with about three or four selections from another RCA recording artist at the time. The 1969 overdub sessions are the March 25, 1969 Nashville sessions and the August 7, 1969 Las Vegas 'Suspicious Minds' overdub session are the two that we are missing AFM contracts from 1969. Again we have the RCA recording pages. We feel we have finally gotten the backup vocal overdubs done at American Sound Studio correct. We have both documents and photographic evidence.
We have uncovered several undocumented overdub sessions from the 1970s, especially in the years 1970-1972. Joe and I didn't have this right, especially in Sessions III. I think we are still missing a few things, especially when it comes to some of the backup vocal overdubs done by the Imperials in 1970, but we have exhausted every possible avenue to try to locate the proper documentation to no avail. A family member of Joe's works for SAG-AFTRA and through connections there we still were not able to locate these missing contracts for the overdub sessions. I have a general idea of when some of the overdub sessions that we are missing featuring the Imperials were done but I have no way of proving it.
One of the other things we have located is some of the musician time cards from the 1960s and 1970s. We couldn't find any from the 1950s, unfortunately. Some of these, feature the signatures of the musicians, especially in the 1970s. This would include the time cards for the 'Elvis Is Back' sessions (including both the March and April sessions and the overdub session for 'It's Now Or Never'), the June and October 1961 Nashville sessions (in fact if you look in Sessions III, there is a document in there that pertains to the June 1961 sessions that makes reference to Scotty Moore listing members of the Jordanaires on the time cards though they were in AFTRA by then; the time cards indicate that he put 'AFTRA' beside their names with question marks), the March 1962 Nashville sessions, the January 1964 Nashville sessions, the February 1965 Harum Scarum Nashville sessions, the February 1967 Clambake Nashville sessions, all of the June and September 1970 Nashville sessions, the March, May and June 1971 Nashville sessions, the 1972 Nashville overdub sessions, the last two nights of the July 1973 Stax sessions, the September 1973 Nashville overdub session, all of the December 1973 Stax sessions, all the Nashville January and September 1974 overdub sessions, the February and March 1976 Nashville overdub sessions, the January 1977 Creative Workshop Nashville cancelled recording sessions, and all the 1977 Nashville overdub sessions. Oh, one other thing, we did solve one of those mysteries that a resident 'doctor' over on that other forum has been trying to figure out for a while with no success. I should also point out that there are a few surprises on the AFM contracts and the time cards compared to what we know already
In Ernst's book and on the RCA recording pages, neither his book or the pages list session hours in several instances that come to mind (February 26, 1958 overdub of 'Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,' April 5, 1960 overdub session for 'It's Now Or Never,' the recording of 'We'll Be Together' (also we have located the date as well as the session hours), the August 30, 1963 'What'd I Say' recording session, the February 26, 1965 Harum Scarum sessions, the July 26-27, 1965 Paradise Hawaiian Style sessions, the June 20, 1966 celeste overdub session for 'If Every Day Was Like Christmas,' the October 1, 1967 'Stay Away, Joe' sessions, the June 1968 Western Recorders sessions (at least when the sessions began), and the September 1973 Nashville overdub session). Joe and I have found proper paperwork to put session hours to these sessions.
Then there is the photographs. This is just a sample.
- Roughly 48 photographs from the December 1, 1955 photo shoot at RCA Studios in New York by Popsie. Does anyone know how many he took that day.
- 3 Popsie photos taken on January 30, 1956 at the William Morris Agency offices in New York along with about 5 of the David B. Hecht color photos taken around the same time. This does not include the photographs we have of Elvis from the Dorsey Show appearances, which probably numbers upward of 30 photos.
- 11 Photos from the first Milton Berle Show appearance (April 5, 1956) along with a copy of the William Morris Agency contract agreement for Elvis's appearance.
- roughly 100 photos taken by Don Cravens from the April 14, 1956 Nashville recording session. 12 at the airport, 3 singing autographs outside by the taxi, 16 of him being presented the gold record for 'Heartbreak Hotel' in the recording studio and 69 of him in the studio recording.
- 35 photographs from the April / May 1956 engagement in Las Vegas along with a copy of the William Morris Agency contract agreement. Also have AFM contract for the Little Rock show on May 16, 1956.
- At least 49 photos from the June 5, 1956 second appearance on the Milton Berle Show
- About 65 photos from the July 1, 1956 Steve Allen Show appearance
- 92 July 2, 1956 RCA New York recording session photos
- 44 August 1956 Love Me Tender recording session photos plus countless photos taken on the set and of the premiere at the Paramount Theatre in New York.
- 28 September 1956 Radio Recorders recording session photos
- 37 photos from the September 9, 1956 first Ed Sullivan Show appearance
- 18 photos from the September 26, 1956 Tupelo shows along with a copy of the AFM contract
- 24 photos from the October 28, 1958 second Ed Sullivan Show appearance
- 7 photos from the December 4, 1956 Million Dollar Quartet informal studio jam
- 6 photos from the December 15, 1956 final Louisiana Hayride show performance along with a copy of the AFM contract for the show.
That's just from December 1955- December 1956...and that's not everything we have from that year. Have a bunch of photos from the meeting with Liberace in November 1956, the premiere of Love Me Tender at the Paramount Theatre (some in color),
Other sessions where we have a substantial amount of photos from the 1950s are...
- Loving You sessions (53 photos)
- Jailhouse Rock (32 photos)
- King Creole (105 photos)
- June 1958 Nashville sessions (89 photos)
I think when it's all said and done, this book will be about as close as you can get to being in the studio with Elvis. In fact, we found one individual who actually got to go into the studio and observe Elvis record and we got an exclusive on his story.
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