Elvis Presley: The American Sound Studios Sessions 1969

By: Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
August 22, 2021

It was bitter cold the evening of January 13, 1969, in Memphis, Tennessee. Producer Chips Moman and the searing band of musicians he had assembled at American Sound Studios were waiting for the arrival of Elvis Presley and his notorious retinue. It would be the first evening of a scheduled ten-day recording venture. It would also be Elvis' first such session outside of Nashville or Hollywood since he cut his last side for Sam Phillips at Sun Studio in 1955. The next few weeks were to be a milestone in Elvis Presley's career. On his own initiative, with considerable encouragement and prodding from his friends, he would slip from under his agent's conservative and protective control to work with one of the hottest house bands and one of the hottest producers in the country. He would break many well-worn habits that had put his career in neutral. He would make a sustained effort to recreate himself and re-establish his musical dominance. And he would assemble strong new material for an adventurous live act set to open July 31st, later that year in Las Vegas.

Nashville or Memphis?

Graceland, the evening of Thursday, January 9, 1969, one day after Elvis' 34th birthday.

Elvis met with RCA producer, Felton Jarvis, in the Jungleroom to discuss going to Nashville to record what he hoped would put him back on top of the charts. Marty Lacker was sitting there in the Jungleroom that evening, seething, as he listened to Elvis and Felton finalize the dates for Nashville. He began to unconsciously shake his head back and forth (his head was big, bald and round and as a result his nickname was Moon).

Marty fought back his frustration. Elvis snapped at him, 'What the hell's the matter with you?' and Lacker got the opening he needed to lay it on the line one last time: 'Marty Lacker: I just wish for once you'd try Chips Moman and his rhythm section, they're great Elvis'. And Elvis said, 'Well, maybe someday I will'.

Then everybody got up to go in the dining room, but I just sat there. I did not want to go in there and listen to them discuss the Nashville session. Elvis said to me, 'C'mon, let's go eat'. I told him I wasn't hungry and he knew I was lying because he knew I never saw a meal I didn't like, especially steak which was being served that night. So I kept sitting in the chair ... Well, it wasn't two minutes before Felton came out and said 'Elvis wants to see you'. I said, 'Felton, I don't want to go in there. With all due respect to you and Nashville, I really don't want to hear about it'. And he said, 'No he wants to talk to you about cutting in Memphis'. With that, I was out of that chair in a flash and in the dining room. With Felton standing next to me I said to Elvis, 'Is he kidding me, you want to cut in Memphis?' he said, 'Yes, but I have to start Monday night'. 'You and Felton set it up with Chips Moman'. Felton and I went to the front hallway to the phone and I called the studio, they told me Chips was at home so I called him there. I said, 'Lincoln, (his real name), do you still want to cut Elvis', he said, 'Hell yes'. I then said, 'Well you got him but you have a problem. He has to start Monday night and you already have Neil Diamond booked'. Chips said, 'Fuck Neil Diamond, he'll just have to be postponed. Tell Elvis he's on'. I then told him the session had to be a closed one and nobody who does not have anything to do with it cannot be invited. He said, 'No problem, you can handle that'. He said that even though I was not working for him at that time I didn't become General Manager of the studio until a few months later when he asked me to.

I then handed the phone to Felton who made the financial deal with Chips on behalf of RCA. When he got through with that we went and sat at the table where I sat next to Elvis on the right. I waited until he finished eating and then I said, 'Elvis would you do me a favor?' He asked what. I then said, 'With this session, you're gonna have a great and talented producer and some of the most creative and talented musicians, the sound of the studio is fantastic and we all know you can sing, would you please get some good songs this time?'

Elvis looked at me and said, 'Well I was waiting to finish eating and then I wanted you to come upstairs and listen to some new songs by this new songwriter, Scott Davis' that was Mac Davis' real first name. We went upstairs to his room and he played a tape of songs to me and the guys including, In The Ghetto and Don't Cry Daddy. I was happy because they sounded like hits to me. Another was, 'Home' but he didn't do that one.

Colonel Parker had lost control of his number one asset during an evening dinner at Graceland.

His greatest fear was being realized. Elvis had actually made a major decision without seeking either his advice or permission. The question for Parker became how to keep the situation from spinning totally out of his sphere of influence. Felton Jarvis was too close to Elvis to be counted on to keep a real eye on things. Besides, he had abdicated his position to Chips. He might be able to play a part in post-production, but Chips' take charge, no bullshit attitude ruled out any serious input in the studio. Parker could only send Diskin and RCA vice-president Harry Jenkins to the sessions to make sure everyone on the gravy train was having his interests considered. Those interests may have been primarily Parker's, but they were also, the Colonel genuinely felt, Elvis'.

Oh, and Parker could also send music, lots and lots of music from the Hill and Range catalog. On that count, he thought he was well set up, believing that he had practically placed an insider in the Presley camp.

Lamar Fike was one of Elvis' oldest and closest personal friends. At the request of Elvis' mother, Gladys, he had accompanied Private Presley to Germany, where he served as chauffeur and valet. Throughout the years he would be an integral part of the organization. Fike was trusted and always played an important role. He introduced Elvis to Felton Jarvis in 1966, in an attempt to lure him away from Hollywood and back to Nashville.

Fike started working at H & R in 1962, at times in close association with Parker and the home office. And though Fike was a champion of H & R, and worked on their behalf and had practically been placed in the job by the Colonel, he was a team player. After all, what was good for H & R was making money for Elvis too.

Fike was selling one song, Kentucky Rain by Eddie Rabbitt and Dick Heard, that he had a really good feeling about. Elvis wasn't too impressed, but Fike was persistent. Elvis had to cut it, it was that good, and if he didn't somebody else was going to chart with it. It was a smart call and Fike would later feel proud. When Kentucky Rain was released in 1970, it stayed nine weeks in the top 100, reaching #16. And according to plan, H & R took 50 percent interest in the song and Elvis' subsidiary took half of that.

Chips began to prepare for Elvis. He pulled songs from his own library he knew Elvis could sink his teeth into. Some he had cut with other artists, some hadn't worked out just right. Suspicious Minds was one. Chips had recorded it with the song's writer Mark James in 1968, but the record never made the charts. Chips thought he had a good chance with Elvis whose voice and intensity were perfect for the song. When the time came to cut the tracks, Chips used same arrangement as with James believing that only Elvis was the missing ingredient to a hit record. He was right. It was the last time Elvis would have a number one record on the Hot 100.

Elvis Presley with the band at American Studios 1969.
Elvis Presley with the band at American Studios 1969.

Elvis had a cold when he first arrived at American that night and was a bit taken aback by the studio's condition, which was run-down enough for a host of rats to feel comfortable taking up residence; 'What a funky studio!' he announced, responding to hearing rodents scuffling around.

For their part, the musicians weren't overly impressed about working with someone of Elvis Presley's stature, having already worked with many big names by then. But, they were surprised by the charisma he exuded before work even began. 'You'd know he was in the room when he walked in', said Reggie Young. 'You hear stories about people that have that effect on people, and I never thought anything about it. But Elvis really did. He just kind of commanded his space. You definitely knew he was there'.

Elvis quickly won the musicians' respect for how hard he worked. His vocals were recorded as the musicians worked out a song's arrangement, with the understanding that he'd recut a final vocal later.

Nonetheless, he gave his all during the early takes, with sax player/arranger Glen Spreen marveling at how he'd effectively give a full performance in the studio, even standing behind a baffle. 'He was back there just like he would be onstage, doing gyrations and the whole thing - because that was just the way he sang', Spreen told biographer Peter Guralnick. And despite his cold, Elvis himself felt re-energized by his work in the studio.

Chips only recorded three songs that evening, Long Black Limousine by Bobby George and Vern Stovall, that Chips introduced, This Is the Story by Arnold, Morrow, and Martin, from Freddy Bienstock and H & R and Wearin' that Loved On Look by Dallas Frazier and Al Owens, which Lamar had brought in. Even so, the session didn't break up till four the next morning and everyone seemed satisfied. On the ride back to Graceland, Elvis turned to the guys in the back and told them what seemed obvious. 'Man, that felt really great. I can't tell you how good I feel ... I really just want to see if I can have a number one record one more time'. He later said he never worked harder in the studio than he had during the sessions at American.

Elvis' cold gave his voice an appealing roughness, but after two nights, when he developed full-blown laryngitis, he took time off to recover. But the Memphis Boys kept working, spending the 15th and 16th recording backing tracks for four more songs, in the expectation of Elvis cutting his vocals later.

For the first three days, the sessions went according to plan until the cold which had been bothering Elvis for weeks came back with a vengeance. Elvis stayed at Graceland for a few days to recuperate while Chips cut background and laid down some rhythm tracks for a few new songs.

Back at Graceland, Elvis and the guys were going through the demos the Colonel had sent from H & R. Elvis was distraught. They were running out of good songs and this batch was just awful. Why wouldn't they send him some good material for a change? Marty spoke up: the H & R situation was costing Elvis hit songs. Elvis needed to consider music which the Colonel didn't have a bonus interest in. Marty explained to Elvis that unlike the 50s there is a lot more competition along with singer-songwriters and most did not want to give up any of their publishing rights. Elvis sat for a while, grinding his teeth and nervously bouncing his leg. Elvis then said, from now on I'll pick my own music and that everybody should bring in songs. Elvis: '... from now on I want to hear every song I can get my hands on, and if I've got a piece of the publishing, that's fine, but if I don't and I want to do the song, I'm going to do it'. Elvis then said to Marty, 'I want you to get me some good songs'. And to Red West, he said, 'I want you to get me some good songs too'. And also to George Klein because George knew a lot of artists through his TV show. George immediately got on the phone and called Neil Diamond. That's how Elvis came to record And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind during the following sessions in February.

Elvis finally returned to American on Jan. 20, and the size of his entourage had diminished. Both the musicians and Moman had been put off by the number of Elvis' friends and associates at the first sessions, whose presence seemed to be more of a distraction to Elvis. 'There was just too many people', said Moman.

'I think they were kind of shocked when I stood up to them. They probably had never had anyone ask them to leave the studio before - but I did, and it turned out to be better for Elvis'. 'We got the riff-raff out of there and got down to business and only had Elvis' key people around', Bobby Wood agreed. 'That's exactly how we started cutting all the hits'. And the first song cut on the 20th would become one of those hits, a song that further chartered the new direction Elvis was (momentarily) moving in: Mac Davis' In The Ghetto.

Elvis had already recorded a number of Mac Davis' songs before the Memphis sessions; A Little Less Conversation had appeared in the film 'Live A Little, Love A Little', and Memories had been featured in the 'Elvis' TV special. Davis had pitched Don't Cry Daddy to Elvis when visiting his home in Bel Air, and in advance of the sessions at American, he'd submitted a tape of potential songs, one of which was 'In The Ghetto'.

In The Ghetto was a 'message song', though its scenario was one that was patently obvious to anyone who had any knowledge of modern-day urban life. The narrative told the tale of a boy born in poor circumstances and whose lack of opportunities leads to a life of crime and ultimately his death - at the same time as 'another little baby child is born in the ghetto', thus continuing the cycle; the song's original title was 'The Vicious Circle'.

Though the sentiments were hardly radical, and it could be said that Elvis Presley had already recorded a 'message song' with If I Can Dream, there was some feeling that 'Ghetto' might be too overt in its politics.

There was also the chance the song could be seen as condescending, performed by someone of Elvis' wealth ... and race. 'There was a discussion about what people might think about a white guy singing about life in the ghetto', said Moman. George Klein even went so far as to tell Elvis he shouldn't record the song.

Chips said to Elvis, I've got to tell you, this is a hit song, you should cut this'. Elvis stood there thinking about it. And Chips followed with, 'Elvis if you don't do it, can I have the song'? And Elvis said, 'No, I'll do it'. On reflection, Klein told Elvis he was mistaken, and with everyone soon in agreement, Elvis devoted most of the 20th to recording In The Ghetto, cutting 23 takes before Chips was satisfied. He then cut a vocal track for Gentle On My Mind and ending the session, like the rest, ended in the early morning, with the bluesy Rubberneckin'.

The next night began with a rather loose cover of Hey Jude. Elvis planned to record a final vocal later (due to the fact that he didn't know all of the words), but that never happened, and the song was later released as is. He spent the bulk of the evening doing vocal overdubs, then cut a breezy version of From A Jack To A King, in part for his father, who attended the evening sessions; the song was one of Vernon Presley's favorites.

The 22nd was the final night of sessions then scheduled, and Elvis began with the dramatic ballad Without Love which he nailed in three takes. The soulful feel of the performance carried over into the next song, I'll Hold You In My Heart, despite its being a country song first popularized by Eddy Arnold. After the more straightforward country of I'll Be There, the sessions concluded with what would become another landmark track, Suspicious Minds. When released as a single, Suspicious Minds would be Elvis Presley's biggest hit in years, and it would quickly become the centerpiece of his live show. Yet the song very nearly wasn't recorded at all.

Firstly, Elvis wasn't too sure about it, but Joe Esposito talked him into recording it. Elvis said, 'Well, we'll put the track down at least'. At American they were recording 'the modern way' where Elvis did a rough voice track with the rhythm section, then they did the overdubs, with horns or strings and or background singers, and then Elvis came back and sang the final vocal track. Elvis disliked this method and it was the only time in his career he recorded this way. Actually, Suspicious Minds was spliced together from three different takes.

Elvis and backing vocalists Mary Holladay, Mary Greene, Donna Thatcher, and Ginger Holladay - Circa Jan 20 1969.
Elvis and backing vocalists Mary Holladay, Mary Greene, Donna Thatcher, and Ginger Holladay - Circa Jan 20, 1969.

It was obvious that Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto were going to be big records. Tom Diskin and Freddy Bienstock began to get antsy. They caught Chips alone in the hall and started working on him, trying to get a piece of the songs he owned. Finally, Chips had had enough. Gentlemen, I thought we were here to cut some hit records. Now if that's not the case, let me tell you what you can do. You can take your fucking tapes, and you and your whole group can get the hell out of here. Don't ask me for something that belongs to me. I'm not going to give it to you. Surprisingly, RCA's Jenkins chimed in with Chips. The session was going well. Everybody was going to make out just fine. There was no need to let the whole thing unravel. Diskin was furious and sought out Elvis to plead his case. But Elvis had already made up his mind. He wasn't going to let the home office or H & R or RCA for that matter, ruin his session. He politely told Diskin to let him and Felton and Chips handle things. Elvis then did something which surprised even Chips. He asked the producer how they could eliminate the hassles, and Chips told him to just get everyone out of there. And that was it.

Elvis Presley and Roy Hamilton.


It was during their meeting that Elvis presented Roy with a beautiful new song 'Angelica' (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill) that he was going to record himself. The song turned out to be the single released from the session, a soaring, dramatic rendition that unfortunately struggled to find radio airplay. It also turned out to be Roy's last single as sadly, on July 20, 1969, the distinctive voice of Roy Hamilton was silenced when he died following a stroke.

Elvis recorded several of Roy's hits including, You'll Never Walk Alone, Hurt and Unchained Melody.

Elvis Presley and Roy Hamilton with the lyric sheet for 'Angelica'.
Elvis Presley and Roy Hamilton with the lyric sheet for 'Angelica'.

Diskin grabbed the hotline to the Colonel's office and, frustrated and perplexed, spelled out the circumstances. Elvis was going his own way. He didn't want them around. They had absolutely no control.

Colonel Parker bristled. There was nothing he could do except tell Diskin to cut out immediately. That would teach Elvis a lesson: 'Come back here right now, and let him fall on his ass'. Many critics and fans alike have often claimed that if only Elvis had taken more control of his career, had trusted his own instincts, made the movies and recorded the music he really wanted, if he had just gotten rid of the Colonel entirely, his career would have been much better off. It's hard to argue with the Colonel's success, but it may be said with certainty that in this instance, without being tied to the Presley machine, Elvis rose to and met every challenge.

In twelve days, Elvis cut thirty-six sides. Four of them were singles - In the Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, Don't Cry Daddy, and Kentucky Rain and all but the last were gold, even though Kentucky Rain was a substantial hit. And the two albums that came out of it [From Elvis in Memphis and From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis] went platinum. That's some falling on your ass. When Elvis walked into American Sound Studio that January evening, he hadn't had a top five record since 1965. He would never get as high on the charts again as he did with Chips Moman. Elvis himself believed that he had recorded some of his best material. He did so with focus and effort, and by asserting a kind of independence which was unusual for him. But it was an independence tempered by a willingness to work with and be guided by a producer he had never met, in a studio he knew by name only. Desperate for a number one record, Elvis took chances he would never take again.

Roy Hamilton joins Elvis with George Klein and girlfriend Barbara Little at American Sound Studios in January 1969.
Roy Hamilton joins Elvis with George Klein and girlfriend Barbara Little at American Sound Studios in January 1969.

In an interview, that morning with the Memphis Commercial Appeal, both Elvis and Chips' Moman expressed their mutual admiration, Elvis concluding, 'We have some hits, don't we, Chips?' Maybe some of your biggest', Chips replied. Chips was right, though that wouldn't be evident for a few more months.

Before then, in spite of the tensions that had arisen over publishing matters, six further sessions were scheduled at American in February, beginning on the 17th and running straight through the 22nd. The sessions began with Elvis continuing a long-standing tradition at American, performing Chips' composition, This Time.

Elvis sang an impromptu version of the number, throwing in a few lines of It's My Way, then going into I Can't Stop Loving You. Then it was time to get to work, with Elvis turning in stellar renditions of True Love Travels On A Gravel Road, Stranger In My Own Home Town, and Neil Diamond's gentle And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind.

On the 18th, Elvis had great fun with teasingly macho Power Of My Love, then took over on piano for a heartfelt After Loving You, a song he'd been performing for his own amusement for years, while Do You Know Who I Am was the kind of yearning ballad that was his specialty. With no cold to hold him up, Elvis worked steadily over the next few days, recording Kentucky Rain and Only The Strong Survive on the 19th, and Any Day Now, It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin and I'm A Fool (For Loving You) (the latter previously recorded by Bobby Wood).

By now, material on hand was running thin (on this outing, publishing had been secured on every song before it was recorded), and on the 21st, only two songs were worked on, The Fair Is Moving On and Memory Revival, though Elvis didn't end up recording a vocal for the latter. On the 22nd, the last day of the sessions, Elvis recorded vocal overdubs and one more new song, Bobby Wood's religiously themed Who Am I?

The American sessions stand as a personal triumph for Elvis, a performer at a turning point, an artist who that Winter in Memphis, was again sharp, eager, and alive. And the music he created there will always prove it.

Elvis Presley and Bobby Wood.
Elvis Presley and Bobby Wood.


Elvis' work was finished, but further overdubbing sessions were held in March and May, at both American and RCA's studio in Nashville, with horns, strings and backing singers added to flesh out the sound.

'Chips knew what a modern record, a pop record, as opposed to a country record, should sound like', says Jorgensen about the end result. 'He had an exceptional band, skilled players. And he was very focused on making records. Chips, in his head, had a vision of what a record should sound like. He cared only for those records that were taken to the full extreme, taken all the way, from his perspective; that would be records like Suspicious Minds and In the Ghetto. He didn't want Elvis to sing old country songs like I'll Hold You in My Heart, or Stranger in My Own Hometown. But those stand up as well as Chips' masterful productions of Only the Strong Survive and Any Day Now. It's a funny mixture of Elvis' own creativity and Chips'.

In The Ghetto was the first single released from the sessions in April; it peaked at #3.


From Elvis in Memphis followed in June, with a final track listing of Wearin' That Loved On Look, Only the Strong Survive, I'll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms), Long Black Limousine, It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin, I'm Moving On, Power of My Love, Gentle On My Mind, After Loving You, True Love Travels On A Gravel Road, Any Day Now and In The Ghetto. To get an idea of how impressive the album was, compare it to the last non-soundtrack, non-religious album Elvis had released, 1965's 'Elvis For Everyone'. That album was cobbled together from tracks dating back to the Sun sessions, giving it something of a grab-bag feel.

Songs: 10 (out of 10)
Audio & Mix Quality: 10
Liner Notes: 5
Cover Art: 10
Packaging: 10
Overall Experience: 10

In contrast, From Elvis In Memphis had a cohesiveness in sound, feel and theme. There was a keen vulnerability in songs like Only the Strong Survive, It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin' and Any Day Now, each of which showed the singer nursing a broken heart. They were balanced by the aggressive Power of My Love, and even Wearin' That Loved On Look, which, though it dealt with suspected infidelity, felt upbeat. Elsewhere, the repeated false starts of I'll Hold You In My Heart imbued the track with a you-are-there quality.

A major problem with the songs Elvis recorded during his movie career is that, as a performer, they kept him in a state of prolonged adolescence. But the new-found, hard-won maturity of the songs on From Elvis In Memphis showed Elvis finally making the transition from teen idol to adult with ease.

The album didn't quite build on the success of the 'Elvis' TV special soundtrack, only peaking at #13, though it received strong reviews. But Suspicious Minds, released as a single in August, was a flat-out hit, going all the way to #1. It was Elvis' first single chart-topper since Good Luck Charm in 1962. The song addressed the lack of trust in a relationship, climaxing in the repeated phrase 'We're caught in a trap/I can't walk out/because I love you too much baby'. In his live shows, Elvis would sing this phrase for several minutes, the band, and singers wailing behind him, while he pumped his body in a fury. The single tried to emulate something of this in what might be called a 'false fade'; the song fading out as Elvis sang the phrase, then slowly coming back up again.

Neither Moman or the musicians who'd worked on the song liked the ending. 'We laughed at it - let's put it that way', Glen Spreen, who'd done the song's original arrangement, told Peter Guralnick. 'We all just kind of went, 'God, how can they do this?' as it kept going and going and going. But we couldn't do anything about it'.

But that didn't keep the song from becoming a hit. As Elvis told his stepbrother, David Stanley, on the day he heard that Suspicious Minds had reached the top, 'David, I have been wrong for so long, but I'm right tonight'.

Don't Cry Daddy, released in November, also reached the Top 10, peaking at #6; its flip side, Rubberneckin', was also featured in Elvis' final feature film, 'Change Of Habit'. The double-album set From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis, released in November, featured more material from the Memphis sessions.

One album in the set was drawn from Elvis' just-completed engagement in Las Vegas; (Elvis In Person) the other drew on the Memphis studio tracks, the lineup being Inherit the Wind, This Is The Story, Stranger In My Own Home Town, A Little Bit of Green, And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind, Do You Know Who I Am, From a Jack to a King, The Fair Is Moving On, You'll Think of Me and Without Love.

In comparison with From Elvis In Memphis, this collection of songs (eventually released as an individual album in its own right, Back In Memphis) wasn't as strong, but again, it easily outclassed Elvis' soundtrack work of recent years. Stranger In My Own Home Town had a wonderfully bluesy vocal from Elvis. You'll Think of Me was an unexpectedly dark 'post-love' song, with Elvis speculating on how a past love will soon find love with someone else more deserving than him. He was disarmingly gentle in And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind, while Without Love was indicative of the over-the-top style that would become one of his trademarks during '70s live performances. The double album set reached #12 on release.

Other songs trickled out as singles or miscellaneous album tracks.

Kentucky Rain / My Little Friend was released in January 1970. The A-side was the story of a man searching for the woman who's run out on him and was one of the few songs from the Hill and Range catalog (who supplied most of Elvis' material) that Moman admitted he liked; it reached #16.

If I'm A Fool (For Loving You) and I'll Be There appeared on the 1970 budget album Let's Be Friends. Mama Liked The Roses turned up as the B-side of The Wonder of You (a Top 10 hit). Who Am I? appeared on the budget version of Elvis' Christmas Album, released in 1970. Two years later, Hey Jude appeared on the album Elvis Now, released in 1972. And nearly 20 years later, the This Time / I Can't Stop Loving You jam finally appeared on the 1993 box set From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60's Masters.

Alternative takes have appeared on numerous releases over the years, such as Platinum: A Life In Music and Today, Tomorrow & Forever; the 2001 Follow That Dream release Memphis Sessions is drawn entirely from the sessions. The early takes, which don't feature the later overdubbing, are especially fascinating to listen to.

Minus the horns and strings, you get a real sense how good a voice Elvis actually had, alternately powerful or sensitive, as the song demanded. 'I loved Elvis' singing', said Wayne Jackson, one of the trumpet players. 'He was a powerful soul singer. Elvis had a real love affair with his voice'.

Promise unfulfilled

While the overdubs made the songs undeniably more commercial, had the tracks been initially released without them, the resulting albums might have been even more revolutionary, taking Elvis Presley's career in an entirely different direction. As Guralnick observed on listening to the multiple takes of In The Ghetto, 'As the song develops… one is provided with an incontrovertible glimpse of what the process might have been like for Elvis, if only he had been able to approach recording consistently as an art'.

Yet the promise of those sessions, when Elvis stepped outside his comfort zone to work with someone who truly challenged him, would not be fulfilled. There were to be 11 more studio sessions before Elvis' death in August 1977 (three of those at his home), and while there were some great moments, nothing reached the emotional heights of the material he'd recorded over 11 days in early 1969.

In addition to producing a number of Elvis' most notable songs, the Memphis sessions stand as a testament to the heights Elvis could reach when he was provided with material that was equal to his talents.

I don't know what Sony/RCA did differently this time, but they finally got rid of that sort of muffled sound some of the Memphis tracks had before. Crystal clear. I'm loving this release! What a great surprise!

(All of Elvis' US singles were released in mono only up to 1971. Merry Christmas Baby may have been Elvis' first stereo single. Remember radio was AM - mono - so singles were made for radio play in mono.) * Except for Elvis first post-army singles, Stuck On You, It's Now Or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight and Surrender.

Articles about Elvis Presley Marty Lacker on Elvis’ 1969 Memphis recording sessions

Articles about Elvis Presley Elvis Presley and Roy Hamilton

Buy From Elvis In Memphis 2 CD FTD Special Edition Classic Album
Buy Back In Memphis FTD 2 CD Special Edition Classic Album
Buy Elvis At American Sound 2 CD FTD Special Edition Classic Album

CD 1 (16 Tracks)

The original 'From Elvis In Memphis' album with additional tracks:

The original 'From Elvis In Memphis' album with additional tracks01. Wearin' That Loved On Look
02. Only The Strong Survive
03. I'll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)
04. Long Black Limousine
05. It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'
06. I'm Movin' On
07. Power Of My Love
08. Gentle On My Mind
09. After Loving You
10. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road
11. Any Day Now
12. In The Ghetto

Bonus Tracks

13. I'll Be There
14. Hey Jude
15. If I'm A Fool (For Loving You)
16. Who Am I?

CD 2 (20 Tracks)

The original 'Back In Memphis' album with additional tracks:

The original 'From Elvis In Memphis' album with additional tracks01. Inherit The Wind
02. This Is The Story
03. Stranger In My Own Hometown
04. A Little Bit Of Green
05. And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind
06. Do You Know Who I Am?
07. From A Jack To A King
08. The Fair's Moving On
09. You'll Think Of Me
10. Without Love (There Is Nothing)

Bonus Mono Singles

11. In The Ghetto
12. Any Day Now
13. The Fair's Moving On
14. Suspicious Minds
15. You'll Think Of Me On
16. Don't Cry Daddy
17. Rubberneckin'
18. Kentucky Rain
19. My Little Friend
20. Mama Liked The Roses

Buy From Elvis In Memphis 2 CD FTD Special Edition Classic Album
Buy Back In Memphis FTD 2 CD Special Edition Classic Album
Buy Elvis At American Sound 2 CD FTD Special Edition Classic Album

Articles Elvis Presley : Nashville Marathon : June 4-8, 1970

Chips Moman

Born in 1936 in LaGrange, Georgia, Chips Moman made his name as one of the architects of the Memphis Sound, an edgier style of soul music descended from Memphis' blues and rhythm and blues. Settling in Memphis in the late 1950s, he helped establish soulful Stax Records in 1958.

Six years later, Moman and fellow producer Bob Crewe founded American Sound Studios. Stax and American Sound became the premier champions of the Memphis Sound.

As a songwriter, Moman composed the gritty R&B tune 'Dark End of the Street', which was recorded by Percy Sledge, Linda Ronstadt, and Roy Hamilton, as well as 'Luckenbach Texas', made famous by country outlaw Waylon Jennings. As a hands-on producer, Moman became an expert at finding the right material for the right performer. Moman produced a three-year string of hits for such diverse artists as Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, B.J. Thomas, Neil Diamond, and the Box Tops.

His work with Elvis Presley In 1969 garnered the singer his first hit singles in years.

Further Reading

Articles about Elvis Presley Elvis Presley 1967-1969
Articles about Elvis Presley Chips Moman: the missing man of Memphis music

January 13, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Long Black Limousine XPA5 1142-09
This Is The Story XPA5 1143-02

January 14, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Come Out Come Out (Wherever You Are) (Fast - Track) XPA5 1144-02
Memory Revival (Slow - Track) XPA5 1144-04
Wearin' That Loved On Look XPA5 1145-15
You'll Think Of Me XPA5 1146-23
A Little Bit Of Green XPA5 1148-03

January 15, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Gentle On My Mind XPA5 1155-NA
I'm Movin' On XPA5 1147-02
Don't Cry Daddy (Track) XPA5 1149-03
Poor Man's Gold (Track) XPA5 1150-12

January 16, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Inherit The Wind (Track) XPA5 1151-04
Mama Liked The Roses (Track) XPA5 1152-04
My Little Friend (Track) XPA5 1153-08

January 20, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Gentle On My Mind (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1155-NA
Gentle On My Mind (Harmony Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1155-NA
Rubberneckin' XPA5 1156-02

January 21, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

In The Ghetto XPA5 1154-23
My Little Friend (Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1153-NA
Inherit The Wind (Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1151-NA
Mama Liked The Roses (Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1152-NA
Mama Liked The Roses (Harmony - Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1152-NA
I'm Movin' On (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1147-NA
Long Black Limousine (Vocal Repair) XPA5 1142-NA
Don't Cry Daddy (Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1149-NA
Don't Cry Daddy (Harmony - Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1149-NA
Poor Man's Gold (Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1150-01
Wearin' That Loved On Look (Vocal Repair) XPA5 1145-NA
You'll Think Of Me (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1146-NA
This Is The Story (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1143-NA
From A Jack To A King XPA5 1158-05

January 22, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Hey Jude XPA5 1157-07
In The Ghetto (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1154-NA

January 23, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Without Love XPA5 1159-05
I'll Hold You In My Heart XPA5 1160-01
I'll Be There XPA5 1161-03
Suspicious Minds XPA5 1227-08
Suspicious Minds (Harmony - Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1227-NA

February 17, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Stranger In My Own Home Town XPA5 1266-01
True Love Travels On A Gravel Road XPA5 1265-03
This Time / I Can't Stop Loving You (Informal Jam) WPA5 2513-01
True Love Travels On A Gravel Road XPA5 1265-11

February 18, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind XPA5 1267-06
Power Of My Love XPA5 1268-07
After Loving You XPA5 1269-04

February 19, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Do You Know Who I Am? XPA5 1270-07
Do You Know Who I Am? (Vocal Repair) XPA5 1270-NA
Kentucky Rain XPA5 1271-NA
Kentucky Rain (Remake) XPA5 1271-10

February 20, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Only The Strong Survive XPA5 1272-29
It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin' XPA5 1273-03

February 21, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Any Day Now XPA5 1274-06
If I'm A Fool (For Loving You) XPA5 1275-09
The Fair Is Moving On XPA5 1276-NA
Memory Revival (Fast - Track) XPA5 1277-NA

February 22, 1969, American Sound - Memphis, Tennessee

Any Day Now (Vocal Repair) XPA5 1274-NA
True Love Travels On A Gravel Road (Harmony - V.O.) XPA5 1265-NA
Power Of My Love (Harmony - Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1268-NA
Do You Know Who I Am? (Harmony - Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1270-NA
Who Am I? XPA5 1278-01

March 5, 1969, Decca Universal Studio - Universal City, California

March 5, Elvis returns to Hollywood to film and record the soundtrack music for his thirty-first, and what will turn out to be his last, acting role in a motion picture. It is Change of Habit, co-starring Mary Tyler Moore. Elvis plays a hip ghetto doctor in a Northern city, having come from Tennessee. Mary Tyler Moore and two others play nuns who go 'undercover' into the ghetto to assist with health and societal troubles in the community. The theme, though serious and timely, is not particularly well carried out by the script in the opinion of many, and the title is frivolous. But, Elvis looks magnificent and gives a natural, easy, understated performance that is a refreshing pleasure to see after the silliness he endured in his films through most of the sixties. The few songs in the movie are good and they're performed in natural, rather than the usual badly contrived, situations.

Let Us Pray (Track) ____-NA
Change Of Habit ZPA4 1058-06
Let's Be Friends ____-03
Let's Be Friends (Work Part - Ending) ____-NA
Let's Be Friends (Composite) ZPA4 1057-SP
Have A Happy (Track) ____-NA

March 6, 1969, Decca Universal Studio - Universal City, California

Let Us Pray (Vocal Overdub) ____-08
Have A Happy (Vocal Overdub) ZPA4 1056-07

March 1969, Charro! opens in theaters and doesn't do much at the box office.

September 26, 1969, RCA Studio A - Nashville, Tennessee

Let Us Pray (Vocal Replacement) ZPA4 1957-05
A Little Bit Of Green (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1148-NA
A Little Bit Of Green (Harmony - Vocal Overdub) XPA5 1148-NA
And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind (Vocal Replacement) XPA5 1267-NA


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